Re: Their margins are different to most others
Well the tech companies could give their excess cash back to their shareholders. Who own it. Certainly Apple should do, as they've got far more cash than they could possibly need. Unless they're planning on buying Google anyway...
Admittedly there are tax issues with that, but it's the idea. Company sell shares to get cash. Company make loadsa' money. Company pay big fat dividends. Yippee!
Now Google have got a reason to lots of lovely R&D. Probably not as much as they actually do - as I suspect that Tim W is right, and the founders have basically created a playground for engineers.
But it would be interesting to know when (if?) they broke even on Android. I doubt they've made huge amounts from it, certainly compared the to the billions they've poured into it. But on the other hand, it's contributed hugely to local search, mapping and all the other things that Google can sell adverts on.
Things like Google+ are pretty cheap, so trying lots of those is probably pretty low cost.
I'm not sure I buy the idea of them moving out of their comfort zone of data gathering/organising in order to target ads though. Google Glass fits nicely with the phone business, and makes sense. But I struggle to imagine them being able to suddenly become a car company. I don't think they can do what they did to the mobile industry with cars. Partly because the timescales are just so much longer. But on the other hand, they may be building some very useful machine-learning technology doing it, and as they've got such huge amounts of data to deal with, they may not care about the car bit anyway.