Week's Winners and Losers: Windows Travels, Kraft Recalls
Microsoft (MSFT) -- Winner
The world's largest software company announced that Windows 10 will be available in 190 countries this summer. Microsoft knows that Windows has been sputtering in a world that's becoming operating-system agnostic, and it's going to take an aggressive stance.
It had announced back in January that it would make Windows 10 a free upgrade for the first year to folks running Windows 7 or 8, but now it's raising the stakes by offering some folks in emerging markets who are running pirated earlier Windows versions a free pass to upgrade.
Microsoft is also making Windows free for small Internet of Things devices. It's the first time that Microsoft has done this, realizing that it needs to reestablish itself in preparation for a future where portable gadgetry, appliances and fixtures can and should communicate with one another.
Kraft Foods (KRFT) -- Loser
Some recalls are bigger than others. Kraft Foods issued a voluntary recall of 242,000 cases -- containing roughly 6.5 million boxes -- of its iconic Macaroni & Cheese. There are concerns that some packages may contain small metal pieces.
Yes, that's right, the Kraft staple that's largely seen as something that parents buy for their kids could have slivers of metal in it.
Any recall is naturally going to sting a company in the near term, but this one might linger. How many boxes sitting in cupboards will be discarded, even outside of the recall lots? What do you think are the chances that they will be replaced by new boxes of Kraft Original Macaroni & Cheese? Parents will turn to other brands, weaning their kids off of one of Kraft's biggest sellers.
Target (TGT) -- Winner
The "cheap chic" retailer became the latest chain to bump its minimum wage higher. Employees will now make at least $9 an hour as Target follows the lead of a couple of discounters that have raised the bar above the federal starting line of $7.25 an hour.
Target has bounced back since stumbling during the 2013 holiday shopping season with a hacker scandal breaking at the worst possible time for a seasonally potent retailer. Comparable-store sales rose nearly 4 percent in the 2014 holiday quarter, giving Target the freedom to bump up the pay of its lowest-paid hires to levels that are competitive with its rivals.
Starbucks (SBUX) -- Loser
There were a lot of positive developments at the leading premium coffeehouse chain this week. It announced plans to test a delivery service. It declared a 2-for-1 stock split. It aimed to tackle the country's racial issues, revealing that it will be encouraging baristas to write "Race Together" on coffee cups ordered and discuss the topic with patrons if they want to engage in a conversation.
That final point, while noble, has also invited a fair amount of criticism from various camps. Some customers fear that baristas taking time out to engage patrons will slow the chain's service. The more critical knock has come from those wondering if baristas shouldn't be paid more if they are expected to kick up their "emotional labor" efforts. Starbucks has its heart in the right place, but there could be feathers ruffled if some baristas go rogue with polarizing perspectives.
Tesla Motors (TSLA) -- Winner
The coolest name in electric cars is closing in on the self-driving future. Tesla announced that a software update will help nip "range anxiety" in the bud by providing more accurate battery life measurements and directing customers to travel routes that are within range of its growing fleet of battery charging stations.
Future software updates, coming in as little as a few months, could pave the way for cars that drive themselves on open highways by introducing features such as autosteering under certain circumstances. There's more work to go before self-driving is viable on traditional open roads, but Tesla seems to be leading the way with its high-tech Model S sedans.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Starbucks and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Looking for a winner for your portfolio? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.