Another opportunity for our DC-based readers: Join Axios managing editor Kim Hart tomorrow morning for our rescheduled breakfast conversation on how AI will impact our economy, jobs, and lives. RSVP here.
- Kim will interview both chairs of the House Artificial Intelligence Caucus: Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) and Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), along with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.).
1 big thing: Mr. Pichai goes to Washington
After his Congressional interrogation, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Axios that he expects tougher scrutiny of his company and other tech giants is "here to stay."
Pichai spent most of his three hours of testimony before the House Judiciary Committee dealing with allegations of conservative bias, though he also got pushed on the company's policies on privacy and China.
His voice a bit hoarse after a long day, Pichai addressed a wider range of topics in his interview with Axios.
Antitrust: Asked whether Google might need to be broken up, Pichai talked about the level of competition from large global companies and well-funded startups.
Basic research: He noted that companies like Google are needed at a time when the U.S. government is investing less in basic research, just as fields like AI and quantum computing are taking off.
- "There are some advantages of big companies, which is we do invest for the long term in foundational technologies," he said. By contrast with the U.S., Pichai noted that China is investing big in AI and other areas.
Search in China: Pichai echoed his comments before Congress, saying that "right now, we have no plans to launch search in China, but we always feel compelled to explore."
- Google, he said, is trying to balance the benefit of the information it could provide to Chinese citizens with the company's values around privacy and freedom of expression.
- Earlier in the day, Pichai confirmed that at one point Google had more than 100 people working on Dragonfly, its project exploring what search could like like in China. That work, he told Axios, could also show up in other areas of Google's business.
- "There are 100 million Chinese language speakers outside of China, alone, for whom we can improve search quality," he said. "There are areas like education and health care where we may be able to help."
2. What they're saying: Google's testimony
A lot of those watching the Pichai hearings saw the focus on conservative bias as a missed opportunity to press the CEO for answers on many of the other issues surrounding Google and its business.
Some perspectives worth reading:
- The Sundar Pichai hearing was a major missed opportunity (Issie Lapowsky, Wired):
- Sundar skates through Congress (Casey Newton, the Verge):
- Google and Congress botch an opportunity (Shira Ovide, Bloomberg):
3. Huawei CFO gets bail
Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, accused of helping her company avoid U.S. sanctions on Iran, was granted bail by a Canadian court Tuesday following several days of hearings.
Trump's comments raised immediate eyebrows, including from FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who said, "This needs explanation, please." TechCrunch's Zack Whittaker wrote: "I'm not exactly a huge Huawei fan, but isn't this holding someone effectively politically hostage?"
Separately: The big Marriott data breach that affected up to 50o million customers who used the Starwood reservation system was the work of Chinese hackers, the New York Times reported. The Chinese "intelligence-gathering effort" also targeted health insurers and security clearance files for millions more Americans, according to the report.
- Responses under consideration by the Trump administration — including indictments of Chinese intelligence agents and military hackers and executive orders limiting trade in telecommunications equipment — could darken prospects for that big trade deal Trump is trying to orchestrate.
4. Verizon scales back
In the past two days Verizon has made two moves that reflect the cost of its unsuccessful foray into the content business.
- On Monday, the company announced it had accepted the buyouts of more than 10,000 workers as part of previously announced cutbacks.
- On Tuesday, Verizon wrote off a huge chunk of its Oath unit, which includes what's left of AOL and Yahoo.
Background: Verizon foreshadowed the troubles last quarter when it said it expected Oath revenues "to be relatively flat" in the near-term and "does not expect to meet the previous target of $10 billion in Oath revenues by 2020."
Why it matters: Both AT&T and Verizon have made big bets on expanding beyond distribution into content, but with different approaches. AT&T bought Time Warner and DirecTV, while Verizon focused on Internet-based content players AOL and Yahoo.
Bottom line: It's not clear yet whether AT&T's gamble will pay off, but it's already clear that Verizon's hasn't.
5. In memoriam: Evelyn Berezin, 1925-2018
I'll admit it: I'd never heard of Evelyn Berezin until I read her New York Times obituary. But her story is worth learning. As the Times' Robert D. McFadden reports, Berezin created the first true word processor.
Why it matters: Women are often underrepresented at today's tech giants, but many women played critical roles at the beginning of the computer era, including Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and Lynn Conway, to name just a few. Now we have another name for that list.
6. Take Note
- The FCC holds its December open meeting.
- Choong Ng, who had been CEO of Vertex.AI, which Intel acquired in August, has joined Pioneer Square Labs as principal software engineer, GeekWire reported.
- Microsoft's Vidya Srinavasan has been named chair of next year's Grace Hopper Celebration.
- China's Super Micro says an outside investigation found no evidence of spy chips on its servers. (Reuters)
- Defunct ride-hailing startup Sidecar is suing Uber for unfair business practices. (Axios)
- Some Facebook buildings in Menlo Park, Calif. were evacuated Tuesday night after a bomb threat. (The Verge)
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