X Projects: Alphabet’s ‘Moonshot’ Ventures That Could Change the World

Looking at the annual results of Alphabet, you could be forgiven for thinking that last year’s reorganisation of the world’s most valuable company was all for nothing.

Google, which is a subsidiary of Alphabet, dominated financially. The segment, which includes most of the best-known Google products such as its search engine, maps, Gmail, YouTube and Android, made up $74.5bn of the company’s $75bn (£52bn) annual revenue.

By contrast, every other subsidiary of Alphabetwas reported in the results as “other bets”, with a total income of $448m – and an overall annual loss of $3bn.

But just because the projects do not bring in much money, it does not mean they have no effect on the company’s performance. If anything, it is the opposite: Alphabet is now the largest company in the world not because of the money it makes today, which pales in comparison to the former reigning champing Apple, but because of the money it could make tomorrow, the day after, or in 50 years.

Buried among the “other bets” are Alphabet’s secret weapons: X projects – “moonshot” investments that could change the world.

Immortality

The world of medicine could be changed forever if one of Google’s bets pays off.Calico, which stands for California Life Company, wants to “cure” ageing.

It sounds like a fool’s errand, but it only takes a small tweak in mindset to see why some might view it as a fight worth having: ageing is the single biggest cause of death and disability in the world, and yet, unlike every single other cause, it is viewed as inevitable.

A world where Calico succeeds in its goal of identifying and treating the underlying causes of ageing would represent the single greatest leap in healthcare since the discovery of antibiotics in the early 20th century. Critics point out that it would also remove one of the major factors keeping humanity from a crisis of overpopulation. But would you commit yourself to ageing and death if you could avoid it? And if not, how can you ask others to do so?

Of course, one other thing would happen if Calico’s gamble pays off: Alphabet’s profits from the medical industry would make its technology business look like small change.

Super spoons and smart eyes

These days, when we think of medicine, our minds turn to pills and syringes, in hospitals and doctors surgeries. But one Alphabet subsidiary, Verily, is taking a gamble that the future of medicine looks a lot like the future of tech.

Taking the trend of connected medical devices such as fitness trackers and implantable blood-sugar monitors to their logical conclusion, the prototypes developed by the company are gadgets that could change people’s lives for the better.

The smart contact lens
Google/Rex

The company hit headlines in 2014 for revealing a smart contact lens, which aims to measure glucose levels in tears, permanently removing the need for invasive blood tests for diabetics. A few months later, it revealed a smart spoon: stabilised cutlery to help Parkinson’s sufferers eat.

Imagine going to the doctor’s surgery and being handed a slim black wristband that monitors your vital signs and feeds back minute-by-minute data to the GP and pharmacists so they can adjust your dosage, call you back if it gets worse – and check that you’ve been doing enough exercise.

Vitruvian Man 2.0

Not everything Verily is building is hardware. Its other major goal is to complete the “baseline study”: an attempt to map a healthy human body, in its entirety.

The project is collecting every sort of biological data possible, from genetic to anatomic, from physiological to psychological, in an attempt to build a chimeramodel of what a healthy human looks like. The short-term goal is to use the model to identify deviations far sooner than they can currently be picked up, and ultimately identify problems like cancer and heart disease when they can be prevented, rather than cured.

Connected world

Not every project is as wild as trying to cure death. But even the smaller ones could alter our relationship to the rest of the world. Project Loon is one example: it represents the company’s attempt to bring internet access to rural communities through a network of weather balloons, floating in the stratosphere, acting like ultra-low-cost satellites.

Project Loon balloon floating over New Zealand
John Shenk/Handout/EPA

The project is in direct competition with a similar plan from Facebook’s internet.org, which aims to use solar powered drones to fulfil the same goal. And if either project pays off, it will usher in a world of genuinely ubiquitous connectivity: there will be nowhere on Earth that is offline. So telling your boss “I was in the middle of the Amazon” just won’t cut it as an excuse.

Robots at home – and at war

Boston Dynamics was acquired by Google in 2013. It had initially existed largely as a contractor for the US military, developing machines that can walk on rugged terrain. The BigDog quadrupedal cargo robot was the outcome: built like an ox, and walking with an unearthly whirring sound, even in its prototype form it demonstrates unnerving surefootedness. Unfortunately, they are too noisy for the US marines, which cancelled a contract with Boston Dynamics in December.

But the company is also looking at non-military uses of its robots, and has committed to taking no further contracts from the US Department of Defense. So what’s the first outcome? Atlas, a 150kg, 1.8 metre tall bipedal robot – that can do the hoovering.

Using a human shape is pretty inconvenient in robot design, because it turns out it is quite hard to balance on two legs, but our vanity means we keep on building them anyway. And so keep an eye on Boston Dynamics for your best hope of a Google-powered robot butler in the future. Hopefully, they will have dealt with the noise by then.

And all powered by the wind

All of this technology is of little use if it is driven by carbon-belching power stations that will melt the ice caps before we even sit behind the wheel of a self-driving car. So Makani, another X project, aims to create ubiquitous wind power, available wherever the air moves.

A Makani energy kite prototype
Robbie Su/PR image

Their current prototypes look like a cross between a kite and drone, sitting at the end of long cables circling in the air. Their lightweight construction means they can operate where a traditional windfarm cannot, and be put up for a fraction of the cost. Their height allows them to reach high winds more than 300 metres in the air.

Written by Alex Hern of The Guardian

(Source: The Guardian)

LG Halts Sales of LTE Connected Smartwatch

Provided by The Verge

LG has just revealed that it is halting sales of the recently-launched Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE smartwatch, citing a “a hardware issue which affects the day-to-day functionality of the device.” The watch was the first Android Wear smartwatch with cellular connectivity and was launched by AT&T last week. Verizon was scheduled to put the device up for sale starting tomorrow, November 20th. Neither carrier will continue selling the device.

According to a email to The Verge from an LG representative, there is no set date for when the watch may return to store shelves. No further detail was given about the specific hardware issue, though we have asked for clarification and will update this article if LG provides more information. 9to5Google is reporting that AT&T is offering customers that already purchased the watch a refund or the ability to exchange it for another connected smartwatch.

No other manufacturers have announced Android Wear watches with cellular connectivity, though Samsung will soon put the Gear S2 with cellular connectivity up for sale through AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The Gear S2 works with the vast majority of Android smartphones, but it uses Samsung’s proprietary smartwatch software.

Written by Dan Seifert of The Verge

(Source: The Verge)

Google Reportedly Wants to Design its Own Android Chips

Provided by The Verge

Google is reportedly taking a page out of Apple’s playbook and expressing interest in co-developing Android chips based on its own designs, according to a report today from The Information. Similar to how the iPhone carries a Ax chip designed by Apple but manufactured by companies like Samsung, Google wants to bring its own expertise and consistency to the Android ecosystem. To do that, it would need to convince a company like Qualcomm, which produces some of the top Android smartphone chips today using its own technology, to sacrifice some of its competitive edge. Google did not respond to a request for comment.

The discussions around Google-designed chips, which The Information say occurred this fall, originated around the company’s desire to build an “enterprise connectivity device” — possibly the Pixel C laptop-tablet hybrid unveiled in September — that would rely wholly on in-house technology. Soon, Google was discussing the possibility of designing its own smartphone chips as well, the report states. One benefit of Google’s strategy would be the ability to bake in cutting edge features into future versions of Android, like support for augmented and virtual reality, that would require more closely integrated software and hardware.

A Google-designed chip may find its way to Nexus phones first

However, finding a chip co-developer may prove difficult. Though Google may find a willing partner from the pool of low-cost Android manufacturers, that partner may not be able to produce the highest-quality chips capable of powering high-end smartphones. The high-end market, which Apple dominates, is where Android fragmentation may be costing Google precious sales. One possibility, if chip makers don’t agree to use Google designs, is requiring manufacturers of Google’s Nexus line use only its own designs — all the way from the chip to the body of the device.

Written by Nick Statt of The Verge 

(Source: The Verge)

Did Blackberry Just Make a Hit Phone?

blackberry priv
© Provided by IBT US

The reviews are in: BlackBerry’s first Android phone is in the hands of reviewers, and they’ve been (literally) getting to grips with it. The verdict? Considering the state of recent BlackBerries, it’s actually pretty good. But that may not be enough to turn the tide.

The Priv is a big moment for BlackBerry: on Wednesday, it was revealed that BlackBerry OS is now fifth in the global smartphone rankings. The most recent quarterly earnings report spelled bad times ahead for the company, and CEO John Chen has previously hinted that if the Priv is not a success, the company could exit hardware altogether. No pressure.

Thankfully, the Priv has found some fans in the tech world. The Verge has not had enough time to write a full review due to a faulty initial device, but Dieter Bohn noted in his preview how grippy the back of the device is. The changes to Android were welcome, and the 18-megapixel camera is really nice, if a bit slow.

Top Marks For Design

Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal was quick to caution against this being the historic comeback of BlackBerry, saying the company really should have moved to Android back in 2010 to change its fortunes. But history aside, the keyboard impressed. Stern managed 60 words per minute, compared to 45 words per minute on the iPhone, thanks to the presence of a physical keyboard.

“For the first time in years, BlackBerry has a phone that can win back the hearts and dollars of people it lost years ago—at least enough that I’ll once again spot a BlackBerry owner or two among my friends and colleagues,” Stern said.

Daniel Cooper of Engadget was less positive. The curved screen was praised, but the keyboard left something to be desired. The keyboard has touch gestures, and is not the same as the ones consumers will be used to from BlackBerry Classic devices. The keys are close together, and doesn’t quite feel the same. Despite this, Cooper still praised the look and feel of the device overall. “The Priv is probably the best-looking BlackBerry device ever,” he said.

Not The Savior

Mario Aguilar at Gizmodo was far less kind. Declaring it a phone “not even for my worst enemy,” Aguilar said the keys are tiny, performance is slow despite the Snapdragon 808 processor, and the BlackBerry Hub custom software felt dated. The highly-publicised privacy features, which the company says set it apart from the competition, failed to impress. “I got no indication that I was secure on the Priv than I would be by exercising everyday common sense on any other phone,” Aguilar said.

Mark Walton at Ars Technica was similarly negative. In what Walton describes as a “first review” (owing to the fact that the device only arrived two days ago), Walton pointed to the $700 price tag as simply too much to stomach for an Android phone that has its flaws. “Unfortunately for Blackberry, I don’t think the Priv is the saviour it so desperately needs,” he said.

Tim Moynihan, in a Wired review that largely captured the overall sentiment, gave the Priv a 6 out of 10. BlackBerry veterans will be pleased to have a physical keyboard in a modern ecosystem, but Android and iPhone users will care more about having the best camera and better integration with the operating system. “Ultimately, how you feel about the BlackBerry Priv likely has a lot to do with your last phone,” he said.

Time will tell if the Priv is a success. But as to whether it can turn the entire company around, BlackBerry may need more than a modest uptick in sales revenue to keep itself in the hardware game beyond the Priv.

Written by Mike Brown of International Business Times

(Source: International Business Times)

Google Reportedly Killing Chrome OS and Building it into Android

© Provided by The Verge

Google’s two operating systems could soon be one. It’s said to be in the process of combining Chrome OS and Android, according to The Wall Street Journal, and the combined OS could be revealed as soon as next year.

The Journal reports that Chrome is essentially being folded into Android, because Android has emerged as the dominant operating system by quite a long stretch. Combining the two operating systems means setting up Android to run on laptops and desktop computers, which would require big changes, as well as supporting the Google Play Store. Chromebooks will reportedly receive a new name to reflect the new OS.

The new operating system is expected to be ready sometime in 2017, though a preview is expected to come sooner; it’s reportedly been in the works for two years. While this would be a major and somewhat surprising move — Chromebooks have been fairly successful and are a great low-cost computer option — it’s easy to see how Google got here. Sundar Pichai, who’s now leading Google, was put in charge of both Chrome and Android two years ago, and he’s made moves to bring the two operating systems closer in that time. That includes adding support for Android apps inside of Chrome OS. Though support is still limited, some Android apps are up and running on Chromebooks. Now, it seems like that’s just an early sign of what’s to come. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Written by Jacob Kastrenakes of The Verge

(Source: The Verge)

Your Android Phone Is At Risk, And It’s The Manufacturer’s Fault

© ASSOCIATED PRESS

Android fans enjoy a lot of flexibility from their smartphones — but a new study from researchers at the University of Cambridge reveals that it comes at a major cost.

According to the findings, 87.7 percent of Android devices are at risk from at least one major form of malware thanks in large part to delayed security updates from device manufacturers and service providers. Researchers used the Device Analyzer app to gather data from over 20,000 gadgets in their study.

“Unfortunately something has gone wrong with the provision of security updates in the Android market,” researchers Daniel R. Thomas, Alastair R. Beresford and Andrew Rice wrote. “Many smartphones are sold on 12–24 month contracts, and yet our data shows few Android devices receive many security updates, with an overall average of just 1.26 updates per year, leaving devices unpatched for long periods of time”

As it happens, the challenge lies in the exact reason most users love Android. There are a lot of Android manufacturers — think LG, Samsung, Motorola, HTC and so on — which affords people a bounty of choices when they’re shopping for a new device. If you want to go Apple, you get an iPhone. If you’re buying an Android, there are many different phones that fit a variety of needs and budgets. But that puts the ball in the manufacturer’s court when it comes to security updates.

“Some manufacturers are much better than others however, and our study shows that devices built by LG and Motorola, as well as those devices shipped under the Google Nexus brand are much better than most,” Beresford wrote in a blog post about the study.

When you’re dealing with iOS, there’s only one manufacturer: Apple, a company known for being tough on security. If there’s a malware threat to iPhones and iPads, Apple can blast out an update and, in theory, that’s the end of it.

If something goes wrong on Android, Google has to identify the problem and deliver a fix to manufacturers, and then those manufacturers have to beam that update to their customers.

You can imagine the problems that presents.

“Our hope is that by quantifying the problem we can help people when choosing a device and that this in turn will provide an incentive for other manufacturers and operators to deliver updates,” Beresford wrote.

For now, you could trust the research and consider LG, Motorola and Google Nexus devices the next time you’re shopping. As for the Android you have now, always accept security updates when they become available and only install apps from the Google Play store to avoid infecting yourself with malware.

Written by Damon Beres of The Huffington Post

(Source: The Huffington Post)

Google’s Inability To Force Software Updates Threatens Android

Nexus 5X (image: Google PR)
© Provided by Forbes

Next month, Google’s fifth major version of Android will have been publicly available for one year. In that time, new handsets have shipped with the OS, and some older handsets have been offered a software upgrade to reach the latest version with the stability and security that it offers. After a year of work, how much of an impact has Lollipop had on the Android ecosystem?

Twenty three and a half percent.

That’s the share that all the versions of Lollipop has achieved. Of course Google has ensured that the Nexus device under its direct control will be on the latest version of the OS, and consumers who have SIM-free handsets direct from the manufacturers have a better chance of getting any updates rather than wait for a network to also certify the update, but the inability to roll out new code has always been an Achilles heel for Android – and events this year have shown up the dangers.

Android Dashboard (image: Google.com)

© Provided by Forbes Android Dashboard (image: Google.com)

Google has worked to mitigated the issues, using the Google Play Services library to pass out some updates to the software, and lifting as many applications as possible outside of the firmware bundles and into the pre-installed applications so they can be updated in the same way as a third-party application.

The public exposure of the StageFright vulnerabilities has seen Google push manufacturers and networks to sign up to its monthly security updates and push these through regularly, but uptake has not been universal – HTC is the latest manufacturer that is having to say thanks but no thanks because it believes a monthly update is unrealistic when put alongside the demands of carrier testing programs.

In contrast, Apple’s ability roll out iOS updates and bug fixes has a pace that I’m sure Android engineers look on with envy.

Android Marshmallow is expected to be publicly available next month, certainly on the new Nexus devices, but I would expect to see some of the smaller and more nimble handset manufacturers pick up on the new version to be seen as cutting edge and cash in on the goodwill from the geekerati.

Unfortunately there’s no sign (beyond a little bit of psychology) that Google is able to force through a change that would improve the update situation in 2016.  That alone speaks both to the weakness of Android, and the weakness of Google in the ecosystem. With more commercial pressures likely to be placed on Android manufacturers next year to reduce both the build cost and the ongoing support costs to maximise the profit in the low-margin high-volume market spaces, it’s unlikely that Android is going to improve on its ability to update itself one a handset leaves the factory.

Written by Ewan Spence of Forbes

(Source: Forbes)

How a Song Threatens a Billion Android Devices

© Provided by CNBC
© Provided by CNBC

Over a billion Android devices could be at risk of being hacked by listening to an audio file or watching videos.

A new bug has been discovered in Google’s mobile operating system which allows attackers to inject malicious code into a device and potentially steal information when a person accesses a specifically crafted MP3 or MP4 file.

The vulnerability called “Stagefright 2.0” was discovered by a team of researchers at Zimperium, a mobile security firm, and is said to affect “almost every Android device” since the first version in 2008.

There are several ways a user could be targeted. Firstly, a hacker could try to convince a user to visit a malicious webpage and preview a music or video file. This would give the attacker an opportunity to hack a user.

A criminal could also intercept unencrypted traffic between a device and another server – also known as a man-in-the-middle attack – in order to inject the malicious code into the files being transferred.

“The vulnerability lies in the processing of metadata within the files, so merely previewing the song or video would trigger the issue,” Zimperium wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

Zimperium notified the Android Security Team of the issue on August 15. A fix will be issued in the next security update for Android, scheduled for Monday. People will get the update at different times depending on the device they own since each manufacturer will bring out their own update.

Stagefright 2.0 follows on from another bug discovered earlier this year by Zimperium known as “Stagefright”. This allowed attackers – armed with only your mobile number – to send you a specifically crafted media file delivered via MMS to execute a malicious code on your phone. A user wouldn’t even have to take action and could be attacked while they slept.

Researchers at Zimperium said that there may be more of the same bugs to solve.

“As more and more researchers have explored various vulnerabilities that exist within the Stagefright library and associated libraries, we expect to see more vulnerabilities in the same area,” the cybersecurity firm said.

Written by Arjun Kharpal of CNBC

(Source: CNBC)

BlackBerry to Launch Android Smartphone

BlackBerry Priv

WATERLOO, Ontario— BlackBerry Ltd. maintained Friday that its turnaround strategy was on track, but sagging revenue and the company’s decision to launch an Android-powered phone to boost device sales told a different story.

After failing in its attempt to compete against Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. in the consumer smartphone market, BlackBerry in recent years has instead bet on BlackBerry-powered devices loaded with security and productivity tools, and sales of higher-margin mobile security offerings, to reignite growth.

Friday’s announcement of plans to launch a new device using a rival operating system, Google Inc.’s Android, suggests those efforts have struggled to gain traction. The new device, BlackBerry said, will offer the security of BlackBerry phones running on its own BB10 operating system along with Android’s greater number of apps.

BlackBerry tried a similar move in 2014, signing a deal with Amazon.com Inc. to preload the e-commerce giant’s app store on its devices. Today, Amazon’s app store offers about 400,000 applications, according to Statista, an Internet statistics firm. By offering an Android phone, BlackBerry adds about 1.6 million apps available on Google Play, according to Statista.

“This phone is the answer for former BlackBerry users who miss the physical keyboard but also need apps,” BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen said on a conference call.

BlackBerry is calling the new device Priv in a nod to the company’s longtime focus on customer privacy. The curve-sided phone will offer both a touch screen and slide-out keyboard. It expects to launch the phone ahead of Christmas, a key shopping time for smartphones, Mr. Chen told reporters here.

BlackBerry didn’t offer distribution details about the new device or expected pricing, but the move underscored the underwhelming performance of its existing phones. Since September 2014, BlackBerry has released a string of devices, including the square-shaped Passport; the Classic, which is modeled after BlackBerry’s once popular Bold device; and the Leap. All are powered by BlackBerry’s BB10 operating system and aimed at corporate and professional users.

The company said that, in the fiscal second quarter ended Aug. 29, it had recognized hardware revenue on “over 800,000 BlackBerry smartphones.” That was down from 1.1 million in the first quarter and 2.1 million devices in last year’s fiscal second quarter.

“I am not satisfied where we are in overall revenue and profitability, especially the performance of our handset business,” Mr. Chen said. Still, he forecast the company would continue to generate cash in each quarter and be profitable in the fiscal fourth quarter, citing continued cost-cutting, expected improvements in device revenue and gains in software sales.

BlackBerry now expects to make the device business profitable from the annual sale of 5 million phones, comprising existing devices and the new “high-end” Android phone, Mr. Chen said. That is down from the previous target of 10 million phones.

BlackBerry is aiming to lure customers and boost profits with an Android phone. Android phones had close to an 83% share of the global smartphone market in the calendar second quarter, according to research firm International Data Corp. That compared with less than 1% for BlackBerry.

Still, the new phone will face stiff competition from Android devices offered by Samsung and others. BlackBerry is betting Priv’s security and productivity tools will differentiate the product from rivals. But Samsung, the biggest seller of Android phones, also offers a device security platform, known as Knox, to appeal to security-conscious customers such as governments.

“If we [can] build more enterprise demand for Android phones…at the high end…that’s good for Samsung,” Mr. Chen told reporters.

BlackBerry also plans to maintain its BB10 operating system to appease customers that favor that smartphone technology. That decision adds potential costs to the handset business at a time when cost-cutting remains a priority for the company.

“The move has challenges in front of it, that’s for sure,” said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC.

Overall, BlackBerry posted a profit of $51 million in the second quarter, compared with a loss of $207 million a year earlier. Adjusted to exclude items, it lost 13 cents a share, worse than the nine-cent loss expected by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Revenue overall fell 47% to $490 million, well below the $611 million analysts had projected. Revenue from software and services came in at $74 million, up from $62 million a year earlier, but down 46% from $137 million in the fiscal first quarter. The sequential decline resulted from the company not booking any new patent licensing deal in the latest period, Mr. Chen said.

BlackBerry is still targeting $500 million in software and licensing revenue for fiscal 2016.

Mr. Chen defended the performance of the software business. He noted that sales of the company’s BES12 mobile-device-management software, introduced in November, and BlackBerry’s QNX software that is used to power in-car infotainment systems, contributed the most to the year-over-year growth in software revenue.

Overall, the second-quarter “numbers are lower than expected…[but] I am still on plan,” Mr. Chen said.

BlackBerry shares were down 5.0% in recent New York trading and had lost 39% year-to-date.

Written by Ben Dummett of The Wall Street Journal

(Source: The Wall Street Journal)

The Top 50 Brands for Millennials

Millennials are set to become the largest group of consumers in America.

Ad agency Moosylvania asked 1,500 millennials — defined as 20 to 35-year-olds — to vote for their favorite brands.

The results on the following pages show which brands dominate among this subset.

50. Asus

The Asus ZenWatch smartwatch.

© Junko Kimura-Matsumoto/Bloomberg The Asus ZenWatch smartwatch.

Headquarters: Taipei, Taiwan

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -13%

Why it’s hot: This Taiwanese company is the fifth-largest PC vendor in the world. The brand is making headlines for its inexpensive Android smartphone and ZenWatch. But as more consumers turn to Android, Asus could be challenged.

49. Bethesda Softworks

A scene from the video game, 'Wolfenstein: The New Order' by Bethesda Softworks.

© Bethesda Softworks/AP A scene from the video game, ‘Wolfenstein: The New Order’ by Bethesda Softworks.

Headquarters: Bethesda, Maryland

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 94%

Why it’s hot: This video game publisher is perhaps best-known for its Elder Scrolls series. It also adapts popular series such as Star Trek and The Terminator into games. Bethesda will benefit as more millennials pick up electronic hobbies like playing games.

48. LG Corporation

The LG G Flex 2 smartphone on display at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas.

© David Becker/Getty Images The LG G Flex 2 smartphone on display at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas.

Headquarters: Busan, South Korea

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -23%

Why it’s hot: LG’s electronics scored high with millennials. However, it continues to be challenged by competitors in the ultra-crowded tech space.

47. Wendy’s

The Wendy's Co. logo is seen on a cup at a Wendy's in Daly City, Calif.

© David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images The Wendy’s Co. logo is seen on a cup at a Wendy’s in Daly City, Calif.

Headquarters: Columbus, Ohio

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: New to list

Why it’s hot: Wendy’s new marketing campaign is ultra-focused on millennials, with the young “Red” character in commercials and new items like pretzel cheeseburgers. Wendy’s has always emphasized being fresher than competitors, making every burger to-order and not freezing beef. In the era of Chipotle, this message resonates with millennials.

46. Aeropostale

Sweatshirts on a shelf inside an Aeropostale Inc. store. Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

© Sweatshirts on a shelf inside an Aeropostale Inc. store. Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

Headquarters: New York, New York

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -31%

Why it’s hot: Despite falling out of favor with the teen set, Aeropostale still maintains some loyalty with the 20-somethings who wore it in high school. The brand’s status, however, is falling fast as young people increasingly move away from logos.

45. Under Armour

Under Armour has exploded in popularity in recent years.

© Provided by Business Insider Under Armour has exploded in popularity in recent years.

Headquarters: Baltimore, Maryland

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -27%

Why it’s hot: Under Armour has exploded in popularity in recent years thanks to signing famous athletes like Stephen Curry and smart marketing of its performance-wear. But the brand faces steep competition from Lululemon, which is expanding its men’s line, and Nike, which continues to dominate the space.

44. Android

But Android is still having trouble catching up to Apple's iOS system.

© Provided by Business Insider But Android is still having trouble catching up to Apple’s iOS system.

Headquarters: Mountain View, California

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -8%

Why it’s hot: The operating system currently developed by Google has a big following as consumers seek out different options from Apple. But Android is still having trouble catching up to Apple’s iOS system.

43. Chanel

Pedestrians walk past signage for Chanel.

© Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images Pedestrians walk past signage for Chanel.

Headquarters: Paris, France

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: New to list

Why it’s hot: The luxury brand’s outlandish fashion shows, which included an elaborate grocery store, tend to go viral on social media. Models like Kendall Jenner and Cara Delevingne give the legacy brand modern relevance.

42. Sprint

A pedestrian uses a mobile device while walking past a Sprint Corp. store in Washington.

© Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg A pedestrian uses a mobile device while walking past a Sprint Corp. store in Washington.

Headquarters: Overland Park, Kansas

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: New to list

Why it’s hot: Sprint aggressively markets cell phone plans that are cheaper than AT&T or Verizon, and will even buy out your contract if you join. This strategy appears to be working with millennials, who are very connected to their smartphones.

41. Levi’s

Label on a pair of Levi's 550 jeans.

© Ben Margot/AP Label on a pair of Levi’s 550 jeans.

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -18%

Why it’s hot: Levi’s has benefitted from young consumers’ tendency to wear denim and casual clothing to work. But now, many millennials are abandoning denim entirely, choosing to wear athletic attire instead.

40. Kraft

Starting in 2016, Kraft's original Macaroni & Cheese will get its color from natural spices.

© Provided by Business Insider Starting in 2016, Kraft’s original Macaroni & Cheese will get its color from natural spices.

Headquarters: Northfield, Illinois

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 217%

Why it’s hot: Kraft scored big points with millennials this year when it announced that starting in 2016, its original Macaroni & Cheese will get its color from natural spices like paprika instead of from artificial additives Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.

39. Kellogg’s

© Provided by Business Insider

Headquarters: Battle Creek, Michigan

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 21%

Why it’s hot: Cereal sales might be declining, but sales of other products owned by the company, like Eggo waffles, Pop-Tarts, and Cheez-Its, are booming.

38. Victoria’s Secret

Pedestrians walk past a Victoria's Secret store in New York. Craig Warga/Bloomberg

© Craig Warga/Bloomberg Pedestrians walk past a Victoria’s Secret store in New York. Craig Warga/Bloomberg

Headquarters: Columbus, Ohio

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -4%

Why it’s hot: Victoria’s Secret is the undisputed leader of the lingerie market, controlling 35% of share. The company’s marketing strategy, which includes its famous Angels, is seen as one of the best in the business. Lately, Victoria’s Secret has received some criticism for not offering plus sizes.

37. Hershey’s

Hershey's chocolate.

© Charlie Riedel/AP Hershey’s chocolate.

Headquarters: Hershey, Pennsylvania

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 6%

Why it’s hot: Hershey’s has dropped artificial colorings from its chocolate. “We are committed to making our products using ingredients that are simple and easy-to-understand, like fresh milk from local farms, roasted California almonds, cocoa beans and sugar – ingredients you recognize, know and trust,” the company said in a news release.

36. Forever 21

Shoppers walk into a Forever 21 store.

© Debbie Noda/ZUMA Press/Corbis Shoppers walk into a Forever 21 store.

Headquarters: Los Angeles, California

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -30%

Why it’s hot: Forever 21 offers fast fashion at unbeatable prices and has expanded tremendously in two decades. However, many millennials are choosing to invest in a few quality pieces rather than buy cheap clothing, threatening Forever 21’s dominance.

35. Hewlett-Packard

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Headquarters: Palo Alto, California

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -13%

Why it’s hot: Young consumers love Hewlett-Packard’s relatively inexpensive laptops — the company saw a 19% increase in sales of notebook units in the most recent quarter.

34. Nestle

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Headquarters: Vevey, Vaud Switzerland

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 260%

Why it’s hot: Nestle is also jumping on the natural ingredients bandwagon. The company has committed to removing artificial flavors and FDA-certified colors, like Red 40 and Yellow 5, from all of its chocolate candy products.

33. Oreo

Oreo cookie.

© Daniel Acker/Bloomberg Oreo cookie.

Headquarters: Deerfield, Illinois

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: New to list

Why it’s hot: Oreo’s brand has classic appeal. However, the company has managed to stay current by offering limited-time flavors like S’mores. This has helped to spark a discussion on social media.

32. Colgate

Colgate Optic White products.

© Tiffany Rose/WireImage/Getty Images Colgate Optic White products.

Headquarters: New York, New York

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 44%

Why it’s hot: Colgate’s Optic White line, which guarantees whiter teeth in one day, is driving sales with younger people. The company hired YouTube beauty stars to market the product.

31. Honda

A Honda Motor Co. emblem on the grill of a Fit Hybrid.

© Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg A Honda Motor Co. emblem on the grill of a Fit Hybrid.

Headquarters: Hamamatsu, Japan

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: New to list

Why it’s hot: Honda’s fuel-efficient, compact cars appeal to millennials. The company has poured investments into hybrid models.

30. Ralph Lauren

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Headquarters: New York, New York

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 74%

Why it’s hot: Ralph Lauren’s brand is available at more than 11,000 stores worldwide. The brand has become more active on social media and hired Sports Illustrated cover model Hannah Davis to model its resort collection.

29. Xbox

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Headquarters: Redmond, Washington

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: no change

Why it’s hot: Microsoft’s new Xbox One console made Xbox a hot buy in 2014. Millennials are increasingly turning to gaming and other electronic hobbies over traditional sports like tennis and golf. (Microsoft owns and publishes MSN Money.)

28. Best Buy

Customers walk in and out of Best Buy.

© Elise Amendola/AP Customers walk in and out of Best Buy.

Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 114%

Why it’s hot: Best Buy has been succesfully growing sales and revenue through its television business. Best Buy’s television prices are up 6% from a year ago — less than Amazon’s gains of 9.2%. Executives at Best Buy have made it clear that 4K ultra high definition televisions are the future of the business.

27. Verizon

A Verizon Communications store in San Francisco.

© David Paul Morris/Bloomberg A Verizon Communications store in San Francisco.

Headquarters: New York, New York

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 346%

Why it’s hot: Verizon is continuing to dominate the mobile space. The company also recently purchased AOL, showing it is interested in producing more content. The company has recently endeared millennials by making its data plan cheaper.

26. Dove

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Headquarters: Rotterdam, Netherlands

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 30%

Why it’s hot: Dove, which is owned by Unilever, just posted a huge jump in sales. The company’s “real beauty” campaign, which emphasizes natural looks over the typically airbrushed ads, resonate well with millennials.

25. Vans

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Headquarters: Cypress, California

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -13%

Why it’s hot: Vans started out selling skater shoes, but has since gone mainstream. The company has benefitted from athletic footwear becoming more fashionable than dress shoes.

24. Valve

Undated screen shot showing two combatants in

© Valve Corp./AP Undated screen shot showing two combatants in “Team Fortress 2” from Valve Corp.

Headquarters: Bellevue, Washington

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 47%

Why it’s hot: The video-game developer rose to prominence with its Half-Life franchise in 1998. The brand has a huge following on Facebook and frequently posts giveaways.

23. Chevrolet

Chevrolet logo.

© Daniel Acker/Bloomberg Chevrolet logo.

Headquarters: Detroit, Michigan

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: New to list

Why it’s hot: Chevy’s compact, Trax SUV is a hit with urban millennials. The brand also just revealed a new Camaro for the modern consumer.

22. Starbucks

A Starbucks customer drinks a beverage outside Starbucks, in Beverly, Mass.

© Lisa Poole/AP A Starbucks customer drinks a beverage outside Starbucks, in Beverly, Mass.

Headquarters: Seattle, Washington

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 1%

Why it’s hot: Starbucks has been expanding its menu to include more food options such as sandwiches and salads. It has also added drive-thrus to many locations. “Starbucks is virtually the only large incumbent that can offer millennial parents the convenience of a (fast food chain) and food they would not feel guilty/embarrassed to feed to their kids,” Goldman Sachs’ analysts write.

21. Pizza Hut 

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Headquarters: Wichita, Kansas

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: new to list

Why it’s hot: In November, Pizza Hut called the millennial-focused “Flavors of Now” campaign the biggest makeover in company history. After considering what millennials would want, Pizza Hut added new crusts in flavors like Honey Sriracha and Ginger Boom Boom.

20. Converse

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Headquarters: Malden, Massachusetts

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -11%

Why it’s hot: Converse has seen sales boom as more millennials wear sneakers to work and other occasions. Athletic apparel and footwear is set to outperform the industry for the next five years, according to Morgan Stanley.

19. Ford

Ford logo on the front grille of a Ford F-150.

© Alan Diaz/AP Ford logo on the front grille of a Ford F-150.

Headquarters: Dearborn, Michigan

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 64%

Why it’s hot: Ford is repositioning its brand to seem more luxury and compete with auto-makers like BMW and Mercedes with the launch of the new Vignale brand. The new line of compact sedans could resonate with millennials, who prefer smaller cars then their parents’.

18. JC Penney

A customer leaves a JC Penney store in New York.

© Mark Lennihan/AP A customer leaves a JC Penney store in New York.

Headquarters: Plano, Texas

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 41%

Why it’s hot: JC Penney has been working to execute a turnaround, and it’s working. According to research firm Piper Jaffray, the department store is the third most-popular among female shoppers.

17. McDonald’s

Illuminated golden arches mark the entrance to a McDonald's restaurant in Shelbyville, Ky.

© Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg Illuminated golden arches mark the entrance to a McDonald’s restaurant in Shelbyville, Ky.

Headquarters: Oak Brook, Illinois

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 14%

Why it’s hot: McDonald’s is still the most visited restaurant for the millennial demographic, according to analysts at Morgan Stanley. The brand has been introducing more fresh ingredients and customizable burgers to compete with fast casual brands.

16. Macy’s

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Headquarters: Cincinnati, Ohio

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 259%

Why it’s hot: Millennials are spending less money on clothes, which is bad news for Macy’s. In order to attract younger shoppers, the brand has been investing in trendier clothing lines and other categories like home goods and cosmetics.

15. Dell

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Headquarters: Round Rock, Texas

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 25%

Why it’s hot: Dell is another company benefiting from millennials’ reliance on technology. The company’s laptop and desktop computers are especially popular with the young set.

14. Adidas

An employee arranges Adidas sports shoes on display in a sporting goods store.

© Ralph Orlowski/Bloomberg An employee arranges Adidas sports shoes on display in a sporting goods store.

Headquarters: Herzogenaurach, Germany

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -7%

Why it’s hot: Adidas is going to start offering customized shoes to appeal to millennials. It also is working to reduce the time between when products are designed and when they hit shelves. Still, the brand continues to lose market share to Nike.

13. Nintendo

A Super Mario figure greets visitors in the Nintendo showroom in Tokyo.

© Akio Kon/Bloomberg via Getty Images A Super Mario figure greets visitors in the Nintendo showroom in Tokyo.

Headquarters: Kyoto, Japan

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -5%

Why it’s hot: Many millennials feel nostalgic toward Nintendo because they played its games as kids. This has led to brand loyalty in adulthood.

12. Google

People work on laptop computers in front of an illuminated Google sign.

© Jens Meyer/AP People work on laptop computers in front of an illuminated Google sign.

Headquarters: Menlo Park, California

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 4%

Why it’s hot: Google’s smartphone apps have become essential for many millennials. Its Gmail program is also extremely popular.

11. Amazon

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Headquarters: Seattle, Washington

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 8%

Why it’s hot: This year, the company started offering one-hour delivery for members of its Prime service and expanded its grocery delivery business to New York City. The company also announced a new gadget called the Dash Button, which will make it easier for consumers to order household items, such as detergent, when they are running low.

10. Pepsi

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Headquarters: Purchase, New York

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 90%

Why it’s hot: PepsiCo has introduced a beverage sweetened with natural sweetener Stevia called Pepsi True. The company says the new product “will continue to provide consumers with the crisp, refreshing zero-calorie cola taste they expect from Pepsi.” It also removed artificial ingredient aspartame from Diet Pepsi.

9. Jordan

A man looks over Nike's Jordan line of athletic shoes at Niketown in New York.

© Michael Nagle/Bloomberg A man looks over Nike’s Jordan line of athletic shoes at Niketown in New York.

Headquarters: Beaverton, Oregon

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 45%

Why it’s hot: Many of Nike’s Jordan brand sneakers are prominent on the billion-dollar reselling market. A growing culture of so-called sneakerheads buy collectible footwear on eBay, Craigslist, and other sites.

8. Coca-Cola

Man delivering Coca-Cola to a store in New York.

© Mark Lennihan/AP Man delivering Coca-Cola to a store in New York.

Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 6%

Why it’s hot: Coca-Cola remains the clear leader in the soda market, with a 17.6% share. By comparison, Pepsi has an 8.8% share of the market. The brand also scored high points for its “Share a Coke” campaign, which featured common names on Coke bottles.

7. Microsoft

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Headquarters: Redmond, Washington

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: -3%

Why it’s hot: Cloud computing, mobile apps, and holographic computing are driving Microsoft to record profits. The brand recently did a demo showing how personal computers could become holographic (Microsoft owns and publishes MSN Money.)

6. Target

The front entrance of a Target store in Newark, Calif.

© Paul Sakuma/AP The front entrance of a Target store in Newark, Calif.

Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 21%

Why it’s hot: Target invented the idea of “cheap chic” two decades ago. Today, the company is revamping its grocery selections for millennials.

5. Wal-Mart

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Headquarters: Bentonville, Arkansas

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 19%

Why it’s hot: Wal-Mart gave its workers a raise this year and has pledged to adopt more humane standards for the meat it sells. It also opened smaller format stores that resonate with millennials more than supercenters.

4. Sony

Sony's 4K FDR-X1000VR video camera.

© David Paul Morris/Bloomberg Sony’s 4K FDR-X1000VR video camera.

Headquarters: Minato, Tokyo

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: 1%

Why it’s hot: Sony’s PlayStation, gaming, photo and music businesses are booming. Sony is aggressively investing in these areas. The company also has popular smartphones.

3. Samsung

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge smartphone.

© Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge smartphone.

Headquarters: San Jose, California

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: no change

Why it’s hot: Samsung’s Galaxy phones and tablets are extremely popular with millennials. The brand’s latest Galaxy S6 smartphone received rave reviews.

2. Apple

A man uses a smartphone in front of an Apple store display advertising the Apple watch.

© Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images A man uses a smartphone in front of an Apple store display advertising the Apple watch.

Headquarters: Cupertino, California

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: no change

Why it’s hot: Apple has a fanatical following, and many of its customers are millennials. The company’s iPhones, iPads and Macbooks are wildly popular. This year, Apple made headlines with its new watch.

1. Nike

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Headquarters: Beaverton, Oregon

% change in votes from last year’s ranking: no change

Why it’s hot: Data also shows that millennials believe exercise is essential for health, while their parents only focused on diet, and Nike is the go-to brand, holding 62% of the athletic shoe market. “Increased activity leads to increased athletic apparel and footwear spending,” the analysts write. “We see athletic footwear and apparel as more than a fashion trend.”

Written by Ashley Lutz of Business Insider

(Source: Business Insider)