Jul 26, 2019

Axios Login

Happy Friday. For real this time. You've earned it.

Situational awareness: Twitter stock rose by nearly 4% in pre-market trading on better-than-expected performance in a new user metric, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Heads-up: Every quarter Axios journalists highlight the trends they are watching in politics, energy, science, technology, business and more. As a subscriber to this newsletter, you'll see that in your inbox from Mike Allen tomorrow. 

Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,099 words, or ~ 4 min read.

1 big thing: Even IT doesn't know if their security software works

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

More than half of IT security managers don't know whether the cybersecurity products they use actually work as promised, according to a soon-to-be-released survey from the Ponemon Institute and security firm AttackIQ.

Why it matters: It's a little unsettling to find out the ship's captain has no idea if the boat is watertight, writes Axios cybersecurity reporter Joe Uchill.

  • Plus, if 53% seems bad, it's probably a whole lot worse. "People are more likely to say they are confident about themselves, so when you see a study showing low confidence, it’s possibly a lot worse," said Larry Ponemon, of the eponymous institute.

The cybersecurity industry is good at inspiring a lack of faith in the cybersecurity industry.

  • Buzz words bandied about in slogans frequently generate as much skepticism as they do enthusiasm. The notion of snake oil products has been so pervasive that companies now advertise around it.
  • "You sometimes see companies market their products to the threat of the day but not adapt the tool," says Kiersten Todt, managing director of the Cyber Readiness Institute.

To be sure: Many cybersecurity tools are pretty good at what they do. The problem is that the function of security products is a black box — users can't see the gears turning to verify that a tool works or that they are using it properly.

  • "There’s been no methodical approach to check if a product is working as intended," said Chris Kennedy, chief information security officer at AttackIQ, which sells products to simulate attacks and is the sponsor of the study.

The bottom line: In a better world, security products would inspire more confidence from the people who use them — especially given the cost of cybersecurity.

"Do you have confidence in your door locks?" Kennedy says. "Put millions of dollars in investment into them, then, yeah, you should have confidence in the product."
2. Exclusive: Adobe's new transparent display

A digital shoe appears on the left side of Adobe's transparent display prototype, with a real sneaker in a light box in the background. Photo: Adobe

Researchers at Adobe have developed a new type of transparent display that allows virtual images and video to appear convincingly next to real objects.

Why it matters: Glasses offer one way to bring together the digital and physical worlds, but that approach requires each person viewing to have the headset on, while this approach would allow the same effect to be shown to many people at once, which would be more useful for retail and other settings.

The company plans to detail the effort, known as Project Glasswing, at the SIGGRAPH conference next week, but gave Axios a sneak peek at company HQ yesterday.

Background: Traditional LCD displays can be transparent, but only by removing the backlight, which makes them dim and unable to truly overlay an object behind them.

How it works: Adobe's new approach combines a transparent LCD layer with the kind of technology used in smart glass that quickly shifts between total opacity or full translucency.

  • The cash register-size unit contains a standard PC along with the two display technologies, plus a touch-screen layer — all sitting in front of a light box that can hold the real-world objects.
  • The resulting screen is like a Photoshopped image with layers: The digital part is the layer on top of the real object.
Glasswing in action

Details: Importantly for Adobe, the content for Glasswing's display can be easily created from existing Adobe apps like Photoshop, After Effects or Premiere Pro.

  • The effort took the 5-person research team about a year and the materials cost several thousand dollars, with most of the money going towards the smart glass and controller, which had to be custom ordered from Latvia at a cost of around $4,000.
  • But, if produced in volume, the technology could be made much cheaper.
  • "It’s not an exotic device that’s intrinsically expensive," Adobe CTO Abhay Parasnis said in an interview.

The big picture: Adobe is looking at a number of ways to bring the digital and physical worlds closer together for content creators. While Glasswing is a research project, two other efforts are expected to be made available as products later this year.

  • Aero is a means to allow people to easily turn Photoshop and Dimension content into augmented reality objects.
  • Fresco aims to create a digital canvas that more closely resembles a real-world surface with the ability to add liquid or even wind to a digital watercolor.

What's next: Adobe isn't looking to get into the monitor-making business, but hopes the effort will help convince display manufacturers that the idea is worth pursuing.

  • In the long term, Adobe believes the approach could be used on giant pieces of glass to allow entire workplace walls or windows to alternate between acting as a giant display or a transparent surface.

Watch: To really get a feel for how Glasswing works, check out this video.

3. DOJ ready to break silence on T-Mobile's Sprint deal

T-Mobile CEO John Legere (left) with Sprint executive chairman Marcelo Claure. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Justice Department has called an 11 am ET press conference on Friday, with antitrust chief Makan Delrahim set to "announce a significant merger enforcement action."

What's happening: The agency has reportedly been pushing Sprint and T-Mobile to divest enough assets to create a viable fourth national wireless carrier in order to secure approval for the $26 billion merger.

Why it matters: According to the Wall Street Journal, the DOJ has also been working to convince a number of state attorneys general, who have sued to block the deal, to approve the transaction with the new conditions.

What we're hearing: Sprint and T-Mobile have been talking with Dish Network about selling some spectrum and prepaid business, though analysts have questioned just how viable a national player Dish would make.

4. Amazon's cloud growth slows as Google gains

There was plenty to digest in quarterly earnings reports from both Amazon and Google on Thursday, but what struck me was the contrast between the two tech giants' cloud businesses.

What's new:

  • Amazon said its AWS cloud business grew 37% year-over-year. Not bad for an $8.4 billion operation, but that's the first time that its growth rate has been below 40% since Amazon began breaking out cloud business, per VentureBeat.
  • Google, meanwhile, said its cloud business is now on an $8 billion run rate, up from the $4 billion run rate it talked about in early 2018, per TechCrunch.
  • "Run rate" is an extrapolation of annual revenue from current performance and Amazon's cloud run rate is now more than $30 billion, TechCrunch adds.

Why it matters: Google is widely seen as No. 3 in the cloud space, trailing both Amazon and Microsoft.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • We should finally hear whether the DOJ is ready to give T-Mobile's Sprint deal its blessing at the 11 am ET news conference, as mentioned in story above.

Trading Places

  • OK, who wants to? It's been a long week.


6. After you Login

Viagra also works on cut flowers, apparently.