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Tuesday
Jan012013

Stocks to Watch in 2013

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's that time of year, when we all want to know what stocks we should be buying in the coming year, or thinking about buying, or steering very, very clear of. So here are seven of the biggest stocks worth keeping your eyes on.

1. Google: Not surprisingly, the top stock pick on almost every analyst's list is—you guessed it—Google. "It's a great company," Paul Larson, chief equity strategist at Morningstar, in Chicago, IL, told ABC News. "Not only do they have the best search algorithm, but they also benefit from a network effect with their ad platform. The more users on the platform, consumer and business, the better the platform becomes. They also have a rapid growth in other businesses, such as You Tube. It's just a fantastic business."

2. Kraft: Never mind that it split from its global snack business earlier this year; it still has large competitive advantages. Its portfolio includes: Kraft, Oscar Mayer, and Maxwell House, each of which generate more than $1 billion in annual sales. That doesn't include another 20-odd brands that produce more than $100 million in sales each year, and "substantial economies of scale in the North American market, with more than $19 billion in annual sales," Morningstar senior analyst Erin Lash said. "We think the market is overlooking the substantial cash flows that Kraft's grocery business generates--which we forecast at 10% of sales on average--and income investors likely will find Kraft appetizing as the firm's top priority for cash is to fund a highly competitive dividend."

3. Amazon: The Seattle, Washington-based corporation has been operating at a competitive advantage for a while. Makes sense: The company has a very strong brand name; it's one of the first places people go when they want to shop online. Plus, "They have a cost advantage from their robust distribution in that they can get time to customers cheaper than their competitors can," said Larson.

4. Yahoo: With a new CEO at the helm and a recent acquisition, all eyes have been looking to Yahoo to see what it does. "It's a dark horse that has been beaten up, but we see a lot of potential in it," said Larson.

5. Apple: With the demise of Steve Jobs, it's safe to say that Apple doesn't have the same panache it once did. But that doesn't mean it's not one of the most successful companies out there. "We think Apple continues to represent one of the best investments in technology," said Rob Cihra, tech analyst at Evercore Partners, in New York. "Apple is effectively creating its own growth by creating unique and beautiful products that consumers really want to buy, staying ahead of mostly me-too competition. They're the ones pioneering every new direction, and while there's a lot of competition, the competition seems to be following Apple's lead while Apple is consistently out front."

6. Facebook: Despite its troubles after its initial public offering, "Facebook is a fantastic business," said Larson. "They have very high profit margins, very high returns on capital. They have a billion users worldwide and half are using it on a daily basis." And, he adds, the platform has a network effect: That is, you use it because your friends do, and they use it because that's where you are.

7. IBM: At 101 years old, IBM has long been in a leadership position. And over the last ten to fifteen years the company has done an "excellent job of transforming themselves from a hardware company into really high value software and services company, to the point that it's the only game in town for a lot of what it does," said Cihra. "They are typically the best at what they do."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov142012

Tech Firms Dominate 2012 List of Best Multinational Workplaces

KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Some of the best multinational workplaces are tech companies right here in the U.S., according to a new list compiled by Great Place to Work.

The research and consulting firm, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary and is headquartered in San Francisco, narrowed down a list of 5,700 companies that applied to participate in its Best Workplaces contest to a final list of 25 firms.

For this list, the companies were judged from employee surveys.  They also had to appear on at least five national Best Workplaces lists, and have at least 5,000 employees worldwide with at least 40 percent of the workforce outside their home country.

This year, the tech company SAS Institute grabbed the top honors, taking the crown from Microsoft, which won last year.  Google inched its way up to the second highest spot, after placing fourth last year.

New to the 2012 top 25 list were: W.L. Gore Associates (8th), Autodesk (10th), PepsiCo (11th), Ernst & Young (12th), Monsanto (14th), General Mills (17th) and Accor (19th).

Great Place to Work said each company in its list is creating a work culture based on "trust, pride and camaraderie."

Voluntary turnover at 15 of the 25 companies was 8 percent per annum, compared to an all industry average in the U.S. of 9.1 percent, according to CompData Service.

Here is a list of the 2012 top 15 global workplaces:

1. SAS Institute - Headquarters: Cary, N.C.
2. Google - Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif.
3. NetApp - Headquarters: Sunnyvale, Calif.
4. Kimberly-Clark - Headquarters: Irving, Texas
5. Microsoft - Headquarters: Redmond, Wash.
6. Marriott - Headquarters: Bethesda, Md.
7. FedEx - Headquarters: Bethesda, Md.
8. W.L. Gore & Associates - Headquarters: Newark, Del.
9. Diageo - Headquarters: London
10. Autodesk - Headquarters: San Rafael, Calif.
11. PepsiCo - Headquarters: Purchase, N.Y.
12. Ernst & Young - Headquarters: London
13. Telefónica - Headquarters: Madrid
14. Monsanto - Headquarters: Creve Coeur, Mo.
15. Intel - Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct262012

A Tough Week for the Internet as Major Sites Experience Outages

Photos.com/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Last week it was YouTube for a few minutes, but this week it was more than just the streaming video service that wasn't available to Internet users.

Earlier this week, Amazon's Web Services went down causing sites that rely on Amazon's servers to go down too. Popular sites like Reddit, Pinterest, and Foursquare all experienced outages as a result. The outage lasted for a few hours on Tuesday, and naturally many took to Twitter to complain about the fact that people couldn't get to their services. Twitter itself experienced its fair share of outages.

On Friday a separate outage occurred. Google's App Engine, which powers other sites, along with Dropbox and Tumblr experienced outages. The outage lasted close to two hours for many of the services.

"At approximately 7:30 am Pacific time this morning, Google began experiencing slow performance and dropped connections from one of the components of App Engine. The symptoms that service users would experience include slow response and an inability to connect to services," Google wrote on its site.

Similarly Tumblr tweeted about the outage: "Tumblr is experiencing network problems following an issue with one of our uplink providers. We will return to full service shortly." Two hours later, Tumblr tweeted that the errors had been fixed and it was back online.

"It used to be back in the day, four or five years ago, systems weren't dependent on each other. But now even standard websites -- the things people go to all the time -- are made up of 50 or 100 services that are serving ads and tracking information," Brian Gracely, a Cloud computing expert and editor of CloudCast.net, explained to ABC News. "If one of the big services or an Amazon or Google goes down it can affect hundreds of other services."

Tuesday and Friday's outages don't appear to be related, but according to the Internet Traffic Report, traffic across the web in North America declined Friday. The Next Web points out that the same report shows that there was a loss in packet data, which measures reliability of Internet connections.

These issues do not appear to be weather related either. However, many Internet providers will be preparing as Hurricane Sandy makes its way to the East Coast.

"These companies, like Google and Amazon, run the equivalent of what used to be 20th century factories. They are really large and occasionally they have an outage because they have a power failure or weather issues," Gracely said. "It happens periodically, and it used to happen more than we knew, but nowadays we are so connected we know about it more," told ABC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct182012

YouTube Goes Down; Not Google’s Best Day

YouTube/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Those who visited YouTube Thursday got a "500 Internal Server Error" starting at around 4:15 p.m. ET. The very popular video service went down for about 15 minutes Thursday afternoon. Service was restored for most by 4:30 p.m. ET.

“Some users encountered errors, or a slower than normal experience on YouTube today. Our engineers worked quickly to address the issue and fixed the problem within minutes. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this caused our users,” a Google spokesperson told ABC News.

The outage was just one of the hiccups for Google, the owner of YouTube, Thursday. The company mistakenly released its earnings results early Thursday morning, halting the stock and causing the price to take a hit. Ironically, YouTube went down as it was about to begin live streaming its earnings call on the service.

The outage was short-lived, but all it took was a few minutes for people to start airing their complaints on Twitter and asking others if it was universally down. Luckily for all those people, Twitter, which experienced its own outage a few months ago, stayed up for YouTube’s brief outage.

Turns out that even Google’s pretty server rooms aren’t foolproof.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct182012

Google's Early Earnings Report Sends Nasdaq Tumbling

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. stocks fell for the first day this week as jobless claims soared and shares of Google were halted Thursday.
 
The Dow lost eight points to end the session at 13,549. The S&P dropped four points to 1,457. The Nasdaq gave up 31 points as trading on Google stopped at $687.30 Thursday afternoon, effectively putting a damper on the technology sector.
 
Google stock hit the skids after its third-quarter earnings report became public several hours ahead of schedule. The report showed a drop in profit and revenue of more than 20 percent. The stock lost nine percent before trading was halted so investors could review the report.
 
Meanwhile, first-time unemployment claims were up by 46,000 last week after a big drop the week before.
 
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct112012

Google Adds 250,000 Miles of Street View as Apple Tries to Improve

Google(NEW YORK) -- While Apple is apologizing for its new Maps app and trying to mend the glitches, Google is trying to stomp it into the ground.

For those who haven't been following the mobile maps war between the two tech giants: Apple's new maps app in iOS 6, which was released in September, replaced Google Maps for the iPhone and iPad. It was quickly criticized by many users for its lack of certain features -- but more so for mistaken locations and jumbled images.

Thursday Google announced that it is releasing the biggest update ever to its Street View feature, which gives users a view of what places actually look like from cars dispatched by Google to photograph everything they pass. The company has doubled the number of images in Street View images, adding 250,000 miles of road from around the world.

Listed on Google's blog are places where they have added more Street View coverage. Some are in the U.S., but most are abroad, in places like South Africa, Denmark, Japan and Spain.

Google has even added places like the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taiwan and Stanley Park in Vancouver.

"Street View, as you know, is a useful resource when you're planning a route or looking for a destination, but it can also magically transport you to some of the world's picturesque and culturally significant landmarks," Ulf Spitzer, the Street View program manager, wrote.

Apple's new Maps app has been criticized for lacking anything like Street View, which is very helpful when you want to see a place without going there. While Google offers its Maps service via its mobile website for the iPhone, which includes Street View, it doesn't yet offer a full mobile app in Apple's App Store.

Two weeks ago Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, apologized for the glitches in the new maps app. Apple also directed people to Google's Maps and provided instructions on how to create a shortcut to the Google Maps website on the iPhone or iPad home screen. Apple has been releasing updates to its offering, which fix glitches like distorted landmarks.

"Apple should have kept our maps," Eric Schmidt, Google's chairman, said Wednesday night at the 92nd Street Y in New York. "The fact of the matter is they decided a long time ago to do its own maps … What Apple has learned is that maps are really hard."

Interviewer Walt Mossberg asked if Google would release a dedicated app for the iPhone. "I don't want to pre-announce products," Schmidt answered.

Google has been rumored to be planning an app for the iPhone before the end of the year, though Schmidt did say that it all would depend on Apple's approval of it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct092012

October Tech Bonanza: iPad Mini, Windows 8 and More Coming

Microsoft(NEW YORK) -- While President Obama and Mitt Romney may be racing against each other on the campaign trail and fighting it out behind podiums this month, the tech giants are up to something very similar.

This month, the major technology companies are all racing to get their new products on store shelves and one-up each other with better feature sets and price tags.  Before the month is out, Apple, Microsoft and Google are expected to make significant product announcements.

Of course, all the companies are preparing for the big holiday gadget buying season.

"All of these consumer technology announcements are about getting people excited for the holiday selling cycle, which constitutes up to 40 percent of all consumer technology sales," Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told ABC News.

Moorhead explained the end-of-October rush: "Manufacturers have to announce, ship and educate the retail channels on all new products by mid to late October to make it for mid-November sales."

Here is what you can expect in the next couple of weeks:

Apple iPad Mini
Launch Date: Mid-to-end October


After months of rumors, Apple is expected to release a smaller version of its iPad -- dubbed the iPad Mini -- later this month.  According to reports, it will have a 7.85-inch screen, the same Lightning charging port as the iPhone 5, and an aluminum body.  There's no word on the pricing, but it is expected to be competitive with other smaller tablets.

Microsoft Windows 8 and Surface
Launch date: Oct. 26


After showing off the software for almost a year, Microsoft is ready with the next version of its operating system for tablets, laptops and desktops.  Windows 8 will begin shipping on new tablets and computers from Lenovo, Asus, Acer, Dell, HP and more on Oct. 26.  You will also be able to buy the software and upgrade on that day.

But there's another major launch coming around the 26th -- Microsoft's own tablet, called Surface.  Microsoft hasn't confirmed the exact date of release or the price.

Microsoft Windows Phone 8
Launch date: Oct. 29


After releasing Windows 8, Microsoft is planning to release Windows Phone 8 on Oct. 29 at an event in San Francisco.  The phone operating system has been previewed and has some new features, including new homescreen features.  Nokia, HTC and Samsung have already announced plans to release phones running Windows Phone 8 and those are supposed to be out shortly after the launch.

Google Nexus by LG
Launch date: Late October


Google has been rumored to be releasing the next version of its Nexus phone at the end of the month.  CNET has reported that Google is working with LG and will together launch a phone similar to LG's current Optimus G, which has an HD 4.7-inch screen.  But instead of Android 4.0, it will run the new Android 4.2, which will have new features.  Other sites have also reported that there will be other Nexus phones launched by Google around the same time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep252012

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?

KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- How much toilet paper would you need to cover Texas?  How many vacuum cleaners are made a year?  Can you swim faster in water or in syrup?  How would you weigh your head?

If your answer to these questions was, "who cares?" your chances of ever working at Google, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, most of the Fortune 500, or, increasingly, the corner shoe store, are slim.  Offbeat, brain-teasing questions are all the rage right now with interviewers.

So says science writer William Poundstone, author of the new book, Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?  Its daunting subtitle: "Trick Questions, Zen-like Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques You Need to Know to Get a Job Anywhere in the New Economy."

Anywhere?  Yes, pretty much, Poundstone tells ABC News.  The reasons, he says, are several.

First, there are more people than there are jobs.  A potential employer can set the bar to entry high and still be assured of a waiting room full of desperate souls.  

Second, "HR departments are running scared, asking themselves, 'How can we make sure our questions have predictive power for how well someone will do on the job?'"

There's not absolute proof that the new questions work, Poundstone says, but there's abundant evidence (including a Harvard study) that the old ones don't.  Most hiring decisions, researchers have shown, have more to do with an applicant's appearance or manner of speech than they do with his or her intellect.

Many of Google's questions, says Poundstone, are intentionally open-ended.  Example: "How would you devise an evacuation plan for San Francisco?"  In most instances, there is no single correct answer.  The interviewer's goal is to see how the thinking process of the applicant works, and to gauge his or her creativity in problem-solving.

Google declined an ABC News request for comment.

The book's most useful features include "A Field Guide to Devious Interview Questions," which divides questions into categories (e.g., classic logic puzzles, lateral-thinking puzzles, insight questions, tests of divergent thinking, etc.), then offers strategies and tips for answering each type.

Another feature is useful whether you interview with Google or any other employer: "Salvaging a Doomed Interview" offers advice for how to buy yourself time to think and how to make a good impression on your interviewer, whether you know the answer or not.

The second half of the book gives answers to the teasers cited in the first -- although which of these you ever might be asked is tough to say.  Questions, Poundstone explains, have a shelf life of their own.  Some ("Why are man hole covers round?") escape the shops of their creators and become part of company or industry folklore, such that more and more applicants come prepared to answer.

Interviewers at Google, for this reason, invest effort coming up with ever-newer and more devious questions.  It's more valuable for the applicant to understand the strategy for answering a given type of question than to have a canned answer ready.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug282012

Google Makes Voter Registration Easy with TurboVote Partnership

Google(NEW YORK) -- The 2012 election and convention tech tools keep on coming.

On Tuesday Google announced the launch of its Online Voter Guide, a portal that allows Google users to register to vote easily. In addition to its YouTube Elections Hub and its Google Politics & Elections site, this page will provide easy access to TurboVote, which lets you register to vote, vote by mail, and sign up for emails and texts about the upcoming election. TurboVote breaks voter registration down into a few clickable steps.

“To make it easy to navigate the rules and deadlines about registering to vote and how to vote by mail, we put together an online voter guide. We’ve also added a special section to make it easier for military and overseas voters to find information about their different rules and deadlines,” Google’s Eric Hysen wrote on the company’s blog.  Google and YouTube will be streaming the conventions and debates at its Election Hub Channel.

The 2012 conventions are expected to be the most connected political events in U.S. history. A number of apps have been released around the events and both campaigns have been extremely active on social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug272012

Apple v. Samsung: What the Verdict Means for You and the Tech Industry

SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The verdict in the landmark Apple v. Samsung case was a major win for Apple -- the jury finding that many of Samsung's phones and tablets copied Apple's iPhone and iPad, and recommended that Samsung pay Apple over $1 billion in damages.

But it's not just Samsung that is going to pay and it's certainly not just about money (although Samsung's stock price has dropped over the past few days). The impact could ripple out from the company to the rest of the mobile industry, and ultimately to the technology you buy or own.

There's one thing many industry analysts agree on in the wake of the verdict: there's going to have to be more innovation in mobile devices. Plain and simple: products will have to start to look different from the iPhone and iPad.

"The jury reaffirmed Apple's claim that the design may be obvious when you see it but it takes work, vision and refinement to make it all come together as an experience. At the moment the only handset vendors that probably aren't concerned long term are Nokia and RIM," Michael Gartenberg, research director at the market research firm Gartner, told ABC News.

"With Apple patents being upheld, this will force the larger industry toward greater innovation and differentiation. If you're a CE [consumer electronics] vendor thinking of 'borrowing' any aspect of Apple design, you might want to think twice."

Nilay Patel, a former patent attorney and managing editor of The Verge, a technology publication, has said the same, and points out that Apple's competitors have already begun to change their new products to protect themselves.

"I think Apple's proven that its case about copying is very strong; we are already seeing software features change," Patel told ABC News. "I am sure we are going to see other software changes. I also believe we are going to see a highly differentiated hardware design."

During the trial, Apple's lawyers pointed to phones made by Nokia -- the Lumia 900 in particular -- to illustrate its point that not all phones had to be made to look like the iPhone.

Google's Android operating system was a center point in this trial. It is used in more mobile devices than any other, including all the Samsung products in dispute in this case. A number of Android features, including the way users have to move their fingers to zoom in or out on their screens, were found to infringe on Apple's patents.

"I think Apple's ultimate target is not just Samsung but the Android ecosystem. They view Google as their ultimate competitor, this is a setback for all of Android," Mark Lemley, a law professor at Stanford University, told ABC News.

With that in mind, some analysts believe that could be a major boon for Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system.

"The Samsung-Apple verdict was good for Microsoft's Windows Phone," said Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights, in an interview with ABC News. "Not only is Microsoft free and clear of legal encumbrances, the once 'free' Android is looking more expensive every day when you add the Microsoft license fee plus a potential Apple license fee."

Microsoft employees even tweeted that reaction after the verdict was announced. "Windows Phone is looking gooooood right now," Bill Cox,  Sr. Director of Marketing Communications for the Windows Phone, tweeted after the verdict. Microsoft's next version of Windows Phone -- Windows Phone 8 -- is expected to hit in the next couple of weeks. Popular Android handset makers, including Samsung and HTC, already sell Windows Phone devices.

Google, on the other hand, said it doesn't believe the verdict will have far-reaching impact on its operating system. "The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims. Most of these don't relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being re-examined by the U.S. Patent Office," Google said in a statement.

But those are longer-term changes. More immediately, there is a good chance that Samsung products that infringed on Apple's patents will be pulled from store shelves as Apple has been seeking an injunction against their sale.

Since the law moves slowly, though, many of the products in question aren't on the market anymore. Today Apple announced it is seeking a ban on the following Samsung phones: Galaxy S 4G, Galaxy S2 (AT&T), Galaxy S2 (Skyrocket), Galaxy S2 (T-Mobile), Galaxy S2 Epic 4G, Galaxy S Showcase, Droid Charge and the Galaxy Prevail. The Galaxy S2 phone is no longer available at many carriers; the new Galaxy S III and Galaxy Nexus hadn't been released yet when the suit was filed, and were not considered in this case.

That said, Lemley believes Apple will attempt to go after those newer handsets in the injunction. "Is it limited just to these products or does it prevent Samsung from implementing it into other products?" Lemley said.

Samsung could also be forced to make software updates to existing products to alter some of the features cited in the suit. Samsung was forced to issue an update on its Galaxy Nexus phone earlier this summer for similar reasons.

But if you have a Samsung phone, don't toss it just yet. Before all of this happens, Samsung is expected to appeal the decision.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio