Oct 3, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Character counts, but our system only counts words. Today there are 1,280 of them, a 5 minute read.

1 big thing: Microsoft's surprising Surface event

Photo: Microsoft

With all the leaks ahead of Microsoft's hardware event Wednesday, it was hard to imagine the company had many surprises left to share. But, oh, did it.

Yes, the company launched the expected Surface laptop and a pair of Surface Pro tablet/phone hybrids. But it also previewed 2 other devices due out next year that few were expecting.

  • The Surface Neo is a dual-screen device that folds into all kinds of shapes including, tablet, tiny laptop and booklet.
  • The tinier dual-screen device called Surface Duo is a smartphone-computer hybrid running Android.

Why it matters: The move shows a new commitment to devices that run Microsoft's software and services above and beyond the firm's commitment to Windows. That thinking, which would have been heretical in years past, is a hallmark of the Satya Nadella era. (Recall that one of Nadella's first moves as CEO was to preside over the launch of Office for the iPad.)

The bigger picture: There's a lot to unpack beyond just the devices, some of which won't be available until next year anyway.

  • The big shocker was the Android-based Duo. While the prototype that Microsoft showed bears a strong resemblance to Windows 10, the operating system at its core is actually Google's flavor of Android, meaning it will pack Google's apps and the Google Play store.
  • The event also marked an attempt by Microsoft to move beyond its dedication to Intel-based chips. The 15-inch Surface Laptop uses a Ryzen processor from AMD, while the Surface Pro X uses a Microsoft chipset powered by a custom Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

History lesson: As many were quick to point out, the debut of a dual-screen device has been more than a decade in the making. Under Robby Bach, Microsoft's entertainment and devices unit cooked up a concept called Courier. Steve Ballmer killed the project amid strong objections from the Windows team.

History lesson #2: As far fewer remember, this isn't the first marriage of Microsoft and Android.

  • When Microsoft acquired Nokia's smartphone business, it inherited the Nokia X, a phone built on top of open-source Android, with services from Microsoft replacing those from Google.
  • Microsoft quickly pulled the plug on the effort when it acquired Nokia.
  • More recently, Microsoft has invested in getting versions of Office and other Microsoft services included on Samsung and other Android devices.

The bottom line: Microsoft showed it continues to think outside the box with its hardware line, but the company has some big hurdles to overcome if it wants its most innovative devices to be successful.

  • The Surface Pro X, with its Qualcomm-based processor, will have to do what past ARM-based Windows machines have failed to do: run a wide variety of Windows applications with sufficient performance.
  • The Surface Neo uses a yet-to-be released version of Windows 10, Windows 10X, that is designed for dual-screen devices. But to really be successful, Microsoft will need app developers to build compelling experiences for the category, which will also see entries from traditional PC makers.
  • The Surface Duo, meanwhile, will have to take on a broad range of Android-based devices, presumably including a lot more foldable and dual-screen phones.

Go deeper:

2. Melinda Gates pledges $1B for gender equality

Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for THR

Melinda Gates announced in Time Magazine on Wednesday that she is committing $1 billion over the next 10 years to promote gender equality and grow "women's power and influence in the United States," as Axios' Rashaan Ayesh reports.

What she's saying: "Gender equality in the U.S. has been chronically underfunded. ... $1 billion is a lot of money, but I also recognize that it’s only a small fraction of what's necessary. That's why I hope the financial commitment I'm making today is seen as both a vote of confidence in the experts and advocates who are already working on these issues — and an invitation for others to join the cause and make commitments of their own."

"Equality can't wait, and no one in a position to act should either."
— Melinda Gates

The resources will be allocated toward 3 goals:

  • Break down barriers that hinder women's professional advancement.
  • Fast-track women in fields such as technology and media, and encourage women to run for public office.
  • Mobilize people to encourage organizational reforms.

Go deeper: Bill Gates: Gender inequality affects every country on Earth

3. How women's issues became Melinda Gates' issue

Melinda Gates told me in an interview earlier this year that she initially eschewed a focus on women's issues, seeing it as one of the "soft" areas typically reserved for female philanthropists.

Driving the news: Gates said she realized that women's issues were actually the key to the other areas that she is passionate about: global health, education and economic equality.

"If you invest in a woman we totally know from great research she invests in everybody else. ... She not only lifts her kids and her family but she lifts up her community, which lifts up society, which lifts up her country."
— Melinda Gates

Similarly, contraception turns out to be not just a women's issue, but the key to a country's overall economic empowerment. No country in the last 50 years has made the transition from low income to middle income without allowing access to birth control, Gates said.

"Contraceptives are the greatest anti-poverty tool we have in the world. More than 90% of U.S. women use them. We believe in them and we should make sure that all women have access," Gates said during an interview during the San Francisco leg the tour for her book: The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.

Why now? While both she and Bill Gates have generally stayed out of partisan U.S. politics, Melinda Gates chose to speak out after the Trump administration proposed to gut funding for contraception globally.

"When I saw a budget come out from the administration that proposed extraordinarily few resources for contraceptives around the world, I believe so fundamentally in that issue, I knew I had to speak out and I did and I have ever since then."
— Melinda Gates
4. Tim Cook goes to bat for Dreamers

Photo: Taylor Hill/WireImage

Apple is no stranger to the Supreme Court, having spoken out on a number of issues about which it feels strongly, ranging from patents to LGBTQ rights.

But on Wednesday, CEO Tim Cook put his name to a friend of the court brief for the first time, making a passionate defense of so-called Dreamers, those protected from deportation by an order established during the Obama administration. The Trump administration wants to end the protection, with the matter now before the Supreme Court.

  • The brief opens by noting that CEO Tim Cook and senior VP Deirdre O'Brien "speak for Apple and, importantly, for themselves."

Why it matters: Corporate leaders are increasingly a moral voice in American politics, speaking out to represent the interests and desires of their employees — and a rising moral imperative.

  • Microsoft brought one of the original DACA cases with Princeton in 2017 and filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court case last Friday.

The bottom line: Tech companies — especially Microsoft and Apple — have walked a fine line here, working with the government in some areas while strongly opposing some policies — particularly around immigration and LGBTQ rights.

Go deeper: You can read more about the case, and peruse Apple's brief for yourself, here.

5. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Uber plans to announce later today that it has hired former Googler John Foong as head of account management for its Uber for Business efforts. It's over a fast-growing and increasingly important segment for Uber (sales were up 65% year-over-year in Q2). The unit includes both direct work with businesses as well as Uber Vouchers, which let companies pay for. their customers to use Uber.


  • The latest test version of iOS, 13.2, includes a promised Deep Fusion camera feature that fuses multiple exposures to produce better low-to-mid-light images. (The Verge)
  • In a move likely less intended by Apple, the same iOS beta has an icon for what appear to be the rumored next-generation, noise-cancelling AirPods. (9to5 Mac)
  • Only a small fraction of patents awarded go to women. (Axios)
  • Kamala Harris wants Twitter to suspend President Trump's account. (Axios)
6. After you Login

Here's John Legend playing piano with his year-old son, Miles.

Ina Fried