posted about 3 hours ago on re/code
Exec David Cohen also raises some potential concerns with the Sinclair-Tribune deal. President Donald Trump has previously threatened to break up Comcast* while repeatedly taken aim at one of its rivals, AT&T, as the wireless giant inches closer to purchasing Time Warner. But Comcast’s leading voice in Washington, D.C. — David Cohen — told Recode that the regulatory climate for big mergers remains as friendly as ever in the nation’s capital, no matter what Trump himself has said. “Overall, this president and this administration is likely less hostile to horizontal growth or even vertical growth in the telecom space and elsewhere,” Cohen explained during an interview that will air this weekend on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” By horizontal, Cohen meant mergers that open companies to new lines of business; with respect to vertical, he was referring to deals that combine two companies that directly compete against each other. “I don’t think that’s a license for ‘anything goes,’” Cohen continued. But, he added there’s “pretty clearly going to be less hostility and a greater willingness to allow the market to work.” Of course, there’s no shortage of transactions currently awaiting the U.S. government’s approval — deals that will test Cohen’s thesis. For one thing, AT&T is far enough along in its quest to buy Time Warner that regulators studying it at the Justice Department are now weighing whether to apply conditions on the deal, sources have said. It’s a radical departure from Trump’s promises on the campaign trail to block the merger outright. Other reports even suggested White House aides aimed to use the merger as leverage against CNN, the Time Warner-owned news outlet that’s covered Trump critically. At the Federal Communications Commission, meanwhile, telecom regulators are still reviewing Sinclair’s $3.9 billion bid to buy Tribune Media — a mega deal that could see the combined companies reach as many as 70 percent of American households. And the FCC could have additional work to do in wireless if reports prove true and Sprint and T-Mobile finally try to combine forces. Sinclair-Tribune and pricing concerns For now, Cohen said he didn’t want to talk about those deals, including whether Comcast had ever raised any concerns with the DOJ about the combination of AT&T and Time Warner. With Sinclair and Tribune, Cohen said the same before acknowledging that there’s some good and some bad for his company — and consumers — in that broadcasting merger. “I think having that large a bloc of local broadcast affiliates, it almost inevitably [will] put significant upward pressure on retransmission consent fees, which are the No. 1 driver of increases in cable prices for consumers these days,” Cohen said. Those fees refer to the rates that cable operators pay broadcasters to carry their signals. And Cohen pointed to a number of “economic studies” filed at the FCC in recent weeks that “highlight the potential anti-consumer implications,” given the effect of higher rates on cable subscribers. Remember, though, Comcast owns NBCUniversal, and those stations collect retransmission fees, too. That’s probably why Cohen said during the interview that there are some “potential good things for the company, particularly on the NBCUniversal side,” as a result of the Sinclair-Tribune deal. He didn’t further elaborate. Comcast’s own merger bets Comcast also might find itself in that M&A mix, particularly as it continues its work to ramp up its efforts in wireless. Earlier this year, it inked a major partnership with rival Charter, a pact that prevents either company from pursuing a wireless deal without the other’s permission. Then, Comcast, Charter and Sprint set themselves a two-month window for exclusive talks about a potential tie-up. More recently, speculation has swirled that Comcast could find itself lapped into an even larger deal, including perhaps a purchase by Verizon. At the moment, though, Comcast continues to rely on Verizon’s network to deliver its own new wireless offering, called Xfinity Mobile. And Cohen didn’t unveil any new big plans Tuesday. “We’re not out there saying, ‘Oh my god, to survive we need something else to buy,’” he said. “On the other hand, we have never viewed ourself from being foreclosed from the acquisition marketplace, either domestically or internationally.” In doing so, Comcast may once again find itself on the receiving end of Trump’s ire — potentially in the form of critical tweets from a president that previously took aim at Comcast for its ownership of NBC. From the campaign trail to the Oval Office, Trump has also blasted companies like Amazon and threatened scores of others, at times even denting their stock prices. But Cohen said he believes “most of what the president is doing on Twitter is conversation; it’s not policy.” “It’s certainly a glimpse into the way in which he is thinking. But there are plenty of things that he’s tweeted where, a month later, he has tweeted something else that in a different context is 180 degrees or 160 degrees from what he initially tweeted.” “Maybe I’m wrong,” he said, “but I’m actually less concerned than a lot of my friends about the president’s tweets.” * Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.

Read More...
posted about 13 hours ago on re/code
The first trial is scheduled for October 10. Uber is asking a judge to reject Alphabet’s request to delay the first jury trial in its self-driving lawsuit, which is scheduled for October 10. The ride-hail company claims that Alphabet is simply asking for a “do-over” because its allegations that an executive stole files and brought them to Uber has weakened. Alphabet is suing Uber for trade secret misappropriation, alleging that one of its former executives, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded 14,000 files and took them to Uber after it acquired his self-driving startup Otto. Uber, for its part, vehemently denies that any of the files have made it to the company’s servers. Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, has to decide whether he wants to settle this lawsuit or continue to have it cast a shadow on the company as it embarks on what many staffers and executives hope will be a new chapter in its history. Alphabet initially requested and was granted an expedited trial date, but the company last week got ahold of a report that Uber commissioned when it was considering buying Otto. Alphabet says it needs more time to pursue the “mountain of evidence” that it found in the sealed document, which could lead to more claims. The ride-hail company is fighting the request to delay the trial, claiming it would be both unpractical and expensive to push the trial back. While Uber may be confident that it would prevail in a court trial, it could still be risky. Alphabet could depose former CEO Travis Kalanick and dig into his tenure, potentially embarrassing the company further. The case has yet to make it to the jury trial, and already there has been endless coverage at every twist and turn. Larry Page, Travis Kalanick and at least dozens of other Alphabet and Uber employees and executives have been deposed. If Khosrowshahi’s quiet campaign to become Uber’s CEO is any indication, it’s clear that he likes to operate under the radar. However, Alphabet may be less likely to agree to settle at this point, given that it has the long-sought-after due diligence document in its arsenal, and wants to get ahold of more evidence as a result. “It's now clear why Uber had fought so hard to hide these materials from Waymo and the Court,” a spokesperson for Alphabet’s self-driving arm Waymo said. “In addition to the Stroz Report, thousands of new documents and hundreds of previously unexamined devices are now being turned over to Waymo, adding to the direct evidence we've already found of trade secret misappropriation. They go to the heart of our case and in order to accommodate new depositions, expert reports and briefings, we’ve asked for additional time before trial.” A judge could determine whether the trial will be delayed at a hearing on Wednesday, and has asked Alphabet to respond to Uber’s opposition. Here’s Uber’s full opposition: Opposition by Johana Bhuiyan on Scribd

Read More...
posted about 15 hours ago on re/code
It’s the first public departure since Benchmark’s lawsuit divided Silicon Valley. A principal at Benchmark is quietly decamping to a competing firm, the first public departure since the storied venture capital firm launched a controversial lawsuit against the former CEO of its most valuable portfolio company, Uber. Kris Fredrickson, the Benchmark principal, is taking a job next month at the hedge fund Coatue Management. It is somewhat rare for an investor to leave a prestigious, tight-knit and small venture firm like Benchmark, which is embroiled in a legal and public relations fight against former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. While Fredrickson is not one of the firm’s general partners, he found himself firmly thrown into the Uber fight last month when one of Kalanick’s closest allies, Uber investor Shervin Pishevar, alleged that Fredrickson was willing to harm the $70 billion company in order to staff other startups backed by Benchmark. “Benchmark principal Kris Fredrickson helped recruited Gautam Gupta , the head of finance and effectively the acting Uber CFO, to another company where he owned shares without ever informing Uber,” Pishevar alleged in a letter to Uber’s board of directors last month. “In fact, Frederickson told his partner and Uber board member Bill Gurley six months earlier, but Gurley never told Travis Kalanick, exacerbating the crisis facing the Company in May 2017 when Gupta left.” Benchmark has denied any wrongdoing. Coatue declined to comment. “Thrilled for @krisfredrickson to join Coatue as Partner. Terrific opportunity. Grateful for all Kris has done for @benchmark!” said in a series of tweets after this story was published. “Can’t wait to work with @krisfredrickson and Coatue on more companies in the future!” Coatue is an investor in Uber’s top U.S. competitor, Lyft, but Fredrickson is not expected to focus on solely ride-hailing investments, according to a person with knowledge of his hire. The position is a promotion for Fredrickson, who will be a partner at Coatue, and the job negotiation talks predate the recent drama between Benchmark and Uber, the person said. Fredrickson joined the firm in April 2016, according to his social media pages, and co-founded the skincare company Curology. He previously worked as a senior vice president at Munchery, and before that spent six years at Goldman Sachs working on tech deals. Benchmark’s lawsuit has sharply divided Silicon Valley, with some arguing that the extraordinary action was necessary to rein in a meddlesome former CEO, while other cast Benchmark partners as overly greedy investors. But the lawsuit has harmed the firm’s reputation for being friendly to founders, according at least to some entrepreneurs. Since that letter, Benchmark’s lawsuit against Kalanick has been sent to private arbitration.

Read More...
posted about 16 hours ago on re/code
Hugh Johnston, Pepsi’s CFO, is leaving Twitter’s board. Twitter has added another longtime Google executive to its board of directors: Patrick Pichette, who served as Google’s CFO from 2008 until summer of 2015. Pichette will replace Hugh Johnston, the CFO of Pepsi, who joined Twitter’s board just a little over one year ago. According to a Twitter press release, Johnston has taken a board seat at Microsoft. LinkedIn Patrick Pichette Pichette is now the second well-known Google exec to take a seat on Twitter’s board. Twitter chairman Omid Kordestani was the search giant’s longtime business boss before he joined Twitter’s board as chairman two years ago. Bringing on Pichette adds a certain level of intrigue to Twitter’s future. Google has long been viewed as a crowd favorite to one day acquire Twitter. Now the social company has two of the search giant’s former execs advising the CEO and sitting on the board. Pichette’s term will begin on Dec. 1, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Update: Many on Twitter were quick to point out that Pichette, who just joined the service in February, has never tweeted. Which some may find odd considering he’s now going to be advising the company. Twitter Patrick Pichette’s clean Twitter profile.

Read More...
posted about 17 hours ago on re/code
We haven’t seen entire new hardware functions being made available through software upgrades — that’s going to change. A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry. One of the most appealing aspects of many tech-based products is their ability to be improved after they’ve been purchased — just this morning, Apple released a flotilla of updates, turning up its iPhone software to iOS 11, its Apple Watch to watchOS 4, and Apple TV to tvOS 11, with a Mac OS update called High Sierra due on Monday. Whether it’s adding new features, making existing functions work better, or even just fixing the inevitable bugs or other glitches that often occur in today’s advanced digital devices, the idea of upgrades is generally very appealing. With some tech-based products, you can add new hardware — such as plugging a new graphics card into a desktop PC — to update a device. Most upgrades, however, are software-based. Given the software-centric nature of everything from modern cars to smart speakers to, of course, smartphones and other common computing devices, this is by far the most common type of enhancement that our digital gadgets receive. Tesla has offered software-based hardware upgrades — not only to increase driving range but to turn on its autonomous driving features — for several years. The range of software upgrades made for devices varies tremendously — from very subtle tweaks that are essentially invisible to most users, through dramatic feature enhancements that enable capabilities that weren’t there before the upgrade. In most cases, however, you don’t see entire new hardware functions being made available through software upgrades. I’m starting to wonder, however, if that concept is going to change. The event that triggered my thought process was Tesla’s recent decision to remotely and temporarily enhance the battery capacity, and therefore driving range, of its Tesla vehicles for owners in Florida who were trying to escape the impact of the recent Hurricane Irma. Tesla has offered software-based hardware upgrades — not only to increase driving range but to turn on its autonomous driving features — for several years. Nevertheless, it’s not widely known that several differently priced models of Tesla’s cars are identical from a hardware perspective, but differ only in the software loaded into the car. Want the S75 or the S60? There’s an $8,500 price and 41-mile range difference between the two, but the only actual change is nothing more than a software enablement of batteries that exist in both models. Similarly, the company’s AutoPilot feature is $2,500 on a new car, but can be enabled via an over-the-air software update on most other Tesla cars for $3,000 after the purchase. In the case of the Florida customers, Tesla was clearly trying to do a good thing (though I’m sure many were frustrated that the feature was remotely taken away almost as quickly as it had been remotely enabled), but the practice of software-based hardware upgrades certainly raises some questions. On the one hand, it’s arguably nice to have the ability to “add” these hardware features after the fact (even with the post-purchase $500 fee above what it would have cost “built-in” to a new car), but there is something that doesn’t seem right about intentionally disabling capabilities that are already there. Clearly, Tesla’s policies haven’t exactly held back enthusiasm for many of their cars, but I do wonder if we’re going to start seeing other companies take a similar approach on less-expensive devices as a new way to drive profits. Tesla remotely enhanced the battery capacity, and therefore driving range, of its Tesla vehicles for owners in Florida who were trying to escape the impact of the recent Hurricane Irma. In the semiconductor industry, the process of “binning” — in which chips of the same design are separated into different “bins” based on their performance and thermal characteristics, and then marketed as having different minimum performance requirements — has been going on for decades. In the case of chips, however, there isn’t a way to upgrade them — except perhaps with overclocking, where you try to run a chip faster than what its minimum stated frequency is — and there’s no guarantee that it will work. The nature of the semiconductor manufacturing process simply creates these different thermal and frequency ranges, and vendors have intelligently figured out a way to create different models based on the variations that occur. In other product categories, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see more of these software-based hardware upgrades. The benefits of building one hardware platform and then differentiating solely based on software can make economic sense for products that are made in very large quantities. The ability to source identical parts and develop manufacturing processes around a single design can translate into savings for some vendors, even if the component costs are a bit higher than they might otherwise be with a variety of different configurations or designs. The truth is that it is notoriously challenging for tech hardware businesses to make much money. With few exceptions, the profit-margin percentages for tech hardware are in the low single digits, and many companies actually lose money on hardware sales. Most hope to make it up via accessories or other services. As a result, there’s more willingness to experiment with business models, particularly as we see the lifespans for different generations of products continue to shrink. Ironically, though, after years of charging for software upgrades, we’ve seen most companies start to offer their software upgrades for free. As a result, I think there’s more reticence for consumers and other end users to pay for traditional software-only upgrades. In the case of these software-enabled hardware upgrades, however, we could start to see the pendulum swing back the other way, as virtually all of these upgrades have a price associated with them. In the case of Tesla cars, in fact, it’s a very large cost. Some have argued that this is because Tesla sees itself as more of a software company than a hardware one, but I think that’s a difficult concept for many to accept. Plus, for many traditional hardware companies who may want to try this model, the positioning could be even more difficult. Despite these concerns, I have a feeling that the software-based hardware upgrade is an approach we’re going to see a number of companies try variations on for several years to come. There’s no question that it will continue to come with a reasonable share of controversies (and risks — if the software upgrades become publicly available via frustrated hackers), but I think it’s something we’re going to have to get used to — like it or not. Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of Technalysis Research LLC, a technology consulting and market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. Reach him @bobodtech.

Read More...
posted about 18 hours ago on re/code
IBM has 31 employees affected by Trump’s decision to unwind the program. Two weeks after President Donald Trump moved to eliminate a program that protects some young immigrants from deportation, IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty is visiting Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to save it. As part of a swing through Washington, D.C., this week, Rometty has met with Senate Democrats and Republicans in a bid to get them to preserve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, from phasing out beginning in March. The initiative, implemented in 2012, had allowed children brought to the United States illegally to obtain waivers so they could continue to live and work in the country. “We’ve got 31 of these people at IBM,” said Christopher Padilla, the vice president for government and regulatory affairs at IBM, in an interview Tuesday. “They’re in a wide variety of jobs, everything from software development to people in our design lab who do regulatory compliance work.” In Rometty’s meetings — including a session with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and an upcoming sit-down with GOP Sen. Jeff Flake — the IBM executive has even suggested that lawmakers address DACA as part of a bill they plan to consider in December to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling. That’s a must-pass measure, and it could be an opening for lawmakers to tackle DACA after failing for years to reach a compromise on the program. But Rometty did not say that Congress should reinstate DACA protections before moving on to tax reform — another major issue for IBM, and one that the company’s leader raised during her meetings this week. Others in the tech industry, including Microsoft President Brad Smith, have urged lawmakers to halt tax reform while they weigh the future of more than 800,000 beneficiaries of DACA, known as Dreamers. Rometty also met with White House officials to discuss the issue this week. Beyond IBM, the tech industry recently has ramped up its efforts to try to defend DACA and its beneficiaries, who work at companies like Apple, Microsoft and Uber. Some, like Amazon, have joined on court cases challenging Trump’s decision to eliminate DACA; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, has sought to tell the stories of affected Dreamers through FWD.us, his immigration reform-minded lobbying effort. So far, though, IBM is the only tech giant whose chief executive has paid a visit to Congress. Rometty happened to be in town as a result of a meeting of the Business Roundtable, where she sits on the board of directors. “The president has said there needs to be a legislative fix,” Padilla said. “That’s the best way to keep folks in the country before time runs out in March.”

Read More...
posted about 19 hours ago on re/code
His latest documentary, “The Vietnam War,” is 18 hours long. On this episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, filmmaker Ken Burns talks about his new 10-part, 18-hour documentary, “The Vietnam War.” Burns says he sought to upend conventional wisdom about the war by rewinding the iconic images, stories and music of the time and telling history through the lens of all the countries involved in the conflict. You can read some of the highlights from the interview here, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation. If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Media on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. Peter Kafka: This is Recode Media with Peter Kafka. That’s me. I’m part of the Vox Media Podcast Network. I’m recording this episode in San Francisco, which is pretty cool. Even cooler, I’m here with documentarian Ken Burns, who you know from making a million things. “War,” “Baseball,” how many more? Ken Burns: Thirty-two. Thirty-two, and we’re here today to talk about “The Vietnam War,” which, depending on when you hear this, should be airing on PBS. Starting Sunday, September 17th. Eventually you can watch it, I’m assuming, online. Eventually at some point it’ll migrate somewhere else. Immediately you can stream the first five episodes that Sunday, and then the following Sunday when the second five get launched, you can stream the others. Then it’s a weekly series, and the DVDs are available on the 19th, and it’s going to run as a weekly series until Christmas. It’ll be hard to miss. Ten episodes. Eighteen hours. Eighteen hours. I’ve watched three of the hours so far. They’re great. This is a really complicated story. It needed that amount of time. It’s something that Americans don’t really want to talk about, and if they do, they sort of just default to a kind of binary one and zero dialectic: good, bad; red state, blue state. It’s important, it seemed to us, to unpack that stuff. Was this always on the list of things you wanted to get to, or did something push you there? I did a film in 1990 on the Civil War. We literally afterwards sort of said, “No more wars.” It was tough. It was just tough to do, to handle the emotion, to handle the death, to handle all the images that aren’t in the film that we wisely edited out. The Civil War soldiers, when they’d been in battle, said they’d seen the elephant, which is I guess the most exotic thing they could think of. We’d kind of seen it too, in a kind of platonic way, a shadow on the cave, and didn’t want to do it. At the end of the ’90s, I heard that 1,000 American veterans of the Second World War were dying each day, and that an unacceptable number of graduating high school seniors believed that we fought with the Germans against the Russians in the Second World War. I said, “Okay.” So I dove into that. If you’re going to fix every flaw in the American educational system ... I’m screwed. ... you’ve got to make a lot more movies. Or I’ve got to live forever, yeah, to do it right. Even before “The War” was — and we called it “The War” — was broadcast in the fall of 2007, probably the late winter or early winter in 2006, I turned to Lynn Novick, who was the co-director on that, as she is on the Vietnam thing, and I just said, “We got to do Vietnam.” And so we’ve spent the last 10 and a half years. Meanwhile making other films, too. You’re prolific, as we’ve established. Essentially, and Lynn too, but for a long while it was me out on the road raising money and sort of trying to get some critical mass of funding in order to be able to do it. Then starting in earnest, it’s been her No. 1 gig for most of the last several years. Then I’ve had lots of other things. Is there something you want to correct with this? I’m old. I was born while the war was still going on, and in my mind, I’ve seen many versions of this war told, many movies — starting with “Apocalypse Now” — for many years later. A lot of the footage I’m familiar with. Is there something that you want me to see that I don’t know? Yeah. You’re going to see a lot of footage you’ve never seen before. Access has been unusual from Soviet and other archives, Vietnamese archives, but we’ve essentially been imprisoned by a conventional wisdom about it. A lot of it has to do with that we don’t want to talk about it, or if we do, we get into an argument about it. Also, when Americans talk about the Vietnam War, they just want to talk about themselves. It’s really important to understand it now that we’re 42 years out from the fall of Saigon that we triangulate not just the perspective that can be gained from the passage of time, but the kind of triangulation that can take place by realizing that this was a war with three other countries, one of whom disappeared. We’ve done extensive interviews with North Vietnamese soldiers and civilians in Hanoi and Viet Cong guerrillas, and the ARVN, those are the South Vietnamese soldiers, our erstwhile allies. One of the really striking things about this is when you see someone explaining what it was like to shoot the Americans. You realize, “Oh wait, that’s right.” We’ve got a couple of battles where we’ve got the guy shooting at the American and the ARVN. We’ve interviewed the ARVN and the American, and being able to see that from that multidimensional point of view. When I was making my film on jazz, Wynton Marsalis said, “Sometimes a thing and the opposite of a thing can happen at the same time.” In war, there can be more than one truth. We sort of in our moralistic world want to say one plus one always equals two, but what we look for in something else is the acknowledgement that sometimes one and one equals three in our faith, in our art, in our whatever it is that compels us, love. We realize that it would be possible to make a space, a place where all these divergent points of view could come together. We wouldn’t make anybody wrong. We would just look at it. There’s lots of arguments about Vietnam, like we should have done this or we could have done this, or if we did this, this would have happened, but it didn’t happen that way. Stuff happened, and we just want a report on it without any agenda, without any thumb on the scale. We can get into a whole discussion about objectivity and subjectivity, but you really think that you are a neutral arbiter in the telling of this story? Never. You’re not? We can dismiss that there’s only one person who’s objective, and that’s God, and she’s not telling. The rest of us labor under subjectivity. What we wanted to do was be aware of whatever baggage we brought. I grew up in the war. I had a high draft number in the last year of the lottery. We wanted to be mindful of the things we carried into it, as Tim O’Brien would say. He’s in the movie? We wanted to free ourselves as much as we could. I was reading an interview where you said you would snip out bits of interviews where you thought they were too subjective. The last bit of editing was really removing adverbs and adjectives, because you just didn’t need to do it, or just leaving an obvious thing out. There was no need. If Richard Nixon did something great, we’ll say this was really great. If he showed himself in a tape, we didn’t need to say how venal that is. We just had to say, “Here’s him speaking in the tape.” That’s really important to gain the trust of people. The assumption is when they say, “Who’s your audience?” I say, “Everybody.” It’s like, “Yeah, yeah. No. Right,” but it is. We get high ratings in Arkansas and Oklahoma and Alaska as well as we have in San Francisco and Boston. The opening frames of the movie you’re showing footage. Again, some of it is familiar to me, and the very famous execution photo I guess is during Tet? Mm-hmm. I’m like, “Oh, I’ve seen this.” Then I thought, “Oh wait a minute. No, no, no. You’re showing it in reverse. You reversed the footage.” What is the point of doing that at the beginning of the movie? It’s what I said, is that we are jammed with all these familiar images from Vietnam, and that helps reinforce the kind of superficial understanding of the war or ratifies our conventional wisdom. That’s not good if you’re going to really come to terms with what I think, what Lynn and I think is the most important event in the second half of the 20th century for Americans. A good deal of the disunion and the lack of civil discourse and the kind of degraded politics we experience today really metastasized in Vietnam. It was important for us to unpack it, to literally, “Let’s just go back.” The first image of that scene is a helicopter jumping out of the South China Sea onto the deck of an aircraft carrier, the symbolic thing of pushing an aircraft carrier, the waste of effort and money to do that. Then going through many familiar images back to a French soldier walking backwards through a rice paddy. Then we repack. You’ll see all those images going forward in the course of the next 17 hours and 50 minutes. That was important, but they’ll now come with context. They’ll now come with a more complicated set of perspectives that permit you, we hope, to liberate yourself from whatever kind of lead weights that conventional wisdom represents. In one of the interviews, one of the bits I saw, one of the combatants says, “I will talk about this candidly.” He’s talking about an atrocity. “Other people won’t, but please be careful with this, because I could get in trouble.” How often did you encounter someone who’s alive today where they’re thinking about the repercussions of what they’re saying, admitting to in real time? Very little. The person you’re referring to was an NVA soldier, a North Vietnamese soldier. They are still a repressive communist regime, and there’s not a free press. There is a party line, and that party line still to this day does not acknowledge the atrocity that he is referring to and was aware of and probably participated in. I at one point took it out, thinking that his self-referential moment, thinking that that was unnecessary. It didn’t work. I put it back in, because it restores the urgency of this situation and reminds you that this is about memory and reflection and something that happened a while ago. We have a lot of people from North Vietnam or from Vietnam saying stuff that ... Every documentary filmmaker wants a scoop, but we invited the ambassador to the United States and to the U.N. — the same person — in and said, “Look, we don’t want anybody to get in trouble.” He looked at it, and some of it you could see he was sucking in his breath, but he’s, “They’re old. They’re celebrated war heroes.” You don’t think there’s going to be consequences for that person? I don’t. I think that ... There’s another soldier on the U.S. side who admits to other atrocities in the same episode, he’s not going to get prosecuted for it? No. I think what you’ll have is the possibility to create a space where you can have a conversation about these sorts of things. When you have a modern war, and it’s so covered so completely or so well as Vietnam was with a liberated press core, which doesn’t happen anymore, got a few lessons issuing out of Vietnam. We’re not going to blame the soldiers anymore. That’s permanent, as far as I can tell, and we’re not going to let the press have free access. They didn’t have it in World War II, they didn’t have it in Korea, but they had it in Vietnam. Now we have a wonderful word that gets everybody excited, “embedded,” which means that they’re surrounded by a scrum of personnel that keeps them from seeing a little girl running down a street naked on fire from Napalm, or seeing the head of the South Vietnamese National Police assassinate on the spot a North Vietnamese spy named Lem, checkered shirt on the streets of Saigon during the Tet offensive. I was going to get to that. Let’s go there. As you think about ... Again, it’s astonishing the footage that you’re seeing. One, it’s astonishing footage, and two, a lot of it’s astonishing because you see that it’s an American reporter on the scene saying this, “I’m watching this. I’ve been shot,” things that you just never see today. How do you think that’s going to affect future versions of the work that you do when you try to tackle the Iraq war or a conflict like that? It’s interesting. I am in the middle, that for the rest of the world, finishing the film is the thing. The finished film, what’s shown is the thing. For me, it’s the process of making it. If I can sort of convince myself when I put my head on my pillow that I’ve made that film better that day, I feel a little bit better, and I go to sleep a little bit faster. I’m deep in the editing of a film that’s completely different, that’s a history of country music. Its points of anxiety for me are the same. The process is always the same, and the question is always the same, the larger question. I’ve made the same film over and over again, and it’s just saying, “Who are we? Who are these strange and complicated people who like to call themselves Americans? What does an investigation of this specific topic tell us about who we are and where we were and where we might be going?” Just in terms of documenting, what sort of things were documented at the time? What sort of things are available for you to look at? Skipping all the way to now where everyone’s got a phone, everyone’s documenting everything at the same time, it doesn’t mean that they’re telling the truth, it means they’re documenting, how do you think that’s going to affect someone going back and creating a history of 2017? Lincoln, frustrated with his generals in 1861 and 1862, somebody was complaining about them too. He says, “We’ll just use the tools we have.” I don’t mean to belittle this age of technology, but when the telegraph came along, people thought, “Okay, this is the death of this. Everything is going to change from now on.” Each of the technologies, you add the telephone, and you add the phonograph, and you add radio, and then you add television, and then you have the world we live in now, all of them represent significant technological changes in which we absorb. We’ll be taking stuff off iPhones from soldiers if we do another war. They’ll have seen it. There’ll be a certain immediacy. People come up to me, sometimes older audiences, and say, “People don’t write letters anymore. How are we going to be able to tell the story the way you did the Civil War?” It’s going to be a selfie. It’s going to be a selfie. It’s going to be, “Hey, mom. Hey, dad. I’m here. I’m in this APC. It’s pretty tough today.” We’re going to get it firsthand, and maybe it won’t have the poetry of that, but we got a kid in Vietnam who’s sending reel-to-reel tapes back to Missouri. The folks in his parents’ general store crowd around and they’re saying, “Hey, I just broke up with Darlene. Now I’m really on the prowl. I’m hunting this, and I’ve got a new car this.” It’s just as revealing as anything you’d ever want to hear. I think that we’re always, as documentarians, as sort of hunter-gatherers, going to be willing to just accept that it’s going to be not a big stack of papers and old photographs, but it’s going to be digital files and email records and texting records. Is that really different? I suppose you can make a ... I assume there’s a deluge of stuff that just ... your work will be that much harder, because you’re going to have that many more iPhone files to go through. That’s very smart. There is a tyranny of choice, just as there is a tyranny of no choice. There’s a really wonderful moment in this movie “Moscow on the Hudson” when Robin Williams starts off the film as a concert. I think he plays the cello or something in a Moscow symphony. He’s waiting in line for he doesn’t know what. He gets there, and there’s nothing there, the tyranny of no choice. Then he’s going to go try to get some coffee from a New York City supermarket, and the guy says aisle three, and there’s now a thousand choices, and he faints dead away. That’s the tyranny of choice. It’s just all how you look at it. We had huge volumes of material. The Second World War is the greatest cataclysm in human history. There’s lots of stuff on it. We figured out a way – in seven and a half years of sifting — to get what we thought was good, admittedly, consciously and intentionally from an American perspective. It probably would have taken us 20 years if we said we were going to do it from the Japanese, and the Russian, and the British, and the German, and Italian and all of the allies. Vietnam has taken 10 years in large measure because it’s been a hunter, gathering and then collating job. I have many more questions. I’m going to try to narrow some of them down while we take a very quick break to hear from our sponsor. Back here with Ken Burns. [ad] I’m back here with Ken Burns talking about “The Vietnam War” and the work you put into this thing. I was telling you I watched this on a laptop with crappy Wi-Fi. It still looks and sounds great. It’s very cinematic, which sounds trite to say, but it’s not the case when you’re talking about “The Civil War.” It looks like you’ve done some really, really sophisticated stuff, stitching stuff together so when you’re describing a battle, it looks like you’re Steven Spielberg creating a battle scene, but it’s obviously all through documentary footage. Is this something new for you, that kind of work? I don’t think so. I think that each project has its own sets of demands of how you’re going to treat it. If you’re limited entirely as we were to still photographs, you’re dealing with what film directors call mise en scene. You’re taking a photograph and treating it as a master shot. That’s the Ken Burns effect. Into which you’ve got a long shot, a medium shot, a close up, an extreme close up, a tilt, a pan, a reveal, and isolation of details. You’re sort of in the sort of willing alive this stuff. Now, if you’ve got footage, you’ve got a different set of exigencies. In this case, it fit the music. Our soundtrack is important. It’s very funny. It always struck me as crazy, and we’ve never done it as filmmakers for 40 years, which is soundtracks are added at the end to amplify emotions you hope are there. We bake them in at the beginning. Our music is as important as the narration that we’re writing or the testimony that we’re hearing from, or the footage, or the sound effects, or the talking heads. That’s great. It makes music organic and not some sort of added thing. It’s not icing. It’s fudge. Again, in the parts that I’ve seen, there’s music that I associate with movies about the Vietnam War: “White Rabbit” from Jefferson Airplane, and then all of a sudden there’s a Beatles song. You really don’t get Beatles songs, original Beatles tracks, in almost anything. Here’s the deal. This is from Revolver, right? Mm-hmm. It’s during a battle scene. How did you get it? We have many Beatles songs. We have 120 pieces of found music. We have almost three hours of original music that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails composed for us. We also invited Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble in and gave them Vietnamese lullabies and folk songs that everyone North and South would have recognized from that period, would recognize to this day. Then they bent them in their unusual way. Then, in addition, we have 120 takes. If we were a PBS documentary film company — or a film company associated with PBS, I should say — we could maybe afford 10 songs, 12 songs. None of them would be Beatles songs. We went early on to all of those people, to the Beatles, or to their estates, and said what we wanted to do. To an artist, they all said, “Fine, we’ll give you this most favored nations rate.” That permitted us to have those 120 things. We got Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. We have Nina Simone and we have Buffalo Springfield. We’ve got The Animals and ... Anyone you couldn’t get? Led Zeppelin’s notoriously difficult. We’ve got two or three Led Zeppelins. You got Zeppelin? We’ve got many Beatles and lots of Bob Dylan and Crosby Stills and Nash, and Paul Simon, and Simon and Garfunkel. I should just say Simon and Garfunkel. It’s a phenomenal track, and we just vowed to ourselves and then to them that we would never play a song that you couldn’t hear on Armed Forces Radio or on your transistor radio when you were marching against the war. Then you went and created your own audio as well, right, in addition to the Trent Reznor score? When there’s gunfire, that sounds cinematic again. About 90 percent, maybe even 95 percent of the footage that we get is silent MOS, sound from the old German directors in Hollywood, MOS. Yeah, we built soundtracks. They’re as complicated as any feature film, and I’ve always been like that. Civil War, Battle of Gettysburg has dozens and dozens of tracks going at once. It’s because I just refuse to sort of do the documentary thing, which is only need to put a few trump, trump, trump of the German troops marching into Poland, bang, crash. Our sound editors and editors went out into the woods with AK-47s and M-16s and pumpkins and squash. That’s a real AK-47 that you’ve recorded a few years ago? Or we’ve found or acquired other soundtracks and we build them. This is what sound editing is all about. For me, it’s waking the dead. You don’t want to do just that kind of classic British documentary where you see the trump, trump, trump of the troops, and that’s the only sound that ... Do you imagine people are going to watch this on a 60-inch TV? Are you aware that it’s going to happen, have you ceded to the fact that it’s going to be viewed on an iPhone at some point? Yeah, there’ll be lots of people who will do that, but there’ll be millions and millions of people who watch it on TV. I got to assume that most of them have a pretty good TV. If they do, they’ll do great. If they have a fantastic TV, this is going to just blow their minds, because it’s 5-by-1 surround, and the bullets go across the screen, and planes go across the screen, and stuff happens in it. You’re Ken Burns. You can go get the Beatles. You can get Led Zeppelin. I assume you can get ... It’s actually Sarah Botstein who’s the lead producer who is our tenacious wrangler of that. Friends ... when we made our jazz series we worked with Jeff Jones, who was then at Columbia, now the head of Apple. We did an unusual thing there. We took the two biggest producers of records, publishers of records, and put them together. They’re natural competitors. That represented about 60 percent of jazz. Then we went to the other smaller labels and said, “Look, let’s all do this so that when we have a greatest of, it isn’t the greatest when you were on DEC, it’s the greatest across your entire life.” What I was going to ask is, you have access to lots of things, I assume lots of people. Maybe I missed it, because I’ve only seen two of the episodes so far, but I didn’t see John McCain. There’s John McCain archival footage. There’s Henry Kissinger archival footage. It doesn’t look like you’re talking to those people. I assume that’s intentional. Oh, intentional from the very beginning. In fact, one of the first meetings I took is I went and saw John McCain. I saw John Garrett. I said, “Look, we’re going to make this film. You’re going to be in it archivally, but we’re not going to interview you.” Because? They’re in the public sphere today, and they’ve got an interest, however conscious or subconscious, and kind of burnishing an image. Certainly Kissinger has that, Jane Fonda has that. They’re all in the film, but they’re not going to be interviewed. There’s a POW story, makes you think of John McCain, but you’d rather hear from that person than John McCain. That’s right. One, because ... Because you’ve heard John McCain’s story so many times? No, no, because his story is in there, and it’s very poignant. It’s incredible, the footage from the French journalist. We learned from his people a lot of context to that, that very celebrated interview which he hates, because he thinks it shows weakness, was done after many, many bones were set, without so much as an aspirin. Then afterwards they beat him, because he wasn’t sufficiently grateful to his captors. That adds a little dimension on John McCain’s heroism. Instead of just quoting one line from Kerry’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we quote it extensively. It’s really brought to life in that way. Same with Jane Fonda. We found new footage, and same with Kissinger. He’s there on the tapes. A lot of what he says on film in other films belies what he says in the tapes. You just don’t want ... I’m not in the gotcha business. I just want to be about facts. What happened? We don’t need them there. They’re huge characters in the film, significant, particularly Kissinger, Kerry and McCain. It’s not that you want to tell the story from the perspective of sort of people who were underfoot. It’s just that you don’t want Henry Kissinger’s revised history. Right, or any, or John McCain’s or John Kerry’s, however conscious or unconscious it might be. It’s just smart to do it that way, just as we made the decision there’d be no historians in our World War II film or no historians in this one. There are people who’ve written books that turn up that are grunts. We don’t tell you who they are until the end of the film. You don’t have to know that Karl Marlantes, the first talking head that you see in the film, wrote a novel about it. You’ll find out at the end of the 18 hours. Not everybody’s like that. Most of them are so-called ordinary people. What we’ve learned — particularly from all of our histories but I’d say essentially from the war films — is that there are no ordinary people. There are obvious not parallels ... When you watch a Vietnam War movie in 2017, there’s lots of stuff to think about that’s happening in the real world, divided America, etc. Obviously if you started this 10 years ago, different setting. Think about this, if I can just go for a second. Sure. When we said yes to this, Barack Obama was a month or two away from declaring that he was going to be this challenger, this improbable challenger to the front-runner Hillary Clinton. Not only did he overtake her and win the nomination, but he won the election against John McCain and then won a second term. Now he’s out of office. It’ll be eight months by the time this is broadcast. Then let me tell you what this film is about. It’s about mass demonstrations in cities all across the country, about a White House in disarray, a White House frustrated with leaks, a White House with a president at the top who’s sure that the news media is making stuff up. It’s about a big document drop of hacked documents, classified material into the public sphere that’s embarrassing and counterfactual to what’s been said in policy for many, many administrations. It’s about asymmetrical warfare where the mighty might of the United States military seems incapable of making a dent. It’s about an alleged political campaign that allegedly reaches out to a foreign power at the time of a national election to try and determine that election. How about that? What did we learn from that? That history repeats itself? History does not repeat itself. That the timing is crazy? You’re not condemned to repeat what you don’t remember. Here’s what it is. Human nature remains the same, and human nature superimposes itself over the seemingly random chaos of events. Mark Twain is supposed to have said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” If he did say that, it’s wonderful. I’ve spent my entire professional life sort of listening to the rhymes, the patterns, the motifs, the echos of things. What you have is that human nature doesn’t change. We never once while we were making the film, never in the entire 10 years did we go, “Wow, isn’t that a lot like Iraq?” Or, “Isn’t that like Afghanistan?” Or, “Isn’t this kind of like now?” We finished it before Trump was in office, but we were not unmindful, even back when we started it, that there were so many parallels. Is there any temptation to go, as you’re finishing up, “Boy, we should get some footage of Donald Trump explaining that his personal Vietnam was avoiding getting STDs?” That, to me, would be the classic example of a thumb on the scale. The film goes up to the present. Obama made a trip there and said something there, and sort of the last kind of contemporary thing before we go into our coda and denouement where you learn the fates of all the folks that you’ve been caring about for the last 10 episodes. To put Donald Trump into it is a way of being cute. It’s an easy layup. You want to hit three-pointers from half court, you know what I mean? You’ll miss a lot of times, but you want to try it from there and not the easy layup. I’ve done a bunch of these now in, what, 100 or so episodes, Eric? That’s a bunch. It’s a bunch, and I’ve been lucky enough to talk to a bunch of directors. I think all of them are making something that is either debuting or coming almost immediately after it shows up in the theater to Netflix or Amazon. You are someone I always associate with PBS. Most of your films, all of your films ... All of them. Every single one? Every single one. Have you ever thought about going somewhere else? I’m assuming that whatever PBS offers you, Reed Hastings would be happy to do the same or more. Yeah, they might, but here’s the thing. There’s no business model for PBS, and there’s no business model for what I do. PBS has one foot tentatively in the marketplace and the other proudly out of it. When your house is on fire at 3:00 a.m., do you call the marketplace? No, you do not. When you expect boots on the ground at Normandy or Kandahar, do you expect that the marketplace is going to take care of that? No, you do not. I’m not suggesting that PBS has anything to do with the defense of the country. It would be alarming if it was. I do actually believe that it makes the country worth defending, because we, on a very small budget and much maligned, make some of the best children’s, and the best science, and the best nature, and all sorts of programming. My point is that I was with the head of HBO who’s a friend, Richard Plepler, and someone quite naturally said ... We’d screened an episode of that, and he said, “Why isn’t Ken with you?” He paused for a second. I just filled the void and I said, “Because you wouldn’t spend as much as we spent over 10 years to make the Vietnam film.” That’s the point here. This will end up on Netflix, as most of my stuff is, or in some other place, as well as available on PBS and all the streaming stuff, all the platforms. The original place is this unique. To me, it’s like the tortoise and the hare fairy tale when we were growing up. The hare inevitably gets kind of tired and lies down, and the tortoise just keeps going. Let’s stipulate that between Jeff Bezos and Richard Plepler and Reed Hastings, you could get what you want, in terms of resources and time. You could do what you wanted, and you could do more. Maybe. Maybe, but I’d still have somebody ... But you like PBS. You like the values. I like the values of PBS. I like the fact that the S doesn’t stand for System but for Service, and that the most important thing, the P, is what I’m into. Maybe they would do that, but there would still be a suit or maybe an open-collared person who would say, “You know what? Too long. Too short.” “Make it two years.” “Not sexy enough. Too sexy. Too violent. Not violent enough.” Every single film I’ve made for public television has been my director’s cut. Sometimes my writers, because we have to cut stuff out, are happy to have DVD extras. I’m bored by them. I want you to watch my film, because I can say to you that if you don’t like it, it’s all my fault. I know lots of friends in Hollywood who still say, “They wouldn’t let me use this actress,” or, “I wanted to go with this writer,” or, “I really wanted to have this scene, but no.” I think Reed Hastings would let you do what you want, but I’ll let it go. No, I think he would. We’ve had conversations with him about that stuff, but I’m at the dance with them that brung me, and I think I’m leaving with them. For a long time, if you thought about documentaries, you thought about you. In the last few years because of Amazon and Netflix, I think primarily, HBO to some extent, it seems to be a giant boom in documentaries. They seem to be something that are made fairly easily, fairly quickly at a price, and the streaming services seem to gravitate to them. What do you think about that explosion of documentaries? I don’t actually agree completely, because I remember in ’85 when I came out with my third or fourth film on Huey Long, “The Turbulence of the Demagogue,” there was an amazing article in the New York Times about it. That was a good history echoing there. Yeah. There was Fred Wiseman there, and there was Errol Morris, and there was all this sort of stuff ... Yes, there have been other people. It was an article about how diverse documentary was. I think we’ve been in a golden age for decades, but what the streaming services do — and what frankly is in contrast to some bankrupt sort of evidence on the fictional side, which is these franchises where you’ve got “Batman 47” or “Iron Man 63” ... “Avengers in Space.” ... you just have a thing. What you realize in Hollywood is that essentially each of the films can be reduced to some plot. Now there’s some incredibly great artists who are friends of mine who transcend that regularly there, but for the most part, the tiredness of the plots are replaced by the freshness of the documentary, which is just ... this is what happened. There’s something incredibly exciting ... We’re doing both, right? They’re making “X-Men 44” and they’re making a million different documentaries. Right. That satisfies, I guess, a lot of chirping chicks in the nest, but the interesting thing is, and I think it’s really important to remember that the same laws of storytelling apply to me as they do to Steven Spielberg. I’ve talked to him about it, to drop a name, about how we do the same thing. He can make stuff up, I can’t, but the same laws of, if you want to get technical, Aristotelian poetics, and all Aristotle did in his essay was describe a beginning, a middle, an end, a protagonist, an antagonist, a climax, a denouement, all the things that we know. There are people who make money selling books about how to write a screenplay in Hollywood when the best screenwriters have never cracked a book formula about it. That’s the essence. People want to be told stories, and we’re now at an age ... Maybe I’m coming around to agreeing with you, where we are beginning to understand that documentaries, and maybe it’s that the documentarians have begun to understand that these are not necessarily didactic lessons in telling you what you should know, but things that are informed by the same kind of dramatic impulses and laws that govern a feature film. You’ll see that in all the films that you’re thinking right now that have been filling up our airwaves over the last few years. Do you go back and think about, “Boy, if I had the access to the sophisticated equipment that much cheaper, that much lighter, boy, the film I would have made 30 years ago would have been astonishingly different.” Or it’s the same movie?" No, never. Never. It’s always the same movie. It’s always the same stuff, and maybe for you guys ... But I don’t think a computer ever saved me any paper, which was one of its arguments. It took me six months to learn how to print something in the new office. I’m one of the only people who’s printed something there. Yeah. Yeah. I meet a lot of people who are paperless, so I realize that my old fogeyness has a kind of statute of limitations of tolerance on it. I just think that the films take the same amount of time. I suppose it’d be close, but I still shoot film sometimes. What do you think of the fact, we touched on this a little bit, but that everyone is documenting everything all the time? Obviously it’s not the same as telling a story, telling a research story, but everyone now seems comfortable with ... Sometimes it’s narcissism, sometimes it’s something else, but everything is photographed or videoed constantly now. It’s rare. We’re actually not filming this, amazingly enough, but almost everything else does seem like it’s filmed now. Do you think about sort of what that means for society, what it means for storytellers? I think I’m less concerned with me, because I just assume that I’ll continue to sort of sow and reap in my back 40, but that I think it has huge societal implications, mostly because ... You used the word narcissistic and things like that. We’re all now independent free agents. I do want to get around to, I think, a positive aspect of this, which is this independent free agency separates us from everybody else. We think we’re connected, but we’re actually deeply disconnected. We look for ways to be connected. I think that with this tsunami of data that pours over us all the time, we are starved for curation. When “The Civil War” came out, when “Baseball” came out, when “Jazz” came out, when “The War” came out, when “The National Parks” came out, all of those, those are large, lengthy films, all the critics were sort of anxious that nobody would watch it, because we were in an MTV generation with just a short attention span, or that this would happen. People did watch it, and the same sort of 35 to 40 million people sort of marched along to all of those films. When “The Roosevelts” came out, another big series, the most recent one before “Vietnam,” they never said that again, because they understand we’re in a place where we binge watch. What that represents is the desire to trust in someone else’s artistic judgment and to self-curate. People are watching 60 episodes of “Game of Thrones.” And just digesting it in big gulps. I defy you to do that with “Vietnam.” I think you’re going to need to take a break. It’s really intense. It’s very immersive, and there’s a couple of episodes if you see them in context, you’ve just got to stop. We did that. The veterans that we always had in every screening, two or three veterans, because their BS meters are so finely tuned, they just get up and walk out and smoke cigarettes and come back a couple hours later and cry and hug each other and tell stories alone. That’s kind of the immersive intensiveness, but we still want that to happen, because we actually liberate ourselves from the tyranny of all the other voices, at least for that time. It’s all right to go back and watch the kitten with the yarn. It’s really okay. I’m not denigrating that sort of stuff, but I do think that I believe that all real meaning accrues in duration, and that the work you’re proudest of, and the relationships you care the most about have benefited from your sustained attention. We do too many things in our lives today that are broken up into sort of almost micro parts, and that when you have an opportunity, like that great long dinner that went on for a long time, or that party that was sustained, or that relationship that you’ve had over generations, and you realize the way in which you are defined in relationship to that person’s happiness and sorrows, that’s what matters. I think people have challenged me all along about the long form, and I go, “It’s okay, people will watch,” and they do. That intensity you’re talking about, there is an episode you start off where you’re interviewing a helicopter pilot, and he’s already agitated as he’s telling you the beginning of the story, and it’s super intense. Then it just escalates. I had to hit pause in my hotel room last night and said I got to ... If I smoked, I would go have a cigarette after that, and that’s a minute and a half. Yeah. No, that’s exactly what Ron Ferrizzi, a Hollywood helicopter pilot crew chief who is just unbelievable. He comes back in the film again, and I was just with him when we had a screening. He’s an amazing human being. I’ll take you back to the beginning of our third episode in which a Gold Star mother is talking about her son and the books that he loved more than the other siblings. She read to him, and she’s reading to him Henry V, the Saint Crispin Day speech about how you men who were not here are lesser men, because you didn’t get bloodied in this thing. This look comes across their face in which it’s almost, “Oh my God, I sent him to war.” It’s just a flash, but it’s an intelligent and reflective person doing that. It’s the exact opposite of Ron Ferrizzi, sort of kind of smoke coming out of his ears. It’s almost like a cartoon. It’s the same thing, which is you want to study war, because it’s so flipping revealing of who we are as human beings. It isn’t just the bad stuff. That’s kind of obvious. Man’s inhumanity to man, you got that in eighth grade. It’s more complicated. It’s about fellowship. It’s about courage. It’s about friendship. It’s about loss. It’s about love. It’s about all these things. War can actually be a pretty interesting vessel to contain these complicated people we call Americans. If you are listening, at this point we don’t need to tell you to go watch this. Obviously you’re going to go watch “The Vietnam War.” You can’t binge it, like Ken said. You could technically do it, but you shouldn’t. You can do what we do. The best we did was over three days, and we were wrung out. It hurt. We cried, and that’s good, but there will be people who will watch it all, but I think you can space it out. PBS is showing the first five episodes over five consecutive nights, and then taking a couple days off, and hitting you with the Tet Offensive on the second Sunday night for five episodes. Each one of those nights, they’re showing it twice. It’s available for streaming right away, and the DVDs, whatever those are called. DVDs, are they still around? It’s movies on TV, they call them streaming things. I don’t know what they’re called. I remember 8-track cassettes. I had 8-tracks. I’ve seen an 8-track cassette before. Yeah, I had one. You guys are smart. You guys will figure out how to watch this. Ken, you’re awesome. Thank you for coming by. God, the other way around. Thank you. This has been terrific. We’ve been on this promo tour for weeks, and weeks, and weeks. It’s really great to ... You’re holding up pretty well. No, it’s good to have a conversation.

Read More...
posted about 20 hours ago on re/code
The “Initial Coin Offering” has gripped Silicon Valley this summer. What is it? The drive to discover alternate ways for a new company to raise money has birthed many experiments, but none more prominent than the 2017 rise of so-called Initial Coin Offerings, or ICOs. The decades-old, tried-and-true way for a technology company to raise cash: A company founder sells some of his or her ownership stake in exchange for money from a venture capitalist, who essentially believes that their new ownership will be worth more in the future than is the cash they spent now. But over the last year — and especially over the last four months — a new craze has overtaken some influential subsets of the technology industry’s powerbrokers: What if companies had a more democratic, transparent and faster way to fundraise by using digital currency? So as the first ICOs surpass the $1 billion marker that typically jettisons a company to some Silicon Valley stardom, let’s explore what is going on. What exactly is an ICO? An ICO typically involves selling a new digital currency at a discount — or a “token” — as part of a way for a company to raise money. If that cryptocurrency succeeds and appreciates in value — often based on speculation, just as stocks do in the public market — the investor has made a profit. Unlike in the stock market, though, the token does “not confer any ownership rights in the tech company, or entitle the owner to any sort of cash flows like dividends,” explained Arthur Hayes of BitMEX, one bitcoin exchange. Buyers can range from established venture capitalists and family offices to less wealthy cryptocurrency zealots. Investing in a digital currency is extremely high-risk — more so than traditional startup investing — but is motivated largely by the explosive growth in the value of bitcoins, each of which is now worth around $4,000 at the time of publication. That spike helped introduce both fanatics and professional investors to ICOs. How big a deal are ICOs? We’ve seen over $2 billion in token sales in about 140 ICOs this year, according to Coinschedule, quieting arguments made by some that ICOs are merely a flash in the pan likely to fade any minute now when a new fad emerges. It can feel like ICOs are everywhere — at least a few typically begin every day. Buyers during a presale period might email a seller and personally conduct a transaction. Later on, a purchaser tends to use a website portal, hopefully one that requires an identity check, explained Emma Channing, general counsel at The Argon Group. “The froth and the attention around ICOs is masking the fact that it’s actually a very hard way to raise money.” “I don’t think that there’s been an obsession of Silicon Valley that has overtaken seed and angel investing in a single year,” said Channing, who helps companies execute ICOs. She argues: “I don’t think Silicon Valley has ever seen anything quite like ICOs.” Channing said it is possible that more than $4 billion will be raised through ICOs this year. But she advises that ICOs are typically only successful for the very small number of companies that have “blockchain technology at their heart.” ICOs commonly fail when that’s missing or when the marketing and message are poor, she warned. “The froth and the attention around ICOs is masking the fact that it’s actually a very hard way to raise money,” Channing said. Who are its biggest proponents? A number of more forward-thinking venture capitalists, such as Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures and Tim Draper at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, have been some of the most vocal believers in ICOs. Draper earlier this year participated for the first time in an ICO, buying the digital currency Tezos, a rival blockchain platform, in what was a $232 million fundraising round. Wilson has not proclaimed it to be a panacea. “Contrary to the hype machine working on ICOs right now, they are not simply a funding mechanism. They are about an entirely different business model,” Wilson wrote on his blog this summer. “So, while ICOs represent a new and exciting way to build (and finance) a tech company, and are a legitimate disruptive threat to the venture capital business, they are not something I am nervous about.” Other leading ICO investors include Chris Dixon at Andreessen Horowitz and entrepreneur and self-described “crypto capitalist” David Sacks. “Any startup that can ICO will ICO (barring a regulatory intervention),” Sacks tweeted last month. What are its risks? There are certainly some losers if and when ICOs win. One group, as Wilson knows: Venture capitalists. Much of investors’ power derives from their supposedly superior judgment — they fund projects that are deemed worthwhile, and if the VC industry decides your startup isn’t promising, you’re left with little choice beyond bootstrapping or crowdfunding. ICOs offer another option to founders who are skittish about handing control of their baby over to outsiders driven above all else by financial return. “Every VC firm is going to have to take a long hard look at the value they bring to the table and how they remain competitive,” said Brian Lio, the head of Smith & Crown, a cryptocurrency research firm. “What do they have other than prestige? What are they offering to these companies that are more advantageous than going to the community?” But Lio noted that buyers are also possibly in peril and should be cautious: Risk is higher than buying stock, given the complexity of the system. And it can be difficult to vet an investment or the technology behind it. Other experts have long worried about fraud in this largely unregulated space. Is the government okay with this? That’s TBD. In the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission requires private companies to file a disclosure whenever they raise private cash. After largely letting the ICO market develop with no guidance, the SEC this summer warned startups that they could be violating securities laws with the token sales. How governments choose to regulate this new type of transaction is one of the big outstanding questions in the field. The IRS has said that virtual currency, in general, is taxable — as long as the currency can be converted to a dollar amount. Some expect the SEC to begin strictly clamping down on ICOs before the cash is raised. That’s already happened in other countries, most notably China — which this month banned the practice altogether. ICOs, while hosted in a certain country, are not confined to a certain jurisdiction and can be traded anywhere you can connect online. “Ninety-nine percent of ICOs are a scam, so [China’s pause on ICOs] is needed to filter the crooks out,” tech investor Chamath Palihapitiya tweeted this month. “Next phase of ICOs will be real.”

Read More...
posted about 20 hours ago on re/code
Mitu, a Latino-targeted video network, gets a new CEO; Zefr, a YouTube ad service, gets a new president. Digital video, as you may have heard, is big and going to get bigger. So let’s quickly check in with two LA-based video startups that are shuffling executives as part of their “let’s get bigger, too” strategy: Mitu, a video network that specializes in stuff made for and about Latinos, has hired Herb Scannell as its new CEO. He replaces co-founder Roy Burstin; Beatriz Acevedo, Mitu’s other founder, stays on as president. Zefr, a company that helps advertisers target users on YouTube, has hired Toby Byrne, the former head of ad sales for Fox Networks, as its president. He’ll report to founder/CEOs Zach James and Rich Raddon. More details: If you’ve been paying attention to digital video for a long time, you’ll remember that this is Scannell’s second time running a startup: Ten years ago, he was the CEO of Next New Networks, a YouTube-era startup that ultimately sold to ... YouTube. He also has lots of traditional TV experience, with stints at Viacom and most recently as president of BBC America. Scannell says he thinks he can help Mitu, which says it currently generates 650 million “content views” per month, grow its core business and start branching out into new ones, like events, licensing and movies. It’s worth noting that one of Mitu’s primary backers is Upfront Ventures, one of the investors that was deeply involved in Maker Studios, the video company that Disney bought for (eventually) around $700 million. Maker replaced its CEO/co-founder about a year before that deal closed. Zefr, meanwhile, has tried on a few different identities over the course of its eight-year history. It started out as a movie clip company, then morphed into a business that helped rights owners claim their stuff on YouTube. Most recently it has been helping advertisers track audiences they want to target on YouTube. Its selling point is that it helps track users based on the content of the videos they watch, not their demography, which is the way YouTube generally sells its audience. James’s job is to help accelerate that part of Zefr’s business, while making it more profitable: He wants the company to shift its focus from a service business — finding particular audiences for advertisers and helping them buy ads — to an automated one, where advertisers just use Zefr’s software to find the audiences and then handle the ad-buying on their own.

Read More...
posted about 21 hours ago on re/code
A brutal concoction. When Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, the easy culprit to blame was Amazon. But long before Amazon battered Toys “R” Us with a much deeper selection, Walmart was beating up the toy retailer with aggressive pricing on the most popular items during holiday seasons. Amazon hasn’t helped either. This past fall, Jet.com, owned by Walmart, had the lowest prices in the toys category, followed by its parent company Walmart, according to a report from the pricing software startup Boomerang Commerce. When it comes to selection, Amazon had more than five million items listed online in its Toys & Games category, according to the report, while other retailers like Toys “R” Us had less than 100,000 each. Instead of differentiating itself by creating tons of in-store experiences that bring families into stores for more than just purchases, Toys “R” Us has largely tried to beat Amazon and Walmart at their own games. It hasn’t worked. Neither have its big bets on licensed toys from movies like “Star Wars” and “Lego,” as the Wall Street Journal noted. All of this has been exacerbated by a big problem outside of Toys “R” Us’ core business: Billions of dollars in debt resulting from the 2005 leveraged buyout of the retailer by Bain Capital, KKR and Vornado Realty Trust. As a result, the retailer has had interest payments some years of up to $500 million, according to Bloomberg, leaving it less cash to spend on technology and other innovations. If the bankruptcy restructuring can help Toys “R” Us get a handle on its debt, it’s not crazy to see a profit in sight. But the chances of dominance in the toy category are over, and even the road to a leadership position contains many major obstacles.

Read More...
posted about 21 hours ago on re/code
Plus, Equifax faces a criminal probe, Sonos is readying a speaker that works with multiple voice assistants, and “South Park” messes with Alexa. Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS 11, launches today — just three days before the company’s new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus start appearing in stores and at preorderer’s doors. Apple software updates have tended to appear around 10 am PT; watch your phone for a notification. It should be safe to install: Apple has road-tested the release with a series of public betas, but just in case, here’s how to get your devices ready for the new OS. Noteworthy changes include all-new interfaces for Control Center and the App Store, and your iPad will change dramatically with iOS 11 installed. What you won’t see: Apple’s new person-to-person money transfer system for iPhone and iPad, called “Apple Pay Cash,” which is now “coming this fall.” [CNET] Equifax is facing a criminal probe by the U.S. Justice Department, which is investigating whether three top officials at the credit bureau violated insider trading laws when they sold nearly $2 million worth of stock before the company disclosed a massive cyber theft that compromised the private financial information of 143 million people. Shares of Equifax have fallen 35 percent since the breach was disclosed on July 29; it has been revealed that the company suffered an earlier breach in March. [Karen Turner / Vox] Facebook and other tech giants are increasingly coming into conflict with governments around the world that are exerting greater control over the formerly anything-goes internet. More than 50 countries have passed laws over the last five years to assert control over how their people use the increasingly fragmented web, and some of the biggest companies in the world — Google, Apple, Amazon and Alibaba — have had to dispatch envoys to contain the damage such divisions pose to their global ambitions. [The New York Times] Here’s an up-close look at how CEO Satya Nadella is rewriting Microsoft’s cultural code, running the company differently from his well-known predecessors, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. Since he took the top spot in February 2014, Nadella has stopped corporate infighting, restored morale and created more than $250 billion in market value — all it took was focusing on what matters most. [Harry McCracken / Fast Company] Sonos is getting close to releasing a wireless speaker that would support multiple voice assistants, so a user could potentially choose between Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant. A Sonos device with Alexa integration could give a glimpse into how consumers will react to Apple’s forthcoming HomePod, which is counting on consumer desire for high-quality audio paired with a voice assistant. Meanwhile, Samsung is allowing customers to evict its artificially intelligent assistant Bixby from its dedicated button on their Galaxy S8 and Note8 smartphones. [Peter Newman / Business Insider] SoftBank’s Vision Fund is the biggest technology investment fund ever, having raised $93 billion and on its way to $100 billion. The fund has already extended money to WeWork, SoFi and Fanatics; the latest winner is communications software company Slack, which has raised $250 million, valuing it at just over $5 billion. And Uber could receive as much as $10 billion, making it the Vision Fund’s biggest beneficiary to date. Here’s where the Japanese conglomerate’s money has gone so far. [Rani Molla / Recode] Recode presents ... Do you have questions about 23andMe, the personal genomics and biotech company? Kara Swisher and Lauren Goode will be talking to 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki on their podcast, Too Embarrassed to Ask, so tweet your questions with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed or email them to [email protected] Top stories from Recode Former Facebook and Snap exec Sriram Krishnan is joining Twitter to work on product. Krishnan, who previously worked on ad tech, is trying something new. It sounds as though the NBA may eventually set up shop on Amazon. Commissioner Adam Silver’s comments at Code Commerce hint at what may be inevitable. Streaming TV services are increasingly winning the top Emmys. Beware of a new kind of Big Three. This is cool “South Park” messes with Alexa in viewers’ homes.

Read More...
posted about 21 hours ago on re/code
Věra Jourová, an EU commissioner, is paying the Valley a visit. One of the European Union’s leading regulators is making a house call to Silicon Valley this week. Her agenda: A series of meetings with the likes of Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg to press the tech industry on privacy, hate speech and consumer protection. The visit beginning today by Věra Jourová, the EU commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, comes at a time when Brussels increasingly is the cop on the beat overseeing the U.S. tech industry, which often has escaped the strongest regulation from its own government in Washington, D.C. At the top of Jourová’s list is the future of a transatlantic trade pact that allows tech companies to store Europeans’ data in the United States. The agreement, called the Privacy Shield, exists to bridge the gap between the U.S. and EU governments’ different approaches to privacy protection — and the deal is up for its first annual review this week. The likes of Facebook, Google and Microsoft stress the agreement is essential for the day-to-day functions of their products and services, as have top White House officials. Together, they fought to secure its implementation beginning in 2015, after concerns about the U.S. government’s lax privacy laws led an EU court to invalidate their last data-transfer pact. For her part, Jourová exited the meeting with key Trump administration officials saying she “had a very strong feeling that we are on one page, the same page, as for the goals” of the Privacy Shield. But she did express a few doubts — including the fact that the U.S. government had yet to appoint an ombudsman for the trade agreement. That official is supposed to handle complaints from EU citizens who fear their data has been handled inappropriately by the United States. “I’m sure we will insist on having people in those places as soon as possible,” she said of a forthcoming EU report on implementation. As part of a review of the Privacy Shield, Jourová’s meetings will take her to Apple, Facebook, Google and Palantir, she told Recode. With web companies in particular, they’ll also hear an earful about the EU’s work to crack down on everything from copyright infringement to hate speech. To that end, the Commission is expected to produce a policy paper in September studying those issues as well as other forms of illegal content, including terrorist messaging and child pornography. The process, Jourová said, would determine “whether we will come with more strict rules, or whether we will continue working with the IT sector.” On hate speech, in particular, the EU has already pressed Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google to add more staff and improve their technology so they can spot offending content identified by European governments and take it down in the course of 24 hours. Over the past year, those companies have sped up their response times, a recent EU report has found — though Twitter still has faced criticism for being too slow. Absent more improvements, Jourová stressed that the EU could seek binding regulation of hate speech — rules that would apply beyond the four companies currently working with Brussels on the issue. “We made clear that if we do not see better action we will have to come with maybe harder solutions in the EU — hard in the [sense] of regulation,” she said.

Read More...
posted about 22 hours ago on re/code
The service, which lets fans pay creators, will process more than $150 million in contributions this year. Patreon, which helps fans fund their favorite podcasters, video makers and other content creators, is getting new funding itself. The four-year-old startup has raised $60 million from a group led by Thrive Capital, which is re-joined by other previous backers including Index, CRV and Freestyle Capital. DFJ Growth is the new money in this round. Patreon won’t release a valuation but says the $450 million TechCrunch floated last week is incorrect. My semi-educated hunch is that it’s not far off — perhaps it’s 10 percent too high. The company has now raised $107 million. In any case, the real story here is that Patreon is one of the most interesting companies in media right now, as it appears to have gained real traction as an alternative to advertising for a wide variety of people who make stuff you can read, watch or listen to. Lefty podcasters Chapo Trap House, for example, are generating more than $84,000 per month on Patreon, which is very good money for three dudes with a year-old show. Peter Vecsey, once one of the dominant voices in sports media, surprised lots of people this summer by resurfacing on the platform. Patreon has a very simple business model: Fans give money to Patreon to pass along to their favorite content makers; Patreon takes a 5 percent cut and gives those content makers a platform to host subscriber-only content. This year, the company says it is on track to process some $150 million in contributions from one million fans, spread out among 50,000 creators. The knock on Patreon, from people who aren’t investing in the company, is that its 5 percent margin isn’t enough to build a meaningful business — and that it’s hard to justify a $400 million-plus valuation for a company that’s going to do $7.5 million in revenue this year. The counter to that, says Saar Gur, a general partner at Patreon backer CRV, is that big platform companies like Shopify and Etsy started off with modest margins, too, and figured out ways to add on services. In the meantime, that 5 percent fee makes the company more attractive to creators than higher-priced competitors. Conte says he eventually intends to create new services that he can charge additional fees for, but he also insists that he’s not in a hurry to do it. “My personal belief, and the people who have invested in Patreon share this belief, is that the trend in favor of independent creativity is enormous — just bigger than most people think,” he told me last week. “And that 5 percent makes a lot of sense when you think of how big this can be.” I interviewed Conte for a Recode Media podcast earlier this summer. You can listen to that here or read a transcript. They’re both free.

Read More...
posted about 22 hours ago on re/code
But Instagram is dominating globally. More new users are signing up for Snapchat than Instagram in the United States — but probably not for long, according to new data from Jumpshot, a marketing analytics company. In August, 52 percent of new U.S. users signed up for Snapchat, compared to 48 percent for Instagram. The share represents a decline in Snapchat’s new enrollment dominance in the U.S., according to Jumpshot data that tracks clicks on new-user confirmation emails from both platforms (it does not count those who may have confirmed new accounts via text). (function() { var l = function() { new pym.Parent( 'recode-snapchat-still-has-a-bigger-share-of-new-enrollments-in-the-u-s__graphic', 'https://apps.voxmedia.com/at/recode-snapchat-still-has-a-bigger-share-of-new-enrollments-in-the-u-s/'); }; if(typeof(pym) === 'undefined') { var h = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0], s = document.createElement('script'); s.type = 'text/javascript'; s.src = 'https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/pym/0.4.5/pym.js'; s.onload = l; h.appendChild(s); } else { l(); } })(); Meanwhile, Snapchat represented 38.5 percent of new signups globally compared with Instagram’s 61.5 percent in August. (function() { var l = function() { new pym.Parent( 'recode-share-of-new-signups__graphic', 'https://apps.voxmedia.com/at/recode-share-of-new-signups/'); }; if(typeof(pym) === 'undefined') { var h = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0], s = document.createElement('script'); s.type = 'text/javascript'; s.src = 'https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/pym/0.4.5/pym.js'; s.onload = l; h.appendChild(s); } else { l(); } })(); Snap, though, hasn’t focused on growing international usership, preferring instead to target people in developed nations with robust cellular networks and bigger bank accounts. Since Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, the social photo-sharing platform has seen its usership soar to 700 million monthly active users globally. Snap, which doesn’t disclose monthly active users — considered a key metric in determining user growth — hasn’t seen its daily active users grow as fast as investors would like (it had 173 million daily active users in its Q2 earnings, up 21 percent from a year earlier). Snapchat has touted its young and devoted user base, but competition from Instagram is making it harder for Snapchat to expand into other age groups. Instagram — and parent Facebook — has been relentlessly copying Snapchat’s features, and it seems to be paying off when it comes to claiming new users. Jumpshot tracks anonymized data from 100 million global users across platforms who’ve opted in to share their data in exchange for free Avast antivirus software.

Read More...
posted about 23 hours ago on re/code
More fallout from the government’s decision to delay the International Entrepreneur Rule. Top U.S. venture capital firms are suing the Trump administration after it hit the brakes on a widely supported immigration program meant to benefit foreign entrepreneurs. To the National Venture Capital Association — the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying voice for the industry — the Trump administration violated federal rulemaking laws and harmed a number of companies and their investors when it delayed implementation of the initiative earlier this year. The court challenge concerns the International Entrepreneur Rule, a program instituted under former President Barack Obama to allow foreigners who seek to build new companies — and already have capital and experience — to stay in the United States on a 30-month trial without obtaining a visa. Before leaving office, the Obama administration set in motion plans to implement the rule in July 2017. Under Trump, though, the Department of Homeland Security delayed the program — days before it was slated to go into effect — until March 14, 2018. To many, that pause presaged the complete elimination of the program, known as IER, contrary to calls from tech giants and Silicon Valley investors to keep it. In its lawsuit, NVCA contends that the Trump administration’s decision violated the Administrative Procedures Act because it opted to postpone the International Entrepreneur Rule without first seeking public comment on the change. And the pause itself harmed NVCA, the lobbying group adds, seeing as its “members have invested, will invest, or would consider investing in new companies that have founders who could apply” under the program as it was originally proposed. NVCA members include major firms like Accel Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital. Among those affected and named in the lawsuit are Atma and Anand Krishna, two brothers and citizens of the United Kingdom who founded LotusPay, a payments startup. The duo had planned to continue building their company in the United States after finishing their stint with the incubator Y Combinator this summer, but the delay to the U.S. government’s foreign entrepreneur program has jeopardized their ability to continue hiring and raising money. A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported news of the lawsuit.

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on re/code
Canaan Partners investor Maha Ibrahim says the lack of obvious female founder role models is setting women back. Getting rid of sexual harassers in tech is challenging enough. But getting the men who are left to take away the right lessons about women is a whole different ballgame. On the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Swisher spoke with Maha Ibraham, one of three general partners at the venture capital firm Canaan Partners. “I had a VC tell me a couple weeks ago, after this Justin Caldbeck stuff — he said, ‘I wonder if I’ve ever done anything,’” Ibrahim said. “It’s reflection, but it’s also that turtle thing. The defensive mechanism will be to meet with fewer female entrepreneurs.” She said that makes it even more important that she and other female GPs hire women to work at VC firms and invest in female-led companies. The historical lack of diversity in tech is a vicious circle, Ibrahim explained, and not just at the founder level: The lack of obvious female role models makes investors less likely to put money in. “In the entrepreneurial pool — this is specific to women — there’s no icon,” Ibrahim said. “There’s no Steve Jobs, there’s no Mark Zuckerberg, there’s no one we can point to right now and use them, highlight them as an example of building a truly world-class company from the ground up. I believe that’s one of the reasons, not the only, but that’s one of the reasons you don’t see females getting founded, in the numbers that we see men.” “I’ve been on panels where male investors have said, ‘We feel like women shoot for the moon, not the stars. We feel like women are not as ambitious as men,’” she added. “And they’re using that as an example, ‘Gosh, there is no female Mark Zuckerberg.’ There doesn’t have to be.” You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. On the new podcast, Ibrahim also praised former Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Ellen Pao for “putting a nuclear bomb on her career” in 2015. However, she stressed, many men in the venture capital world had an “unfortunate” reaction to Pao’s unsuccessful gender discrimination lawsuit. “I was on a plane a year and a half ago to the East Coast, sitting next to a VC that I’ve known for years,” Ibrahim said. “And he said to me that he and other managing directors at firms don’t want to hire women at senior ranks because they don’t want an ‘Ellen Pao-like situation.’ I was horrified. I couldn’t sleep that night.” “We had a number of hours on the plane to talk about it, and I wanted to hear his story, because it’s very rare that somebody actually comes out and says something like that,” she added. “I had to think about it, like, ‘Wow. Maybe he’s giving me a gift. Maybe he is opening up the door so that I can hear, really hear, [what they think].’ While I was horrified, I was appreciative that he was saying it out loud.” If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts: Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge's Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts— and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on re/code
Krishnan, who previously worked on ad tech, is trying something new. Twitter has hired Sriram Krishnan, a former ad tech executive from Facebook and Snap, but he won’t be working on ads. Krishnan, who left Snap earlier this year, just a month before the company’s IPO, is joining Twitter as senior director of product. That means he’ll be responsible for a lot of the core features inside the main app, internally referred to as “Bluebird,” including timeline, direct messaging and search. I'm going to be joining Twitter and become a part of #theflock to work with the fantastic product team there.— Sriram Krishnan (@sriramk) September 19, 2017 Krishnan is a well-known product guy around Silicon Valley, but he has primarily focused on ad tech. At Facebook, he helped build the company’s ad network, Audience Network; at Snap, he helped build out the company’s ads API. Now he’s taking on a consumer product role — and for a company that has had trouble keeping consumer product execs over the past few years. In an odd twist, Twitter now has a whole mess of them. Krishnan’s decision to join seems to be a positive sign for Twitter. It at least shows the company still has the cachet and offers enough potential upside to attract someone like Krishnan, who could probably head wherever he wanted, or start his own company. (Krishnan, for what it’s worth, is a Twitter power user.) The internal pecking order now looks like this: CEO Jack Dorsey has two product folks reporting to him: Kayvon Beykpour, who runs all live video, including Periscope; and Ed Ho, the general manager of all product and engineering at Twitter. Keith Coleman, who joined Twitter last December as head of product running the company’s core app, reports to Ho. And Krishnan now reports to Coleman, and appears to be taking over at least some of Coleman’s duties. That crew has their work cut out for them. Twitter, of course, has long been saddled with product issues. Historically, critics have argued the app is too hard to use, and that the sign-up process is confusing and cumbersome, a combination that turns off new users. Those who do figure it out have then dealt with well-chronicled issues of abuse and bullying on the service. Twitter has made solving those abuse issues a key priority over the past year. Krishnan will start in October. In a series of tweets announcing the new role, he explained that working on a product with Twitter’s impact was just too hard to pass up. It is something I deeply care about and I couldn’t pass up a chance to be a part of it.— Sriram Krishnan (@sriramk) September 19, 2017

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on re/code
Uber would be its biggest deal yet. SoftBank seems like it’s everywhere in tech. That’s because its Vision Fund — an investment fund backed by sovereign nations Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as tech giants including Apple, Qualcomm and Sharp — has a lot of money to spend. Having raised $93 billion so far, it’s the largest technology investment fund ever. Slack announced yesterday that it was receiving $250 million in a funding round led by the Japanese tech goliath’s Vision Fund. The fund has already extended money to WeWork, SoFi and Fanatics. Uber, the biggest startup in the U.S., could receive as much as $10 billion from the fund, making the ride-hailing company Vision Fund’s biggest beneficiary yet. Here’s what we know so far about the value of investments and funding rounds led by SoftBank, according to its announcements and public disclosures. In the case of funding rounds, the Vision Fund isn’t on the hook for the entire amount but rather a sizable portion. Final deal values have not been disclosed. And this is just the beginning. The Vision Fund hopes to raise a total of $100 billion that it will invest for up to five years after its final closing. Spending that much money will require massive investments — about $20 billion worth per year on average. SoftBank is also investing plenty in technology outside of the Vision Fund, including investments in Uber competitor Didi Chuxing.

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on re/code
Commissioner Adam Silver’s comments at Code Commerce hint at what may be inevitable. Search for New York Knicks jerseys on Amazon and you’ll find a mishmash of results. Some Porzingis jerseys. Some jerseys for Derrick Rose, who’s no longer on the team. But certainly nothing that looks like an official NBA storefront. Recent comments from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, however, indicate that may change in the future. Last week, Silver sat for an interview at Recode’s Code Commerce event alongside Michael Rubin, the chairman of the sports e-commerce company Fanatics. Fanatics runs the NBA’s online shop and also sells a wide variety of licensed team sports apparel like jerseys and hats through Fanatics.com. When I asked Silver onstage if there were reasons why the NBA wouldn’t want to sell on Amazon — partnering instead with Fanatics — I was surprised by the answer. “From an NBA standpoint, we’re very much in business with Amazon,” Silver said. “Michael is entering into a relationship — with Fanatics — with Amazon where if you go to Amazon, which most people do ... if you’re thinking of Amazon as a place to go to get that Porzingis jersey, you’re going to be led to Fanatics. So in essence, we exist as part of that larger ecosystem.” I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of this other than that any deal between Fanatics, the NBA and Amazon would be news to me. But Silver kept talking, moving on to discuss Amazon as a potential media partner for the NBA, and I didn’t cut him off to ask a follow-up question. (Yes, I regret it.) So afterward, I asked Fanatics about Silver’s comments. A Fanatics spokesman told me that the company hasn’t held any talks with Amazon about such a deal. Weird. Then a person familiar with Silver’s thinking told me that Silver was simply speculating about the way things seem to be headed — even though he used the phrase “entering into a relationship,” which certainly seemed to indicate an imminent deal. Weirder. This is my best guess — and it’s a guess — about what’s going on: The NBA and Fanatics have probably talked to each other about the right way to engage with Amazon to have some type of presence there. And maybe they’ve agreed on a partnership that makes sense. But those talks haven’t involved Amazon. Yet. If you’re the NBA, it’s hard to ignore the revenue potential of Amazon as the biggest online shopping destination in the U.S. It’s also hard to ignore the potential benefit of having an official relationship with Amazon that could push the e-commerce giant to limit any unauthorized resellers of NBA apparel that may pop up on its marketplace. This is one of the reasons Nike finally started doing business with Amazon recently, Nike exec Heidi O’Neill confirmed in a separate interview at Code Commerce. On the Fanatics side, I have many more questions about why an Amazon partnership would make sense — especially since part of Fanatics’ pitch to sports leagues is that everything on its sites is licensed and approved apparel. Perhaps there’s a middle ground where the NBA gets some type of official treatment on Amazon but Fanatics still plays a differentiated and vital role in the sales process. Either way, it certainly sounds as though the head of the NBA thinks something will happen between the parties in the future. Here’s the full interview from Code Commerce, which also included my Recode colleague Kurt Wagner.

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on re/code
Beware of a new kind of Big Three. When Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” won an Emmy last night for outstanding television drama, it wasn’t just a win for Hulu, which distributes the show, but a win for streaming TV more broadly. Streaming services Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have been pouring money into original programming in recent years and their investments are paying off, as evidenced by their spate of Emmys. To illustrate, we took a look at Emmy winners since 2010 for outstanding series, actress, actor and direction in both comedy and drama categories. This year, Hulu’s dystopian “The Handmaid’s Tale” took home Emmys for leading actress Elizabeth Moss and director Reed Morano in addition to being the winning drama series — firsts for the streaming company. Netflix’s “House of Cards” was the first streaming company to win an Emmy for direction in 2013. Amazon’s “Transparent” won Emmys for both lead actor and direction in 2015 and 2016. These streaming companies have also swarmed other awards not included in the chart above. Lena Waithe and Aziz Ansari from Netflix’s “Master of None” won in the comedy writing category this year, for example. In total, streaming companies picked up 32 Emmys this year (HBO took home 29). These awards should scare the traditional “Big Three” TV networks CBS, ABC and NBC, which have seen viewership decline, in part as consumers cut the cord and find entertainment over the internet — including through Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

Read More...
posted 2 days ago on re/code
Dunn discusses running a group of digital-first brands. Andy Dunn, Bonobos CEO and SVP of Digital Consumer Brands at Walmart, talked with Recode’s Jason Del Rey on Wednesday at Code Commerce. When Dunn co-founded Bonobos in 2007, the idea of digitally native vertical brands didn’t really exist. Dunn has since extended the Bonobos brand into the brick-and-mortar world with more than 30 showrooms where customers can try on clothes and order them for home delivery. After selling Bonobos to Walmart for $310 million, Dunn has a new purview: Running a group of digital-first brands with cult followings — Bonobos and ModCloth — under the umbrella of a new corporate owner whose brand doesn’t appeal to the same shoppers. Watch Dunn’s full interview below.

Read More...
posted 2 days ago on re/code
Plus, Snap snips Al Jazeera in Saudi Arabia, 50-year-old Rolling Stone is up for sale, and the Amish are online. After special counsel Robert Mueller obtained a search warrant, Facebook handed over up to 3,000 Russia-linked ads that ran on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has called for Facebook to testify before Congress on Russia’s online interference; Schiff also called out President Donald Trump for his “juvenile” retweeting. Case in point: This weekend’s Hillary-gets-whacked-by-a-golf-ball retweet. [Kara Swisher / Recode] Snapchat blocked access to news articles and videos from the Al Jazeera channel on its app in Saudi Arabia. Snap said it is following a request from the Saudi government; Al Jazeera calls the move an “attempt to silence freedom of expression.” The conflict is the latest example of a technology company being pinned in the crosshairs of geopolitics as it navigates censorship of content on its platforms. [Douglas MacMillan / The Wall Street Journal] The chief security officer and chief information officer of Equifax have retired in the wake of last week’s disclosure of a massive data breach at the credit bureau that leaked the personal financial information on 143 million people. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the exploit and how it was handled. [The New York Times] SoftBank managing director Deep Nishar confirmed that the company is “absolutely” looking to invest as much as $10 billion in ride-hailing in the United States — but said it’s “not fair” to describe the Japanese conglomerate’s strategy as merely to “bet on every odd number on the roulette table.” Which means it could put its chips on either Uber or Lyft. Meanwhile, new Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is pushing hard to hire a CFO and top legal talent to help move the troubled company forward; the talent search is being conducted by Heidrick & Struggles, which also worked on the CEO search. [Tony Romm / Recode] Rolling Stone founder and publisher Jann Wenner is putting the magazine up for sale, after a half-century reign that propelled him into the realm of rock stars, celebrities and world leaders. Wenner’s 27-year-old son, Gus, is overseeing the sales plans; in response to financial pressures, parent company Wenner Media recently sold Us Weekly and Men’s Journal, and last year it sold a 49 percent stake in Rolling Stone to a Singapore-based music technology company. [Sydney Ember / The New York Times] What happens when tech leaders like Y Combinator’s Sam Altman believe our system is broken? They treat it like a startup. This deep dive — part of a series on the relationship between California and Donald Trump’s Washington — explores the political awakening of Silicon Valley. [Vauhini Vara / The California Sunday Magazine] Top stories from Recode Alphabet has asked a federal judge to delay a trial in Waymo’s war with Uber. Alphabet needs time to digest a key report and other data recently turned over by Uber, it told the judge. Twitter says it has fixed a “bug” that allowed ad campaigns to target users with derogatory terms. In a statement, the company says it will “continue to strongly enforce our policies." SoFi’s CEO is resigning immediately. Mike Cagney has been battling sexual harassment allegations at the lending startup. Some companies that have recently gone public will never make money. On the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, venture capitalist Maha Ibrahim said she is “cringing” at recent tech IPOs. This is cool Amish online They still drive horse-drawn buggies and continue to abstain from most kinds of technology. But computers and cellphones are making their way into some Amish communities, pushing them — sometimes willingly, often not — into the 21st century, perhaps threatening their cultural cohesiveness. [Kevin Granville and Ashley Gilbertson / The New York Times]

Read More...
posted 2 days ago on re/code
The messaging company is now valued at over $ 5 billion. The latest winner of SoftBank’s $100 billion fund? The enterprise messaging company Slack. Slack on Sunday said it raised $250 million from investors, a fundraise that now values the company on paper at just over $5 billion. The outlay of cash is another sign of SoftBank’s might in Silicon Valley — the Japanese conglomerate has assembled the largest tech fund ever, and is pouring an unprecedented amount of money into some of U.S.’ most promising private companies. Other investors in Slack include the venture capital firm Accel. “The Vision Fund’s focus on global technology platforms aligns with our recent international expansion, while Accel has been with us as investors and partners from the very beginning,” Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said in a statement. The new money was expected — word of Slack’s round of fundraising was reported by Recode in June. Slack claims it is not raising the cash purely to immediately spend it, claiming the company has “yet to spend much of our existing capital,” according to a company spokeswoman. Slack instead is hoping for “operational flexibility” so it will no longer be “dependent on outside financing.”

Read More...
posted 2 days ago on re/code
Canaan’s Maha Ibrahim says some companies that have recently gone public will never make money. Maha Ibrahim has been an investor since March of 2000, joining Canaan Partners just before the dot-com crash — and she’s worried about the people who weren’t around in those days. “When I joined the industry, there were years of slogging through a really poor exit environment,” Ibrahim said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “That lasted until 2005 or 2006; we’d say, ‘That’s a company that exited for $200 million? Woohoo!’” “We’re now looking at the last nine years of ‘up and to the right,’” she added. “And we’re also looking at a cast of characters in the venture industry, a lot of them have only seen ‘up and to the right.’ And so they do look at their jobs as selling money.” You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. Ibrahim stressed that that she does not see her job that way. To return money to Canaan’s backers, preferably in multiples, she said the firm has decided to be more deliberate than its peers in where it bets LPs’ cash. “I can’t control the industry,” she said. “At Canaan, we’ve got to maintain discipline, we’ve got to be intentional about how we invest.” She said a lot of recent tech IPOs, fueled by a “rush for alpha” in the venture world, are concerning because she believes “many of them will never make money.” “What has been sent out into the market ... ugh,” Ibrahim said. “I’ve read those S1s and I’m just cringing [at] the lack of profitability and the lack of convergence to profitability. And I’m not just talking about Blue Apron. If you look at the last couple of years, IPOs both on the consumer side and the enterprise side, these companies have been burning tremendous amounts of capital.” And that puts the ball back in the court of the venture capitalists that are ushering startups to scale. Canaan, which recently closed an $800 million fund (its largest ever) is asking itself how much it should value a company’s growth compared to other metrics. “As we look at that [fund], we’re saying, ‘Have we been taking enough risk?’” Ibrahim said. “Are we not pushing our companies to grow fast enough? Yet we’re having to push it against our own notions of building a real business and being long-term investors and doing this intentionally and deliberately.” If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts: Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge's Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts— and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

Read More...
posted 3 days ago on re/code
The team covers the Pixel and the Essential as well as the Samsung Note8. This week on Too Embarrassed to Ask, Dieter Bohn, executive editor at The Verge, answered questions from Kara Swisher, Lauren Goode and the internet at large about the new Android phone hardware from manufacturers large and small. Does the Samsung Note8 have the same battery problems of the Note7? What’s with the camera on the Essential phone? Is a phone with a stylus worth the premium price? All these queries get addressed. You can read some of the highlights from their discussion here, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation. If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Too Embarrassed to Ask on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. Lauren Goode: And I’m Lauren Goode, senior technology editor at The Verge. KS: You’re listening to Too Embarrassed To Ask, coming to you from the Vox Media Podcast Network. This is a show where we answer all of your embarrassing questions about consumer tech. LG: It could be anything, so send us all of your questions. We’ve spent the past few weeks talking to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs with wild ideas and I will be honest, I still have a lot of questions for them. Really, there are no bad questions. KS: There are indeed bad questions, but let’s move on from that. You can find us on Twitter or tweet them to us @recode or to myself or Lauren with the #tooembarrassed. LG: We also have an email address, it’s [email protected] And a friendly reminder, embarrassed has two Rs and two Ss. So it’s fall hardware season. KS: Yes. LG: This is the time of year ... KS: Leaves are falling off the trees, and hardware is falling off the back of the whatever, back of the truck. LG: Yes! IPhones falling from Apple trees. This is the time of year where gearheads get excited about new phones, tablets, wearables, all the stuff they might be buying soon, either because it’s time for an upgrade or because the holiday season is coming. KS: It’s because they make us, they train us like netted fish. LG: Right. They kind of make us think it’s time. It’s time, then your phone starts to mysteriously slow down. KS: Exactly. LG: Conspiracy theories abound or your battery explodes — well, hopefully it doesn’t this year. But for the next couple of weeks we are going to be talking about two companies in particular that have just had or are about to have big product launches. KS: Big ones. LG: And that is Samsung and Apple. KS: Those are the big ones in mobile, the big ones. LG: They’re the big ones. KS: They’re the big ones. So we’re bringing back Dieter Bohn to the studio. Dieter Bohn: Hello. KS: How you doing? Dieter is an executive editor of The Verge and really, this man reviews everything. I do review a lot of stuff. KS: That’s a nice way of saying you have no life. Almost everything, Dieter. Thanks for joining us. We’re going to be talking about what? I think we’re going to be talking about the Note8? LG: We are. We’re going to spend the first bit of the show talking about the Samsung Note8 and we are going to answer all your questions about the Note8, but I should also mention — I should also note — that Dieter just reviewed the Essential phone, which is a brand new piece of hardware from Andy Rubin, the co-founder of Android. We’re going to talk about that too, because that launch was a little dicey. KS: Dicey. Dicey is a good word for it. KS: Dicey is a nice word, that’s a disaster, right? That’s what it was, no? LG: Is it like exploding phone, disaster? No, but ... KS: It’s a low bar then if that’s the case. It’s called Essential, we want to find out if it’s essential, Dieter. Why don’t we first start with the Galaxy Note8. Give us the particulars, and some ... It’s after the exploding phone. Yeah, we can’t talk about the Note8 without talking about the exploding phone. I think Samsung’s No. 1 goal is to not have us do that every time we bring it up. LG: That would be squad goals. KS: Too bad. If you like big phones, you’ve always known about the Note. The Note is the quintessential giant phone and so Samsung went ahead and made another giant phone. What’s interesting and unique about the Note8 this year is it’s coming after the exploding one and it’s not the only giant phone. There are lots and lots of really good massive phone. So the Note’s reason for existence is different than it used to be. KS: So in the interim while it was exploding, people have come out with other phones. So the stakes very high. LG: Including Samsung, by the way, Samsung had the S8 launch in the meantime. KS: How important is this phone for Samsung? I think this phone is important for Samsung in so far as it will cater to people who want the Note. They’re trying to say it’s for Note fans, and it’ll help put that exploding thing behind them, but I think in terms of their flagship phone that’s the S8 and the S9, the standard Galaxy phones. They have a big one and a small one now. There’s the regular S8 and the S8 Plus, and I don’t have the exact sales numbers, but it’s at least one if not two or three orders of magnitudes more sales go to the traditional Galaxy than to the Note. This thing is more of a flagship brand kind of phone than it is a “we’re gonna sell as many as humanly possible and it’s the one to get no matter what” kind of phone. It’s the thing, the aspirational Samsung phone, the “we can prove that we can make a technically amazing device that everybody’s going to want” into the store and look at this thing and then they’ll end up buying the S8 instead because it’s smaller. LG: How is the phone? Dan Seifert who works with us at The Verge called it “the best Note ever” but I feel like calling it the best Note is ... The bar wasn’t set super high from last year. You’ve used it, we both went to the briefing in San Francisco and got to play with for a little bit. What are your thoughts? It’s an incredibly good Android phone. Samsung has reined itself in on software with the exception of Bixby which still has its own button, which you have to hit accidentally all the time. LG: Explain Bixby? Bixby is Samsung’s take on a personal assistant, but rather than try and take on Siri or even Alexa or Google Assistant directly, they claim that what Bixby is actually there for is to help you control your device with your voice. So instead of hitting the touchscreen and digging through menus, you can ask it and it’ll figure it out for you. In practice, it’s much more muddled. It’s a little bit of an assistant, it’s a little bit of a newsfeed, it’s a little bit of random ads for Samsung products and it’s a little bit of you can actually use your phone. KS: You don’t like Bixby? No, I’m not a big fan of Bixby at all. KS: It’s still there. Bixby’s still there. Yeah. LG: It’s rolling out in phases too, which is interesting. When we first saw it, which I think was for the S8, and we first saw it, there was a dedicated phone button for it. It could do very, very limited things and it wasn’t so good at indexing, just indexing the web or pulling up results in the same way you say to “Okay, Google tell me some random thing.” Google, obviously, it’s a search company, so it’s so good at that in addition to being integrated with things on the phone. Bixby’s mostly integrated with things on the phone, right? Well, right. It’s also, it doesn’t hit everything but it works with a few dozen apps beyond what Samsung has. It’s just a big mistake to launch something that is that integral to the identity of the phone but doesn’t work well. We learned from Siri that if you use it three times and it’s bad each of the three times, you learn to ignore it. You’re going to ignore this button, but if you do ignore this button, it’s a stupendously good, big phone. It has the best specs, the fastest processor, really big beautiful screen — but a lot of big phones have all that stuff now. So the thing that is supposed to set the Note apart are a new dual camera system and the stylus. The dual camera system is not that wildly impressive. They’ve done a couple of neat things and we can get into the nerdy bits of it. Basically it’s about on par with an iPhone 7 Plus in terms of what you can do with having two lenses there. Beyond that, it’s the same as what you can get on an S8. The reason to get this phone isn’t the cameras; the only reason to buy a Note instead of some other big phone is if you really like the physical design or more importantly if you really, really like to use a stylus. They’ve added a few stylus features here too. LG: What are those? Talk to us about the S Pen. I just refuse to call it the S Pen. LG: What do you call it? Do you call it a stylus? I just call it a stylus, that’s what it is. It does all the same stuff it’s done before. You pull the thing out, a little menu pops up and you can chose all these different options. There’s some clever things, like you can use it to highlight text more easily, then it will translate it for you. It will let you take notes without turning the phone on, on the lock screen. Then you can pin one of them and you can take a hundred pages of notes. LG: I really like that feature. Yeah! 100 pages. It is a really useful feature, you just pull the thing out, jot a note down and you’re done. My favorite new feature though, they kind of copied something from iMessage where you can write a little message out with sparkles or sparks or something and then send that thing out and the person you sent it to can see it written out. What’s clever about it is, with iMessage it only works with iMessage; with Samsung’s little live message thing, it’ll work with any messaging app you use. LG: So you can get confetti? You can get confetti, you can put it on Twitter, you can send it in Google chat — if that still exists on your phone, congratulations to you. LG: Sent with lasers. KS: So the stylus, what else? It’s just stylus stuff. If you’re playing a video, you can draw a square over a certain part of the screen, you can record that and turn that into an animated gif and send it. You can use it to just navigate the phone if you prefer tapping with a stylus instead of with your finger. To be honest, I used styluses on PDAs, on Palm Pilots way back in the day, and on TriOS. Once I moved to a proper touchscreen that worked with your finger, I stopped thinking about what I would use a stylus with a phone for. KS: Note-taking would be it, right? Note-taking. KS: Personal note-taking. There are people who are really into it, they like making art with it and so on and so on and so on. I don’t know how truly large the market is for people who must have a stylus with a phone. If you are that person, there’s literally no other option. KS: Why are they keeping it then? There’s enough of a market there for them to sell to. More importantly, it’s a technically impressive phone. It looks great, it has the stylus thing, they can pound their chest and say we made a phone with the most features, everything you could possibly do with a phone. You can stick it in a dock and it turns into a whole damn computer, which it can do. It’s called DeX and they put more RAM in it so it can do more computer stuff. Nobody does that, but maybe a few people do. Samsung can say that it’s possible, which means you’re going to pay attention to Samsung and then you’ll end up buying an S8 instead of a Note. It’s as much a phone about marketing as it about being a phone they want to sell a lot of. LG: Let’s talk about the downsides. Dan mentioned in his review that it’s so big that it felt a little awkward to use. Do you agree with that? KS: How much bigger than the iPhone? Man, I’d have to look at the exact dimensions but we’re talking about in the same par as the big iPhone. KS: A little too big. But it’s all screen, whereas the current iPhone has massive bezels on the top and the bottom. It’s a big phone, and you’re not going to use this with one hand. The real problem with it being so big, you can accept that a phone is big but you can’t accept that it’s very difficult to just unlock the damn thing. LG: Because the fingerprint sensor’s on the back? They stuck the fingerprint sensor way up at the top next to the cameras ’cause it looks nicer, and I don’t know it fits their battery better, whatever. That means it’s very hard to reach and then your alternatives are a PIN, or a slide-to-unlock or an iris scanner, which is fairly accurate but doesn’t work with sunglasses so you would hate it Kara. KS: Why would I put my phone up to my eye? Then there’s a facial recognition but that’s very insecure. KS: Who designs these things? At least the way Samsung’s implemented it, it’s very insecure. It’ll work, but it’ll also work if someone puts a picture of you in front of it. KS: Oh. LG: Mm-hmm, and when you’re famous like Kara Swisher, anyone can do that. KS: That’s the plot of a spy movie ... LG: It’s also expensive. KS: Sounds like “Mission Impossible.” Find the picture of Lauren, I’m gonna break into her house. Oh my God. LG: You’re going to find all kinds of cat pictures in there. KS: Wow, yeah. I bet I am. It’s 930 bucks. LG: It’s expensive. KS: Expensive. Yep, that’s expensive. LG: We are entering an era of expensive phones. KS: Expensive. Expensive phones. LG: We don’t know that for a fact yet, because there are some rumors that Apple’s phone, one of the Apple phones that will launch next week, may be a more expensive model than usual, and they’re already pretty expensive. Yeah. LG: I don’t know if these devices justify the cost yet. KS: When you think about the price. Here’s my take on that. When you go and buy a MacBook Pro or some high-end Windows laptop and it cost $1,500, nobody’s confused why you spent the extra money for that fancy laptop. You get to make videos or do photo editing or whatever, play games. LG: Type. Is there a world in which what you can do on a $1,000 phone that’s clear and obvious compared to a $600 phone? I don’t know if we know the answer to that yet. KS: I do mostly everything on my phone now. I can’t write and edit, very easily. It’s not, you gotta put it in a laptop cradle or whatever, but pretty much everything else I can do. In terms of its importance in your life, it’s surely worth a thousand bucks, I think for a lot of people. KS: I guess. But is it worth a thousand bucks compared to what you could get done with a $600 phone? KS: Right. Is there a difference between a MacBook and a MacBook Pro equivalent for being an iPhone or an iPhone pro or a Samsung, Samsung Pro. LG: The thing with phones is that I think there’s an actual physical price to things. We’ll see teardowns of these phones. We’ve seen teardowns of the phones already, and we look at things like OLED displays, or we look at fast, what it cost to make faster processors. You say maybe okay the price is going up because of that, and there will be all kinds of analysis and justifications. Then there’s the conceptual price of it, which we haven’t determined yet. If someone carries around a Note8 or someone carries around a giant fancy iPhone that happens to be $300 more than a regular iPhone, what kind of market does that create and what does it say about its users? KS: I think a lot of people need to use these things, and that’s the latest one, so you get the best stuff out of it, right? I mean, not for nothing, but these are public companies that have investors who get persnickety if they don’t a high margin and high sales numbers. If you can get both then great, and Apple knows that people buy the best thing that Apple can put out. They can easily justify a $1,000 phone, I’m sure. With a Samsung phone, $1,000 or the $200-$300 if you’re going to spend more to get a Note, it comes down to the stylus and having a bigger phone, a little bit. I don’t know if that’s worth it. LG: Yeah, because it doesn’t necessarily translate to the services either. KS: What does the smaller one cost? The smaller one, you can get an S8 Plus for ... It’s weird, because Samsung phones get more heavily discounted more quickly than others, like the iPhones and even than the Note, so you can get a deal on an S8 Plus for probably $650-$700 right now. It’s also weird because buying a phone is more complicated than picking a cable package because you can either buy it straight unlocked or you can go to your carrier and there’s like 15 different pricing plans. There’s buying it outright, there’s buying it on this monthly plan, there’s buying it on that monthly plan. It’s a mystery to even talk about pricing right now with phones. We try and default to talking about the unlocked price to buy it flat out, because that is the real price to people no matter how it gets obfuscated by a bunch of carrier plans. That doesn’t mean that when people go to the store to get a phone that they don’t end up looking at the $24.73 a month price and go like, “Yeah, sure whatever.” It’s a mess. LG: It’s a mess. Sorry. KS: Let’s talk about the exploding, the battery check and safety. LG: Boom. KS: Boom. Samsung, they got over the hump of everybody not trusting them with the S8, because that came out after the Note. KS: I still don’t trust them. Well, I mean, neither do I. KS: I don’t have the phone, it doesn’t matter. LG: I would at this point. They have an eight-point check. KS: Nobody’s going to trust them enough. Whatever. They run it through a bunch of tests and make sure. The other thing is, they chose to put, I think, a smaller battery into the Note8 than they probably otherwise could have if they wanted to be a little bit more aggressive. It still should last a full day, but they could have gone in with a much more powerful, bigger battery and I think they chose not to. I’m not in particular worried about this phone exploding. What’s interesting is this angle that Samsung has been taking that this is a ... “We made this thing because people want the stylus so bad, we had to, the fans made us do it,” is a really clever way to have the exploding in the background and not try to completely pretend that didn’t happen, but say that even though this thing exploded we had to do it for the fans. That’s not totally wrong. People do love the stylus for various, strange reasons that are arcane to me. LG: I think at this point, your concerns have to be less technical. It doesn’t seem — knock on wood — as though there’re going to be exploding battery issues this time around, so far. More about whether or not you care that the company really resisted the idea of the recall last year even after this became a known problem and really dragged its feet in addressing this and had to implement a battery safety check that clearly was not in place beforehand. If you take issue with that as a consumer in general, then that’s your choice. Now I feel like I’m gonna just eat my foot when something goes wrong, but we haven’t seen any issues yet with the Note8 or the S8 as far as we know. KS: Right. Well, but nothing can go wrong pretty much. Nothing can go wrong with this phone. If anything goes wrong with this phone, they are deeply, deeply in trouble. KS: So it’s an important phone for them, talk about why it’s important. They have different product lines, they’ve got TVs, home appliances, all kinds of things. How important is the mobile part of it? That makes them the most money out of all their divisions. Samsung’s got — they make boats, right? They make literally everything — but this is the thing that makes them the most money. It’s also the thing they do a really good job of pushing their divisions forward technically by having successful phones. Samsung makes all the OLED for most phones, LG’s gonna make a bunch soon, and they wouldn’t be as good at making OLED screens if they didn’t sell a lot of phones. KS: Have their phones? Have their own phones. KS: They make all these phones in Korea, is that correct? Yeah. KS: Is there any ... I hate to bring in international affairs but with all this tension on that peninsula it’s ... Not to mention their executives being arrested. KS: Getting arrested. LG: Corruption issues. KS: Yeah. Their top executive. Let’s be clear. This phone is important as a people, if they can make this phone, not necessarily sell a ton, but be respected and not explode then it’s a little bit of a build of their brand moment and distract from other problems. KS: Because there’s so many. Yeah, they’re so many of them. Again, I don’t expect that this thing is gonna outsell Samsung’s other phones. I think that the S8 is still gonna sell way more. KS: What do they think they’re gonna sell of these? I have no idea. KS: No idea. Do you know how many they sold of the other before ...? Not off the top of my head. LG: What’s interesting is that after the Note7 exploded, Samsung started giving those customers S7s. So they actually, they inadvertently expanded their footprint for S7s quite a bit, because they had to use it as a replacement phone. KS: Yeah. Yeah, they claim the vast majority of people who came in to turn in their old Notes got S7s instead of switching to iPhone. KS: They’re different phones. Let’s talk about the other Android phones you’ve reviewed. The Pixel, Essential and let’s talk a little about the Essential phone launch. First let’s talk about Pixel and the others, how they’re doing. LG: ’Cause you’re saying ... how does this compare? KS: Whose is the best? They make the best Android phones, Samsung. Pixel is coming up on a year old now. We are expecting that Google is going to announce a couple of new Pixels in October. The rumors say there will be a Pixel XL, Pixel XL2, which will be a big phone, then a smaller Pixel that will be more like last year’s Pixel. I guess I should say. We’ve been talking about the Note, we’re gonna talk about the Pixels here in a minute. There’s the Essential phone and the iPhones are coming. Do not buy a phone right now. Just super don’t. Wait until you’ve seen everything, the rest of these announcements coming. KS: November. At least Apple and Google and then you can probably be out. The other phone that’s around is, LG has a new flagship phone called the V30, which is another one of these bezeled phones but it has a headphone jack with a really high-quality audio processor. KS: An old headphone jack. Yeah. Proper headphone jack. LG: Aww, retro. KS: And I have headphones. All these Android phones have basically the same internals. They all have basically the same processors, they basically do the same things. There’s some software bits to differentiate them but they really don’t differentiate it that much for most people who end up using the basic software stuff. We’ll see if the Pixel, the new Pixels that are coming out will have some kind of special thing to them beyond just that there’s less crap on them like there is on an LG phone or a Samsung phone. Basically if you, again, wait until everything’s been announced, if you can walk into a store and just look at these and pick the one that seems nicest to you, you’re going to be fine. If you’re buying a quote unquote “flagship” phone you’re going to be fine. You get into some weird nuances. For example, this Essential phone. I really like it, I think it has incredibly great, beautiful hardware, the aesthetic of it, I don’t know, they feel like they fit my personality really well, which is maybe a weird thing to say about a phone, but the cameras are disappointing, it’s not that great of a camera. So I actually don’t think it’s worth the money, it’s a $700 phone and I don’t know that if you’re going to spend $700 on a phone you should assume that is has just a killer top-tier camera. The Essential phone doesn’t quite reach that, but the best stuff from LG, HTC, Samsung and Google all will. KS: All right, so talk about the Essential, which turns out to be not so. Not so. LG: Tell people what the Essential phone is first, since it is a new enter into the market. Yeah, you mentioned at the top, Andy Rubin has a new startup that’s been funded to the tune of a billion dollars, the creator of Android. He thinks it should be possible to create premium-quality consumer products without having a massive, giant company infrastructure behind ’em. KS: Is this true? Mostly. At least, if the Essential phone is any indication. It was a little bit delayed since he announced it at the Code Conference. Like I said, the camera isn’t quite as great as I think it ought to be, but also they’re a relatively tiny startup and they had some problems launching. One of them was with customer service, they had some customers that they didn’t know if they were real or fraud, so they did the thing that small companies do, which is, “Hey, prove you’re real, send me a picture of your driver’s license.” That’s not a great thing to do customer service-wise but it’s not wildly unheard of. What is wildly unheard of is, the email that they had everybody reply to turned out to be a group email, so something around 70 people ended up sending pictures of their driver’s licenses to each other. KS: Oh dear. Oh dear. It’s the most ridiculous thing. KS: You can’t take that back. No, you know, he posted an apology. KS: You still can’t take that back. I was also not a fan of the apology. The apology started with a paragraph of him talking about life is hard as a startup founder. KS: Too bad, you rich Andy Rubin. Andy, nobody feels bad for you, even for a second. In the same way that the Note8 is marketing for the rest of what Samsung is doing, I feel like the Essential phone is marketing, make a little money in the meantime for the rest of what Andy Rubin is trying to do, which is create the abstract layer on top of all the other crap in your house. All the smart home stuff in your house all speaks different languages and getting them to work together is a huge pain. He thinks he can — with his Essential Home, which is a smart speaker thing with a big giant round display on it — create a way for all that stuff to intercommunicate through his Essential Home. KS: That’s a hill many have died on having ... We’ll see. KS: It’s true. He also thinks he’s going to get multiple. KS: It’s true! It’s like Heartbreak Ridge. Heartbreak home organizational Ridge. LG: Heartbreak OS. KS: OS, I’m telling you. I’m old and I’ve seen it a hundred times. Yeah. KS: It’s real sad. Ooh no. We’ll see. KS: Mowed down by the machine gun nest once again. He’s also trying to get both Alexa and Cortana and I don’t know Google Assistant and maybe even Siri all to run on the speaker. KS: And they don’t want that. LG: Sonos has been trying that for a while. Yeah. Sonos is also saying they’re going to do that. KS: I like those Sonos. LG: Sonos has been around for a while too. KS: Yeah, they have. They’ve stuck it out. LG: They’ll eventually prove themselves as a hardware startup. They’ve been around for at least a decade. KS: Yeah, they’ve pushed it. Well, and Sonos has a new speaker with a microphone coming pretty soon. KS: Oh wow. Everyone has one. LG: Yeah, it’s fall hardware season! I was not exaggerating. Google Home. They’re all fine. KS: They’re all fine. LG: Didn’t you tweet this the other day? Dieter tweeted the other day something about how it’s actually harder to say “Okay, Google” than it is to say “Alexa.” KS: It is. LG: “Alexa” is melodious and it feels nice when you say it. KS: “Okay, Google” is a pain. I kept yelling at it. LG: “Okay, Google” is ... If you say Google 15 times, by the time you get to the end, you’ve swallowed your tongue. KS: I just kept yelling at it, “Google!” and I realized I had to say “okay.” You can also say, “Hey.” KS: Really? “Hey, Google.” KS: I don’t want to say that. LG: Hey, Google. KS: I want to say what I want to say. LG: Just say Alexa. Alexa flows. KS: I don’t know. They can’t let you say what you want to say because they need to tune the microphones to listen to the particular syllables of the key word in that particular order. KS: I don’t care for their problems. I don’t care what their problems are, you see? They have to put the doors on the ceiling because it’s easier for the designers. I don’t care. Like, geez! You’ve lived too long, and I don’t like that. I would like them to change it. It’s nice that a startup does phones, though, instead of these big ... We’re going to see two behemoths come out with phones. What are the chances for the Essential? How many have they sold or are they not saying? They have been talking about selling a million phones a year, I think that is wildly optimistic. I think that if we’re ... KS: To be a Palm, like, correct? Right, I mean. Palm managed to sell that in a year. LG: You just went straight to Dieter’s heart. KS: Oh does he love his Palm? LG: He loves Palm. KS: Remember when Roger McNamee made that dumb mirror and got in that fight onstage? All thanks to the “ladies can use the mirror.” The Palm Print is coming back, apparently. LG: Well it’s webOS. WebOS, that’s on LG TVs now and that’s gone. LG: The actual Palm, who owns that? A company called TCL that also makes BlackBerry phones, they also make Alcatel phones, they make TVs, they bought the Palm brand in some random auction and then they put up a website ... LG: It’s like the Polaroid brand. And they asked people, “What do you want us to do?” and people were like, “Make a phone,” and they were like, “Okay, we’ll come back to you later.” Apparently they’re going to do it. KS: I feel like that ship should sail and just keep sailing, the ghost ship of Roger McNamee. Who was the other guy involved in that? Oh, John. John Rubinstein. LG: By Rubin, Rubinstein. KS: John Rubinstein. I remember them on that stage. Yep. Ed Colligan. KS: They had a big launch at CES. Do you remember? They had that big thing? He and Rogers wearing his crazy hair. My favorite terrible Palm launch story when they announced their last stuff. The TouchPad and the Pre3 and the Veer. KS: Veer! I think I have it in a box. They had this event in San Francisco in some giant warehouse called Fort Mason. I got there early and heard them rehearsing. I was able to scoop the name of the TouchPad because I was standing outside the door while they were rehearsing a few hours before the event. KS: What was the name? It was called the TouchPad. Just terrible. KS: Wow, that was a great scoop. LG: What year was that? 2011? 2012? LG: Wait, this was the HP TouchPad? Yeah, yeah. LG: Oh yes. KS: Were you frantic when you got that? When you typed that in? It crashed our website. KS: Did it? Because we had too much traffic on the UCMS. KS: You’re kidding. I had to blog the rest of the day using AOL Instant Messenger, sending messages back. KS: What do you think would crash your website right now? If you have the iPhone 8, right? LG: Probably, I don’t know. Our website would never crash. Vox Media has the best ... KS: All fine! If you have the iPhone 8 and were playing with it, probably that would be quite of interest. That would be a good day. LG: Yeah. I found it in a bar. KS: Yeah, and stole it. It’s nice to have a startup trying. It’s nice to have a startup trying. It’s pretty impressive that they were able to make a phone as good as it is. It almost is a little depressing that there aren’t more companies trying. KS: There aren’t. Because honestly, like I was saying before, if you get all parts right on the inside, and Android phone is an Android phone is an Android phone. So the original dream that Andy Rubin had for Android was that there would be lots and lots of companies making lots and lots of phones that were really good. That basically happened except that Samsung rolled in like a juggernaut and sucked all the air up. Somehow when you talk about Android phone, there’s only a handful that really matter. If there was a better, cleaner ecosystem for it, you should be able to go buy lots of phones that are all just as good. That’s not really the case. KS: It’s certainly not the Tesla of phones, the Essential. No. LG: And none of them have the same kind of power, too. They all end up with a lot of bloatware or they end up just making sacrifices in some way because they can’t command the same market attention that the high-end ones do. KS: Well there are a lot. Would you buy the Note? I think the Note is probably a little bit too big for me. Also, the stylus isn’t worth the price premium, to me. KS: Right, right. I’m much more likely to get a slightly smaller phone. I was using the tiny little iPhone SE for a while, I really liked it. KS: Wow, don’t go back to tiny. Go back. KS: All right, in a minute we’re going to take some questions about the Galaxy Note8 from our readers. It just came out, and listeners, Dieter is going to answer them. But first we’re going to take a quick break for a word from one of our sponsors. LG: Ka-ching, which is the price of the phone. It’s a ka-ching, it’s many ka-chings. KS: All right, enough with the ka-chings. Now I’m going to read the sponsor’s situation. [ad] We’re back with Dieter Bohn from The Verge, talking about the Samsung Galaxy Note8, now we’re going to take some questions from our readers and listeners. Lauren, would you like to ask the first question? LG: I would like to because it’s an obvious one. It’s obvious because Greg says it’s obvious. @Supersetgreg said, “I’ll ask the obvious. How’s the battery life?” It is better than I expected given that they were not aggressive with the battery. Dan gave it the full review, he said he was able to get a day, maybe just a little bit over a day if he’s careful. It also has 15 different ways to charge it whereas wireless charging does fast charging through their USBC port. It’s not going to give you two days, it’s not gonna wildly impress you, but it seems like every phone maker just targets “we’ll make a day” and every phone maker is basically getting there. I would like to see a phone that lasts way longer, but apparently that’s never gonna happen for me. KS: Never. Never. You’ll be long gone. Your children will enjoy it, though. Yeah. KS: Yeah. Zachary, I’m not gonna read @something: “Maybe too soon to ask, but how does the LG V30 compare to the Note8?” And related, hold on, Rick Simpson: “Is an edge-to-edge display enough to bring back users Samsung lost last year after the spontaneous combustion fiasco?” I like that better than the explosion. The spontaneous combustion. The spontaneous combustion fiasco? So, I haven’t seen the two screens side by side, they are different. The LG has a flat screen and the Note curves, though not as much as the S8 curves. It’s a subtler curve at the edges. I don’t think an edge-to-edge screen is gonna be impressive to anybody, at all ever again, in like two months. We’ve seen them on Samsung phones, we’ve seen them on this LG phone, we’ve seen it on the Essential phone, we’re gonna probably see it one of the new Google phones and iPhone, I don’t know. Every phone is going to do have either literally an edge-to-edge screen or something very, very close to it. That’s not going to be a differentiating thing anymore. That won’t bring anybody back. I think that if you’re making the decision between the V30 and the Note based on the tech specs of the screen and which one is slightly more beautiful, you’re probably doing it wrong. You’re gonna have a much bigger impact on your life and the quality of the cameras, whether or not you have a headphone jack, whether or not you care about the stylus. KS: Headphone jack. Interesting. I like the edge to edge, and supposedly the iPhone’s going to have that, right? Yep. One of them. KS: Allegedly. Allegedly there’s going to be updates to the current iPhones and then there’s going to be a new fancy super iPhone. KS: Yeah, I’m probably going to get that. What’s that, $3 million? We’re expecting it to start at a thousand bucks. LG: It’s gonna be ... What’s the phrase that I think John Gruber used with the watch? “Get out the fainting couch”? Seventeen thousand dollar gold Apple watch. It’s gonna be like that. No, it’s really not, but ... KS: Ugh. I wonder how many people, we should find those people. To see how they feel about their ... LG: Laurene Powell Jobs was just seen wearing one. KS: Oh really. She probably got it free. LG: There were pictures of her — I think she was on a vacation or something — in the tabloids and she’s got a gold Apple watch. KS: She got it free. Don’t you think she got it free? LG: I think she knew someone. KS: I think she knows someone. LG: Peoples. KS: By the way, everyone please go see her ad that she did on DACA. With Reagan. LG: Yes, with Ronald Reagan. KS: She’s very clever. She’s done a lot of clever things in that genre of protest. Very clever. LG: She has indeed. She’s spoke at Code Conference about it, too. KS: And she’s got the gold watch. She did. She did. And she has the gold watch, she wasn’t wearing a gold iPhone watch there, was she? LG: No, she wasn’t. These were like tabloid photos and I think it might have been a British publication. You know how the Brits, the tabloids they really get in there. KS: Anyway, they’ll be cool. Next question, Lauren. LG: Next question is from Max Buondonno, his handle is @LegendaryScoop. “How come smartphone manufacturers don’t realize their bloatware and junkware situations are so bad?” I think they do realize it, I think we all realize it, but they continue to do it. Then Max retweeted Dan Seifert who tweeted the other day: “The LG V30’s garbage bloatware includes lockscreen ads. Awesome to see on a $750 phone.” Obviously Dan was being sarcastic about that. So Dieter, talk about bloatware. KS: Crapware. LG: Kara hates it too. I think the last time I was on this podcast I brought the evil god of ARPU, average revenue per user. They get lots of money. Carriers get lots of money by putting crap around these things. So does Samsung. If it can have them make an extra 5, 10, 15, 50, 100 bucks on a phone to put a bunch of crap around there, they’re gonna do it. That’s just the long and the short of it. KS: Imagine being an ad on a Louis Vuitton bag. Right? KS: Think about it. LG: But it’s the low cost of ... Amazon is also selling pretty cheap Android phones through amazon.com. KS: I don’t mind if it’s cheap. LG: If you only get them, I think you can get them for $50 to $100, but you’re going to see Amazon ads on the phone. KS: But I just paid for premium Spotify because I was sick of the ads. That’s how it should go. You pay? Yeah, the places where you can trust you’re gonna get a phone without a ton of crapware are Apple phone, buying a phone directly from Google, this Essential phone doesn’t have anything on it. You sometimes can get lucky if you buy a phone unlocked directly from the manufacturer. You’ll still get some stuff, especially from a company like Samsung but it’s usually less stuff. If it matters to you, you do have options to avoid it. It’s just not as easy as it should be. KS: No class. LG: Mm-hmm. KS: No class, Samsung, I give you a zero on that one. Next question, Daniel Hanna, @DanielHana: “Why not collaborate on Google on stock apps instead? Complete the great hardware, excellent support and reliability.” I think it’s compete with Google. Yeah. They tried that once. There used to be this thing called Google Play Edition of phones. Samsung and HTC both made it. I think they sold precisely six of them, so they didn’t do it again. That’s kind of it. They can’t differentiate enough, there’s not enough sales channels and Samsung wants people to believe that Samsung has a software ecosystem. That’s why they’ve made this Bixby little yappy dog version of an intelligent assistant. KS: Yappy dog. Bixby is ... Bixby sounds like a little yappy dog. KS: Bixby is a British butler. Or a kid that you don’t play with. “I don’t want to play with Bixby.” “Bixby smells.” KS: Bixby doesn’t smell, Bixby has other issues but not smell. If they just make a quote unquote stock Android phone, why would you buy that instead of a Pixel is kind of their attitude. They want to differentiate. Also they didn’t sell well, so why’d they put in the effort? LG: Personally, I love Samsung Milk. KS: “Bixby” is probably a name that San Francisco parents are gonna like now. LG: Bixby. KS: Do not name your child Bixby. Doesn’t it feel like that? LG: I don’t know. I haven’t seen those stories yet. Were there stories about people naming their kids Siri after Siri? KS: No, but Bixby is ... Did you see the story about the woman whose name is literally Alexa Siri? LG: Stop it. No, she called her life a waking nightmare. LG: I shouldn’t laugh, I feel bad for this woman. No virtual assistants in their home. KS: Okay, explain this tweetstorm we got, Lauren. LG: Okay, tweetstorm from Samantha Yammine, I’m just gonna summarize it here. The first thing she said is, “Is the Google Pixel 2 going to have fixes to its huge shortcomings that no tech reviewers has called it out on yet?” She says the camera on the Google Pixel sucks when use in Snapchat and Instagram because the camera is software-based and she actually sent us a side-by-side comparison of taking a photo in one of those apps versus the native Pixel cam and asks, “Which new fall phone actually has the best camera?” Okay, so Dieter, what do you think about the Google Pixel as it is now, the camera? How is it going to improve? Is it going to improve? And then she’s asking generally what the best camera is. We know it’s not Essential. This is a loaded question. Well, there’s actually a lot of interesting things embedded in those questions. Android has not traditionally been as good at cameras as the iPhone up until basically a year and a half, two years ago. A lot of that is, they don’t have as tightly integrated a software and hardware solution as Apple does. Relatively recently, Samsung, then Google, and LG, all kind of figured it out, but that integrated solution that they figured out doesn’t necessarily apply to other third-party apps like Snapchat. And we all know that, also, a bunch of third-party apps like Snapchat pay more attention to the quality and their performance on the iPhone then they do on Android, even though Android is extensively a bigger addressable market. There’s just more money on the iPhone then there is on Android right now, even though there’s millions and millions more Android phones than iPhones. Wrap all that up and you end up in a situation where even though you can get a camera on an Android phone that is as good if not better than what you can get on an iPhone, that doesn’t mean that the support for that camera in third-party software is going to be as good. That’s just the way of the world. KS: They make everything for the iPhone. What’s the best camera of the fall? I don’t know, talk to me in late October after we’ve reviewed all of them. KS: They’re all pretty good, though. Boy, they’re all pretty good. They’re all pretty good. LG: They’re all getting pretty good. At the top end they are. LG: Can we just say, though, that the front-facing cameras should stop being so good? We just have these front-facing cameras where everyone takes selfies and they apply filter after filter after filter to actually reduce the resolution of the front-facing cameras. We should just start out with a low-resolution, low-level front-facing camera for vanity’s sake. You should put a piece of scotch tape over it. KS: Yeah, put a piece of scotch tape over it. This is a bad idea. LG: Well, I don’t have a Lumee case on like Kara. KS: I do, it’s a gift from my friend, Kim Kardashian. A gift. LG: I know. KS: I have the letter. “Here you go Kara, enjoy.” LG: I was with someone this weekend who had a Lumee case, legit using the Lumee case, and very excited by it. KS: It works. You look amazing using it. She’s 100 percent correct, you look 400 times better using the Lumee case. I wouldn’t. The less you see, the better. KS: Well, okay, all right. LG: See, low-resolution front-facing cameras. KS: Marco Lodola: “The Note8 barely keeps up with the aged iPhone Plus, especially in video editing. Shouldn’t we wait for the S9?” Marco is concerned about that. I don’t know, if you think the S9 is going to magically change all problems of Android, then sure go ahead and wait. But if you’re gonna wait for something slightly better in the future, then you’re never going to buy a phone. When you need a phone, you’ll get a phone — unless it is July, August or September, then you should wait till the new phones come out. LG: All right. Why wait until it’s going to be March, April 2018? Marco, live your life now. Live life for today. KS: Pay another thousand in three months. LG: We don’t know what will happen. Who knows? All right, next question is from @zduboss, who asks, “How’s the pen on the Note8? I love to doodle and this sounds like a great mobile sketchpad.” I think a good way to address this is not only how’s the pen — because you talked about it a little bit earlier — but is the pen better than earlier styluses. It’s waterproof now. LG: So that’s good. They added more levels of sensitivity compared to the Note5, but it’s the same as the Note6. I’ve found that the pen feel when you’re writing on the screen is slightly better than it was on previous Notes. It didn’t quite glide quite as slickly. There’s a little bit more traction there. KS: How about losing the pen? Is there anymore ... Yeah, you’re on your own there. KS: Yeah. LG: Yeah. Or putting it in the wrong way, too, that was a thing for a while where people would put it ... KS: That was a thing where people would put it in and it would break or get caught in there. That’s not a thing now. It’s fine now. LG: Honestly, there’s a built-in spot for the pen, if you lose it. It’s not like the iPad pen, pencil, whatever, you lose it. Well, there’s nothing magnetic keeping it to the main device. This is ... literally, it has a slot for you. It’s got a silo. LG: Silo, that’s not what I was, sleeve. KS: Sleeve. All right, last question from this guy, he’s retired and is such a pain in the ass, nothing to do but smoke cigars and send us obnoxious notes. Here we go. @WaltMossberg. Who’s that? KS: I don’t know, he was a one-time tech reviewer I think at some point of some note. All right: “Dear @baclon.” He can’t even address you by your full name. That is my name. KS: I know, I get that, but still. He could have said, “Hello Dieter, how are you doing?” “Why are none of the new fall smartphones using webOS? Please explain in detail why it would be better if they did. Thanks.” He’s trolling you. Yeah. I have an answer, Walt. It’s because life is suffering. KS: No, it’s @WaltMossberg. Why aren’t they doing this? Life is pain and nothing will ever be good. That’s why. LG: What would a webOS phone look like today? Man, I don’t know. It would be weird. HP would screw it up inevitably. The design and direction they were going for was more angled. There was lots of funny, weird, sharp corners and stuff, but they probably would have moved away from that again by now. I think it would basically look like a Zune. KS: Zunes. Probably just go back to Zune. KS: Those were the days, my friend. I have one of those somewhere. Do you have yours? I don’t have mine. LG: Should have never thrown it out. Did you have the brown one? KS: I had the brown one. It’s the best one. KS: Yeah, it’s the best one. Every time I look at it, I open a box and there it is and I’m like [laughs] then I close the box. It’s next to the Palm Pilot, next to one of the BlackBerrys. I don’t know, they’re all in there. LG: I have a lot of old BlackBerrys, I’m not sure I had a Palm Pilot. I think I have a Palm Pilot somewhere. Before we let you go, give us a quick preview of what we can expect next week at the Apple event because that’s what we’re going to be talking about on next week’s podcast. Yeah. Like I said earlier, I think three models of iPhone updates for the 7 and 7 Plus will be updates. KS: Mind blowing! Mind blowing. I don’t know, I think they’ll have some great cameras that will work really well with the ARKit. KS: Who’s the celebrity? Who’s the celebrity? Oh man. LG: I don’t know. Who’s going to play the event? It’s in the new Steve Jobs Theater, which is on the new campus, which very few people have been to. It’s a new auditorium, which I believe is based on floor plans that we’ve seen is actually underground. KS: Oh. LG: Is that good for Wi-Fi and acoustics or bad? We shall see. KS: They’ll have Wi-Fi. Steve, handle the Wi-Fi for the people of the press. LG: I do wonder who’s the celebrity person going to be? It was Sia last year. KS: Who is the celebrity? Guess the celebrity? LG: Drake. Drake. LG: I think, the Weeknd was a couple years ago. But he already did, he already did it once too. LG: Oh he did? KS: Who else? LG: Remember when the Weeknd came out and people were like, “Who?” People didn’t know who the Weeknd was. LG: Now he’s a big deal. KS: Travis Kalanick with a new Uber. Geofencing. LG: Now he’s with Selener. I am stumped. KS: Who would it be? I hope it’s not like the Chainsmokers. KS: It’s Beyonce. I’m calling it right here. Beyonce. LG: Is it Beyonce? If they get Beyonce, I mean I’m the guy that leaves during the concert so I can go be first in line to take pictures but if it’s Beyonce, I’m never leaving that theater. I’m just going to sit there in my seat in the hopes that maybe someday. KS: Are you a Bee? Are you one of the Bees? What is it called, the Bee Keeper? What do they call themselves? The Bee ... LG: I don’t know. KS: It’s a group, they swarm people when they’re mean to Beyonce online. LG: That sounds good. KS: Yeah. LG: I’ll be a Bee. In addition to the iPhones, two updates plus the new iPhone 8, iPhone Pro whatever you’re gonna call it, it’ll be fancy and it won’t have a home button. You’ll unlock it with your face. LG: Which one? The iPhone 8, the iPhone Pro. We don’t know what it’s going to be called yet. But it’s the bezel-less super iPhone. OLED screen and unlock with your face and all the details of it, all the big ones have leaked. KS: A picture of my face. No, because it has 3-D scanning so a picture won’t work, but if someone took a mold of your face, that could potentially work. KS: They do that. My fans do that. Yes. LG: You know what the thing is with the fingerprint sensors, or unlocking on the back is when you’re driving. I feel like there’s this ... KS: Why are you driving and opening your phone? LG: Because sometimes when you’re driving if you have an old car ... KS: Nay. Nay. LG: Or you like old cars and you happen to have some type of dock or after-market solution and you need to reach over and just press the home button because you just need the thing to light up. KS: Do you know what I do? I change the ... It doesn’t go off when I’m in the phone before I start the car. Then it just stays open. If you have an Android phone, you just turn on Android Auto and the screen stays on. LG: Well Android, see, I like Android Auto. Apple’s coming out with some version of a limited iOS capabilities for when people are driving, but I think Android Auto is a great solution. Anyway, I just went off on a tangent. What else can we expect to see if anything else? I think we’re going to see an updated version of the Apple TV that’ll support HDR and Dolby and hopefully 4K. We’re also expecting an Apple Watch that will have LTE built in so that you can have your battery drain even faster. KS: Oh good. Over and under, and how many women will be onstage? Two, right? They usually get to two. I think they’re gonna get to three. KS: Three? Crazy. LG: Who do you think it’ll be? So Bozoma Saint John? KS: No. She’s out. She’s out. LG: She went to Uber. Jennifer Bailey runs Apple Pay. KS: Oh, true. LG: She sometimes makes appearances at these kinds of events. Although is she backstage? I’m trying to think. I always see ... she and Angela Ahrendts are always around. They just had Lisa Jackson on last time, but they could bring her out again. LG: Oh yeah. KS: So you’re going with three? I’m going with three. KS: I’m going with one. I’m gonna say that, okay? I’m interviewing Bozoma next week at Code Commerce. LG: Oh, you are? KS: The Code Commerce conference, yes. LG: That’s great. There’s a great line up for that conference. KS: I know, my friends. Bozoma and I are gonna work it out. LG: It’s kind of crazy. KS: I’m not gonna be quite as nice as the New York Times has been to her, but I’m gonna ask her some tough questions. I have some questions for Boz. Is your first question, “Really? Uber? Really?” KS: No. I just ... No. Yes. I’m just gonna do that. “Really?” and she’s gonna answer ... That would be my technique. KS: And I’m gonna go, “Really?” LG: You can say what you said last time. “Enron wasn’t available?” Isn’t that what you asked Frances Frei? KS: Yes I did. That’s good. I think I’ll do that. Boz will smack me hard. Frances is real nice. LG: You know what else we’re gonna see at the Apple — we don’t know if we’re gonna see at the Apple event, but will be rolling out shortly, which actually matters to people who are not going to be upgrading to new hardware – is the software releases. KS: Yep. Yep. LG: We’ve heard about iOS 11, we’ve heard about Mac OS High Sierra, we’ve heard about the new Watch software. If you’re not planning on getting new hardware this fall and you have I-devices, you can still expect to see some changes. KS: Yes. Some of the updates on the iOS 11 are going to drive people crazy. KS: So you guys will be busy. I will be in New York at Code Commerce but you will be busy. Very good. Super busy. LG: And I’m going to wake you up really early to tape a podcast with me, so you’re welcome. KS: Oh, you are? No, we’re not going to do that. We’ll figure it out. Anyway, this has been another great episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask. Dieter, even though Walt doesn’t call you that, thank you so much. You’re welcome. Thank you for having me on.

Read More...