We were fairly accustomed to receive weird telegrams at Baker Street, but I have a particular recollection of one which reached us on a gloomy February morning some seven or eight years ago and gave Mr. Sherlock Holmes a puzzled quarter of an hour. It was addressed to him, and ran thus:–
“Oracle claims we made more than a billion than we did. Help Please Schmidt..”
“Californian post-mark and dispatched ten-thirty-six,” said Holmes, reading it over and over. “Mr. Schmidt was evidently considerably excited when he sent it, and somewhat incoherent in consequence. Well, well, he will be here, I dare say, by the time I have looked through the TIMES, and then we shall know all about it. Even the most insignificant problem would be welcome in these stagnant days.”
Things had indeed been very slow with us, and I had learned to dread such periods of inaction, for I knew by experience that my companion’s brain was so abnormally active that it was dangerous to leave it without material upon which to work. For years I had gradually weaned him from that drug mania which had threatened once to check his remarkable career. Therefore I blessed this Mr. Schmidt, whoever he might be, since he had come with his enigmatic message to break that dangerous calm which brought more peril to my friend than all the storms of his tempestuous life.
As Holmes had expected, the telegram was soon followed by its sender, and the card of Mr Eric Schmidt, of Google, Cambridge.
“Mr. Sherlock Holmes?”
My companion bowed.
“I’ve been down to Scotland Yard, Mr. Holmes. I saw Inspector Stanley Hopkins. He advised me to come to you. He said the case, so far as he could see, was more in your line than in that of the regular police.”
“Pray sit down and tell me what is the matter.”
“It’s awful, Mr. Holmes, simply awful! I wonder my hair isn’t grey.”
“But your hair is grey, Mr Schmidt.”
“I can see that your reputation for quick observation does you credit sir. Larry Ellison, you’ve heard of him, of course? Last year we announced that Android smartphone software was generating mobile ad revenue at an annual run rate of $2.5 billion. No one believed us but Ellison claimed that we understated that figure by more than $1 billion.”
“This would be in your heated battle with Google for Java. I would have thought it normal for Mr Ellison to bolster the figures on damages, why bother me?” Holmes was starting to look bored.
“Well, that is just the point. Oracle claimed that more than 700,000 Android-based devices are activated every day and each day’s worth of activations likely generates approximately $10 million in annual mobile advertising revenue for Google,” replied Schmidt.
“The math is not difficult,” said Sherlock, still looking bored. “Android’s annual run rate is $3.65 billion, not the $2.5 billion Google previously disclosed. Oracle didn’t say in its filing whether its $10 million per day number comes from, so it is clear they got the figure from your documents that were produced in the lawsuit.”
“But there is the problem, Mr. Holmes, we have to do our reports tomorrow and we can’t find the billion and if we do, then Ellison will want more subsidy.”
Holmes leaned his head forward as if thinking.
“So you want me to find a missing billion which Oracle says exists, but you are not sure about. And if we find it you are unlikely to want me to tell anyone about it because you will have to pay it back to Ellison.”
“Exactly, Mr Holmes,” said Schmidt.
Holmes appeared to be deep inside his own thoughts for a moment.
“Google’s $2.5 billion figure covered “mobile ad revenue,” which likely includes money from searches on Android phones, as well as from queries on Apple iPhones, because of Google’s deal making it the default search engine on the iPhone. Yet Oracle’s estimate is tied to Android activations. So if Oracle is right, it could mean the total Android ad revenue is even higher. But Google has not thought of this because it only thinks that Android money comes from the column marked Android. You have come here hoping to find missing money, but the reality Mr Schmidt is that you are a music hall dancer called Doris, who is a part-time prostitute, known in the docks as Belle DeMousestranger,”
“Good god, Holmes, how can you make that conclusion?” I am always surprised by Mr Holmes’ conclusions.
“Elementary, my Dear Watson, but for that to be revealed we will have to await Google’s results.”