Feb 6, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

I like to drop the occasional hockey reference or basketball highlight here and there, but did you know that we now have a daily Axios newsletter all about the sportsball? Well, we do and you can sign up here.

1 big thing: Adobe mulls developing its own chips

Abhay Parasnis. Photo: Bay Area Event Photography for Adobe

While known for its software, Adobe is considering whether it needs to join the growing ranks of tech companies designing their own chips.

Why it matters: Once upon a time, software and hardware companies largely relied on Intel and others to provide chips. More and more companies, though, see strategic or financial advantage in doing their own silicon.

Details: At an internal innovation conference on Tuesday (which I attended), Adobe CTO Abhay Parasnis posed the matter as a question for his colleagues, noting the significant increases in performance from chips designed specifically for specialized tasks, like machine learning.

  • "Do we need to become an ARM licensee?" he said, referring to the company whose underlying chip design is used across a wide range of devices, including computers, servers and phones. "I don’t have the answer, but it is something we are going to have to pay attention to."
  • Later on Tuesday, Parasnis told Axios that there are a range of ways that Adobe could get deeper into silicon.
  • "ARM does afford a model for a software company to package its technology much closer to silicon," he said, adding Adobe could do that without literally making its own chips, including by partnering with an existing chipmaker.

Yes, but: Unlike Facebook and Google, Adobe doesn't run its own data centers, so any server work would likely come in conjunction with cloud partners like Amazon and Microsoft.

The big picture: Whether or not Adobe makes its own chips, Parasnis told his colleagues the company needs to prepare itself for a world of vastly more powerful hardware — and it must move fast.

  • "We have to reimagine our franchise products," he said. "If we don’t reimagine ... somebody else will."
  • He pushed for an acceleration of the company's efforts in AI, calling for 100 new machine learning models on its Sensei platform by the end of the year.
  • The company, he said, doesn't need to build general purpose AI that can be used for self-driving cars, but rather needs to build deep expertise in a few areas.
  • He urged the company to create tools for new areas beyond traditional screens like PCs and phones, highlighting opportunities in both voice-controlled devices and immersive AR and VR environments.

Meanwhile: Parasnis said it will be ARM-based chips that deliver those gains, not Intel, whose processors power all of today's Macs and most Windows PCs.

  • At the conference he showed a logo that said "ARM Inside," a play on the Intel Inside logo that adorned computers for years.
  • "I believe we are firmly entering a world of ARM inside every device," he said.
2. AI takes on Pictionary

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Computers have made short work of human champions in Go and chess in recent years. Now, AI researchers are taking on Pictionary, a guessing game requiring not strategy but the hard-to-duplicate quality of common sense, Axios' Kaveh Waddell reports.

Why it matters: The effort to play with humans — rather than against them — is a step toward an optimistic future of work in which AI cooperates with people to complete tasks, rather than wiping out workers in large numbers.

Driving the news: Researchers at Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence have developed an AI program that can play both sides of Pictionary, a game in which one player draws a picture to represent a word or phrase for the other player to guess.

  • The big picture: Pictionary only seems straightforward. Like so many tasks that come naturally to children, it's a challenge for even the most advanced AI.
  • That's because it requires a grasp of nebulous concepts that are common sense to humans, but that no one has figured out how to easily teach computers.
  • Try the game here.

Read more of Kaveh's piece here.

3. Trump's State of the Union nod to tech

Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump used part of his State of the Union address last night to call for Congress to pass infrastructure legislation that supports "investments in the cutting edge industries of the future," Axios' David McCabe writes.

The big picture: The brief reference — in a speech dominated by nods to bipartisanship and deeply conservative immigration rhetoric — reflects a White House interest in areas like AI, quantum computing and 5G wireless.


  • Trump said, "I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting edge industries of the future."
  • He also said that China had spent years "stealing our intellectual property," a perennial tech concern.

Yes, but: It was a couple lines in an hour-plus speech, not a detailed plan.

4. Craigslist founder puts $15 million more into journalism efforts

Craig Newmark. Photo: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark is investing $15 million into 2 separate efforts to boost efforts to strengthen journalism ethics for the digital age, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Why it matters: The media industry, once mostly reliant on advertising, has struggled to find a sustainable business model in the internet age. Publishers have had to embrace new business models like events, sponsorships, and social publishing, but some of those efforts are harder to approach with full editorial independence.

By the numbers:

  • $10 million will go towards launching the Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security and the Craig Newmark professorship of journalism at The Columbia Journalism School.
  • $5 million will go towards creating the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at the Poynter Institute. This program will provide working journalists and industry leaders with relevant training and continued education.

The big picture: Newmark has already donated millions to causes that support journalism. He gave $20 million to the CUNY Journalism School last year and $20 million to fund The Markup, a non-profit investigative news startup.

"Right now, when our institutions are in some peril, regular people need to stand up for the country. The bottom line is that people like me have to go put our money where our mouth is."
— Craig Newmark to Axios
5. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Leigh Gallagher, an assistant managing editor at Fortune, is joining Google, Axios' Dan Primack reports.
  • Angela Ahrendts, the former Burberry CEO who has headed Apple's retail effort for the last 5 years, is leaving the iPhone maker. HR boss Deirdre O’Brien will add oversight of retail to her current responsibilities.


  • Facebook says it will tie employee bonuses, in part, to progress against various social initiatives. (Fortune)
  • Shares of Snapchat's parent soared after it reported higher revenue and a narrower than expected loss. (Axios)
  • Facebook took down a bunch more pages related to Alex Jones. (Axios)
  • A look at what's been going on with Foxconn's troubled manufacturing deal with Wisconsin. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
  • ESPN+ has passed 2 million subscribers in a year on the market. (The Verge)
6. After you Login

Karl the Fog, the Twitter personification of San Francisco's low-hanging cloud mass, is going longform, with a book due out in May. "After 8.5 years of throwing shade on Twitter, I’m taking my drama to paper," Karl announced in a tweet Tuesday.

Ina Fried