Nov 8, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

I still have more to share from my interview with AMD CEO Lisa Su, but there was too much time-sensitive news to get it in today. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime...

1 big thing: What the new Congress means for Silicon Valley

Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Tuesday’s midterm results will shake up the congressional committees responsible for keeping tabs on the tech industry, setting the stage for new legislation taking direct aim at companies like Google and Facebook.

What's new: Both Democrats who are focused on privacy and conservatives who are suspicious of the platform companies are moving into more prominent positions at a time when Big Tech is a bigger target for concrete regulation than ever before, Axios' David McCabe reports.

In the House, a new era of Democratic leadership has major implications for Silicon Valley and Washington.

  • Likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has mentioned a desire to produce an infrastructure package that would include broadband.
  • Rep. Frank Pallone, the Energy and Commerce Committee’s top Democrat, said Wednesday he would seek to lead the panel. Among his priorities are developing “meaningful privacy and data security protections."
  • Pallone also said the committee under his leadership would “conduct rigorous oversight" of the Trump administration. That would likely include the Federal Communications Commission and its Trump-appointed chairman, Ajit Pai, who has run a de-regulatory agenda with little oversight from congressional Republicans.
  • Big Tech may also face tough scrutiny from a Democratic House, including Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the current top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel who could become its chair.
  • “He's had concerns with Amazon and Google and almost certainly would hold antitrust hearings on those companies — the first since Google's hearing in 2011,” said Cowen Washington Research Group's Paul Gallant in an analyst note. “House antitrust hearings could influence how aggressively the FTC and DOJ investigate the Internet companies.”

In the Senate, a key committee’s leadership is in play and several tech skeptics won seats for the first time.

  • The Senate Commerce Committee, which will take a key role in crafting privacy legislation, is likely losing its chairman, Sen. John Thune (S.D.), to a higher position in GOP leadership. The top Democrat on the panel, Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.), lost his bid for re-election this week but may be waiting out a recount. It's possible a lawmaker more critical of tech’s data collection practices could take his job.
  • Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has accused web platforms of conservative bias and previously introduced internet privacy legislation, won a Senate seat. So did Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), who has been investigating major tech firms.

Yes, but: Congressional committee assignments haven’t been decided yet, so the full picture of who tech will tangle with for the next 2 years hasn’t yet come into view.

What to watch: Expect more frequent hearings, especially on issues such as consumer data practices and market competition issues. While sweeping legislation won't materialize anytime soon, narrow measures uniting concerns from both sides of the aisle could be more feasible.

Meanwhile, Congress also gained a number of members with deeper technical backgrounds.

  • As Axios' science editor Andrew Freedman points out, there are now at least 7 representatives with STEM backgrounds, including newly elected Democrats.
  • On the Senate side, former computer programmer and software developer Jacky Rosen defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada.

Go deeper: Midterms will shape the internet's new privacy rules

2. Weaving a better calendar

The map view in Woven lets you see your calendar geographically. Photo: Woven

When he was Facebook's CIO, Tim Campos said he spent a lot of time hearing from executives how frustrating it was to deal with their calendar. So when he left the company in late 2016, he set out to build a better calendar.

Details: Woven, as the company and product are called, is designed to help individuals better manage their time — including work, team and personal calendars — as well as ease the process of finding times to meet up with people.

"My job at Facebook was to make people as productive as possible," Campos tells Axios. "I care a lot about time."

The interface looks like a traditional calendar, but also allows for other ways to view your day, including a map view to schedule meetings in a way that makes geographic sense.

Yes, but: Lots of startups have tried to build a better mousetrap only to find themselves unable to unseat Microsoft and Google. Aware of that, Campos says he made Woven different.

How it works, per Campos: It doesn't replace GSuite or Outlook, but rather works on top of Microsoft's and Google's productivity tools. (The beta version launching today only supports Google's productivity suite, with Office support coming soon.)

  • Also, it works well even if only one person is a Woven user. Everyone hates it when someone wants them to sign up with a new service just to set up a meeting.
  • Users can get some of Woven's smarts even without signing up, Campos adds.

As for making money, Campos says there may be some features that are put behind a paywall. In the long term, he sees Woven as an enterprise play, offering analytics and other services to paying business customers.

  • Think: Slack or Dropbox to understand the business model.
  • What Campos doesn't have is big company resources. The startup is just a dozen people and has raised $4.8 million in seed funding.
3. Samsung's pitch to developers

As I previewed yesterday, Samsung used much of its developer conference keynote on Wednesday to talk about the future of its Bixby AI and to debut a new foldable smartphone it plans to introduce next year. The company also debuted a new phone user interface, called One UI.

Here are a few thoughts on what they showed and what it all means:

  1. Bixby: Samsung at least has a lot of raw numbers to entice developers to Bixby. The Korean electronics giant ships hundreds of millions of phones, TVs and appliances that are going to have Bixby built in. Provided it can get engagement up, that's a pretty attractive target.
  2. Foldable: By contrast, Samsung is starting from scratch with its foldable. It will be a tough lift to get software makers to devote substantial energy to apps and features that only work on such phones. But, Samsung was smart here to work with Google — it's making foldables a new product category so that work done for Samsung's offering will work on similar kinds of devices.
  3. One UI: Samsung is reversing a years-long trend away from hardware makers heavily customizing the Android interface. In the early days of the operating system, Samsung had TouchWiz, HTC had Sense, and so on. To do its own interface and have it work throughout the phone, Samsung will also have to go back to another largely abandoned approach — developing its own versions of apps that Google already provides users with, so they end up with 2 camera apps, 2 browsers, 2 messaging apps and so forth.

My thought bubble: It's good to see hardware experimentation returning to the phone market. I'm not yet sold that the foldable, at least what's possible today, is a winner. That said, I wasn't sold on the first Galaxy Note, and phablets have been a huge success.

4. A record quarter for cord-cutting

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

More than 1 million people ditched their cable and satellite TV packages last quarter, the most ever in a quarterly earnings period, according to research firm MoffettNathanson.

Why it matters: Americans are increasingly giving up on expensive cable and satellite TV packages for more affordable services delivered over a broadband connection, per Axios' Sara Fischer.

By the numbers: More than 80% of Pay-TV subscribers in the U.S. come from 4 cable and satellite providers: AT&T, Comcast, Charter and Dish. Those companies together lost 887,000 subscribers this quarter, mostly driven by big losses at Dish and AT&T.

  • Dish lost 367,000 customers, its highest quarterly loss ever, after cutting access to Univision amid a months-long carriage-fee dispute that is still unresolved.
  • AT&T lost 359,000 subscribers for the quarter, far surpassing analyst estimates of 245,000 subscribers lost.

The big picture: There are roughly 120 million TV homes in the U.S., per Nielsen, and about 90 million of them (75%) still pay for traditional TV. But that percentage has been decreasing as more people cut the cord.

  • In total, eMarketer predicts cord-cutting will grow more than 30% this year. eMarketer increased projections for cord cutting twice in less than a year, a sign that the trend is accelerating.

Go deeper: Sara has more here.

5. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Tesla said current board member and Telstra CFO Robyn Denholm will replace Elon Musk as board chairman. (Axios)
  • Zillow Group has hired former Amazon executive Allen Parker as its new CFO. (GeekWire)
  • Former Intel CEO Brian Krzanich will be president and CEO of CDK Global, a company that makes software for auto dealerships. He succeeds Brian MacDonald. (WSJ)

ICYMI

  • As Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva scooped yesterday, Ford is buying scooter company Spin as it looks to continue its makeover into a mobility company. (Axios)
  • Twilio shares surged more than 35% after a strong quarterly earnings report and forecast. (CNBC)
  • Qualcomm topped estimates for the September quarter, but forecasts current quarter revenue to be below expectations amid its ongoing legal battle with Apple. Shares fell after hours. (Reuters)
  • Facebook has started selling its Portal video-chat devices. Just how many people want to let the social network have a camera in their home is another matter. For its part, Facebook is reiterating the steps it is taking to ensure privacy, including the encryption of video calls. (CNET)
  • Zendrive, which has previously released reports on the safety of streets near schools, is taking part in an effort to improve them. The insurance and automotive analytics startup is teaming with a bunch of on-demand ride companies including Lyft, Uber and Lime to provide grants of up to $50,000 to those with ideas on how to improve the roads around their community's schools. (Zendrive)
6. After you Login

A new discovery may help explain how the Great Pyramids were built.

Ina Fried