In a poor economy, is Google more like Apple or Microsoft?

Microsoft just released its latest earnings numbers and they're pretty disappointing. The Redmond giant's net income fell 11%, compared with the year earlier, and its profit and revenue numbers missed analyst expectations. Microsoft also announced its first ever layoffs totaling 5,000 workers. But those numbers are in sharp contrast with Apple's just-released results, which beat analyst expectations, even as it wrestled with CEO Steve Jobs' health woes. Now, Google is scheduled to announce its latest numbers (after the markets close today), and the question is: Is Google being battered by the economy like Microsoft, or is it rising above the fray like Apple?

Early indicators are that Google is tending more toward the Microsoft path. It's announced a rash of project and staffing cuts in recent days, many of which seem designed to cut the fat and lighten its balance sheet--perhaps to help blunt the market effect of lower-than-expected numbers.

Apple's and Microsoft's numbers differ significantly in that Apple's gains were primarily in consumer-focused wares like iPods and iPhones, while Microsoft's PC, software, and especially its online businesses seemed to struggle. Google, like Apple, is considered more consumer- than enterprise-driven (at least for now), which might just provide the oomph it needs to hit its numbers. Still, like Microsoft, Google's mainstay online business is suffering, and deflated key word prices and the recent drop in online advertising revenues don't bode well.

Maybe in the end, Google won't line up with either Apple or Microsoft, and instead, will forge a middle path--posting numbers that aren't too hot nor too cold, but just right. We'll know more at 4:30pm ET.

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