Oct 20, 2020

Axios Login

Can you open the newsletter a little later? I just want a few more minutes of sleep. Oh, never mind. I'm up now. You may as well read it.

Situational awareness: The Justice Department will file its long-gestating antitrust lawsuit against Google today, the Wall Street Journal reported. DOJ is expected to argue the company uses anti-competitive tactics to maintain its overwhelming dominance in search.

Today's Login is 1,103 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Adobe gets creative in the face of pandemic

Image: Adobe

COVID-19 has upended the tech world — not only for those companies that make remote work possible, but even for those whose products and services might not seem to have much to do with the pandemic at all.

The big picture: Companies are adapting as best they can to the new reality. Adobe offers a case study in just that, plugging forward with a long-planned product roadmap while also trying to remain relevant with new products that ease collaboration and help identify misinformation.

Driving the news: At its Adobe Max conference Tuesday, the software giant known for creative tools like Photoshop will announce a range of products and demos, including:

  • A preview version of a Photoshop tool that can demonstrate the provenance of content as a means of fighting deepfakes and other manipulated media. It builds on a broader Content Authenticity Initiative that Adobe announced with partners a year ago.
  • The ability for content creators to livestream their work directly from within Illustrator, Photoshop and Fresco. Think of it as Twitch for people who are more interested in design and art than video games.
  • Photoshop, Illustrator and Fresco are moving to cloud-based document formats, making it easier for remote workers to view and comment. Starting next year, creators will be able to invite colleagues to edit together.
  • The commercial release of Illustrator for iPad, following a year of testing and on the heels of Photoshop for iPad.

To try to break the monotony of online-only events, Adobe is tapping late-night host Conan O'Brien as emcee, along with talks from Ava Duvernay; Annie Leibovitz; Tyler, the Creator and others.

  • Also, since the event doesn't have the usual space and cost constraints, Adobe is making Max free for the first time.

Between the lines: Adobe is responding to fresh competition from startups like Figma and Canva that put collaboration front and center.

  • Even as it's trying to serve the Google Docs generation, though, Adobe has to be careful not to alienate the many longtime Adobe creative types who bristle at the notion of opening their Photoshop documents up for collaboration.
  • "Obviously, you can still work in Photoshop and not invite everyone in," said Adobe product chief Scott Belsky.

Meanwhile: The misinformation work plays into a broader industry effort to pursue dual paths when it comes to fighting manipulated media, developing some techniques that can verify content hasn't been altered while also providing tools that can detect when it has.

  • Last week Qualcomm and Truepic announced a prototype secure Android camera app that can be used to verify the provenance of an image.
  • With its demo today, Adobe is showing how a piece of content can also be verified through the editing process.

Yes, but: There’s also a need for tools that detect evidence of heavy editing or fakery after the fact, as well as for teaching individuals to be critical media consumers.

  • "The bad actors are not going to use this, and people have to be educated to be skeptical," Adobe general counsel Dana Rao told Axios.

What's next: While Adobe has put a lot of resources toward expanding collaboration, only the early fruits will be visible this year. Expect to see and hear a lot more over the coming months and years.

2. Scoop: AP to call elections for tech platforms

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Many of the world's biggest tech and telecom companies, like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and AT&T, are licensing the Associated Press' election results to power their voice, video and search products, executives tell Axios' Sara Fischer.

How it works: Because tech firms need to answer millions of unique voice commands and search queries in real time, the results will be coded through an API — an interface that a computer program can read — designed to handle "not enough results in yet" and "too close to call" cases.

Why it matters: Many election outcomes are expected to be delayed for at least a week. Given the enormous growth of smart home devices and voice assistants during the pandemic, users are going to expect accurate, real-time updates via those platforms.

Details: AP will provide election updates via a proprietary API that tech companies can plug into with a subscription.

  • Some of these companies have been partnering with AP for many months to provide data on primary election results. Those partnerships have helped AP refine its efforts for the general election.

Each tech company will route the results to different products.

  • Google will feature the results in its search engine as well as all of its voice-enabled devices, like the Google Home and Google Nest Home Hub. Results will not be featured in Google News. The results feature on Search will available in more than 70 languages.
  • Amazon will use the results to address voice search queries via Alexa.
  • Microsoft will refresh Microsoft News and Bing with the latest AP data every minute. The results will power a real-time map on Microsoft News and will be available in English across MSN, Bing, the Microsoft News apps and the Edge browser.
  • AT&T will use AP data feed to power a special channel on DirecTV with real-time election results alongside video coverage from different networks.
3. Intel selling memory chip unit for $9 billion

Intel announced late Monday it will sell its memory chip business to Korea's SK Hynix for $9 billion.

Why it matters: The move generates additional cash for Intel and lets it focus on its core PC and server chip businesses along with investment areas such as artificial intelligence and 5G networking.

Details:

  • SK Hynix will acquire Intel's NAND memory and storage business as well as a memory chip plant in China.
  • Intel will retain Optane, its next-generation storage chip unit. (Correction: This originally said Octane, which was the name of Lego's fictional gas company. I must have had Lego on the brain.)
  • The deal is expected to close late next year, pending government approvals.

History lesson: While best known for its PC processors, Intel actually got its start in memory chips, though in that case it was the older DRAM style of the chips, which Intel stopped selling in the 1980s.

  • With Intel's move, there remains one major U.S. memory chip maker, Idaho-based Micron Technology.
4. Subpoenas possible for Dorsey, Zuckerberg

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote Thursday to authorize subpoenas that would compel Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about their platforms limiting the reach of a New York Post article on Hunter Biden, as Ashley Gold reports.

Why it matters: Republicans are ratcheting up pressure on tech platforms over allegations of anti-conservative bias, which have reached a fever pitch following the incident with the Biden article, based on documents supplied by Rudy Giuliani.

Yes, but: Thursday's vote doesn't necessarily means Zuckerberg and Dorsey will actually get subpoenaed. The committee said it is still working with Twitter and Facebook to nail down times for voluntary testimony.

  • Neither Facebook nor Twitter had comment.

Of note: Dorsey, Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are already slated to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on similar topics related to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and content moderation.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • It's not just Adobe that is holding a customer conference this week. Splunk has an event kicking off today, while Qualcomm is hosting a 5G Summit.
  • Netflix and Snapchat parent Snap report earnings.
  • WSJ Tech Live continues online.

ICYMI

6. After you Login

I was going to say "She's got game." But actually, "She's got games."