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Alphabet Flirts With $1 Trillion but Needs a Second Act




Alphabet, née Google, reports fourth-quarter financial result Monday, after weeks in which its market capitalization has bounced around $1 trillion. Only three other US companies have reached that milestone: Apple, Microsoft, and, for a while on Friday, Amazon.


Zachary Karabell is a WIRED contributor and president of River Twice Research.

So what now? No company, especially not a technology company, can comfortably rest. Alphabet has become a global behemoth in less than 25 years, the youngest of the trillion-dollar quartet. It is in no immediate danger of an existential crisis to its business model, and its revenue for 2019 will likely grow almost 20 percent from 2018. Revenue has more than doubled since 2015. That is a picture of financial success, full stop.

And yet Alphabet’s future is decidedly murkier. The company’s strength—its dominant position in a massive market—is, oddly, also its weakness. Unlike Amazon or Apple or Microsoft, each of which now has multiple growing businesses, Alphabet has one dominant revenue stream and lots of very small ones with opaque future prospects. In short, Alphabet is still searching for its second act.

The challenges begin with Alphabet’s inability to rebrand itself. For most people, including those who invest in the stock, it is still Google. And why shouldn’t it be? The business of Google is still, by far, the business of Alphabet. Google’s advertising business, which sells search ads against those queries that we ask it by the billions daily, remains the overwhelming driver of the company’s revenues—84 percent of its third-quarter revenue of $40 billion. That’s not going to change much this quarter or the next or the next.

That ad business has become increasingly complex, and Google has been maintaining its substantial share of overall online advertising because its vast trove of data and searches lets advertisers more precisely target users. So while online ad prices generally are falling, Google has increased revenue by selling more ads and helping advertisers obtain higher response rates.

In one scenario, this never ends, at least not in the foreseeable future. Google (which includes the highly lucrative YouTube) and Facebook account for about 60 percent of online ad revenue, with Amazon growing faster but still under 10 percent. There is no sign that Google’s share is much in jeopardy; it’s changed little over the past three years. The more it can help advertisers microtarget and reach their desired consumers, the more likely it will be able to maintain some pricing power. The sheer scope of its ecosystem is hard for others to match.

In that scenario, Alphabet’s inability to achieve critical mass in other spheres doesn’t matter much. And yet it’s perplexing, given the company’s massive investments of time, money, and energy. It has a suite of companies such as Nest, for home solutions to the astonishingly creative skunk works of X; it offers consumers tools such as Gmail, Chrome, and Google Docs, which are used by hundreds of millions; and of course it owns the Android mobile operating system that powers 75 percent of the world’s mobile devices and offers the Google Play store.

Yet all of those account for only about 15 percent of the company’s revenue. The R&D in these other areas will likely lead to advances in autonomous vehicles, quantum computing, or artificial intelligence. One of those moonshots might ultimately become the foundation of the next trillion dollars in market capitalization. For now, however, that’s only a possibility.

For all the financial discipline that the company has imposed in the past five years, the fact that it makes so much money from online advertising may limit any real urgency for Alphabet’s other ventures to prove themselves in the same life-or-death way of a startup. You can instill discipline but you can’t manufacture genuine fear and urgency. Every military in the world tries to simulate combat to train soldiers; every military knows that simulations, drills, and war exercises, no matter how well designed and how essential to preparedness, are not substitutes for actual combat experience.


Add to these questions the fact that a trillion dollars is a lot of market cap, and that it will be much harder to double and then double again from here. A company accustomed to vertiginous growth for its entire life does not easily shift gears. This is, to be sure, a first world problem, but it is still a problem.

Finally, there looms the potential assault of regulators and the growing clamor to revoke or revise Alphabet’s social license to operate. That is not an actual license, but it is the de facto operating agreement with society at large, with governments and their citizens globally. As the backlash against the power and profit of Big Tech amps up, Alphabet is a prime target, and its market dominance becomes a liability rather than a strength. As well as the company has shaped the technology landscape of the 21st century, it may be less adroit at meeting the consequences of its success.

Google/Alphabet is one of the greatest success stories in history. Nothing that happens from this point forward will change that. But nothing that has happened to this point means that the future will be bright and easy. The classic Zen saying goes “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” Google has done everything to make it great today; it will have to do just as much to be great tomorrow.

WIRED Opinion publishes articles by outside contributors representing a wide range of viewpoints. Read more opinions here. Submit an op-ed at

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Hub job opportunity!




University of Cambridge

The Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, seeks to appoint a Research Associate to work on Quantum Communications as part of the Quantum Communications Hub, until 30 November 2022, extendable for another 2 years.

The post holder will be located in the Electrical Engineering Building on the West Cambridge Site, Cambridge, UK.

The key responsibilities and duties are to maintain the network and introduce new systems for trial. This will involve design, construction and assessment of sub-systems. Examples of tests are the hybrid Continuous Variable (CV) QKD system, the new Quantum Alarm, and options for carrying out signal processing using CV techniques. Preference will be given to candidates with demonstrated quantum or photonic communications experimental aptitude in relevant areas of research and an ability to work within a team. Experience of DSP/FPGA programming would be an advantage.

The qualifications required to perform the role are to have obtained a PhD in Electronic Engineering, Physics, Applied Maths, Computer Science, or a related discipline. A good publication record would be an advantage.

Salary Ranges: Research Associate: £32,816 – £40,322

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Quantum Algorithms for Simulating the Lattice Schwinger Model




Alexander F. Shaw1,5, Pavel Lougovski1, Jesse R. Stryker2, and Nathan Wiebe3,4

1Quantum Information Science Group, Computational Sciences and Engineering Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, U.S.A.
2Institute for Nuclear Theory, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-1550, U.S.A.
3Department of Physics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, U.S.A.
4Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA 99354, U.S.A.
5Department of Physics, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, U.S.A.

Find this paper interesting or want to discuss? Scite or leave a comment on SciRate.


The Schwinger model (quantum electrodynamics in 1+1 dimensions) is a testbed for the study of quantum gauge field theories. We give scalable, explicit digital quantum algorithms to simulate the lattice Schwinger model in both NISQ and fault-tolerant settings. In particular, we perform a tight analysis of low-order Trotter formula simulations of the Schwinger model, using recently derived commutator bounds, and give upper bounds on the resources needed for simulations in both scenarios. In lattice units, we find a Schwinger model on $N/2$ physical sites with coupling constant $x^{-1/2}$ and electric field cutoff $x^{-1/2}Lambda$ can be simulated on a quantum computer for time $2xT$ using a number of $T$-gates or CNOTs in $widetilde{O}( N^{3/2} T^{3/2} sqrt{x} Lambda )$ for fixed operator error. This scaling with the truncation $Lambda$ is better than that expected from algorithms such as qubitization or QDRIFT. Furthermore, we give scalable measurement schemes and algorithms to estimate observables which we cost in both the NISQ and fault-tolerant settings by assuming a simple target observable–the mean pair density. Finally, we bound the root-mean-square error in estimating this observable via simulation as a function of the diamond distance between the ideal and actual CNOT channels. This work provides a rigorous analysis of simulating the Schwinger model, while also providing benchmarks against which subsequent simulation algorithms can be tested.

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[1] Indrakshi Raychowdhury and Jesse R. Stryker, “Solving Gauss’s Law on Digital Quantum Computers with Loop-String-Hadron Digitization”, arXiv:1812.07554.

[2] Christopher David White, ChunJun Cao, and Brian Swingle, “Conformal field theories are magical”, arXiv:2007.01303.

[3] Anthony Ciavarella, “An Algorithm for Quantum Computation of Particle Decays”, arXiv:2007.04447.

[4] Minh C. Tran, Yuan Su, Daniel Carney, and Jacob M. Taylor, “Faster Digital Quantum Simulation by Symmetry Protection”, arXiv:2006.16248.

The above citations are from SAO/NASA ADS (last updated successfully 2020-08-12 00:44:15). The list may be incomplete as not all publishers provide suitable and complete citation data.

On Crossref’s cited-by service no data on citing works was found (last attempt 2020-08-12 00:44:14).


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Mapping graph state orbits under local complementation




Jeremy C. Adcock1, Sam Morley-Short1, Axel Dahlberg2, and Joshua W. Silverstone1

1Quantum Engineering Technology (QET) Labs, H. H. Wills Physics Laboratory & Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, University of Bristol, Merchant Venturers Building, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UB, UK
2QuTech – TU Delft, Lorentzweg 1, 2628CJ Delft, The Netherlands

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Graph states, and the entanglement they posses, are central to modern quantum computing and communications architectures. Local complementation – the graph operation that links all local-Clifford equivalent graph states – allows us to classify all stabiliser states by their entanglement. Here, we study the structure of the orbits generated by local complementation, mapping them up to 9 qubits and revealing a rich hidden structure. We provide programs to compute these orbits, along with our data for each of the $587$ orbits up to $9$ qubits and a means to visualise them. We find direct links between the connectivity of certain orbits with the entanglement properties of their component graph states. Furthermore, we observe the correlations between graph-theoretical orbit properties, such as diameter and colourability, with Schmidt measure and preparation complexity and suggest potential applications. It is well known that graph theory and quantum entanglement have strong interplay – our exploration deepens this relationship, providing new tools with which to probe the nature of entanglement.

Graph states are ubiquitous representations of entanglement in quantum information science, and classify the most studied set of quantum states—clifford states—by the entanglement they possess.

However, many graph states are locally equivalent to one another, that is, they possess the same type of entanglement. Graph states which are locally equivalent can be transformed into one another by successive applications of the graph operation local complementation (example shown above). Using this operation, we can analyse only graph structure of the state, which is much simpler than analysing the exponentially large quantum state vector. This equivalence of graph states has been studied previously, with all graph states up to 12 qubits classified.

However, local complementation gives us more than sets of locally equivalent graphs: it also gives us an orbit (example shown above) which tells us how different graphs are related via local complementation. In this work we study these orbits, and relate their properties to properties of the entangled quantum states they contain. We find that orbit properties, such as colourability, correlate with entanglement properties, such as schmidt measure, and discuss applications of local complementation in quantum technology.

► BibTeX data

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