Greetings from Rancho Palos Verdes, where I am at Code Conference. There's a full day of speakers so be sure to check out the Axios stream throughout the day.
The lowdown on Essential, Andy Rubin's new startup
Among the key revelations from Rubin:
- The Essential Phone will be available "soon," like in the next 30 days or so.
- Essential has raised hundreds of millions of dollars, with investors including Redpoint, Tencent, and Foxconn.
- Rubin confirmed Essential was close to finalizing an investment from SoftBank's Vision Fund but the deal fell apart after Apple invested in the SoftBank fund, with no one finding it tenable for Apple to be an investor in Essential.
- Essential's home hub doesn't yet have a price or shipping date, but Rubin hopes Amazon, Google, and Apple will allow it to work with their voice assistants.
What isn't being said: The phone business is still incredibly tough. While Rubin has raised a fair bit of money, Samsung and Apple have tons of cash. And while a growing number of people buy their phones online, many still get them through carriers or retail stores. (Rubin did say Essential plans to expand distribution to stores and carriers, and notes that phones are just the first part of a larger strategy to build a big new consumer electronics brand.)
Read more of my story here.
Also on the opening night of Code...
There was much more from the first night of Code, including:
- New York Times CEO Dean Baquet on the disarray of the Trump administration and the challenges facing journalism.
- Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on his Twitter stake, sports tech, what went wrong at Microsoft, and how he is totally not running for office.
- Marc Andreessen mused about, among other things, how self-driving cars could create lots of jobs.
How a T-Mobile/Sprint merger could jolt wireless
As we wait to see whether T-Mobile and Sprint tie the knot, or find other suitors, here's a look at how the two firms would stack up, if combined.
Going from four nationwide carriers to three would reshape the wireless market, and opponents of the deal argue it could mean higher prices. Under former President Obama, the Justice Department and FCC made clear that such a deal would be a tough sell.
There's no question that T-Mobile, and more recently Sprint, have made the U.S. more competitive in the short-term. But it's perhaps another question whether either or both are really viable as independent entities for the long term.
David takes a closer look here.
The digital divide persists in rural America
While Americans in rural areas have made significant strides in tech adoption over the past decade, they are still less likely to have access to broadband or own a smartphone than urban or suburban adults, according to Pew's latest survey on the digital divide. Rural Americans are also about twice as likely to say they never go online as suburban and urban Americans, as Sara Fischer reports.
Quick take: Expanding rural access to broadband has long been a challenge in the U.S. — since internet providers worry they'll never recoup the investment they make in building those networks. That's why it's something to watch if Congress gets around to an infrastructure package that includes incentives for expanded rural broadcast access.
On tap: Code Conference continues through Thursday. We'll have lots of coverage on the Axios site. Speakers today include Hillary Clinton, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes.
Trading places: Uber fired self-driving car executive Anthony Levandowski, who has refused to help the company defend itself in a lawsuit filed by Waymo, Levandowski's former employer.
ICYMI: Qualcomm announced overnight that Asus, HP, and Lenovo plan to build Windows computers using its Snapdragon 835 processor, in yet another effort to bring Windows to ARM-based processors...Uzbekistan has banned the import of dozens of video games, including everything from The Sims to Mortal Kombat and Doom, saying the games could "distort values" and "threaten stability."