May 8, 2019

Axios Login

Today is a big day with multiple events vying for my attention. By which, of course, I mean that once again both the Sharks and Warriors have playoff games.

1 big thing: Google takes its privacy turn

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, speaking at I/0 2019 on Tuesday. Photo: Google

Tuesday's Google I/O keynote paraded the usual new hardware and software, but the biggest development was the emphasis on privacy that the company wove through each of its rollouts.

Why it matters: The move is, of course, timely: In the wake of scandals and data spills, all Big Tech is talking privacy, even if individual companies have very different agendas.

  • And Google is the company that basically invented the monetization of user information, unlocking the secret to minting billions online by targeting ads based on user data.

The big question: Is Google really making a fundamental shift — or is it just applying window dressing.

Details: Google's privacy moves include...

  • New limits on advertiser tracking in the Chrome browser.
  • New tools for users to control or remove their data.
  • Fresh commitments from Google on how its growing hardware empire would use and store data.
  • Find more specifics here.

Between the lines: The conventional wisdom is that Google wants and needs all the data it can get because the ads that fuel its profits depend on that data. In other words, Google would need to upend its business model to offer significantly more privacy.

Executives insist that isn't the case. The really valuable data, they say, comes from knowing what a user is looking for and where they are at any given moment. That's far more relevant to advertisers than the vast troves of historical and demographic data that Google has amassed over the years.

Our thought bubble: Giving Google the benefit of the doubt doesn't mean assuming that it is acting purely out of altruism. If its business is advertising, especially search, it needs to make sure that consumers trust Google enough to use the products that generate its core revenue.

  • Today, that's still heavily concentrated on PCs and phones via search and the Web.
  • But the queries of the future will come in many forms — through voice commands and via cameras — and on many more devices.

Yes, but: Features and commitments are a start, but only time will tell just how much privacy Google is really committed to.

  • Perhaps most importantly, Google can also afford to collect less data on users because the power of machine learning will allow it to infer more about them.

We've already seen an example of this when Google stopped scanning your Gmail to serve advertising.

  • It didn't do so because it suddenly decided the practice was creepy or obtrusive.
  • Instead, it turned out that there's other information the company knew about Gmail users that was more valuable for targeting ads than the contents of your inbox.

What they're saying: Google, like Facebook, argues that there's a reasonable and valuable tradeoff between the data users provide and the free services they get.

  • In a New York Times essay Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote, "A small subset of data helps serve ads that are relevant and that provide the revenue that keeps Google products free and accessible. ... Privacy cannot be a luxury good."

Go deeper

2. Anki aims to let robots live on after its death

Anki's Vector relies on the cloud for much of its capability. Photo: Anki

The news of Anki's impending demise sent loyal owners begging for some way to make sure that its cloud-dependent robots would outlive the company that created them.

  • In user forums and on Twitter they pleaded for everyone from Elon Musk to Amazon to adopt the soon-to-be-orphaned product lines.

What's new: In a post to its website on Tuesday, Anki offered a vague promise of a reprieve.

"In order to provide long term support of our products, Anki has contracted our most senior leaders and hands-on engineers across all the technical areas involved in maintaining the operation and functionality in the existing products and apps."
"[W]e have arranged for any support in the event [intervention] does become necessary. Vector is the only product with a notable cloud component, and the contracted team is heavily staffed in that area."
— Anki statement

Yes, but: The post didn't say how much functionality the devices would retain, or for how long.

  • "We plan to solidify and communicate all the details of this plan soon," it said.
  • And even if the cloud services remain, it could be tough for the devices to survive other changes, such as new operating systems or network protocols.
3. Apple's quiet inroads to the enterprise

Tim Cook joined SAP CEO Bill McDermott (r) at its Sapphire conference to announce an expanded partnership. Photo: Apple

For years now, Apple has used the iPhone as its way into large businesses, who tend to be customers that shunned its computers except for corners like the design department.

The backdrop: Apple has done this steadily, over years, inking partnerships with established players, including IBM, Salesforce and SAP.

Driving the news: On Tuesday, Apple expanded its partnership with SAP, broadening the range of apps for iOS, while also bringing some of its software to the Mac.

  • It will also add cloud support for Core ML, Apple's on-device machine learning technology.
  • CEO Tim Cook even appeared at SAP's flagship Sapphire conference to announce the news.

Why it matters: Apple doesn't break out its enterprise sales, but they are clearly nothing to sneeze at. Beyond corporate adoption of iPhones and iPads, many large businesses today offer employees a choice of Macs or PCs, while Apple machines often dominate the startups of Silicon Valley.

4. Lyft reports loss and inks Waymo deal

In its very first quarterly earnings as a public company, Lyft beat analysts' revenue expectations, but that was overshadowed by the large loss it reported, per Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva.

Lyft also announced a new partnership with Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car unit, through which the latter will deploy 10 vehicles on Lyft's service in Phoenix.

Why it matters: Lyft beat Uber to the public markets, but its stock price has plummeted since debuting on the public market at the end of March.

By the numbers:

  • Loss per share: $9.02 (adjusted) vs. $1.81 expected, per Yahoo Finance.
  • Revenue: $776 million vs. $739.48 million expected, per Yahoo Finance.
  • Lyft's net loss for Q1 was $1.139 billion, which the company says includes "$894 million of stock-based compensation and related payroll tax expenses, primarily due to [restricted stock units] expense recognition in connection with our initial public offering."
  • Lyft had 20.5 million active riders in Q1, up 46% year-over-year, and $37.86 in average revenue per active rider, up 34% year-over-year.
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Google I/O continues in Mountain View, California.
  • Intel will hold an investor meeting with presentations from CEO Bob Swan and other executives. (Webcast here starts at noon PT.)
  • Earnings reports include IAC and Roku.
  • Huawei's CFO is due back in a Canadian court today.

Trading Places

  • Hims, an online seller of male-oriented health care products, recently hired former Lyft executive Melissa Walters as its first chief marketing officer, Axios' Dan Primack reports.


  • Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg visited Capitol Hill yesterday, meeting with senators about proposed privacy legislation. (CNET)
  • The FBI has taken down the dark web index site Deep Dot Web. (The Verge)
  • Electronic Arts sales last quarter were way ahead of expectations as hit game Apex Legends did 5 to 10 times as much business as the company had anticipated. (Bloomberg)
6. After you Login

I love it when a couple of my favorite things come together, in this case basketball and Legos.