Nov 12, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Another opportunity for our D.C. readers: On Wednesday morning, you can join Axios' Evan Ryan for a business-leader-stacked conversation on the private sector's role in advancing gender equality.  

The lineup includes Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, Lilly Ledbetter (the namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) and Uber chief legal officer Tony West. RSVP here.

1 big thing: Lisa Su on building the new AMD

Lisa Su holds up AMD's next-generation graphics chip for the data center. Photo: AMD

AMD founder Jerry Sanders was fond of flashy suits and boasted of his manufacturing prowess. "Real men have fabs," he would say, referring to the costly chipmaking plants that AMD operated.

Current CEO Lisa Su presides over a very different AMD. It's one that still aims to rival Intel in powering the world's most capable computers, as it did under Sanders — but Su's AMD focuses on design and strategy, leaving the actual manufacturing to partners like foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.

  • Su said that making its own chips was actually holding the company back, adding technical uncertainty and financial risk to the business.
  • "That was part of the inconsistency in the company, frankly," she said.

Why it matters: AMD is looking to establish itself as a credible long-term player in markets like the data center, where customers want to know that their supplier not only has a competitive chip at the moment, but a strategy that will remain competitive for several years.

  • Still, Su says there are things that unite her and Sanders, including a belief in making big bold bets on technology.
  • "Our personalities are quite different," she said. "Our ambition for the company is quite similar."

Picking its spots: Whereas Intel has pursued everything from chips for cellphones and IoT devices as well as a number of consumer electronics markets, AMD is focused on chips for PCs and servers.

  • "We're not doing drones," she said.

She also spoke out on several other topics during our interview last week.

  • On diversity in tech: "There’s a lot more we need to do," she said. But she said tech does have the opportunity to be an egalitarian field. "It’s one of the reasons I love engineering. It's pretty black and white. Either you deliver the product or you don’t."
  • On her upcoming speech at CES in January: "I’m proud that AMD is going to be on that stage," she said, adding that she knows AMD has the challenge of being less well known than many big tech companies. "Hopefully after CES they will know what they do."
2. Blockchain buzz is waning
Expand chart
Data: Analysis of FactSet corrected transcripts; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

S&P 500 executives are dropping blockchain buzzwords less on earnings calls and during presentations to analysts and investors. Analysts are also asking about it less, Axios' Courtenay Brown reports.

Why it matters: The hype was just that. The odds of a company turning blockchain “headlines into reality” are slim, as Forrester Research predicts.

The prospect of incorporating blockchain technology or cryptocurrency into businesses excited investors and drove up share prices temporarily — just look at Kodak, beverage company Long Blockchain, or Hooters franchisee Chanticleer Holdings. So it's no wonder executives wanted shareholders to know that they too might get in on the new technologies.

  • At the peak earlier this year, "blockchain" was mentioned 173 times, according to an analysis of company transcripts by Axios. The number has since fallen as much as 80%.
  • Bitcoin was never as popular. Dropping that word or "cryptocurrency" was most common in the first quarter of this year — with a mere 68 mentions.

Go deeper: Courtenay has more here.

3. Battle to shape national privacy rules

Big Tech’s Washington representatives continue to work on shaping the Commerce Department’s approach to privacy, with comments flowing into the agency last week ahead of a key deadline, Axios' David McCabe reports.

The big picture: From the halls of Congress to federal agencies to state houses, lobbying battles are raging as companies, trade groups, and their critics seek to influence how America regulates consumer data collection and its use.

Flashback: The administration initiated its look at privacy as new rules in Europe and California put pressure on U.S. policymakers to articulate how they think data should be gathered, used and secured.

  • Industry also fears a patchwork of state regulations, hoping federal rules could be used to preempt them ahead of the California law’s 2020 effective date.

Big Tech weighed in, as did other corporate players.

  • The Internet Association and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), both of which represent Facebook and Google, submitted comments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s comment process on privacy, repeating their calls for a federal privacy standard.
  • “We believe the way to achieve this is through a model that balances the various interests at play while being uncompromising in the protection afforded to individuals,” ITI said in its comments.

So did the critics of web platforms.

  • Digital Content Next, which represents publishers and is a vocal critic of Facebook and Google, said that the rules should “avoid solidifying the dominance” of the web platforms.
  • “Companies that dominate the digital landscape and have the ability to track consumers on virtually every site or app they visit are in a unique and privileged position,” the organization said. “In the case of this kind of ubiquitous data collection by a single entity, there should be a higher bar.”

What’s next? The end result of the privacy comment process at the Department of Commerce may be to influence federal legislation.

  • “We have already indicated that there’s a willingness absolutely within the White House to work with Congress on privacy legislation,” Gail Slater, a top tech staffer for the National Economic Council, said at a Washington Post event last week.

Read more of David's full story.

4. HPE to wire Warriors' new stadium

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Antonio Neri and Golden State Warriors CEO Rick Welts announce their companies' partnership. Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

To help keep fans connected in its new Chase Center arena, the Golden State Warriors are calling upon one of the best known names in Silicon Valley.

What's new: The Warriors announced a deal late Friday to make Hewlett Packard Enterprise its "official connected experience partner."

Just what that will mean beyond wiring up the new arena is less clear, but executives promise lots of new experiences starting when Chase Center opens in 10 months.

Warriors CEO Rick Welts said the goal was to put technology where it's useful, not just lots of tech for tech's sake.

"We've never gone out and said we are going to be the most technically advanced arena ever," he said. "We have tried to design a fan experience" and found technology that supports that.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings, who like to tout their tech prowess, worked with Verizon to livestream Saturday's game in virtual reality to some fans using 5G technology.

Verizon recently began offering home internet service using 5G-based fixed wireless in a handful of cities, including Sacramento.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Techonomy takes place through Tuesday in Half Moon Bay, California. Speakers include Kai-Fu Lee and Tim Berners-Lee.
  • The Wall Street Journal's D.Live conference kicks off in Laguna Beach, California. Speakers include Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom and Ruth Porat, CFO of Google parent Alphabet.


  • SAP is buying Qualtrics, which was set to go public this week, for $8 billion, making it one of the biggest SaaS acquisitions ever. (Axios)
  • In another big enterprise tech deal, Apptio is being bought by Vista Equity Partners for nearly $2 billion in cash. (Apptio)
  • Microsoft is acquiring two more game studios. (VentureBeat)
  • Facebook launched Lasso, a competitor to popular social app TikTok. (Axios)
  • Lime launched a global recall of one model of its scooters amid concerns the devices could break apart. (The Washington Post)
Ina Fried