This morning's news storm...
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Chinese telecom giant Huawei is poised to claim close to half of the 5G market, nudging the technological center of gravity away from western telecom vendors and sounding alarms about China's ability to spy on Americans, Axios' Kim Hart, Alison Snyder, and Sara write.
Why it matters: 5G has one global standard that makes networks interoperable regardless of the equipment vendor. The security risk posed by Huawei is debated but if it ends up dominating 5G networks, authority to set standards for future network technologies — such as 6G, which is already under development — will shift toward China.
Where things stand: The U.S. and China are locked in a race over whose preferred technology will underly 5G networks that will connect devices and machines at lightning speed.
Huawei claims nearly a third of the global 4G market, and it may get closer to half the market in a 5G world, according to Andrew Entwistle, an analyst with New Street Research in London.
Threat level: Fears are mounting that a 5G equipment market dominated by China will give the authoritarian regime greater access to the explosion of data that will flow across 5G networks.
The other side: While many countries are nervous about China's growth, not everyone is convinced Chinese vendors are using their telecom gear to spy. (Huawei denies it, too.)
The bottom line: China's lead in building the next-generation network is seen as a sign of a decline of U.S. tech leadership in the mobile internet, and as a symbolic point of no return for Chinese economic supremacy.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Drake — along with media and tech heavyweights Marissa Mayer, Strauss Zelnick and others — is investing $3 million into the seed funding round for Players’ Lounge, an esports platform where gamers can play their favorite video games against others for prizes straight from their living room.
Why it matters: It's the latest example of a celebrity investing in esports, Sara writes. NBA superstar Chris Bosh joined esports franchise Gen.G as a player management adviser last year. Other big names, from Michael Jordan to Steph Curry, are investing in professional esports teams.
Details: Players' Lounge allows gamers to compete in skill-based esports competitions for cash prizes. Its mission is to create a social platform for casual gamers to connect, get matched, and compete without having to be a pro.
The big picture: Players' Lounge is making it easy for casual gamers to earn cash from esports. Otherwise, the only way to make money in esports is to go pro, which takes a lot of time and resources, or to become a streamer via Twitch or YouTube, which focuses more on personality than gaming skills.
"It's kind of like the intramural network for esports. There's a huge community potential."— Austin Woolridge, co-founder and CEO, Players' Lounge
The bottom line: Esports is still a fledgling industry compared to professional sports, but big names are investing in it because it's growing so fast. Celebrities, and especially celebrity athletes, see this as a way to connect with hyper-engaged sports fans, who may not have the appetite to participate in real sports but still want to compete with peers and develop a community around game play.
Human Rights Campaign suspended Google from this year's Corporate Equality Index after the company failed to pull a controversial app that the LGBT rights group says equates to conversion therapy, Axios' Ina Fried reports.
Why it matters: HRC's annual rankings are often touted by tech companies and have served as a valuable recruiting tool.
What's happening: In a footnote to this year's company ratings, HRC said it became aware of the app, from Living Hope Ministries, which it says "supports the practice of so-called 'conversion therapy.' "
"Such practices have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades. Minors are especially vulnerable, and conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide. Pending remedial steps by the company to address this app that can cause harm to the LGBTQ community the CEI rating is suspended."— Human Rights Campaign
Context: Apple, Microsoft and Amazon all pulled the Living Hope Ministries app from their app stores, while Google refused to do so.
Meanwhile, many other tech companies received a perfect 100 score in the annual ranking, released Thursday.
Sen. Josh Hawley. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) called Thursday for Pichai to further publicly address the company’s reported work in China, Axios' David McCabe reports.
Why it matters: Hawley has been aggressive in ramping up pressure on Big Tech from the right, including through allegations of anti-conservative bias at major web platforms.
What he's saying: Hawley told Pichai in the letter to address "publicly the work your company does in China, the benefits it may provide to the Chinese government and military, and your reluctance to partner or aid the Armed Forces of the United States."
The big picture: Google has come under fire for its work in China, including its reported plans last year to build a censored version of its search engine. It also drew some criticism from the right for its decision not to renew a Pentagon contract after protests from its employees.
The bottom line: Google's plans for China in an era of tumult for U.S.-China relations will continue to dog the company.
Modern gaming engines like Unreal 4 are capable of generating video in realtime that is almost impossible to distinguish from spectacular film footage. This example is breathtaking.