Today: Google's voice-recognition app reaches iPhone, setting off another skirmish between Silicon Valley rivals. Also: S&P 500 hits a new record as Tesla, SolarCity and other tech stocks lead the way.
The Lead: Google Now release for Apple devices opens new front in mobile war
The battle for mobile dominance between Silicon Valley tech giants Apple and Google is infecting nearly every aspect of the companies' offerings at this point, with a Monday update for Google officially making Siri a combatant.
Google launched Google Now as part of its Google Search app for iOS devices Monday, placing the Mountain View search giant's voice-activation app on the iPhone, which already includes Apple's Siri technology that performs the same function. iPhone users can now choose to use the Google product instead of the native Apple technology that the Cupertino consumer-Web titan has built an advertising campaign around.
Google Now's director of product management, Baris Gultekin, told the Associated Press that the Google offering is superior because it has the ability to learn about the user through their search requests and locations, evolving to become more useful over time.
"The more you use Google Now, we will have a better chance of understanding what your needs are and providing you with the right information," Gultekin said. "It's a virtuous cycle."
Apple and Google have been embroiled in competition since Google jumped into the then-Apple-dominated mobile field with its Android operating system, leading the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to declare that Google had stolen from his company and promising "thermonuclear war."
Apple has directly targeted hardware manufacturers that use Android so far, avoiding a direct confrontation with Google, but the global fight with Samsung has been a proxy war with the Korean company standing in for Google. Google has attempted to counter the hardware angle of the battle by purchasing Motorola Mobility and its cache of hardware patents for more than $13 billion, but that deal has shown little in the way of payback thus far for Google.
The hardware fight has much more behind it than just a threat from Jobs, as Apple has lost its lead in both smartphones and tablets to Android, part of the company's diminishing mobile dominance that has pushed its stock down more than 40 percent from its peak reached last fall. With that fight still ongoing, the two skirmish in smaller app fights such as Siri vs. Google Now and the Apple Maps fiasco that ended with a Google Maps app on the iOS platform.
Meanwhile, Apple's recently plummeting stock and Google's near-all-time-high share prices moved up in tandem Monday. Apple regained its throne as most valuable company in the world with a 3.1 percent gain to $430.12, which pushed its market capitalization back higher than $400 billion, topping Exxon Mobil. Apple's recent stock renaissance, which comes as it prepares for its historic first debt issuance to satisfy a $100 billion plan to return cash to shareholders, has investors hoping that the "Apple slingshot" is shooting in a positive direction despite scary technical issues.
Google closed with a 2.2 percent increase at $819.06 after rising as high as $822.70 in regular trading; the company's all-time high intraday price is $844.
Silicon Valley stock report
Apple and Google were part of a surge by tech stocks Monday that helped push the Standard & Poor's 500 to a record high close, with the index's technology sector gaining 1.7 percent, the most of its 10 sectors. All three major U.S. indexes gained Monday, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq leading the way by gaining 0.9 percent; the SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest technology companies beat out all three, moving 1.4 percent higher.
Palo Alto's high-profile electric car maker, Tesla, helped with those gains, again hitting an all-time intraday and closing high. Tesla shares moved as high as $54.99 and closed at $54.94, a 7.3 percent daily gain, in a rebound from slight weakness Friday after yet another touted statement from CEO Elon Musk. The company's stock has been volatile as short-sellers betting against Musk have suffered, a fact the Tesla CEO seems to take pleasure in. Musk is also chairman of SolarCity, which topped Tesla's gain with a 7.7 percent increase to its own record closing high of $25.13.
Yahoo dropped 1 percent after Alibaba, the Chinese Internet giant that Yahoo still owns part of, spent millions to buy into Chinese social-networking favorite Weibo. Some observers felt Alibaba overpaid, but Yahoo investor Eric Jackson believes that the reward will come next month, when he expects Alibaba to say more about an upcoming initial public offering. Gilead dropped 0.6 percent after the Foster City company's 4-in-1 HIV drug suffered a setback at the hands of the Food and Drug Administration.
Still, the large-cap Silicon Valley tech stocks' big day beat back those declines: Hewlett-Packard gained 2.7 percent, Cisco increased 1.5 percent and Intel moved higher by 1.5 percent.
Up: SolarCity, Tesla, Yelp, Apple, SunPower, Intuit, HP, Workday, Google, Applied Materials, Juniper, Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, Cisco, Splunk, Nvidia, Palo Alto Networks
Down: Zynga, Yahoo, NetApp, Electronic Arts, Gilead, Oracle, VMware, Netflix
The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest technology companies: Up 17.11, or 1.43 percent, to 1212.49
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 27.76, or 0.85 percent, to 3,307.02
The broad-based Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 11.37, or 0.72 percent, to 1593.61
The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 106.2, or 0.72 percent, to 14,818.75
Also in the news
Riverbed plunges after the bell: The San Francisco company suffered from weak federal spending on its IT products, and shares fell more than 9 percent in late trading. ... Microsoft uses a wacky ad to try to fight Apple and Google. ... Consumers increase spending despite payroll tax increase, boosting economy. ... Samsung Galaxy S4 more breakable than predecessor, iPhone, study finds.
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.