AMZN - Amazon.com, Inc.

NasdaqGS - NasdaqGS Real Time Price. Currency in USD
1,787.48
+10.05 (+0.57%)
At close: 4:00PM EDT

1,791.00 +3.52 (0.20%)
Pre-Market: 8:20AM EDT

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Previous Close1,777.43
Open1,796.49
Bid1,792.00 x 800
Ask1,790.06 x 800
Day's Range1,782.02 - 1,798.85
52 Week Range1,307.00 - 2,035.80
Volume2,713,773
Avg. Volume3,263,363
Market Cap884.188B
Beta (3Y Monthly)1.63
PE Ratio (TTM)74.16
EPS (TTM)24.10
Earnings DateOct. 24, 2019
Forward Dividend & YieldN/A (N/A)
Ex-Dividend DateN/A
1y Target Est2,303.69
Trade prices are not sourced from all markets
  • The outcry over deaths on Amazon's warehouse floor
    The Guardian

    The outcry over deaths on Amazon's warehouse floor

    Billy Foister died last month after a heart attack at work. The incident was just one in a series of recent accidents and fatalities. In September, Billy Foister, a 48-year-old Amazon warehouse worker, passed away after a heart attack at work. According to his brother, an Amazon human resources representative informed him at the hospital that Billy had lain on the floor for 20 minutes before receiving treatment from Amazon’s internal safety responders. “How can you not see a 6ft3in man laying on the ground and not help him within 20 minutes? A couple of days before, he put the wrong product in the wrong bin and within two minutes management saw it on camera and came down to talk to him about it,” Edward Foister said. Amazon said it had responded to Foister’s collapse “within minutes”. An Amazon worker on the same shift told the Guardian: “Bill was on the floor for quite some time and nobody knew that time until cameras were reviewed, but in 20 minutes a worker in a nearby department saw him lying on the floor and then began radio callouts for 911. It really is unbelievable how Bill was laying there for 20 minutes and nobody nearby saw until an Amnesty worker with a radio came by.” The worker, who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, noted the Amnesty worker started CPR after finding Foister. Amnesty workers are Amazon floor monitors who ensure the warehouse floors are clear and reset robot units when necessary. The incident is among the latest in a series of accidents and fatalities that have led to Amazon’s inclusion on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s 2019 Dirty Dozen list of the most dangerous employers in the United States. The report cited six Amazon worker deaths between November 2018 and April 2019, and several news reports over the past few years that have detailed dangerous working conditions. Foister, a stower who scanned and stocked warehouse shelves with products at an Amazon warehouse in Etna, Ohio, just outside of Columbus, went into cardiac arrest on 2 September 2019. On the 911 call recording, obtained by the Guardian, the operator directed an Amazon employee through finding and using an automated external defibrillator (AED) on Foister, who was unresponsive to CPR. Emergency services responded to the call in under six minutes. “After the incident, everyone was forced to go back to work. No time to decompress. Basically watch a man pass away and then get told to go back to work, everyone, and act like it’s fine,” said another Amazon worker on the shift. Billy Foister was taken to a hospital, where Edward was immediately told that his brother had passed away after efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. Edward noted that a week earlier, his brother had gone to the warehouse’s AmCare clinic and reported headaches and chest pains. According to Foister, his brother had his blood pressure taken and was told he was dehydrated, given two beverages to drink, and sent back to work. “There was no reason for my brother to have died. He went to AmCare complaining about chest pains. He should have been sent to the hospital, not just sent back to work just to put things like toothpaste in a bin so somebody can get it in an hour,” Edward said. “It seems Amazon values money way more than life. If they did their job right, I wouldn’t have had to bury my little brother.” Amazon denied that Billy Foister died at the warehouse and said he was treated “within minutes”. “The passing of the employee did not occur at the facility. The employee experienced a personal medical issue (heart attack) and lost consciousness. Several trained team members quickly responded and administered CPR and AED until local emergency responders arrived, within minutes, and took over. The employee was then transported to a local hospital for further treatment, where he was later pronounced deceased,” said an Amazon spokesperson in an email. A similar incident occurred at the Etna fulfillment center in March 2019, where a picker, Joe Bowman, died after going into cardiac arrest. According to 911 call records, a 60-year-old picker went into cardiac arrest on the job on 20 March 2019 and was found unconscious. “Go back to work,” the supervisor who reported the incident to 911 personnel told another concerned worker while on the phone with theoperator. “Everybody worked as usual,” said a third worker in Etna on the shift. The supervisor told the 911 operator on the recorded call that the worker was “down three to five minutes without CPR”. Amazon did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the incident or on the frequency of such incidents among its fulfillment center workforce. Amazon also denied providing delayed medical attention to Billy Foister, though it’s not the first time the company has been accused of providing delayed medical attention to a warehouse worker during a cardiac arrest. In January 2019, the widow of 57-year-old Thomas Becker filed a lawsuit against Amazon, alleging management delayed medical attention during a cardiac arrest while Becker worked at a Joliet, Illinois, Amazon warehouse in 2017. The lawsuit is pending in federal court for the northern district, eastern division, of Illinois. Between January and March 2019, 28 911 calls were made from the fulfillment center in Etna, including five instances of suicidal concerns regarding employees and five on-the-job injuries. A bout 3,700 workers are employed at the warehouse. An Amazon spokesperson said: “As a company, we work hard to provide a safe, quality working environment for the 250,000 hourly employees across Amazon’s US facilities. Safety is a fundamental principle across our company and is inherent in our facility infrastructure, design, and operations.”

  • Intel Q3 2019 Earnings Preview: Will INTC Stock Climb?
    Zacks

    Intel Q3 2019 Earnings Preview: Will INTC Stock Climb?

    Intel stock has lagged far behind the broader semiconductor industry's 2019 climb. So let's take a look at what to expect from Intel's upcoming Q3 2019 earnings results to see if INTC stock might be set to pop...

  • Ford Partners with Amazon to Charge Electric Cars
    Market Realist

    Ford Partners with Amazon to Charge Electric Cars

    Ford Motor Company (F) will be partnering with Amazon (AMZN) and Volkswagen in a bid to leverage the growth of electric cars.

  • Sen. Wyden: People like Mark Zuckerberg should be punished for their lies
    Yahoo Finance

    Sen. Wyden: People like Mark Zuckerberg should be punished for their lies

    Oregon Senator Rob Wyden introduces a new data privacy bill,known as the Mind Your Own Business Act.

  • Microsoft Earnings Preview: Buy MSFT Stock on Cloud Computing Growth?
    Zacks

    Microsoft Earnings Preview: Buy MSFT Stock on Cloud Computing Growth?

    Microsoft stock has moved somewhat sideways over the last three months as it cools off after a stellar first half of 2019. This means that the tech giant's upcoming quarterly earnings results will likely be the next catalyst for MSFT shares...

  • TSMC Just Showed Its Chips Are Hot
    Bloomberg

    TSMC Just Showed Its Chips Are Hot

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Investors looking for signs that the worst is over for the chip sector would be pleased by what Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. served up Thursday. All of its key earnings data point to a rebound in demand, and more importantly to pragmatic inventory management after a glut last year dragged down the entire industry. TSMC’s third-quarter net income beat estimates and its fourth-quarter revenue outlook came in at the top of analysts’ expectations. But the standout headline from the company’s investor conference was its decision to boost its capital expenditure this year by close to 40%. By the end of September it had already shelled out $9.4 billion of the “more than” $11 billion it had previously expected for the full year.That may seem like a brave wager, considering a deepening trade war on two fronts — between the U.S. and China, as well as Japan and South Korea — and President Donald Trump’s campaign against TSMC’s key client, Huawei Technologies Co. Just months ago, shoppers were eschewing futuristic gadgets and putting off smartphone upgrades. But TSMC has rarely made mistakes about how to spend its capex: This plan is not only bold but smart. The world’s biggest chipmaker plans to spend a record-breaking $14 billion to $15 billion this year on the leading-edge equipment it needs to manufacture chips for devices such as Apple Inc. iPhones and Huawei’s smartphones. The company turned more aggressive, CEO C.C. Wei explained, because it sees stronger-than-expected demand for next-generation manufacturing technologies. These chips will be used in smartphones, data centers, IoT devices (think Amazon Alexa) and even cars, he said. Wei said he’s confident that the higher spending will be justified by quicker revenue growth, especially with faster fifth-generation mobile networks and handsets ready to go mainstream in the coming year. Because of the technology involved, 5G networks require more base stations than an equivalent 4G rollout, which will further help semiconductor sales.What should really cheer investors, though, are the figures that often get overlooked, namely inventory. One of the biggest problems afflicting the sector a year ago was that companies — from Apple to PC-chipmaker Intel Corp. and iPhone assembler Foxconn Technology Group — all overshot the mark when it came to buying and building chips, only to be met with lackluster demand from consumers.TSMC’s inventory, measured in Taiwan dollars, fell by 8.2% in the September quarter, the biggest drop in more than two years. Days of inventory — another measure that tracks its stockpiles — dropped to 65 days, the lowest in 18 months. This shows that there’s a smaller risk that TSMC and its clients got ahead of themselves this time. Before celebrating a new dawn for the tech sector, there is a caveat. More sales for TSMC doesn’t necessarily mean more devices being sold to end consumers. That’s because smartphones are becoming even smarter, requiring more chips inside. High-end cameras, for example, require higher-resolution sensors, which in turn means more chips within a phone to manage the power, data and memory that such functionality requires. That said, investors looking for an excuse to jump back into tech shares got exactly what they needed from TSMC. If not signs of stronger demand, evidence of pragmatic inventory management makes it look like a safer sector to place a bet.To contact the author of this story: Tim Culpan at tculpan1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at rrosenthal21@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Will SNAP Stock Rise above Its IPO Price after Earnings?
    Market Realist

    Will SNAP Stock Rise above Its IPO Price after Earnings?

    The Q3 Snap earnings report is due on October 22. So could a positive surprise be enough to send Snap stock back toward its original price?

  • Amazon Needs a Leash
    Bloomberg

    Amazon Needs a Leash

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The New Yorker and the Atlantic have never been known for their business coverage, so when both magazines published long articles about Amazon.com Inc. in their current issues it signaled that something is in the air. That something is antitrust.More precisely, what’s in the air is the question of what the government should do to rein in the tremendous power of the big four tech companies: Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple Inc. and Amazon.Once the province of think tanks and law reviews, this topic has become such a public concern that 48 of the 50 state attorneys general are conducting antitrust investigations, presidential hopefuls are calling for tech giants to be broken up, and general interest magazines like, well, the New Yorker and the Atlantic are asking whether the companies abuse their market power. In this particular case, the magazines are asking it about Amazon.The Atlantic article is by Franklin Foer, who has long raised concerns about Big Tech. Five years ago, for instance, he wrote a cover story for the New Republic titled “Amazon Must Be Stopped.” It focused on Amazon’s dominance over the book business.This time around, he is writing about the unbridled ambition of Amazon’s founder and chief executive officer Jeff Bezos. (The new article is “Jeff Bezos’s Master Plan.”) “Bezos’s ventures are by now so large and varied that it is difficult to truly comprehend the nature of his empire, much less the end point of his ambitions,” Foer writes. He then goes through a list. Bezos wants to conquer space with his company Blue Origin. Bezos’s ownership of the Washington Post makes him a significant media and political figure. Bezos’s brainchild, Amazon, “is the most awe-inspiring creation in the history of American business.” And so on.He also points out that while critics fear Amazon’s monopoly power, the company is loved by consumers. “A 2018 poll sponsored by Georgetown University and the Knight Foundation found that Amazon engendered greater confidence than virtually any other American institution,” he writes. I have no doubt that this is true; Amazon’s obsession with customer service instills tremendous loyalty among consumers. It’s no accident that over 100 million people now pay the company $119 a year to be Amazon Prime members. That loyalty is also one reason taking antitrust actions against Amazon would be much more difficult than going after Facebook or Google. I’ll get to some other reasons shortly.Charles Duhigg’s New Yorker article “Is Amazon Unstoppable?” is both smarter about Amazon and more pointed about its power. Duhigg captures its relentless culture, comparing it to a flywheel that never stops. He described Bezos’s efforts to ensure that Amazon never loses the feel of a scrappy startup. The phrase that came to mind as I was reading Duhigg’s article was Andy Grove’s famous dictum: “Only the paranoid survive.”Duhigg is also interested in what Amazon’s critics have to say. Amazon pays no U.S. taxes. Amazon’s work culture makes it nearly impossible for women who want children to have long careers there. Amazon’s warehouse workers are sometimes fired after being injured on the job. Amazon looks the other way when counterfeit goods are sold on its site. (In the article, Amazon’s representatives deny these allegations.)Then there’s the fact that Amazon both serves as a platform for companies wanting to sell things and sells things itself. In other words, it competes with the same companies it enables. According to Duhigg, Amazon has been known to track items that do well, and then make its own version of the same item — which it then sells at a discounted price. (Amazon denies this, too.) Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s commissioner for competition, told Duhigg that the practice “deserves much more scrutiny.”The story’s killer anecdote, at least as it concerns antitrust, is about Birkenstock USA LP’s experience with Amazon. Although Birkenstock sold millions of dollars of shoes using the Amazon platform, it was constantly hearing customer complaints that the shoes were defective. Why? Because, according to Birkenstock, Amazon allowed counterfeits to be sold on the site. Not only would Amazon not take down the counterfeit goods, but it also wouldn’t even tell Birkenstock who was selling them.Amazon also had stocked a year’s worth of Birkenstock inventory, which terrified the company. “What if Amazon decides to start selling the shoes for 99 cents, or to give them away with Prime membership, or do a buy-one-get-one-free,” wondered Birkenstock’s chief executive officer, David Kahan. “We were powerless.”Kahan’s complaints went nowhere. So he pulled Birkenstocks off Amazon. What did Amazon do? It solicited Birkenstock retailers, offering to buy shoes directly from them. Today, if you search for Birkenstocks on Amazon you’ll be deluged with choices even though the company itself refuses to do business with Amazon. I found a pair of Arizona oiled leather sandals — listed on Birkenstock's website for $135 — marked down to $60 on Amazon. Is it the real thing, or is it a counterfeit?The hard question: What do you do about this kind of behavior? On one extreme is the Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren, who believes the most appropriate solution is to break up Amazon. At the other end of the spectrum, there are still plenty of antitrust economists who believe that if a $135 sandal is being sold for $60, that’s good for consumers. They argue that the government should just stay out of the way.I’m a proponent of breaking up Facebook, mainly because I believe if you force it to disgorge two of its prized platforms, Instagram and WhatsApp, you’ll instantly create serious competitors. That could help raise the bar on privacy, data usage and other concerns. But I’m not sure that would work with Amazon.For instance, if Amazon had to separate its highly profitable cloud service, Amazon Web Services, from its retail business the power dynamic between Amazon and the companies that use its platform would remain.What’s more, it’s harder to make a classic antitrust case against Amazon than it is against Facebook and Google. According to the research firm EMarketer Inc., Amazon is expected to account for 37.7% of all online commerce in 2019. By contrast, Google controls 89% of the search market.Still, for too many retailers, Amazon has the power to control their destiny, for good or ill. As the antitrust activist Lina Khan wrote in her now-famous 2017 article in the Yale Law Journal: “History suggests that allowing a single actor to set the terms of the marketplace, largely unchecked, can pose serious hazards.” I take that assessment to mean that government intervention at Amazon is needed.To my mind, the simplest and most sensible solution is from the economist Hal Singer: Don’t allow platform companies to favor their own products over competitors’ products. Singer calls this a “nondiscrimination regime,” and models it after the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act, which prevents cable distributors from favoring their own content over content from competitors. In that scenario, a company that felt it was being discriminated against by Amazon could bring a complaint to federal regulators just as cable stations can do now. This regime has worked well for the TV industry. It could work for Amazon, too.Secondly, the government should hold Amazon accountable for counterfeits. Counterfeiting is against the law, and although Amazon told Duhigg that it spends “hundreds of millions of dollars” on anti-counterfeiting efforts it’s no secret that many deceptively labeled goods are still sold on the site. (See, for instance, this recent Wall Street Journal story.) Companies like Birkenstock have a right to expect that a platform selling its products will rigorously police counterfeits — and will identify counterfeiters so manufacturers of authentic goods can take legal action.These are solvable problems. They don’t require extreme measures. What they do require is a government with the will to transform Amazon’s platform from what it is now, a vehicle that squelches competition, to one that lets competition flower.(Corrects paragraphs 12 and 13 to accurately reflect pricing disparities between sandals sold on Birkenstock's website and those sold on Amazon.)To contact the author of this story: Joe Nocera at jnocera3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Timothy L. O'Brien at tobrien46@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Joe Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He has written business columns for Esquire, GQ and the New York Times, and is the former editorial director of Fortune. His latest project is the Bloomberg-Wondery podcast "The Shrink Next Door."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Snap Q3 Earnings Report on Deck: Will the Run Continue?
    Zacks

    Snap Q3 Earnings Report on Deck: Will the Run Continue?

    Snap (SNAP) is set to report its third quarter results after the closing bell on Tuesday, October 22.

  • Boot Barn (BOOT) and Burlington Stores (BURL) Are Aggressive Growth Stocks
    Zacks

    Boot Barn (BOOT) and Burlington Stores (BURL) Are Aggressive Growth Stocks

    A look at two more stocks for your aggressive growth stock radar screen.

  • Manufacturing & Retail Worries, Brexit, Q3 Earnings & Buy Google Stock - Free Lunch
    Zacks

    Manufacturing & Retail Worries, Brexit, Q3 Earnings & Buy Google Stock - Free Lunch

    Signs of hope for a Brexit deal and U.S.-China trade war updates. Some disappointing U.S. manufacturing and retail data. Q3 earnings results from the likes of Netflix. And why Google parent Alphabet is a Zack Ranks 1 (Strong Buy) stock. - Free Lunch

  • 3 Reasons Google Investors Should Worry about Amazon
    Market Realist

    3 Reasons Google Investors Should Worry about Amazon

    Google’s advertising market is under attack from Amazon, which also stands as an obstacle in the cloud and smart speaker markets.

  • IBM is really hoping the Red Hat acquisition pays off: analyst
    Yahoo Finance

    IBM is really hoping the Red Hat acquisition pays off: analyst

    One technology analyst says despite IBM's disappointing third quarter results, its long-term saving grace is its acquisition of Red Hat.

  • Amazon and Roo Foods Deal Under Scrutiny
    Market Realist

    Amazon and Roo Foods Deal Under Scrutiny

    Amazon's investment in the UK-based Roo Foods is creating a major hurdle with regulators in the United Kingdom. Here's what investors should know.

  • Cognizant Set to Buy Technology Consulting Firm Contino
    Zacks

    Cognizant Set to Buy Technology Consulting Firm Contino

    Cognizant's (CTSH) buyout of Contino is expected to boost its digital engineering processes to design and build customer-centric products.

  • Earnings Preview: Amazon (AMZN) Q3 Earnings Expected to Decline
    Zacks

    Earnings Preview: Amazon (AMZN) Q3 Earnings Expected to Decline

    Amazon (AMZN) doesn't possess the right combination of the two key ingredients for a likely earnings beat in its upcoming report. Get prepared with the key expectations.

  • Bloomberg

    Save Some of That Facebook Fury for Policy Makers

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Fury is the prevailing feeling of 2019. People are angry much of the time about so many things. Sometimes, though, I wonder whether the anger is misdirected.Often, the targets are companies. There’s pressure on retailers like Walmart Inc. to restrict gun sales. There’s anger at Facebook Inc. for running a misleading political ad from President Donald Trump’s campaign. Some people are furious at oil companies for not doing more to slow climate change, and at Uber Technologies Inc. for taking advantage of drivers or worsening traffic-clogged cities.I get it. Actions of powerful companies or their failures to act can have a profound impact. They are legitimate targets for popular pressure, and companies can’t simply sell potentially harmful products or run their businesses in destructive ways and ignore the consequences.But this rage is not only about those individual companies. It’s also redirected fury about inaction by policy makers.People are mad about government inaction on gun violence, but policy makers are paralyzed and anger gets channeled at Walmart. People are mad about nonsensical political speech rules, failures to make laws on personal data privacy or corporate tax avoidance, but few Americans believe Congress or regulators will do anything. Instead, people are left to vent at companies.Have we gotten to the point where U.S. elected officials are so impotent that the only recourse is to hope profit-minded companies do the right thing — and then get angry when we believe they don’t? There are policies that companies can improve on their own, including employee pay and sexual harassment prevention. There is also a need for clarity from elected officials — either on their own or in concert with big companies.  Rules about political ads are one such example. I don’t want politicians to be able to mislead voters on Facebook, but the company is not solely responsible for the half-truth political attack ads that run on its services. Laws and tough regulation are a better approach than always relying on the wisdom of individual internet companies or television networks to make the tough calls.Gun policy, corporate tax avoidance, labor laws and protecting elections from cyberattacks are also matters policy makers are best placed to tackle. My Bloomberg Opinion colleague Matt Levine wrote about the oddity of members of Congress being angry at failures by the Federal Trade Commission to restrict Facebook’s data collection practices when Congress could impose those restrictions by passing a law.I don’t want policy paralysis to absolve companies of responsibility for doing bad things or preventing harm. And companies are not innocent here, either. They fight against laws and regulation, which effectively gives themselves more responsibility — and they sometimes use government inaction to justify their own.Facebook for years fought to exclude itself from rules that mandate disclosures of who is behind political ads on other media such as broadcast television. And Amazon.com Inc.’s history includes advocating for a national sales tax law — which it knew was unlikely to happen — while it employed aggressive tactics to avoid charging sales tax in many U.S. states. (Amazon gave up fighting state sales taxes around 2012.) Facebook, Google and Amazon are now advocating for federal laws that sometimes feel like self-serving attempts to muzzle state or local rules they don’t like or to pass the buck on controversial company policies. When California recently did act to pass a law that could force Uber and other companies to treat contract workers as employees, Uber vowed to fight it and made a technical legal argument that a law tailor-made for Uber doesn’t apply to the company. Those tactics aside, it is hard to thread the needle between saying companies like Facebook and Amazon are way too powerful and also relying solely on them to always make hard policy decisions. That’s why we have elections and a government.A version of this column originally appeared in Bloomberg’s Fully Charged technology newsletter. You can sign up here.To contact the author of this story: Shira Ovide at sovide@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Shira Ovide is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. She previously was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Moving Average Crossover Alert: Amazon.com
    Zacks

    Moving Average Crossover Alert: Amazon.com

    Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) could be a stock to avoid from a technical perspective, as the firm is seeing unfavorable trends on the moving average crossover front.

  • Holidays a Litmus Test for Retailers Post September Sales Drop
    Zacks

    Holidays a Litmus Test for Retailers Post September Sales Drop

    Retailers will surely be looking for green shoots of consumer spending in hopes for improved business activities during the festive period.

  • Bloomberg

    Builders Ditch Nest After Google Ties Devices to Digital Assistant

    (Bloomberg) -- Several residential builders have stopped buying and installing Google’s Nest devices after the internet giant overhauled how Nest technology works with other gadgets.The Alphabet Inc. unit bought Nest in 2014 for $3.2 billion to enter the so-called smart-home market. Nest has become one of the largest makers of internet-connected thermostats, smoke alarms and locks.The devices were popular with builders who saw a Nest gadget as a way to increase the value of properties. But earlier this year, that began to change as Google exerted more control over Nest and started changing the underlying technology.As a more independent business, Nest developed software that helped its gadgets communicate with a wide range of products from other manufacturers, through accounts set up directly by users.As of the end of August this year, however, consumers need a Google account -- and access to the company’s voice-based Google Assistant service -- to integrate new Nest products with other devices in their homes.The move may help the internet giant weave its Google Assistant deeper into people’s lives. But for builders it’s just a pain because Nest devices no longer work so well with the other gadgets they install in homes, such as audio and entertainment systems, and alarms and other security gear. It’s also a less enticing user proposition with all the privacy permissions that Google Assistant requires.That’s spurred some builders -- who collectively purchase tens of thousands of Nest devices each year -- to avoid Nest products.“We’ve stopped,” said Mark Zikra, vice president of technology at CA Ventures, which builds and operates apartments, senior homes and other property. “In an apartment complex we’re talking about 200, 300 devices that would be installed in one swoop and then all of a sudden everyone moves in. We don’t have the luxury of being able to say ‘hey are you a Google person or are you a Honeywell person?’”Similar sentiments were shared by others in the construction industry, including two large systems-integration firms that work with hundreds of builders across the U.S.For Sean Weiner, chief technology officer of Bravas Group, the main sticking point is Google’s decision to tie its digital assistant to Nest products going forward. Bravas installs smart-home devices and audio systems in about 3,500 high-end homes a year, and the ability to connect to as many different gadgets as possible is the most important feature. Digital assistants can’t handle these larger, more complex systems, according to Weiner.“If we put that control in the hands of Google, we’ve lost that control,” he said.This could dent Nest sales at a time when Google is trying to generate more revenue from consumer hardware. Commercial installers and builders are an important source of smart-home sales and Nest had developed a program to train professionals how to hook up its gadgets.Google has said it is being more selective with outside partners to increase security and privacy. At an event this week in New York City, the company highlighted how its home devices and smartphones work together to provide functionality that consumers can’t get unless they go all-in with Google technology. Still, the company is working to increase the number of other devices Nest products work with.That’s little comfort for builders in the midst of existing projects, such as David Berman who has been installing electronics in homes since the 1960s. Now, his company sets up networks of smart-home devices in thousands of homes a year. When Google said Nest’s integration technology was changing earlier this year, he stopped using the devices.“We were more or less forced into the switch,” he said. “When people buy a connected device, they expect it to connect. That’s not something that happens with Nest anymore.”Google isn’t alone in trying to tie its devices to a digital assistant. Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. have pursued similar goals, and the smart-home market increasingly revolves around the tech giants, with manufacturers of light bulbs, thermostats, smoke alarms and more struggling to make their wares compatible with all three.Even though Nest has been owned by Google for five years, it hadn’t been fully pulled into the internet giant’s orbit until now.When Google announced the acquisition in 2014, Nest said it would only share user data with its own products and services, not Google’s. In a blog post, Nest co-founder Matt Rogers said “Nest data will stay with Nest” and that the company wasn’t changing its Terms of Service.It didn’t take long for that to change. And Rogers’s blog post is no longer available on Nest’s website. Less than six months after the deal, Nest said Google would connect some of its apps, letting Google know whether Nest users were at home or not. The integration allowed those people to set the temperature of their homes with voice commands and helped Google’s digital assistant set the temperature automatically when it detected the people were returning home.Initially, smart-home products connected to “home hubs” that acted as a gateway linking many devices -- even if they used different communication standards and protocols. “That idea has mostly died” as tech giants take over that central role with their voice assistants and smart speakers, said Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research.“This is a symptom of a larger challenge in the smart-home arena,” he added.Interoperability doesn’t need to be compromised for security and privacy, said Aaron Emigh, chief executive officer of Brilliant Home Technology Inc., which makes a centralized hub that hosts Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.Amazon put Brilliant through many tests, ranging from audio quality to the ability to stop hacks. The same hasn’t happened with Google, he said. Google devices, such as its Home smart speakers, can be used to control Brilliant’s hub with your voice, but the integration is incomplete compared with Alexa, Emigh added.“What they’re doing is creating a lot of mistrust around Google and that’s then causing people to de-select Google and Nest as technology platforms,” Emigh said. “That’s happening in droves.”\--With assistance from Mark Bergen.To contact the reporter on this story: Gerrit De Vynck in New York at gdevynck@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr, Vlad SavovFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Amazon Charges Brands for Slots On Its ‘Curated’ Holiday Toy Guide
    Bloomberg

    Amazon Charges Brands for Slots On Its ‘Curated’ Holiday Toy Guide

    (Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. just released its annual holiday toy guide, telling customers the Lego Disney castle, VTech’s Magical unicorn and more than 1,700 other items were “thoughtfully curated to help shoppers quickly tackle even the lengthiest holiday shopping lists.”What Amazon doesn’t mention are the millions of dollars it charges the toy industry just to be considered for a spot on the popular gift guide.Amazon sells Holiday Toy List sponsorships for as much as $2 million, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg. The more sponsors pay, the more products they can nominate to be on the list and the more prominently their own products will be featured on the popular website. Amazon aimed to sell at least $20 million in sponsorships for this year’s list, the documents show. Amazon also published a summer toy list with lower sponsorship prices.It’s perfectly legal for Amazon to sell advertising on its site. It becomes a problem when the world’s largest online retailer tells shoppers recommendations are curated by experts but doesn’t disclose the money it gets from the toy industry, said Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. Because consumers place more value on recommendations from independent sources, he said, companies prefer to keep their financial involvement hidden.“They don’t write ‘paid ad’ on it because it completely changes how consumers perceive the information,” Weissman said. “If the list is entirely or in part paid advertising, people have a right to know.”Amazon likened the payments it received to the money brands pay stores to be included in advertising circulars or to get prominent shelf space. In an emailed statement, the company said: “Every product on our annual Holiday Toy List, which features family gift ideas from new releases to customer favorites, is independently curated by a team of in-house experts based on a high bar for quality, design, innovation and play experience. We source product ideas from many places, including our selling partners who have an opportunity to nominate their best toys for the season and increase visibility of those toys.”Gift lists are a time-tested way for toy manufacturers to stand out in the critical holiday rush when busy parents are desperate for ideas. Toymakers are eager to appear on these lists because the companies generate about half their annual sales during the holiday season.Walmart Inc. charges toymakers $10,000 monthly per product to appear on its “Buyer’s Picks” toy list in November and December, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg. The company produces other lists, including “Top Rated by Kids,” which uses feedback from children who test and rate more than 100 toys in July. Walmart and its toy suppliers partner to determine which 100 toys will be tested. Spokeswoman Leigh Stidham said suppliers and brands cannot pay to be included on the latter list, but didn’t comment on “Buyer’s Picks.”Parents looking for independent recommendations can turn to toy lists produced by third-party reviewers such as Toy Insider and Toys, Tots, Pets & More (TTPM). But in an era when customer reviews can be gamed and social-media influencers push products without always disclosing that they’re getting paid, consumers sometimes struggle to distinguish between objective online recommendations and paid promotions.The law is murky about precisely what should be disclosed and when. The Federal Trade Commission, which enforces deceptive advertising laws, issues general guidelines. A full-page magazine photo of a thirsty runner guzzling from a glistening bottle of Fiji water is so obviously an advertisement it doesn’t have to be disclosed. If the same water brand pays the magazine to publish what appears to be a news story about the health benefits of its product, it must be clearly labeled an advertisement so consumers aren’t confused.While federal regulators are taking a closer look at advertising these days, they can’t possibly monitor all the promotional activity out there. So the FTC occasionally cracks down to send a message, as it did in 2017 with letters to more than 90 influencers and marketers reminding them about the need to disclose paid promotions in social media. The spotty enforcement presents a big gray area for the toy industry.The lists are a powerful negotiating tool for retailers, according to industry insiders familiar with the process. Toymakers are led to understand that if they buy marketing space on the lists they will get bigger orders, the people said. Sometimes manufacturers get better visibility if they agree to sell a product exclusively through the retailer, they said. Retailers include only toys on the list that they are actually selling.Lists are a fast-growing part of Amazon’s advertising business. Amazon holiday gift guides promoting toys, electronics and home goods combined to generate more than $120 million in revenue in 2017, up about 40% from the previous year, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg.What sets Amazon apart from other retailers is how much it charges for space on its toy page over the holidays. A narrow strip across the top of the web page costs $500,000 per month in November and December, up from $150,000 the rest of the year, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg. A billboard ad atop the toys page runs $300,000 per month, up from $75,000 the rest of the year.Similar spots atop Walmart’s toy page cost $180,000 in November and $132,000 in December. According to Comscore, Amazon generates about twice as much web traffic as Walmart, which could explain the discrepancy in pricing.Public Citizen, the watchdog group, in July lodged a complaint with the FTC about Amazon’s annual summer sale Prime Day, alleging the retailer didn’t do enough to help shoppers differentiate between paid promotions and genuine recommendations. The FTC confirmed receiving the complaint. The annual toy list presents similar concerns, Weissman said.“When Amazon presents a top 100 toy list,” he said, “it’s a mistake to assume that shoppers understand this is just paid billboard space versus a list Amazon curated itself.”To contact the reporters on this story: Spencer Soper in Seattle at ssoper@bloomberg.net;Matt Townsend in New York at mtownsend9@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net, Molly SchuetzFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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