TIME russia

Google Is Now Worth More Than the Entire Russian Stock Market

Google joins an elite list of companies, including Exxon Mobile, Microsoft and Apple

Google is now more valuable than the entire Russian stock market. Russia’s stock market is now worth $325 billion while Google is valued at more than $340 billion, according to Bloomberg.

The news comes as Russia’s currency, the ruble, continues to stumble under pressure from declining oil prices and western sanctions. Russia’s gold reserves have also declined to their lowest point since 2009.

Google joins an elite list of companies, including Exxon Mobile, Microsoft and Apple, worth more than the entire Russian market.

Read next: Leaked Sony Emails Reveal How Much Movie Studios Hate Google

TIME apps

Microsoft’s ‘Sway’ Changes Everything You Know About PowerPoint

Microsoft

And that's either a great thing or a terrible thing

Microsoft gave PowerPoint a mobile-friendly twist Tuesday with a wider public release of Sway, a new presentation app designed for the confines of mobile phones and tablets. The preview version of the app is now available without signing up for a waiting list, though Microsoft hasn’t announced a release date for the finished product yet.

Microsoft is hoping Sway will appeal to a new set of users: Movers and shakers who want to whip together presentations across a slew of devices, from their 20-inch desktop to their 4-inch smartphone. Squeezed for time and screen space, these users could easily dispense with PowerPoint’s more esoteric features — Its seemingly endless selection of fonts, for instance, includes three species of Wingdings.

The question for Microsoft’s design team was where to make the cuts — and it’s clear from the first glance at Sway that they haven’t just debuted a new PowerPoint with a few nips and tucks. They’ve done reconstructive surgery.

Gone are the dropdown menus nestled within more dropdown menus. Gone are the finicky buttons regulating every square inch of your slides. Gone, even, are the slides. In their place is an interface so spare that experienced PowerPoint users may feel a momentary loss of control.

But that’s actually the point, says David Alexander, senior product manager at Sway.

“Candidly, what we did with Sway was we took the design instincts of real designers and encoded them into algorithms,” says Alexander. The result is a digital design assistant that does the heavy lifting for you. Instead of scrolling through font menus, an icon labeled “Remix!” instantly switches out the font and matches it against a new background. Instead of nudging around headlines, bullet points and images, each item can be created individually, and the program stitches them together into a neat little slide. And that word “slide” is no longer an apt description of the finished product. If anything, Sway’s results resemble a very long webpage, fit for scrolling rather than flipping.

“Docs and Powerpoint were originally designed with an eye toward emulating an analog form of content: A piece of paper for a document. A flip chart for a presentation,” Alexander says. “We wanted to create a new, digital-oriented output that doesn’t try to emulate a paper-based environment.”

Sway also makes embedding media from Twitter, Facebook, or photos from personal devices a seamless experience. A search field built into the app can fetch content from any of these dispersed sources and load it directly into the presentation. No more copying, saving and pasting.

The question remains whether people used to PowerPoint’s total customization features will sacrifice a measure of control to a slightly pushier program. Sway’s Alexander concedes it isn’t for everyone, and focus groups are sometimes split over the new features. “Two women sitting next to each other had the exact opposite reaction to Sway,” Alexander said. One loved the ease of use. The other hated the stripped down controls and vowed never to use it.

In either case, Microsoft hopes to appeal to both users. The company has excelled at creating power tools for the office, but an explosion of mobile devices and apps from rival tech giants has chipped away at its market share beyond the workplace. It’s one reason Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, has made “mobile-first, cloud-first” a company mantra. One result is a standalone app that marks a departure not only from PowerPoint, but from Microsoft’s old ball and chain, the office PC.

TIME legal

Why Microsoft, Apple, Fox News and NPR Are Suddenly Working Together

Microsoft
The Microsoft logo is displayed over the Microsoft booth at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Hilton January 7, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Microsoft is fighting a U.S. warrant to turn over emails stored in Ireland

It’s not every day you see Microsoft and Apple or Fox News and NPR going to bat for the same team — but that’s exactly what’s happening now, in a case that could have big consequences for American tech and media companies.

Last December, a Federal judge granted U.S. investigators a warrant to access a Microsoft user’s emails, stored in a data center in Dublin, Ireland, in relation to an investigation. Microsoft said no way, arguing the U.S. government has no right to issue a warrant for emails stored abroad.

Microsoft has good reason to reject the government’s demands here: If would-be Microsoft customers outside the U.S. start thinking their emails are subject to U.S. warrants, they might think twice about becoming Microsoft customers. Indeed, top tech firms have already lost big overseas contracts over fears that American services are subject to National Security Agency snooping.

Microsoft has yet to convince any court to overturn the original warrant. A magistrate first ruled against Microsoft’s challenge in April. The company got another defeat in August when U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska found that it wasn’t a matter of where Microsoft stored the emails, but rather where Microsoft and the user in question were themselves based.

However, Microsoft still refused to hand over the user’s emails. The company filed a new appeal last week, arguing that a ruling against Microsoft threatens the privacy of foreign users and Americans alike as more people choose to store their emails and other sensitive documents in off-site cloud servers instead of local hard drives.

“We believe that when one government wants to obtain email that is stored in another country, it needs to do so in a manner that respects existing domestic and international laws,” Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith wrote Monday. “In contrast, the U.S. Government’s unilateral use of a search warrant to reach email in another country puts both fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk.”

And that’s where Microsoft’s strange bedfellows come into play. Rival tech companies like Apple, Amazon and HP, as well as news organizations from across the political spectrum like CNN, Fox News, NPR and The Guardian, have all signed amicus briefs supporting Microsoft’s fight to keep its users’ emails away from the U.S. government. It may seem weird for these companies to work together on just about anything else, but it makes sense here: technology companies have a business interest in keeping users’ communications private, while media outlets don’t want their reporters’ messages to fall into the government’s hands.

“The government’s position . . . will significantly deter the use of remote data management technologies by businesses and individuals, particularly their use of U.S. cloud services providers, and thereby undermine a significant contributor to U.S. economic growth,” reads an amicus brief filed in the case by the Business Software Alliance, a trade group that counts Microsoft, Apple, Intel and other top tech companies as members. “There is no basis in law for the extraordinary result sought by the United States.”

Whatever happens in the Microsoft case, then, could have big privacy implications for businesses and users alike. There probably won’t be a resolution until late 2015 at the earliest, but some observers expect this one to wind up all the way at the Supreme Court.

TIME Video Games

The Xbox One Just Beat the PlayStation 4 for the First Time in Months

Xbox One
A control of a Microsoft's Xbox One game console is pictured in a shop in Shanghai on September 29, 2014. Johannes Eisele—AFP/Getty Images

A strong lineup and holiday deals helped seal Xbox One's record month

Xbox One consoles sold at a record-breaking pace in November, Microsoft claimed Thursday, citing data from research firm NPD. The Xbox One also unseated the reigning champ of the console market — Sony’s Playstation 4 — for the first time in nearly a year.

Sales of Microsoft’s latest console were buoyed by a strong lineup of new gaming titles and aggressive Black Friday discounts. Microsoft lopped $50 off of the Xbox One’s retail price and bundled free games into package deals.

“We are amazed by the excitement Xbox fans have shown to start off this holiday,” said Mike Nichols, vice president of Xbox marketing, in a statement. “November set a new record for sales of Xbox One, and Xbox One was the best-selling console in the U.S. and U.K.”

Nonetheless, Gamespot reports that sales across the entire console market declined year over year, also citing NPD. An analyst for the group noted that sales slackened not only for the previous generation of consoles, as expected, but also for the newest generation, which accounted for 38% of the overall decline.

MONEY stocks

Everything You Need to Know to Give Stocks for Christmas

Rolls of stocks with gold bow wrapped around them like a present
MONEY (photo illustration)—Li Jingwang (bow); Kord.com/Getty Images (stocks)

Introducing a youngster to the world of investing via shares in a company they know and admire could start them on the road to wealth

Before you resort to the Starbucks gift card for the collegian in your life—again—or an Apple gift card for the hip techster in the family, why not consider giving a share of Starbucks STARBUCKS CORP. SBUX -0.7372% or Apple APPLE INC. AAPL -0.7723% stock? Looking for that je ne sais quoi for a Frozen fanatic/sports geek/theme park devotee? A share or more of Disney THE WALT DISNEY CO. DIS 0.3023% , parent of the ESPN Network, plays to those passions.

Anyone who had received shares of those stocks five years ago has more than tripled her money, making stocks one Christmas or Chanukah gift that can keep giving well after the holiday season is past.

It’s true that giving shares of a single stock violates all principles of diversification. But c’mon, it’s a heck of a lot more engaging for a child or young adult than some shares of, say, the Vanguard Target Retirement 2060 mutual fund VANGUARD CHESTER TAR RETIR 2060 VTTSX 0.349% .

And maybe, just maybe, introducing a youngster or young millennial to the world of investing via some shares in a company they know—and like—tip the scale toward stocks when they eventually start investing in a 401(k) or Roth IRA. Millennials have been slow to embrace stocks. That’s understand given the fact they and their portfolios had to live through the financial crisis. But it also will make it harder for them to reach their long-term savings goals.

Your first gift-giving task is to choose one of these three ways to gift the stock:

1) Make A One-Time Gift, Stock Certificate Included. Sites such as giveashare.com and uniquestockgift.com allow you to purchase a share that comes with a framed stock certificate, which gives the recipient something more tangible than a brokerage statement to hang on to, and hang up. The certificate may be a real-deal stock certificate or a replica. For example, in 2013 Disney, with its fab animated stock certificate featuring Walt, Mickey Mouse, and Donald, stopped issuing the real deal, choosing instead to register owners only electronically. But you can still get a collectible version of the stock certificate:

There’s a steep price to pay for being able to hand over a physical gift. At giveashare.com a framed copy of one share of Apple was recently $214, a staggering $100 more than the share price of Apple. At uniquestockgift.com the pricing is more a la carte. On top of the share price, you will pay a $69 transfer fee, and anywhere from $2.95 to $48.95 for a frame. A customized engraved plaque will run another $6.

2) Transfer Stock You Own. You can have stock you own transferred to another account. Contact your brokerage and ask for a stock transfer form. For recipients under the age of 18 the transfer must be made into a custodial account with an adult (usually a parent) listed as the custodian.

3) Deal Directly with the Company Whose Stock You Want to Gift. Some companies, including Harley-Davidson, Mattel, and Nike, offer direct stock purchase plans, and you can have dividends automatically reinvested in more shares. FirstShare, an online site that offers dividend reinvestment programs (DRIPs) has a list of companies offering direct investment. Fees vary at each company. For example, Harley-Davidson HARLEY DAVIDSON HOG 0.5587% will let you get started with just a one-share purchase. In addition to the share price itself, there’s a $5 purchase fee plus another 10 cents for each share.

Once you’ve decided how to give the shares, you’ll want to pick a company that both taps into the recipient’s interests and has at least some potential to grow over time. Because the major indexes are at or near all-time highs right now, screaming deep-discount values are hard to come by these days. But the following gift-friendly stocks all offer value compared to the 1,500 stocks that Morningstar closely analyzes, which on average currently sell for 4% more than the estimated “fair value.”

Kids’ Play

Both Disney THE WALT DISNEY CO. DIS 0.3023% and Mattel MATTEL INC. MAT -6.4123% currently trade at small discounts to Morningstar’s fair value estimates.

Movie Buffs and Binge Watchers

Having shed about $100 in its share price since this past summer, Netflix NETFLIX INC. NFLX 1.7044% is currently priced at an 11% discount to Morningstar’s fair value price of $386.

Coffee Lovers

Starbucks STARBUCKS CORP. SBUX -0.7372% recently traded at about an 8% discount to fair value.

Budding Buffetts

If there’s someone on your gift list who has shown more than a passing interest in how stocks/markets/investing works, a share of Berkshire Hathaway is one of the best ways to learn through ownership. Anyone can read Warren Buffett’s annual shareholder’s letter, but reading it as a fellow shareholder will likely resonate more. Berkshire Hathaway B shares BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INC. BRK.B -0.7271% recently traded around $150 a share, a slight discount to Morningstar’s $157 fair value estimate. (And if your gift goes to someone with a car, Berkshire Hathaway shareholders are also eligible for an 8% discount on GEICO insurance. GEICO is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway.)

Tech Enthusiasts

You know Microsoft MICROSOFT CORP. MSFT 0.2946% for its Windows and Office software. If you’ve got a gaming fan in the family they know Microsoft for its wildly popular Xbox console. In the most recent quarter, Microsoft sold 2.4 million more Xbox units. The stock recently traded right around fair value. Apple APPLE INC. AAPL -0.7723% requires a little bit more faith, as the current stock price is at a 14% premium to Morningstar’s fair value estimate. That’s not nose bleed territory, but whoo-boy, the time to buy Apple was last Christmas or Chanukah, when the stock price was nearly 40% lower and the price/earnings ratio was below 14. Today it’s a more expensive 17.4. Unless you have a crazed Android devotee, Google GOOGLE INC. GOOGL 1.0532% doesn’t have the tactile product-connection you get from Apple and Microsoft. But it’s actually the best value of the bunch right now, trading at nearly a 4% discount to its estimated fair value. (That said, a single share is north of $500.)

Social Media Mavens

Twitter TWITTER INC. TWTR 0.9529% trades a slight discount to fair value. Facebook FACEBOOK INC. FB 1.8878% , by contrast, is near a 30% premium — not an easy price to “Like.”

TIME Companies

You Can Now Buy Xbox Games With Bitcoin

Utah Software Engineer Mints Physical Bitcoins
A pile of Bitcoins are shown here after Software engineer Mike Caldwell minted them in his shop on April 26, 2013 in Sandy, Utah. George Frey—Getty Images

One small step for Microsoft, one giant leap for Bitcoin

Microsoft quietly updated its payment options to include Bitcoin, making it one of the largest companies yet to accept the digital currency.

“You can now use Bitcoin to add money to your Microsoft account,” Microsoft wrote in an update to its payment policy. Bitcoins can then be used to purchase digital content like Windows Phone apps and Xbox games and music.

Only a handful of businesses currently accept Bitcoins as payment option, most notably PayPal and a smattering of oddball brick and mortar stores. Microsoft is the first major tech company, ahead of Apple and Google, to accept the digital currency.

TIME apps

Microsoft Just Solved the Biggest Headache in Business

178680724
Jeremy Lim — Getty Images / Flickr RF

Office Lens scans and saves contact information

Microsoft has an updated app that can scan and save business cards to your phone, letting you sweep your unruly stacks of business cards into the trash.

The new “business card” feature was released in an updated version of the Office Lens app for Windows Phone. Snap a photo of any business card, and the app will automatically crop the image down to the relevant text, format it for legibility and save it to OneNote, a Microsoft document management app.

Users can then search the text by keyword or automatically upload contacts to their phone — though you’ll still have to trash the paper business cards manually.

TIME Companies

It’s Now Super-Easy to Convert Word Docs From Inside Gmail

184931639
Mail button barisonal—Getty Images

Another shot fired in the cloud document wars

Google pulled the old switcheroo on Microsoft Tuesday with the release of a new Gmail feature that can instantly convert Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint attachments into Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.

A pencil-shaped edit icon will now appear above any Microsoft attachment sent through Gmail. Click it, and the file automatically opens on Google Drive, ready for edits.

“We realize that as a Docs user, you still sometimes have to work with different file types,” read a post from the Google Drive team, “so we often launch updates to make it a little smoother for you.”

The tweak comes as Google and Microsoft are neck-and-neck in a race to add users to their respective cloud-based services. The Wall Street Journal reports that larger businesses with at least 1,000 employees are evenly split between the two services, while smaller businesses tend to skew towards Google Apps. Now businesses of all size can skew a bit more seamlessly.

TIME Microsoft

Microsoft Just Killed One of Its Most Iconic Products

Clip art is no more

Microsoft quietly bid farewell to its “Clip Art” image library Tuesday, acknowledging that Word or PowerPoint users can find generic images of bunnies, money bags or cherry bombs through online image searches.

“The Office.com Clip Art and image library has closed shop,” read a brief epitaph on Microsoft’s official blog.

Microsoft users of a certain age will remember the image library as an easy way to snap prefabricated images into a Word document or PowerPoint presentation. But the selection of 338 images, fun as they were, couldn’t compare with the explosive growth of images across the web and social media. (Google indexed roughly 10 billion images as early as 2010.)

Fans of photo clipping can still drag and drop images from the web into Office software, Microsoft noted, adding that they can always search creative commons photos using the company’s Bing Image Search service.

Here, in memoriam, are a few final clippings, courtesy of the now defunct “Clip Art” Library:

57437183

AA021284

 

BU005928

AA022278

 

AA006417

Read next: Microsoft Office Is Now Free for iPhones, iPads and Android

TIME Web

Once Again, Google Will Tell You When Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

He'd better watch out

Google is once again keeping its eye on Santa Claus this year.

The search giant has launched its annual Santa Tracker, which maps Old Saint Nick’s coordinates on Christmas Eve. In the runup to Christmas, Google will roll out a host of games and surprises on its Santa website, including animated shorts, information on global winter holidays and even JavaScript courses aimed at kids.

There’s also an Android app so kids can track Santa’s movements while on the go. Each day Google will roll out a new a new feature, and the company’s blog post implies that even the new Android Wear smartwatches will offer some holiday cheer before it’s all over.

For a second opinion on Santa’s location come Christmas Eve, you can try out the NORAD Santa tracker as well, created in partnership with Microsoft.

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