Feb 20, 2019

Axios Login

I'm back in the Bay, just in time for Samsung's event later this morning. More on that below.

1 big thing: They're all geek candidates now

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The era of the geek candidacy is over, reports Axios' David McCabe. For the first time, the ability to understand the impact of technology and explain it to the American voter isn’t something that sets a Democratic presidential aspirant apart — it’s expected.

Why it matters: The debates that drive presidential races — like how to create economic opportunity, protect national security and safeguard democratic institutions — are all being shaped by rapid technological change.

Flashback: For decades, Democratic presidential candidates have stood out by branding themselves as the tech-savvy candidate in the race.

  • Gary Hart, who mounted primary campaigns in 1984 and 1988, was one of several lawmakers branded "Atari Democrats" in the 1980s because they championed tech investments.
  • Al Gore was another Atari Democrat who ran for president, hitting the 2000 trail with a PalmPilot on his belt.
  • Howard Dean famously embraced what he called “the Net” to plot his his presidential run, before his “Dean scream” went viral — on the Net.
  • Barack Obama dined with tech leaders, hired a Facebook co-founder to build his online organizing operation, and weighed in on tech issues like net neutrality.

Even early on, debates about technology were proxies for broader societal shifts. Hart said that his 1984 Democratic primary with Walter Mondale "divided the country" around questions of how to deal with changes wrought by technology and globalization.

Now, candidates are all declaring their tech bona fides.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called for digital privacy and net neutrality rules while announcing her candidacy. “Hey guys, it’s not just coming, it’s here. And if you don’t know the difference between a hack and Slack, it’s time to pull off the digital highway,” she said.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) made online harassment a signature issue as a prosecutor and took on some tech issues in the Senate.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was an early proponent of stronger antitrust policies to take on tech giants.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), spokesperson Evan Lukaske said in an email, thinks America lags on privacy and cybersecurity.
  • Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is friendly with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and tried to lure Amazon’s HQ2 to Newark, but has also expressed concerns about the size and power of large tech companies.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) mounted a successful campaign against Amazon over its labor practices.
  • Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who is exploring a long-shot bid, said he's interested in questions around job automation, cybersecurity and consumer privacy. He, too, is friendly with Zuckerberg.
  • Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), another long shot candidate, has called for policies that reckon with job automation due to artificial intelligence.

The bottom line: “When everybody’s mom and dad and grandpa can operate a phone and be on social platforms, it’s not a differentiator,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

Yes, but: Tech issues are rarely at the top of voters’ agendas compared to pocketbook or public safety issues.

Go deeper: David has more here.

2. Even after leaks, Samsung's launch matters

There's likely to be little surprise at what Samsung will unpack at its launch later today. The Galaxy S10 lineup and related accessories have already leaked through images, regulatory filings, marketing materials and even a Norwegian TV commercial.

What we know, via the leaks:

  • The S10 features a nearly full display on the front with a "hole punch" cutout for the front-facing camera, and a triple rear-camera system.
  • The S10 also has an ultrasonic, in-display fingerprint sensor, likely from Qualcomm.
  • Accompanying the new phones will be accessories including Galaxy Buds, a set of wireless earbuds, which can apparently be charged by placing them on the back of the phone.

What we don't know: There are still some key questions, including how much the various models will sell for and the exact dates they will be available. Plus, the company is also expected to offer more details on the foldable phone concept it previewed last year.

My thought bubble: I'll be paying extra close attention to the expected 5G version of the phone. It may not sell in the biggest numbers, but still offers Samsung a chance to have something that Apple most definitely won't.

3. Google admits a pair of mistakes

Driving the news: Google said Tuesday that it should have disclosed to buyers of its Nest Secure system that the product contained a microphone, albeit one that had not yet been put to any use.

  • Google had announced earlier this month that it would offer the ability to use Google Assistant on the device, tapping the previously undisclosed microphone.
  • "The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs," a Google representative told Axios in a statement.
  • Google confirmed it is the policy of both Nest and Google to disclose if a device has a microphone regardless if it's used.

Why it matters: In this day and age, consumers should expect to know the recording capabilities (audio and video) of the devices they buy.

  • For one, there have been a number of examples of devices inadvertently recording users.
  • There's also concern that either hackers or the government might use such devices to eavesdrop.

Separately, Google also said it made a mistake yesterday when it took down the TransGriot blog hosted on its Blogspot platform.

  • Run by pioneering black transgender journalist Monica Roberts, TransGriot has for years told stories that would have otherwise gone unreported.
  • In a tweet, Google acknowledged it should never have take down the site, which was falsely accused of violating rules.
4. Judge stays suit over Pentagon cloud contract

A federal judge stayed a lawsuit Tuesday that alleges that the process of awarding a major Pentagon cloud computing contract — which could go to Amazon — is unfair.

The big picture: The lawsuit, filed by Oracle against the Department of Defense, is one portion of a much larger fight over the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, David reports.

What they're saying: "For good cause shown, the court grants the government’s unopposed motion to stay this case while the Department of Defense reconsiders whether possible personal conflicts of interest impacted the integrity of the JEDI Cloud procurement," said Eric G. Bruggink, a judge for the Court of Federal Claims.

  • Oracle declined to comment, and Amazon, which has intervened in the case, did not respond to a question about the stay.
5. Chart of the day: Digital ad revenue boom
Expand chart
Adapted from eMarketer; Note: Forecast as of Feb. 2019; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

U.S. ad dollars spent this year on digital channels, including desktop, mobile, search and social media, will surpass the total spent on non-digital ad channels, like television, out-of-home (billboards), radio, newspapers and magazines, according to a new projection from eMarketer.

Why it matters: 2017 was the first year that digital ad spending passed the television ad spend in the U.S. Now, digital is growing so quickly that it's slated to surpass revenue from all of the old-school mediums that for decades dominated the entertainment landscape, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Be smart: This is not surprising, given that out-of-home ads are the only traditional ad format that has been showing any real sign of growth over the past few years. It's also not unexpected given that many of the older ad mediums are turning digital themselves, albeit slowly.

The bottom line: For the first time this year, the combined share of Google and Facebook's dominance of digital ads will actually drop, despite record revenues. That's because Amazon will continue to grow, eating at the market share.

6. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Natalie Gillam McLaughlin is joining TechNet as director of communications after previously serving in a comms role at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


  • Google is buying Alooma, which specializes in data migration, to make it easier for customers to move over to Google Cloud. (Google)
  • And, speaking of Google, the search giant is teasing a big gaming launch for March 19. (Engadget)
  • Sales of smart speakers soared in the fourth quarter. (Strategy Analytics)
  • Confidential messaging app Signal took to Twitter to say it is having problems getting an update to its Android app signed off on by Google Play. (Signal)
7. After you Login

You haven't really lived until you've seen a video of an autotuned cat.