TIME Companies

How Amazon Just Posted its First Profit in Months

Key Speakers At The "Ignition: Future of Digital" Conference
Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc. and founder of Blue Origin LLC, speaks at the Ignition: Future Of Digital conference in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. Bloomberg/Getty Images

Amazon Prime is looking like a big win for the e-commerce empire

Amazon investors got a breath of fresh air Thursday when the e-commerce giant announced it made a profit for the first time after two consecutive quarters of steep losses. The company made $214 million in the fourth quarter and saw its revenue rise 15% to $29.3 billion, sending the company’s stock up 13% in after-hours trading.

So what can Amazon thank for its profitable quarter? It’s looking more and more like Amazon Prime.

Amazon’s membership program appears to be paying off in spades for the company. Prime members get free two-day shipping, access to unlimited music, TV shows and movies — some of it exclusive — and a host of free ebooks and a slew of special deals. And it turns out Prime subscribers, who increased in number 53% last year, buy more from Amazon, watch more on Amazon, and spend more time on Amazon.

“When we raised the price of Prime membership last year, we were confident that customers would continue to find it the best bargain in the history of shopping,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told investors Thursday, referencing a March 2014 decision to increase Prime’s price to $99 a year from $79.

Amazon jealously guards precise data about Prime members’ purchasing habits, but outside research groups have done plenty of speculating. According to a paper released this week by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, Amazon Prime members number around 40 million in the U.S. and spend about $1,500 per year, compared to about $625 per year for non-members. If that estimate is in the right ballpark, Prime members are a huge boon for the company.

“Amazon Prime members spend more than other customers, on average shopping 50% more frequently, and buying more expensive items each time,” said Josh Lowitz, a co-founder of CIRP who helped conduct the study.

It’s no wonder Amazon treats its Prime members so well. This quarter, the company announced several new benefits for them: A free two-hour delivery service called Prime Now in select areas, unlimited photo storage in Amazon’s cloud, and a new television show produced by Woody Allen exclusively for Prime members. Those bonuses could very well help Amazon sign up yet more Prime members, potentially keeping the company in the black for yet another quarter.

TIME technology

The World’s Most Profitable Company Ever Was Launched in My Grandma’s House

Nowadays, the famous garage is mostly filled with my grandma’s laundry, cat litter, and her Ford sedan

My grandma’s house is your typical white, one-story house in the suburbs of the Silicon Valley—it has rustic red brick accents, baby blue trim, and a perfectly manicured front lawn. It’s also happens to have signs out front that read “No Trespassing. Security Cameras Are Filming. All Pictures Must Be Taken From Street.” To me, my grandma’s house is a second home, but to the rest of the world, it’s the place where Apple, Inc., was created.

Steve Jobs grew up in this Los Altos house throughout his childhood. In 1976, according to oft-repeated legend, he hatched the beginnings of Apple here, and put together the first 50 computers in the garage with Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak. (Wozniak recently said that that they didn’t do any manufacturing in the garage – they just finalized the computers in there. But the garage did represent them better than anywhere else.) In 1989, my paternal grandmother (Marilyn Jobs) married her second husband (Paul Jobs, Steve’s adoptive father). Soon after, my grandma moved into the house with the (not-yet-quite-so) famous garage.

As a kid, I always looked forward to going to my grandma’s house. It was a 25-minute drive across the South Bay from where my family lived in San Jose. I always knew we were within five minutes of my grandma’s house when we exited the 280 Freeway onto Foothill Expressway. As we turned onto my grandma’s street, we passed a strip mall with a Chevron Gas Station, a Trader Joe’s, and a Peet’s Coffee. When our car pulled into the driveway, my grandma would open the front door, smiling and waving at us from the porch. I always jumped out of the car and greeted her with one of my biggest hugs.

My grandma’s house is where I met my newborn brother for the first time because I was staying with her while my parents were in the hospital. It’s the place I went to after preschool to wait for my parents to pick me up and eat spoonfuls of smooth Skippy peanut butter while curled up in a reclining chair. It’s the place I went when I was sick, snuggling in bed to watch “Tom and Jerry.” It’s the place where, to this day, my family still goes to celebrate birthdays and eat my grandma’s delicious cake.

Throughout my childhood, my parents always mentioned that grandma’s house was a special place and to me it was, but in a completely different way. So when I was 10 and my parents told me about the wider significance of my grandma’s house, I shrugged it off with a laugh. How could this quaint place have been Ground Zero for such a world-famous company that steered the course of today’s technology?

Despite its celebrity status, this three-bedroom, three-bathroom house built in the early 1950s is a humble place. In the living room, porcelain Lladros figurines, Hummel collectibles, and blue and white China fill a curio cabinet by the fireplace. A Japanese bobtail cat named Daisy is always lounging in the small kitchen. A box of Betty Crocker white cake mix and a generic tub of chocolate frosting can always be found in the cupboard, waiting for grandma’s touch of love to make them special.

In 1976, the two-car garage was filled with computer boards, components, wires—and the promise of a great company. In fact, the garage was so packed with Steve Job’s equipment that Paul was forced to build a second garage in the backyard to store the cars. Nowadays, the garage is mostly filled with my grandma’s laundry, cat litter, and her Ford sedan. The only remnants of the garage’s famous past are a few of the original wooden shelves and wood-paneling wall, as well as the same cold concrete floors. It’s funny to think of people traveling hundreds of miles to catch a glimpse of this “treasure trove”!

Paul Jobs passed away in 1993, but my grandma still lives there. I’m in college now, 379 miles away in Southern California, but always visit when I come home on breaks. It’s pretty awesome to imagine that some of the first ideas for a world-renowned company were thought of in a place where I spent so much of my childhood. As a graphic design student, I truly appreciate the innovation that came out of the garage at my grandma’s house. Like so many people, I have an iPhone. When I gaze at it, I’m reminded that technology revolutions have to start somewhere—even if that somewhere is in the garage of a humble home.

Megan Chovanec is a freshman at Chapman University. She wrote this for Thinking L.A., a partnership of UCLA and Zócalo Public Square.

TIME Gadgets

Amazing Super Slow-Mo Video Shows How Your Camera Works

See how cameras work at 10,000 frames per second

Ever wonder exactly how your DSLR camera works?

The Slow-Mo Guys, who post all sorts of neat super slow-mo video on YouTube, just uploaded a video that shows exactly what happens when you press the shutter release.

In the footage, you can clearly see the camera’s viewfinder mirror rise before the shutter drops to expose the digital sensor and record an image. Then the shutter closes and the mirror comes back down to complete the process. The video above shows the same process for a whole bunch of different shutter speeds.

Neat!

TIME apps

These 7 iPhone Apps Will Help You Tackle the Super Bowl Like a Pro

New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks
Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against defensive tackle Vince Wilfork #75, and outside linebacker Jerod Mayo #51 of the New England Patriots at CenturyLink Field on October 14, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. Otto Greule Jr—Getty Images

Are you ready for some downloads!?

Now, more than ever, America is a nation divided — we are a collection of red states (rooting for the New England Patriots) and blue states (rooting against the New England Patriots, because let’s be honest, outside the Pacific Northwest, no one cares about the Seattle Seahawks).

But ours is also a land of iPhone users and everyone else. If you happen to huddle around an Apple smartphone or tablet, these seven apps can help make your game day a big hit, from planning your snack attack to posting your post-game celebratory photos.

NFL Homegating: If you’re going to pull on your game jersey and throw a party, don’t just dress the part — do it like a pro with the help of an official NFL app. Stuffed with football-friendly recipes from Marc Payero, the executive chef at the NFL Huddle Cafe, Homegating can help you craft a menu from finger foods, like honey sesame chicken wings, through fourth quarter sweets, like cinnamon streusel cake.

You can also hand off all your party invites to the free app, signing into it through Facebook (or other online accounts) and then sending all the get-together details to your friends through the service. It will also aggregate an entire season of party pics and videos from all your Sunday gatherings, which could be epic if your team eventually goes on to win the big game.

Football Squares Plus: Football pools help make Super Bowl Sunday fun for everyone, even if your team is on the losing end of the score. This $2.99 iPad app can help you streamline the tedious square-selecting process, not just by making it paperless, but by letting your party people buy their boxes with the free Squares Buyer for Football Squares Plus companion app.

Of course, not everyone has an iPhone, so mirroring the iPad app using Airplay and an Apple TV can give all your attendees a peek at the side action. And the app can also run other kinds of pools, like baby birthdate guessing, so it’s not a one-trick pony (unlike some team’s offensive schemes).

Super Bowl XLIK Digital Game Program: Capture all the excitement of actually going to the game — without having to pay the $5,700 that Stubhub is currently asking fans for — with this digital download of the official game program. With recaps of the current season, interactive content, and video clips, it’s an excellent summary of the road that brought the Patriots and Seahawks to Arizona. And loaded with trivia from championships past, the app is a great way to learn about the history of the big game, or to settle some sideline arguments.

Betting Odds: What are the odds on the biggest game of the year? Well that depends on who you ask and when you ask them. SportsInsights, a wagering analytics company, keeps tabs on more than 40 sports books from around the world and constantly updates the line. This free iPad and iPhone app gives you ongoing access to their expert takes, with lines, spreads, odds, over-unders and even line movement data, sending push alerts for breaking news such as injuries or weather.

This kind of information can help you make perfect picks not just for the Super Bowl, but also for NBA and MLB games, greatly enhancing your enjoyment of the sports . . . because it’s for entertainment purposes only, right?

NFL Mobile: Whether you’re at the game (lucky you) or not, the league’s official mobile app is a must-tap for football fans. On site, it provides maps and guides for all the weekend’s events. But in living rooms across America, this thing is stuffed with everything from live streaming of Media Day player cams to videos of the Super Bowl Commercials (which some people enjoy more than the game). Verizon customers get an added perk of being able to live stream the game itself through the app, which is great if you can’t blitz the couch and catch it on a big screen.

Madden Mobile: With both teams featuring strong defenses, it’s unlikely Sunday’s championship will be a blowout. But if it is — or if you’d rather take a pass on Katy Perry’s halftime fireworks — this free game should already be downloaded and ready to go. Fully-sponsored by the NFL and the player’s association, this football game franchise not only has every team and all the players, it also offers a variety of ways to play, like head-to-head matches or creating your own league.

In addition, leading up to Sunday’s showdown, live events give players the opportunity to earn bonus points, letting you get your team as stacked as possible.

Fancred: Win or lose, you’re going to want to be surrounded by your fellow fans once the final whistle blows, and online that can be difficult. There’s a lot of haters out there — especially on social networks — and they’re quick to rip their opposing fans. Fancred, a mixed media social network focussing on sports, is a place where you can connect with people who also follow your team (and avoid those yahoos rooting for the other guys).

Pulling in photos, news stories, and more from your friends, athletes, official team online presences, and media members, Fancred a great way to connect post-game, in the off-season, or even in the middle of a match with people who wear the same colors that you do.

TIME How-To

Here’s How to Send Money Over Gmail

Didn't notice that little dollar sign at the bottom of every Gmail message? You're not alone

Gmail users in the United Kingdom may notice a new attachment icon today shaped like a British pound sign which does exactly what it suggests: attaches money to an email.

American users need not be envious. Google already released the feature this side of the pond more than a year ago, even if it was easy to overlook that mysterious little dollar sign at the bottom of every message.

Here’s a refresher on how it works:

1) Open a new message in Gmail and click on the dollar sign icon beneath the text box.

2) A pop-up window will appear prompting the user to link an existing credit or debit card to Google Wallet. Already have Google Wallet? Skip ahead to step 3. Otherwise, grab your credit card and fill out the billing information to set up an account.

3) Type in the amount you want to send to the recipient, hit “send,” and it will land as an attachment in the recipient’s inbox, regardless of whether they’re using Gmail or an alternative email service.

4) Here’s the rub: Recipients also need an existing Google Wallet account to receive the payment. The money automatically uploads to their Google Wallet balance, or it can be transferred directly into a banking account.

5) Swallow the fee. Google tacks on an extra 2.9% charge for every message sent. The receiver gets off scot free.

That’s it, an incredibly handy feature which is only limited by the number of users on Google Wallet and their keen eye for mysterious icons.

TIME Web

Alleged Owner of ‘Revenge Porn’ Site Banned From Posting Nude Images

TIME.com stock photos Computer Keyboard Typing Hack
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Craig Brittain allegedly posted pictures of naked women and charged them to have the photos removed

A man who allegedly ran a “revenge porn” website that hosted naked pictures of women posted without their permission is getting his operation shut down.

Craig Brittain acquired a horde of intimate photos and posted them on his website, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC says women who wanted their photos removed had to pay between $200 and $500 to purported third-party services which were actually operated by Brittain.

Now the consumer protection agency is banning Brittain from publicly sharing more nude photographs or videos of women without their consent. It’s also requiring him to destroy the images and personal contact information he collected while running the site.

Brittain acquired the photos mostly by soliciting disgruntled men who provided photographs along with the subject’s first and last name, date of birth, town and state, and a link to the subject’s Facebook profile and phone number, the FTC says. He also allegedly instituted a “bounty system” that awarded $100 or more for photos of specific people.

“This behavior is not only illegal but reprehensible,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “I am pleased that as a result of this settlement, the illegally collected images and information will be deleted, and this individual can never return to the so-called ‘revenge porn’ business.”

TIME apps

iPhone and Android Finally Have a Full-Featured Outlook App

It's Microsoft's latest move to make cross-platform apps

Microsoft freed Outlook email from the confines of the office PC on Thursday, releasing for the first time fully-featured Outlook apps for iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

The new Outlook apps are now available for download through Apple’s iTunes and the Google Play store. While Microsoft previously offered versions of Outlook for iOS and Android, neither had the power of this new software.

Outlook for iOS and Android Microsoft

Microsoft’s move comes on the heels of its decision to release a motherlode of its flagship software from Word to Excel as mobile-friendly apps that work across a range of devices.

“To date, we’ve seen more than 80 million downloads of Office on iPhone and iPad worldwide,” Microsoft said in a public statement. “We have received tremendous customer request for Outlook across all devices, so we are thrilled to fulfill this for our customers.”

The new Outlook mobile app includes familiar features, such as swipe gestures for rapid archiving and machine learning algorithms that learn which emails the user is most likely to read and pushes them to the top of the inbox. What sets the app apart is a built-in calendar, enabling the user to schedule an appointment within the app, rather than laboriously copy and paste event details in a second, calendar app.

Microsoft on Thursday also released new versions of its Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for Android tablets.

TIME Research

IBM Thinks it Can Make Your Food Safer: Will it Work?

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Getty Images

IBM plans to sequence the microbiomes of food ingredients to prevent outbreaks earlier

Our food system is by no means bulletproof when it comes to pathogens. In just the past year, the United States saw major outbreaks of listeria in caramel apples and salmonella in nut butters, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 48 million Americans suffer from some kind of food-borne diseases annually. Meanwhile, food-borne illness results in $9 billion in medical costs and another $75 billion in contaminated food that’s recalled and tossed out every year. Regulatory agencies have acknowledged that more needs to be done.

One strategy comes from IBM, which announced on Thursday that it’s partnering with Mars on a project called the Sequencing the Food Supply Chain Consortium. Their goal, which will likely take at least three years to accomplish, is to sequence the makeup of various foods and then enter that information into a database. The thinking is that if they can establish, at the molecular level, what a given ingredient is supposed to look like, systems can be put into place to catch brewing problems before contaminated foods make it to your table.

“The hypothesis is that [this process] offers you a microscope into what’s happening in that [food] environment,” says Jeff Welser, vice president of IBM Research. “Any deviation from that might indicate there’s a problem.” IBM says it will take into account variations that could occur in ingredients based on where in the world the product is coming from, and what time of year it is.

“A key challenge for food safety experts today is that typically when they test food they only really have a chance of finding what they set out to look for,” says David Crean, global head of technical food safety development at Mars. “If they are testing for Salmonella, they won’t find Listeria.”

The process is highly time- and data-intensive, and not necessarily something companies will want to put their foods and ingredients through constantly, but IBM thinks the science could be developed into a simple test. “You ought to be able to do this when you’re doing normal testing during the day, like for E.coli. The goal is to find the markers that give you a safety-check barcode, if you will, and if you see a change then it lets you know we need to do further testing,” says Welser.

Within three to five years the consortium estimates it will have more companies involved as well as some version of the testing process available for commercial use. They plan to engage with regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when it’s determined the process works well.

The FDA says it is prioritizing food safety, and in 2011 the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law by President Obama. The FDA says it’s the most sweeping reform of food safety laws in over 70 years and the goal is to shift focus from responding to contamination to prevention. The FDA is supportive of whole genome sequencing as a way to find bacteria in food.

“Overall this seems to be a great basic science project,” says Jonathan A. Eisen, a professor at University of California, Davis. “Personally I believe we need major efforts in characterizing the communities found in and on food, and that a full characterization of the microbes in the facilities where food is produced would be great. This is the first I have heard of a company planning to do this on a large scale.” Eisen is not involved in the consortium, but has researched the suite of microbes in food.

The concept is ambitious, but could be a new way to keep our foods safer than they are currently.

TIME Web

This Is One of the Easiest Ways to Make a GIF

Try Imgur's new GIF-making tool

Looking to turn a video into an animated GIF like all the cool kids on the Internet? Image-hosting service Imgur just released a super-easy tool to make that happen.

Imgur’s Video-to-GIF tool works like this:

1. Drop in a link to a video somewhere else on the web, like YouTube.

2. Pick where you’d like your GIF to start and end. Remember, longer GIFs result in bigger files.

3. Let Imgur process for a bit.

4. Boom, you’ve got a GIF file you can share anywhere on the web. Sometimes it actually gives you a .GIFV file, which result in better-quality looping videos at smaller file sizes than regular old GIFs.

Here’s a quick GIF of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk clobbering one another for good measure.

Avengers, assemble (GIFS)!

TIME Web

This Is the Future of Humanity in One Disturbing Photo

Sitting, eating and virtual reality

I have a dream: That one day, all women, men and children will live in a virtual world devoid of social connection and existential meaning, suckled by a constant stream of saccharine liquids and delectable quasi-nutrients, and preoccupied by an unending wave of sensory distractions and entertainments.

Actually, that’s more of a nightmare, and we may be about to live it. Thanks to the increasing ubiquity of virtual reality headsets and the general physical ease of daily life, it’s going to be more and more common to see people living like the guy in this photo posted on Reddit. (“So I got a glimpse of the future of this morning“)

So I got a glimpse of the future this morning...

The problem is, we all want virtual reality headsets, and we all want to eat delicious food, and we often want to sit around if we can. But will all those temptations lead to a dystopian nightmare?

The answer is ‘yes,’ according to one interpretation in this prophetic scene from Disney’s Wall-E, in which the befuddled robot sees firsthand a physically satiated but spiritually bankrupt humanity. (Hat/tip to Sploid on connecting the dots here.)

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