TIME Companies

European Parliament Calls for Possible Breakup of Google

The vote went through despite U.S. concern over its politicization

The European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution Thursday asking the European Commission to consider breaking up Google as a means to address what some in Europe view as Google’s abuse of its dominance in search to benefit its other products.

The vote succeeded by an overwhelming margin of 458 to 173, the Wall Street Journal reports. The resolution is non-binding and Parliament has no power to break up Google on its own. Still, lawmakers are hoping it will put pressure on the European Commission, currently investigating Google’s search practices on the continent, to take action against the tech giant.

The resolution went forward despite the United States expressing “concern” over what it perceives as an unnecessary politicization of the anti-trust probe.

[WSJ]

TIME Gadgets

Amazon Slashes Kindle Prices for Black Friday

Amazon Holds News Conference
People try out a new Kindle fire reading device at a press conference on September 6, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. David McNew—Getty Images

Bargains on the Fire Phone follow a tepid public reception on the device

Amazon has dropped the prices on a slew of its devices as part of the Black Friday shopping rush.

Amazon’s $79 Kindle e-reader will be on sale for $49, and the company’s Kindle Fire tablets are also dramatically cheaper, with the Fire HD 6 going for a mere $79 (versus its usual $99 price tag) and the Fire HD 7 on sale for $109 (versus $139).

Meanwhile, the e-commerce giant has pegged the price of an unlocked Fire phone to just $199, a $250 price cut from its already reduced price. Amazon is still including a year of free Amazon Prime with the phone.

Vote Now: Who Should Be TIME’s Person of the Year?

 

Amazon has dramatically reduced its prices on the Fire phone after it received mediocre reviews and suffered lackluster sales.

TIME Companies

Labor Group Plans Strike of Walmart Stores on Black Friday

Operations Inside A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Location Ahead Of Black Friday
Employees assist shoppers at the check out counter of a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location ahead of Black Friday in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014 Bloomberg—Getty Images

For the third year in a row, OUR Walmart is planning a massive strike on Black Friday

Employees at Walmart stores in at least six states and Washington, D.C., plan to strike on one of the busiest shopping days of the year to protest workers’ wages and hours.

OUR Walmart, an employee labor group, announced earlier in November that workers across the country would walk out over “illegal silencing of workers who are standing up for better jobs.” The group has been hosting Black Friday strikes since 2012, but promises this year’s will be the largest yet.

The group has the support of some of the nation’s labor unions including UFCW, a grocery and retailers union, the American Federations of Teachers in New Mexico, and AFL-CIO. In a statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “the entire labor movement will proudly stand with the brave workers at Walmart as they lead the largest mobilization to date for better wages and schedules.”

Added Trumka: “Their courage is inspiring and powerful in the fight for all workers.”

Employees are calling for consistent, full-time work as well as a living wage of $15/hour. In a press release, Our Walmart boasts that its previous efforts against the retail giant have led the company to agree to increase minimum wages for its lowest paid workers as well as program that provides workers with greater access to open shifts.

Late Wednesday, social media reports began circulating of workers in Washington, D.C., and other cities who had already started participating in sit-ins and strikes. The group also accuses Walmart’s owners of growing wealthy on the backs of their low-wage workers.

“While many Walmart workers are unable to feed and clothe their families, the Walton family takes in $8.6 million a day in Walmart dividends alone to build on its $150 billion in wealth,” read a statement. “Walmart brings in $16 billion in annual profits.”

TIME legal

The Supreme Court Is About to Make a Big Decision About Facebook Free Speech

Facebook Threats Supreme Court Case Elonis
Till Jacket—Getty Images/Photononstop RM

The case could have big implications for how we use social media

The Supreme Court on Monday will consider whether violent language posted on social media is covered by the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

The case, Elonis v. United States, hinges around the question of whether a Facebook message can be considered a “true threat,” or a threat a reasonable person would determine to be real. That would be an important distinction, because “true threats” don’t get First Amendment coverage. But it won’t be an easy problem to solve: While it can be easy to call a threat “true” if it’s given verbally, making that call gets harder when threats are posted online, where they lack the context, tone and other indicators of intent present in verbal communication. It’s also arguably easier to make threats online, especially if it’s done anonymously.

What happened?

A lower court had sentenced Pennsylvania man Anthony Elonis to about four years in federal prison over several Facebook posts threatening his estranged wife. The posts included, among other things, raps about slitting his wife’s throat and about how her protection order against him wouldn’t be enough to stop a bullet.

A sample:

There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.

But how is that not a “true threat?”

Elonis contends his posts weren’t a threat to his wife but rather a therapeutic form of expression. It’s commonly accepted that violent images are often part of rap music and other media, and artistic expression is protected under the First Amendment, explaining Elonis’ legal strategy. Still, the issue of whether Elonis had the intent to threaten is not necessary for a threat to be deemed a “true threat.” That requires only for a reasonable person to believe a threat is authentic.

“The dividing line here is whether we’re judging the threat based on the intent of the speaker, or on the reaction of the people who read it and would’ve felt threatened. That’s really the key question,” said William McGeveran, a law professor at the University of Minnesota.

What if the court upholds Elonis’ conviction?

Several experts agree that such a decision could stifle freedom of speech online and offline, particularly among artists. If the court rules against Elonis, artists could be more hesitant to share anything that could be perceived as threatening — a slippery slope. On the other hand, such a ruling could increase the number of online harassment cases aggressively pursued by law enforcement. And there could also be a censorship effect on social media companies like Facebook.

“You have the potential for creating a chilling effect both on the part of speakers, but possibly even more on the part of entities that host potentially threatening speech,” said Paul Levy, an attorney at the Public Citizen Litigation Group. “If intent [to threat] isn’t needed [to prosecute], then it seems that the Facebooks of the world have to worry that they, too, can be prosecuted. It could have a serious censoring effect.”

What if the court rules in Elonis’ favor?

Some experts agree this is probably what the Court will do. In the past, the Supreme Court has demonstrated a commitment to protecting all kinds of speech, however vile or unpopular, by citing the First Amendment to protect everything from a filmmaker’s “animal crush” abuse videos to the Westboro Baptist Church’s anti-gay public speech.

“The First Amendment is one of the strongest protections of free speech in the whole world, and it’s a very rare thing to have a law that actually makes it a crime to express certain ideas,” said Marcia Hoffman, an attorney and special counsel to digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation.

But if the Court chooses to overturn Elonis’ conviction, that move might not provide a clearer definition of which online threats constitute a “real threat.” That would leave us legally in the dark when it comes to abuse over the Internet.

“Society is still struggling to really figure out how the Internet works and how it affects people, both users of the Internet and subjects of the speech on the Internet,” said William Marcell, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “I think the court might want to buy a little bit more time to see if a threat over the Internet is really as serious as one face-to-face.”

TIME Companies

Apple’s Market Cap Just Hit $700 Billion for the First Time

Apple Unveils iPhone 6
People attend the Apple keynote at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts at De Anza College on Sept. 9, 2014 in Cupertino, Calif. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The number has doubled since Tim Cook took over as CEO from Steve Jobs three years ago

Apple hit a major symbolic milestone Tuesday morning as its market capitalization topped $700 billion for the first time.

The tech giant’s market cap has doubled since Tim Cook took over as CEO three years ago when Steve Jobs stepped down from the role. The company’s stock has hit several new record highs lately on the heels of September’s wildly successful launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Apple shares have jumped by 21% since the company unveiled the new smartphones at a product event that also heralded the arrival of the much-hyped Apple Watch and the new Apple Pay mobile payments system.

The Apple Pay service became available last month, while the Apple Watch will go on sale in 2015.

But, the latest iterations of the iPhone have been driving up the company’s value since they went on sale in September and posted a record opening weekend by selling more than 10 million units. Apple is expected to keep selling those phones at a swift pace over the holiday season, with at least one analyst forecasting 71.5 million iPhone shipments in the fourth quarter.

At this point, Apple’s market cap is higher than the gross domestic product of all but 19 of the world’s countries, coming just behind Saudi Arabia (GDP of $745 billion) and ahead of Switzerland ($650 billion), according to data compiled by the World Bank.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Companies

Home Depot Faces Dozens of Data Breach Lawsuits

Home Depot Reports 14 Percent Rise In Net Income In Third Quarter
A sign stands in front of a Home Depot store on Nov. 18, 2014 in Daly City, Calif. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The chain also faces investigations by a number of state and federal agencies

Home Depot is facing at least 44 lawsuits related to a data breach at the home-improvement retailer that involved the theft of payment card information and customer e-mail addresses.

The retailer warned it was facing dozens of civil lawsuits in the U.S. and Canada, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as investigations by a number of state and federal agencies.

The fallout continues at Home Depot, which suffered from a data breach earlier this year that exposed millions of payment cards and e-mail addresses. Much of the damage has been fairly well contained, as Home Depot’s latest sales results signaled that customers weren’t dissuaded from visiting the retailer’s stores even after the data breach made headlines in September. But Home Depot warned it has recorded millions in costs, and observers say more expenses will be booked as Home Depot manages the fallout from the breach.

Home Depot on Tuesday warned the lawsuits could affect its business, resulting in additional costs and fines and potentially diverting the attention of the company’s management team away from standard operations. In addition, the government could impose injunction relief, which Home Depot said could result in higher data security costs.

The retailer also said it believed it was probable “that the payment card networks will make claims against the company.” Those claims would likely include amounts for counterfeit fraud losses, as well as other expenses such as the issuance of new cards. Home Depot indicated it could potentially settle those claims in negotiations with the payment card companies.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Companies

Amazon Wants to Help You Find a Handyman

I know just the guy for the job, Amazon says

Amazon will sell you an air conditioner, and then it’ll find someone to install it for you, too.

The online retailer is connecting customers with local appliance installers like plumbers and electricians with a new offering called Amazon Local Services.

After adding an item to their virtual cart, customers will see installation offers from Amazon after buying items like an air conditioner or a car stereo. A recent search for air conditioners in New York yielded installation price options in the range of $99 to $120. Each offering came with appointment time preferences which then added the installation cost to the sticker cost of the air conditioner.

An anonymous source briefed on the plan told the Wall Street Journal that the service is now offered in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. Amazon’s new service will likely help the company compete with brick-and-mortar stores and other online retailers by making it more simple to install complicated appliances. It could also drive business to local installers.

One electrician in Los Angeles who had signed onto the program told the Journal that when he lands a job through Amazon Local Services, he pays Amazon a fee.

TIME Companies

How HP Could Once Again Dominate Silicon Valley

HP has shown it can innovate — but can those innovations save the company?

Throughout Hewlett-Packard’s 48 years, it’s innovated many technologies that became commonplace: pocket calculators, laser printers. But for much of the past decade, the headlines about HP have centered on the Silicon Valley pioneer’s revolving door of CEOs, boardroom controversies and – more recently – its slow, painful turnaround.

CEO Meg Whitman has slashed 55,000 jobs in an ambitious restructuring. As the company prepares to split into two, the fruits of that effort are winning over investors who have pushed HP’s stock up 190% in the last two years — or nearly five times the Dow Jones’ rise. Throughout all of this, what HP hasn’t been portrayed as is what it was early on: an engine of innovation.

In recent months, however, new initiatives at HP have emerged to suggest that’s starting to change. In particular, HP has unveiled three innovations in printing, personal computing, and data analytics that each has the potential to influence or even reshape their respective markets. Even if that doesn’t happen, each one shows a new flair at HP to take bold new approaches in established markets.

Last month, HP announced its long-awaited entry into the 3D-printing market. While younger, smaller players like Stratasys and 3D Systems have dominated the nascent 3D-printing market early on, HP held back until it could deliver a breakthrough 3D-printing technology that could become the kind of industry standard HP has set in traditional printing. With its multi-jet fusion technology, HP seems poised to achieve just that.

Based on HP’s thermal inkjet technology – an area where HP is strong in expertise and intellectual property – multi-jet fusion promises 3D printers that offer higher resolution, lower cost and printing that the company says is 10 times faster than leading 3D printers on the market. HP’s first 3D printers will use thermoplastics, while in time HP hopes to employ metal, ceramics and other materials.

HP says it plans to make the new systems available starting next year to large and small manufacturers alike. That may seem like a late entry, but multiple analysts expect annual revenue in the 3D-printing market could rise north of $10 billion by 2020. HP says it expects its printers to be revolutionary, and some analysts agree. To persuade them, HP has a video showing how a chain link printed in less than half an hour can lift up a one-ton car.

Along with its 3D printing technology, HP also unveiled Sprout, a machine combining a PC, a projector and a 3D scanner. There’s nothing quite like Sprout on the market, and it’s hard to describe – it’s simpler just to watch a video of it – but basically the Sprout blends a tablet-like touchpad, a 14.6-megapixel camera, a projector and a scanner into a product HP calls immersive and intuitive.

Sprout is a risky product in that it sells for $1,900 at retailers like Best Buy, but it doesn’t have a pre-defined market. HP developed the idea out of an interest in bridging the physical and digital world, says spokesperson Elizabeth Pietrzak. “The target is more psychographic rather than demographic,” she says. Which means, basically, people who make things: designers, hard-core scrapbookers and school teachers, for instance.

Sprout is designed for creators who don’t have the training or the patience to use design software. HP is planning on building newer, specialized applications for markets like architectural design and health care, and it’s inviting developers to create still other applications for the platform, which HP built on Windows 8. Sprout may not end up being as disruptive as multi-jet fusion. But it shows HP is willing to innovate in areas where there is more potential than predictable outcomes – an approach that defines many startups.

Perhaps the most disruptive innovation HP is working on is something called the Machine. It’s a name at once understated and potentially pretentious, but what HP wants to do with the Machine is to create wholesale an entirely new computing architecture for the era of big data. As cloud computing and the Internet of Things demand systems that manage ever larger amounts of data, the drain on the electrical grid gets bigger.

HP’s answer is to create computing technology that can handle much more data using much less power. The Machine is being built with this goal in mind, and to reach it HP had to come up with multiple innovations: a software-defined server called Moonshot that uses 89% less energy and requires 80% less space; lasers a quarter the size of a human hair that use photonics instead of copper wires; and memristors that use ions to fuse memory and storage, making them faster and cheaper than DRAM or flash drives.

The Machine is the brainchild of HP Labs, which had earlier announced pieces of the plan, like Moonshot and memristors. In June, the company announced the Machine and discussed what may prove to be the hardest piece: an entirely new, open-source operating system. HP is also working on stripped-down versions of Linux and Android that could run the Machine on devices like smartphones.

HP expects products and services using the Machine to ship in four or five years. As with any ambitious project, the Machine faces uncertainty and questions. Will HP execute on the different pieces and integrate them into a seamless system? Will third parties embrace the Machine as a standard? Will other cash-rich tech giants build their own versions of the Machine first?

Whatever the answers to those questions, HP is showing that it’s pushing to return to its innovative roots. Earlier this month, venture capitalist Ben Horowitz talked about how big companies can innovate, arguing that the key is to have a secret insight that no one else understands, one that often comes from years of experience. HP has plenty of experience, much of it hard fought, and it’s boosted its R&D budget to 3.1% of revenue from 2.3% in 2010.

“Innovation has been a large part of our ethos over the years,” says HP’s Pietrzak. “Now we’re on a path where we can invest back in R&D.”

In Silicon Valley where young pups seem to rule, HP is an old dog, and one that has been through its share of scrapes in recent years. But it’s also showing that it can still learn some pretty intriguing tricks. And with any luck, those tricks could bring it to the forefront of tech innovation again.

TIME food and drink

Almost Half of Millennials Have Never Drank a Budweiser

Budweiser
Fred de Noyelle—Getty Images/Photononstop RM

The company is going on a full-court PR press to get more young drinkers

The King of Beers isn’t America’s reigning beer anymore — at least among millennials.

The flagship Budweiser beer remains popular mostly among older folks, and its parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, is refocusing its marketing specifically on the millennial age bracket, the Wall Street Journal reports.

While Budweiser has been known for its traditional Clydesdales commercials and other touching animal-focused ads, this season the company will roll out commercials featuring people in their 20’s speaking directly to a camera about who they’d like to “grab a Bud with” this holiday season. The new millennial-focused marketing will also include parties in college towns featuring Jay-Z, who partnered with Budweiser for the annual Budweiser Made in America music festival in 2012.

Budweiser faces tough competition among craft beers when attracting the 21-t0-27 age demographic, 44% of whom haven’t tasted the beer, according to AB InBev. Budweiser’s own sister beers, like Bud Light and Bud Light Lime-a-Rita, have also contributed to the flagship beer’s production to drop by over half over the last 10 years.

[Wall Street Journal]

 

 

TIME marketing

Bud’s Iconic Clydesdales Put Out to Pasture as Jay-Z Steps In

A Budweiser clydesdale horse sticks his head out of the trailer before the game between the Colorado Rockies and the Houston Astros on Opening Day at Minute Maid Park on April 6, 2012 in Houston.
A Budweiser clydesdale horse sticks his head out of the trailer before the game between the Colorado Rockies and the Houston Astros on Opening Day at Minute Maid Park on April 6, 2012 in Houston. Bob Levey—Getty Images

Horses will be replaced by a hipper ad campaign as beer company looks to appeal to a younger crowd

Budweiser is ditching Clydesdale horses in favor of Jay-Z.

The self-styled King of Beers is reportedly reworking its marketing campaign in a bid to remain relevant as craft beers capture the attention of drinkers.

The company is looking to stem the falling sales of its title offering — and is turning to younger drinkers for its best chance, banking on a new advertising campaign to bring that strategy to the market, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The new commercials that focus exclusively on the 20-something age bracket this holiday season. A new ad campaign will feature young drinkers answering the question: “If you could grab a bud with any of your friends these holidays, who would it be?”

That will lead the way for the brand’s bigger marketing push, which includes food festivals and a two-day concert in partnership with Jay Z in Philadelphia that was started in 2012.

Budweiser has faced declining demand over the past 25 years. In 1988, the brand sold about 50 million barrels, but last year that dropped to 16 million barrels, the Journal says. Part of that decline is its own brand cannibalism: Bud Light has pulled away customers from Budweiser for decades and became the nation’s No. 1 selling beer in 2001.

Budweiser’s appeal is particularly dismal among young drinkers in the U.S. Nearly 44% of drinkers aged between 21 and 27 have never tried Budweiser, according to the brand’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev BUD 0.52% .

If Budweiser can gain the 20-something appeal, it has access to the biggest number of new drinkers since the baby boom. The number of people turning 21 peaked in 2013 at about 4.6 million.

Clydesdales have featured in many Budweiser ad campaigns and have been associated with the beer company since 1933, when Budweiser introduced them to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition for beer, the AP said.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser