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Android co-founder Andy Rubin promises to reveal his latest project next week

Android co-founder Andy Rubin has been teasing his new venture, Essential, for months now. But he says he's finally going to spill the beans for real next week.

"Almost ready to share with you what we've been up to," he said in a tweet. Rubin is speaking at Code Conference, so it's a safe bet that the details will come there.



What we already know: Thanks to a photo that Rubin tweeted out in March, it looks like a smartphone is a big part of the plan. And, courtesy of Eric Schmidt, we know it's based on Android. Essential has also been looking for a huge valuation, according to reports.
What we don't know: There are a million Android phones out there. What makes this different?
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There's lots to talk about today, so let's get to it.

Yes, cord-cutting really is a thing

Data: Magid Proprietary Insights, April 2017; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Cord-cutters are ditching their cable packages at the fastest rate ever, Sara Fischer reports.

The latest Magid Broadcast Study finds that 9% of TV subscribers aged 16-64 are extremely likely to cancel service in the next year, up from 5.7% in the prior year.

Why it matters: The trend reflects consumers' preferences to ditch bundled cable packages for more affordable, niche bundled services that can be accessed on TV box tops or on mobile. For consumers, there are more bundled packages than ever, all popping up around similar price ranges. YouTube TV and Hulu TV launched within the past two months, joining the likes of SlingTV and DirectTV Now — all at a roughly $40 monthly price point — a bargain considering the average American pays $92 monthly for cable.

Politician who allegedly body-slammed reporter is tech company founder

Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte gained nationwide attention Wednesday for allegedly body-slamming a reporter on the eve of a special election there. As colleague Dan Primack points out, Gianforte has an interesting past, in addition to some interesting campaign tactics.

Gianforte was the founder and CEO of RightNow Technologies, a company that was sold to Oracle in 2011 for $1.5 billion.

DJI's latest drone acknowledges many of us are bad pilots

DJI

DJI's Spark, announced Wednesday, addresses one of the big challenges with consumer drones: Many of us are just not cut out to be pilots.

The $499 camera drone can be controlled simply by hand gestures and has a bunch of cool preset flight modes, including circling around a subject and taking off like a rocket straight up, all while automatically recording a 10 second video.

For those that do want to, you know, actually fly the Spark, it can fly for up to 16 minutes on a charge, go up to 31 miles per hour using a remote control accessory, and take 12-megapixel photos as well as HD video.

What it doesn't address: It's still hard to find places to legally fly drones, especially in cities. Plus, it's still not clear most people can find enough uses to shell out several hundred bucks for a drone, even if they do take a sick selfie.

Gogoro hopes to make its electric scooters more popular with cheaper model

Gogoro

Taiwan's Gogoro on Wednesday night announced a second Smartscooter that has more storage, a larger seat, and is about $1,000 cheaper than the original.

"Our focus with Gogoro 1 was high-performance, smart innovation and design - it was about creating an icon," CEO Horace Luke told Axios in an email. "Gogoro 2 is about enabling as many people as possible to embrace electric."

Luke, a former HTC executive, publicly launched Gogoro in 2014 and debuted its first scooter in January 2015.

As great as Gogoro 1 is, it was always clear that it didn't meet the needs of everyone. We knew there was an opportunity for a second platform that expanded the market for the Smartscooter. Gogoro 2 delivers the most technology and performance within a very practical package at an aggressive new price.

The company also said it is expanding its network of battery-swapping stations in Taiwan and expects to have 500 by year's end. The company also has a shared scooter project in Europe with Bosch's Coup unit; Last week it announced expansion of that project beyond Berlin to a second city, Paris.

Sen. Warner exploring portable benefits for gig economy workers

Sen. Mark Warner is hoping to push the federal government to tackle the difficult questions about how companies like Uber and Lyft are changing the nature of work — and, more specifically, the nature of benefits.

Why it matters: Many workers traditionally get their health care and other benefits from a full-time employer. However, with the rise of on-demand economy companies that rely on contractors, more and more workers won't be getting such benefits. David has a look at the issue as well as some government attempts to address the issue.

Take note

On tap: It's Geek Pride Day. (Really.)

Trading places: Rackspace named Joe Eazor as CEO; company president Jeff Cotten, who has been interim CEO since Taylor Rhodes left in May, will resume his prior role.

ICYMI: In the latest twist in its legal battle with Apple, Qualcomm is seeking an injunction to force iPhone suppliers to keep making royalty payments...Many city-run broadband networks are in financial trouble...Facebook has signed a deal with Vox Media and BuzzFeed to create video programming...Brazilian ride-sharing service 99 has raised $100 million from SoftBank.

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To celebrate Geek Pride Day, why not relive your childhood and play a game of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.

Go forth and engage in geekery.

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Qualcomm seeks an injunction to force Apple suppliers to pay up

Kenny Louie / Flickr CC

Qualcomm on Wednesday asked a court to force iPhone suppliers to keep making royalty payments amid a legal dispute between Apple and Qualcomm. Qualcomm also updated one of its lawsuist to include what it says is more evidence that Apple is interfering with Qualcomm's existing arrangements with the contract manufacturing firms.

"We are confident that our contracts will be found valid and enforceable but in the interim it is only fair and equitable that our licensees pay for the property they are using," Qualcomm general counsel Don Rosenberg said in a statement to Axios.

In its amended suit, Qualcomm says that Apple has been withholding payments to suppliers and encouraging them to similarly withhold those amounts from Apple, all while promising to indemnify the suppliers if Qualcomm takes legal action.

By withholding billions of dollars in royalties so long as Qualcomm defends itself against Apple's claims, Apple is hoping to make litigation unbearable for Qualcomm and, thereby, to extract through a forced settlement what it knows it cannot obtain through judicial process—a below-market direct license. Apple's tactics are egregious.

What's at stake: Apple hopes to reduce the amount it has to pay Qualcomm, but in the mean time it is now in a dispute with a company it relies on for modem chips. Qualcomm, meanwhile, finds itself battling one of its two largest customers.

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DJI's latest drone acknowledges many of us are bad pilots

DJI's Spark, announced Wednesday, addresses one of the big challenges with consumer drones: Many of us are just not cut out to be pilots.

The $499 camera drone can be controlled simply by hand gestures and has a bunch of cool preset flight modes, including circling around a subject and taking off like a rocket straight up, all while automatically recording a 10 second video.

For those that do want to, you know, actually fly the Spark, it can fly for up to 16 minutes on a charge, go up to 31 miles per hour using a remote control accessory and is also capable of taking 12-megapixel photos as well as HD video.

What it doesn't address: It's still hard to find places to legally fly drones, especially in cities. Plus, it's still not clear most people can find enough uses to shell out several hundred bucks for a drone, even if they do take a sick selfie.

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Good morning. Just a reminder that you can get tech news from Axios throughout the day at Axios.com/technology.

Apple wants to turn community college students into app developers

Apple

Apple already offers a variety of tools to help school kids learn the basics of coding. Now it aims to give older students what they need to become full-fledged app developers. On Wednesday, the company is releasing, for free, the curriculum for a year-long course on how to write apps for the iPhone.

New program: Though available to all, the program is aimed at community college students. Apple is working with six districts around the country, with the classes on Apple's Swift programming language to start this summer and fall.

"We believe apps are going to be incredibly important in the future," Apple vice president (and former EPA administrator) Lisa Jackson told Axios. "We want people to be a part of that."

She added it's part of a broader effort to ensure more Americans have high-paying jobs. "This is also about equal access. This about women. This is about black students. This is about Latinx students and this is about rural students."

Why it matters: Of the two million jobs Apple takes credit for creating, the vast majority — 1.5 million — are from the "app economy."

Read more here.

More U.S. families now have a smartphone than a DVD player

With 80 percent of American households now having at least one smartphone, more homes now have a smartphone than a DVD player, according to the latest data from the Consumer Technology Association.

DVD and Blu-Ray players are now in 70 percent of homes, down a significant 7 percentage points from last year, likely due to the increase in streaming services.

Televisions remain the most-owned consumer electronic device, with at least 96 percent of households owning at least one set. However, the total number of TVs owned actually dropped 3 percent, to 308 million.

Apple and Google are worth more than the GDP of most cities

Data: BofA Merrill Lynch Global Investment Strategy, Bloomberg, Bureau of Economic Analysis, BofAML estimates; Notes: Current market cap vs. 2016 real GDP; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Apple and Google are now valued higher than the GDP of all but America's two largest cities, according to a new BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research report.

What it means: There is a growing concentration of wealth among a small number of tech companies that are mostly based in the same geographic regions (Silicon Valley and the Pacific Northwest). And that could ultimately lead to social unrest, particularly when juxtaposed against Trump-era economic nationalists. From the BAML report, which is titled "Occupy Silicon Valley":

"It could ultimately lead to populist calls for redistribution of the increasingly concentrated wealth of Silicon Valley as the gap between tech capital & human capital grows ever-wider."

What it doesn't mean: Amazon is not, for example, actually more valuable than its home base of Seattle, as metropolitan GDP doesn't account for broader economic or security values (let alone real estate, infrastructure, etc.).

​Silicon Valley needs heartland help in net neutrality fight

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Net neutrality activists are looking to gain support from startups in Trump country, David McCabe reports from San Francisco. Advocacy groups like Mozilla and Engine want to bring voices from the heartland into the debate to show that support for the rules isn't isolated to the Bay-area bubble.

  • Ashley Boyd, who leads advocacy for Mozilla, said it was important for lawmakers and Trump to see what dismantling net neutrality rules could mean for their constituents. "Those voices in this situation could be very powerful," she said.
  • Sam Altman, the head of startup incubator Y Combinator, is planning an upcoming swing through the midwest. "I'm actually going on a trip in two weeks to meet some tech companies in the midwest and just figure out what people are interested in, organizing, willing to do," he said. Asked how much he was thinking about rallying non-Bay Area startups, his response was quick: "A lot."

The bigger picture: The chasm between Washington and Silicon Valley can seem wide after an election that jarred the largely-liberal tech industry. That makes the voices of entrepreneurs outside tech hubs like New York and San Francisco all the more valuable in major policy debates.

Nextdoor partners with FEMA to distribute emergency info

Hyperlocal site Nextdoor will announce Wednesday that it is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver targeted disaster information ahead of, during, and after natural disasters, including hurricanes, storms, and flooding.

"Our neighbors are often the first people we turn to for help in times of need," Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia said in a statement.

Why it matters: It is the first national public agency that Nextdoor has partnered with. And Nextdoor serves a pretty big niche, connecting 140,000 neighborhoods, representing more than 70 percent of the U.S., according to the company.

Take note

On tap: The JP Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom conference wraps up in Boston. ... Execs from IBM, Oracle, Apple and Adobe (all members of BSA: the Software Alliance) are in D.C. for meetings with Hill leaders and the White House on data issues and trade...Microsoft's Brad Smith testifies at a Senate Judiciary hearing on law enforcement access to data stored across borders.

Trading places: Apple named Denise Young Smith as its VP of diversity and inclusion; Young Smith had previously been VP of human resources; for the moment HR will report to CFO Luca Maestri.

ICYMI: Microsoft introduced an updated version of its Surface Pro laptop/tablet hybrid at an event in Shanghai, along with a new version of its Surface Pen stylus; the company also introduced a custom version of Windows 10 for use by the Chinese government and state-owned entities, Bloomberg reported....Ikea has a line of smart light bulbs that will work with Apple's HomeKit as well as Google's Assistant and Amazon's Alexa...China's LeEco is cutting 70 percent of its U.S. workforce, shuttering its San Diego operation and drastically curtailing the ambitious plans it laid out last fall...Google knows a lot about you and wants to use it better.

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It's a whale creating a rainbow. You're welcome.

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Nextdoor partners with FEMA to distribute emergency info

Jeff Chiu / AP

Hyperlocal site Nextdoor will announce Wednesday that it is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deliver targeted disaster information ahead of, during and after natural disasters, including hurricanes, storms and flooding.

"Our neighbors are often the first people we turn to for help in times of need," Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia said in a statement.

Why it matters: It is the first national public agency that Nextdoor has partnered with. And Nextdoor serves a pretty big niche, connecting 140,000 neighborhoods, representing more than 70 percent of the U.S., according to the company.

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Apple wants to turn community college students into app developers

Paul Sakuma / AP

Apple already offers a variety of tools to help school kids learn the basics of coding. Now, it aims to give older students what they need to become full-fledged app developers. On Wednesday the company is releasing, for free, the curriculum for a year-long course on how to write apps for the iPhone.

The effort, though available to all, is aimed at community college students and Apple is working with six districts around the country, with the first classes to start this summer and fall. The courseware teaches students how to create apps using Apple's Swift programming language.

Why it matters: Of the two million jobs Apple takes credit for creating, the vast majority, 1.5 million, are from the "app economy."

"We believe apps are going to be incredibly important in the future," Apple VP (and former EPA administrator) Lisa Jackson told Axios. "We want people to be a part of that."

"Granted that's something we want from the perspective of the App Store," Jackson said, but it's also part of a broader effort to ensure more Americans have high-paying jobs. "This is also about equal access. This is about women. This is about black students. This is about Latinx students and this is about rural students."

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Apple shifts HR chief to new post heading diversity and inclusion

Apple

Apple confirmed on Tuesday that HR chief Denise Young Smith is moving to a new role as VP of diversity and inclusion. In the newly created post she will continue to report to CEO Tim Cook. The company's HR efforts, for now, will report to CFO Luca Maestri though it is widely understood that is temporary and that the company will hire a new HR chief.

What it means: The move gives more prominence to Apple's diversity effort, which Cook has already made a priority. Like other tech firms, Apple's workforce remains largely male and white, even with concerted efforts to boost inclusion.

"Denise's years of experience, expertise and passion will help us make an even greater impact in this area," Apple said in a statement to Axios.

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Apple to make payments to Nokia in patent settlement

Eric Risberg / AP

Apple and Nokia announced late Monday that they have settled their patent dispute. While the terms of the deal were not fully disclosed, the companies said that Apple will make both an up-front and ongoing payments to Nokia and will cooperate in some areas.

Under a business collaboration agreement, Nokia will be providing certain network infrastructure product and services to Apple. Apple will resume carrying Nokia digital health products (formerly under the Withings brand) in Apple retail and online stores, and Apple and Nokia are exploring future collaboration in digital health initiatives. Regular summits between top Nokia and Apple executives will ensure that the relationship works effectively and to the benefit of both parties and their customers.
What it means: The deal gives cash to Nokia and removes one of Apple's legal headaches. It still has a major and escalating legal battle with Qualcomm. That dispute is thornier because Qualcomm is a significant chip supplier to Apple, in addition to a key patent holder.