Jan 8, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Unfortunately the dry air in Las Vegas leads to chapped lips and a lack of wittiness. Carry on.

1 big thing: Verizon CEO says media unit needs to stand on its own

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg isn't ready to ditch the telecom company's media unit, but he tells Axios it will have to make money without leveraging data from the company's wireless and wireline subscribers.

Why it matters: This is a sharp departure from the company's original premise for buying Yahoo and AOL: that Verizon could use its detailed data on subscribers to take on Google and Facebook, which together dominate digital advertising.

In an interview with Axios, Vestberg says the former AOL and Yahoo businesses "need to survive on their merits."

  • Though he's mostly focused on 5G and the company's massive wireless and wireline businesses, Vestberg says he sees potential in the content operation.
  • Content is particularly strong in parts of Yahoo's operations in sports, finance and entertainment, which lend themselves to video programming, he says.
  • But he adds the company will prioritize the responsibilities it has to those paying it for network services.
"We're not trying to mimic a Facebook or Google. We don’t think that's the right way to do that."
— Hans Vestberg

By the numbers: Verizon doesn't break out the profitability of its media business, but it said in November that the unit wouldn't meet its goal of becoming a $10 billion-a-year business by 2021.

He has already started making other changes. Late last year, Vestberg implemented a strategy he calls "Verizon 2.0." The effort includes:

  • Shaking up the company's leadership ranks.
  • Reorganizing into 3 businesses: consumer, business and Verizon Media Group.
  • Outsourcing a chunk of the company's IT operations to Infosys.
  • Accepting voluntary buyouts from more than 10,000 workers.

Why? The changes are designed to help the company fully take advantage of the next generation of cellular technology. 5G is just starting to reach consumers, but over time has the potential to create whole new lines of business.

  • One of the earliest opportunities is to take the kind of network that Verizon is building for itself and sell a version to large businesses looking to speed up and automate their own corporate campuses, according to Vestberg.
  • Additional opportunities range from health care to smart cities, as 5G networks become more advanced and ubiquitous. Those areas require lots of wireless spectrum, dense networks and fiber — all of which Verizon has, he says.

Go deeper: Read the full story here.

2. Cooperation is the name of the game at CES
Samsung's 2019 TVs can play videos purchased from Apple's iTunes. Photo: Samsung

Perhaps the single most surprising thing at CES this year has been the degree to which consumer electronics giants have accepted that the tech universe is bigger than themselves and they need to partner with one another.

The most obvious example of rivals teaming up is Apple working with Samsung to enable iTunes video playback on Samsung TVs. (It's also working with LG, Vizio and Sony to include AirPlay and HomeKit support on their TVs.)

  • Many device makers are also including Google's Assistant and/or Amazon's Alexa into their gear even as they press ahead with their own AI efforts.
  • Samsung, for example, is pushing ahead with its in-house Bixby voice assistant while adding support for Google and Amazon's assistants to its TV lineup.

The big picture: In recent years most of the hardware makers have been pursuing their own efforts with regards to both AI and home networking, leading to significant fragmentation. Working together makes the notion of a smart home a lot more practical.

3. Samsung is getting into robots

HS Kim. Photo: Samsung

Samsung used its CES press conference Monday to announce its entry into the robotics business. At the tail end of the hourlong event, it showed off several prototypes, including an exoskeleton that augments human muscles as well as more modest home devices.

In an interview with Axios, Samsung consumer electronics CEO HS Kim says the company has built the platform to power its robots program, but actual products will take more time.

  • A home robot, Kim says, could morph into all manner of appliances, from vacuum to lawnmower to kitchen assistant, depending on what was attached.
  • "You can imagine any kind of product as long as you have a very solid platform."
  • Samsung showed off a prototype, dubbed Samsung Bot Care, that checks blood pressure and heart rate and offers music therapy, remote monitoring and fall detection.

Why it matters: The Korean electronics giant sees robots as a natural evolution for both its appliance and mobile businesses.

4. Alexa's latest skill — interrupting

Perhaps the funniest moment of the daylong spate of CES press conferences came as a Qualcomm executive was touting the company's work to integrate Amazon's Alexa into the automotive dashboards of the future.

Alexa blurted out,"No, that's not true," as the executive was discussing the technology and the market. This prompted another Qualcomm executive to suggest not asking Alexa for any more input.

Watch here: Analyst Lulu Jiang managed to capture the moment on video.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • CES continues, and as a reminder, you can catch all our coverage here.
  • The FTC's case against Qualcomm continues in San Jose, California.

Trading Places

  • Verizon has hired Snap's Elizabeth Herbst-Brady to run U.S. field sales for its media unit.
  • The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) hired Keir Lamont as counsel for privacy, security and emerging technology. He was previously manager of a data and governance program at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law.


6. After you Login

This proposal is so great — and so Canadian.

Ina Fried