May 31, 2019

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1 big thing: Apple poised to bring Mac and iPad closer than ever

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's pretty much a given that next week's Apple Worldwide Developer Conference will bring new versions of MacOS and iOS. The real question is just how much convergence there will be between the 2 operating systems.

Why it matters: The Mac remains popular even as the bulk of Apple's business is now selling phones and tablets, both of which have been increasing in computing power.

  • Apple has long said it doesn't plan to merge its mobile and computer operating systems, but the two have been moving closer together recently.
  • Apple offered a "sneak peek" last year at its multiyear effort (known internally as Marzipan) to allow programs written for iOS devices like the iPad to run on Macs with minimal changes.
  • Input differences is one of the big hurdles to bringing the two closer: IPhones and iPads use touch input while Macs primarily use a keyboard and mouse (the poorly received Touch Bar notwithstanding).
  • Last year, the company said it was testing the technology first with its own apps, like Stocks and Voice Memos, and would offer other developers a chance to adapt their apps over time.
  • Developers are champing at the bit for their taste of Marzipan, and WWDC could offer them a way in.

In addition, Apple is likely to preview upgrades to its TV and watch operating systems and perhaps give a few more details on some of its new services, such as Arcade, a subscription iOS game service due out this fall.

Here are a couple other things I will be watching for at the conference, which kicks off with a keynote Monday morning in San Jose...

1. Mac Pro: Apple first announced back in April 2017 that it planned to scrap its cylindrical Mac Pro design and develop an all-new desktop for professionals.

  • At the time, Apple said it expected the new design to take at least a year to arrive, but by 2018 was acknowledging the new desktop wouldn't come until 2019.
  • Well, the year is nearly half over. Software is usually the main attraction at WWDC, but it could also be an ideal time and place to unveil a new desktop computer.

2. Siri: The voice assistant is an important market for Apple, and the company has been falling further behind Google and Amazon when it comes to creating opportunities for developers.

  • Apple offered a couple new ways that developers could work with Siri last year, but it will be interesting to see whether it's willing to provide broader access this year.
2. Loon helps restore internet access in Peru

Loon's internet-delivery balloon being inflated at Silicon Valley's Moffett Field. Photo: Loon

In the wake of an earthquake in Peru last weekend, Alphabet's Loon unit was able to quickly restore temporary internet access using its balloons.

This was due, in large part, because it had already been in talks with Telefonica to bring its service to parts of the country and had offered its service in 2017 after flooding.

Details: Loon delivered the first service to Peru's earthquake-hit areas within 48 hours, as compared to the 4 weeks it took to deliver the first Loon-based connections to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

  • Loon served about 20,000 unique users in the first 2 days of service, a representative told Axios.
  • "With Loon already active in a country, as is the case in Peru, our ability to respond to a natural disaster can be measured in hours or days rather than weeks," Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth said in a blog post.

What's next: Loon plans to start using its balloons to deliver regular service as opposed to just responding to disasters. The company plans to begin commercial service later this year in Kenya, among other places.

3. Report: DOJ wants T-Mobile/Sprint to create competitor

The Department of Justice wants T-Mobile and Sprint to establish another wireless competitor with a dedicated network in order to win approval for their merger, per Bloomberg this week.

Why it matters: The story reveals key aspects of how regulators are thinking about the deal on which both companies have staked their future, Axios' David McCabe reports.

  • The DOJ is reportedly leaning towards an analysis that finds that competition only exists in wireless when there are 4 competitors each maintaining their own coverage network rather than leasing one.
  • The split is pronounced between DOJ’s approach, which by law focuses exclusively on how a merger will affect competition, and that of the FCC, which is already moving towards approving the Sprint/T-Mobile deal under its standard of whether a merger is in the “public interest.”
  • DOJ’s reported condition goes further than what T-Mobile and Sprint proposed to get FCC approval: Selling off Sprint's Boost Mobile prepaid service. (Reuters reported on Thursday that Amazon is interested in buying the brand.)

A new competitor would need access to a credible brand, as well as access to wireless spectrum to build a network — although access to someone else's wireless network could be a stopgap until that was possible, Bloomberg notes.

Flashback: Previous regulators have drawn the line at moving from 4 to 3 wireless carriers.

The bottom line: If DOJ is serious about drawing that line again, then T-Mobile’s deal could be in trouble.

  • "I have a hard time seeing T-Mobile saying, ‘Well, that’s progress. I’ve strengthened my position in the marketplace but somebody has all these criteria so I’m still one of four,’” said Tom Wheeler, who was FCC chairman when regulators indicated to Sprint it shouldn't attempt a merger with T-Mobile.
4. The future of parking (near and far)

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

If the future of personal transportation is scooters and self-driving cars that are most always on the go, that will leave a lot of empty parking spaces open for new uses — such as food delivery hubs or vehicle recharging centers, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

Why it matters: The disruption in urban transportation is creating opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs who see value in repurposing the lowly parking space for the digital era.

A number of companies are already reimagining how parking space will be used...

1. ParkJockey: The Florida-based company’s ambition is to sell space access to businesses such as ride-hail, car rental and food delivery.

  • To do that, it wants to sell an “operating system” (hardware and software) to garage owners that will turn their real estate into a service that customers can pay to access.
  • Late last year, ParkJockey acquired 2 large parking operators as part of a financing round led by SoftBank.

2. City Storage Systems: Best known as former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s new undertaking, the company is also in the business of repurposing parking lots.

  • It's been buying up properties, including parking garages, that it will turn into commercial kitchens for delivery-only restaurants and other consumer services.

3. SpotHero: The company is focused on a parking spot booking app (for human drivers), but it’s already thinking about the arrival of robot drivers.

  • It’s been working with partner lots to upgrade some of their technology to handle autonomous vehicles, which CEO Mark Lawrence tells Axios can also have immediate benefits for human drivers.
  • “Every location that we make [AV]-ready today is a better experience for our consumers now,” Lawrence says. “We’ve done studies that show that people are willing to pay more for an automated experience versus one that’s not.”

Go deeper: Kia has more here.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Sprint will today start selling its first two 5G devices (an LG phone and an HTC hotspot) after launching next-generation cell service yesterday in parts of Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Kansas City.

Trading Places

  • In addition to raising its Series D funding, password management company Dashlane has named recently departed Lyft executive Joy Howard as its CMO. (TechCrunch)


  • Uber reported its first financial results as a public company, delivering revenue at the high end of its previous expectations. (Axios)
  • Salesforce will no longer allow retailers that sell semiautomatic guns to use its software. (The Washington Post)
  • Intuit is buying marketing analytics firm Origami Logic. (ZDNet)
6. After you Login

Computers may be able to take down chess champions but 8 elementary students took down the dictionary on Thursday.

  • The contenders spelled so many words correctly that Scripps National Spelling Bee organizers threw in the towel and declared them all champions.
  • It was a pricey move for Scripps, as each will apparently get the $50,000 promised to the winner.