Google Punts Questions About Mobile Ads, Touts Now, Driverless Cars

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Wall Street analysts were predictably concerned about Google’s falling cost-per-click as users shift to mobile devices after the company released its fourth-quarter earnings today, but executives insisted that good user experiences will bring the cost of mobile advertising up.

Asked when mobile cost-per-click will equal that brought in by desktop Web advertising, CEO Larry Page hinted that he thought mobile advertising prices would eventually — hopefully soon — outpace desktop rates.

“I don’t think they’ll be equal. I think one will always be bigger than the other, but I’m not clear which way,” he said.

Page, chief financial officer Patrick Pichette and chief business officer Nikesh Arora said that Google was endeavoring to make it easier for its advertisers to buy cross-platform packages. But the executives insisted that the most compelling driver of mobile advertising prices will be users continuing to flock to the devices.

“We have tremendous growth with Android. We’re serving our users really well, we’re building amazing products. I feel pretty comfortable in that, and I focus mostly on our products and assume that the usage will follow great products,” Page said.

Executives touted mobile products including voice search, maps and Now, the application which culls from various other applications to serve up, for example, unsolicited reminders about appointments and how to get to them.

The service has been met with lukewarm reception, but Page emphasized how innovative it was.

“There’s tremendous innovation there, it’s actually answering your questions before you even think to have them. That’s pretty incredible,” he said.

Google’s driverless car project may also result in increased adoption of Android, executives said, as car manufacturers become increasingly interested in being able to provide at least part of the algorithm’s assessment of choices drivers face to buyers.

As for Motorola, an acquisition directly geared toward gaining traction for the Android mobile operating system, executives said they continued to work toward profitability and “have made a ton of progress,” but the purchase will continue to cause volatility in Google’s numbers over the next several quarters.

“We do care about profitability, and that is our goal. We’re not in the business of losing money with Motorola,” Arora said.

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