16 hours ago

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Join Axios’ Mike Allen and Margaret Talev tomorrow at 3:30pm ET for a virtual event on post-debate reactions with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

Today's Login is 1,388 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: Candidates go online to cut through debate noise

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

While President Trump and Joe Biden fought to be heard in a rowdy debate Tuesday, both campaigns sought to draw digital battle lines and occupy online turf they could have all to themselves.

The big picture: Trump's impulsive style made a shambles of the debate format, but online the candidates were able to find niches where they couldn't be interrupted — and motivate their supporters to donate, organize and turn out to vote.

Tuesday night, both candidates were all over social and traditional media, as expected, but each managed to find some unique ground.

  • Trump bought a takeover ad that dominated the home page of YouTube, ensuring his message was the first one seen by those who headed to the Google-owned video site, whether they were there to watch the debate or seek respite from it.
  • Joe Biden, meanwhile, nabbed the Twitter account "@truth" and his campaign used it to fact check during and after the debate.

Of note: One of the debate's key moments, in which Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, had immediate online repercussions. The president's statement that the far-right Proud Boys group should "stand down and stand by" was instantly embraced as a rallying cry.

  • "Trump basically said to go f--k them up! this makes me so happy," Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs wrote on conservative social media platform Parler.

Between the lines: Both sides will use the words from the debate, loud and interrupted as they were, to raise funds. The Trump campaign, however, jumped the gun a bit, sending out a post-debate pitch declaring an on-stage victory hours before the debate took place, reminiscent of a similar gaffe in 2016.

Meanwhile: In the hours before the debate, a baseless conspiracy theory that Joe Biden would wear an electronic device in his ear during the debate went viral on social media.

  • The conspiracy originated on social media before appearing in a text message sent by Trump's campaign to supporters. It was then regurgitated by media outlets like Fox News and the New York Post, who cited the Trump campaign, throughout the day, according to NBC News.
  • One particular meme was simultaneously posted by multiple Facebook pages with names like "US Conservative" and "The Unhinged Left" and received thousands of shares, according to NBC.
  • Kate Bedingfield, communications director for the Biden campaign, called the rumor "completely absurd" during a call with reporters on Tuesday.
  • Biden, meanwhile, poked fun at the issue on social media.

Why it matters: It's just the latest example of how false information that gains traction on social media can then enter the national conversation when it's amplified first by partisan media and then by the mainstream press.

Our thought bubble: With its constant interruptions, its inability to obey its own rules, and the failure of its moderator to maintain order, the debate looked a lot like social media at its worst. Twitter, by comparison, looked almost civil.

2. Laptop design gets wild and crazy

Photos: Lenovo

In recent years, phones have been looking increasingly similar, and so have laptops. Over the last year or so, though, there's been a rise in experimentation, with foldable displays and multi-screen devices coming first to smartphones and now to laptops as well.

Why it matters: New ideas could lead us to whatever is next for computers and phones, but could also point the way to even bigger revolutions, such as the prospect of augmented reality glasses or VR headsets becoming mainstream computing tools.

Driving the news:

  • Lenovo has started shipping the X1 Fold, previewed at CES, that features a giant flexible display that spans two screens. Meanwhile, another just-introduced Lenovo laptop sports a traditional display but adds built-in Bluetooth earbuds that charge inside the device and pop out when needed for that Zoom meeting.
  • Apple is moving the Mac to its own chips, similar to those used in the iPhone. Executives have hinted that the shift not only will help cut costs, but also paves the way for designs that wouldn't have otherwise been possible.
  • All this follows a wave of new dual-screen and foldable designs in the smartphone market, including Microsoft's Surface Duo, LG's Wing and a number of flexible screen folding devices from Samsung and Motorola.

Flashback: Before the iPhone changed everything, manufacturers tried out lots of different approaches to phone hardware. There were all kinds of designs from candy bars to flip phones to whatever this was.

  • Now, the experimentation is happening at all layers of the devices. While the most visible changes are those made to the physical design, hardware makers are also experimenting at the chip level.

Yes, but: Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Some of the flexible-display craze is happening simply because the technology has advanced far enough to do so. And new designs often add tricky components like custom hinges that increase cost and complexity.

Don't underestimate the power of the traditional.

  • There's a reason the world has centered around big all-glass screens for smartphones and a fairly standardized approach to laptops. They work pretty darn well for a large group of people, and they can be easily mass produced and hold up relatively well (cracked screens aside) to lots of use.

What's next: Expect more experimentation, for at least a while, as device makers look to see which, if any, of these new models click.

3. Apple and Epic Games want judge to hear case

Apple and Epic Games filed a joint motion Tuesday requesting that an eventual trial be handled by the judge overseeing the case, rather than a jury.

The big picture: Though a trial is a long way off, the contours of the case are beginning to take shape. At a hearing Monday, the federal judge hearing the matter established a rough timeline, with a trial possibly taking place in July.

Apple had initially requested a jury trial and, according to Bloomberg, the judge had suggested a jury trial might be best given that such verdicts are less likely to be overturned on appeal. However, both Apple and Epic have apparently found one thing they agree on.

Catch up quick:

  • Last month, Epic added its own in-app purchase mechanism to Fortnite, knowingly setting up a confrontation with Apple.
  • Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store and Epic immediately filed suit, alleging its App Store rules constitute an abuse of monopoly power. Apple countersued, alleging breach of contract and unfair competition.
  • A court denied Epic's request for a temporary restraining order to keep Fortnite in the App Store, but temporarily stopped Apple from removing Epic's developer access.
4. Lego, Sesame Workshop back early-learning startup

A number of leading children's brands, including Lego and Sesame Workshop, are among the investors pouring $50 million into BEGiN, the New York startup behind the early-learning program HOMER.

Why it matters: Thus far, HOMER has focused on reading apps, but with the new funding and partnerships, the company says it will expand to a full early-learning program combining digital, physical and in-person experiences, tapping some of its investors for both content and distribution.


  • Other investors include Trustbridge Partners and Interlock Partners and the lead investor behind Gymboree Play and Music.
  • Former Mattel and Babytree executive Siddharth Mathur is joining the company as executive chairman.
  • Sesame Workshop COO Steve Youngwood, Lego Education's Jyoti Parikh and Gymboree's Xinkai Chen and GSV partner Michael Cohn will also join the board.

Between the lines: HOMER's expansion comes as parents around the globe are looking for new early learning options amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What they're saying: "HOMER helps parents architect a unique learning journey for their child based on the specific way that they learn," CEO Neal Shenoy told Axios. "This approach helps all children appreciate that they are powerful learners, even when that learning does not occur in a formal classroom setting."

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Google is holding a hardware event where it is expected to introduce the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 smartphones along with a new smart speaker and updated Chromecast with Google TV built-in.

Trading Places

  • Facebook named company veteran Alex Schultz as its new chief marketing officer. Schultz's background is in growth and data, not marketing, and he will continue to be involved in those efforts, per Bloomberg.
  • There were a bunch of executive changes at Shopify on Tuesday, with longtime COO Harley Finkelstein being named president and product chief Craig Miller leaving the company. Chief support officer Toby Shannan was tapped to take over Finkelstein's spot as COO, while CEO Tobias Lütke will take over product oversight duties.


6. After you Login

After last night, I plan to spend a good amount of time watching this fall foliage.

Ina Fried