Data Sheet—Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Good morning. I write today with praise not so much for new technology as to praise a master tech-industry storyteller.

Andy Rubin, inventor of Android, has launched a new company, Essential. It promises to be an exciting development, no matter its success. Out of the gate, Essential debuted a gorgeous new phone to take on Apple’s iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy series, Google’s Pixel, and a very long list of other competitors. It also promises an in-home device with a speaker and a screen to compete with Amazon’s family of devices built around its Alexa personal assistant as well as the Home gadget from Google, where Rubin once worked.

I’m the wrong one to ask if Rubin’s craftsmanship will cut through the clutter. I can stop to admire a skilled marketer, however. I say this because I woke up Tuesday morning in San Francisco—a rarity for me these days—to full-page newspaper ads with a letter from Rubin announcing Essential’s existence. He said little in the ads, other than that he was launching a new company and wanted consumers to hear about it from him, not the media.

His minions did carefully plant some details in the media, of course, specifically with the excellent gadget site The Verge, whose sister publication, Recode, happened to be hosting a conference beginning Tuesday night at which, yes, Rubin spoke.

Rubin is wonderfully incendiary. He stresses the simplicity of his devices compared with the unnecessary additions foisted on consumers by competitors, including Apple. Wait a second, that’s what Steve Jobs used to do too. Jobs also legendarily managed his product launches, complete with carefully placed “exclusives” with his publications of choice and the right public appearances. Jobs, who died in 2011, was a lover of print media too. This made Rubin’s decision to unveil Essential in print particularly delicious and old school.

I’m hoping Essential makes it if for no other reason than to see what additional excitement Rubin causes along the way.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

NEWSWORTHY

Ink blot test. The Supreme Court threw out Lexmark's efforts to use patent law to block customers from buying refilled ink cartridges to save money. In a unanimous ruling, the court said a manufacturer's patent rights ended when a product was sold, reaffirming the "first sale" doctrine.

Messier and messier. Uber fired Anthony Levandowski, the executive who had previously worked at Google's Waymo self-driving car unit. Waymo is suing Uber, alleging that Levandowski stole trade secrets, but the executive declined to cooperate with Uber's defense efforts, according to a leaked email.

We'll let you know. The United States is not barring passengers from using laptops on all Europe-to-U.S. flights. Yet. But a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security says the idea "is still on the table."

Don't blink. Shadow Brokers, the mystery group that's been publishing NSA hacking tools, says it has another batch coming in July. So it's a good timing for Cisco and IBM to start working more closely on sharing cyber-threats. Cisco's Talos team and IBM's X-Force will coordinate on big incidents in the future. They probably won't be waiting long.

Strangely enough, it all turns out well. Audible, the audio book seller owned by Amazon, will spend $5 million commissioning new audio plays. Grants will be made by an advisory board that includes playwrights Lynn Nottage and Tom Stoppard as well as actress Annette Bening.

Just dropping in. Meanwhile, they're still thinking up new ideas at Amazon. The e-commerce giant received a patent this week for a shipping label with a built in parachute for use with drone-delivered packages.

Follow me everywhere. At the Computex trade show, Microsoft announced its "always connected PCs" initiative to put e-SIM cards in laptops and use wireless modems from Intel and Qualcomm for mobile Internet connections on the go.

It's been a while. Alphabet's Nest subsidiary finally has a new product. The Verge got a sneak peek at the Nest Cam IQ, a redesigned home security camera. The $300 device has a night vision mode and uses some fancy image recognition for additional home monitoring tricks.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Congress has struggled getting much done, despite the fact that Republicans control both chambers and the White House. But one of the biggest achievements so far came on Internet privacy protection, where lawmakers quickly found common ground to roll back landmark rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission.

Now Washington Post reporter Kimberly Kindy has the behind-the-scenes story about how lobbyists from both big Internet companies and the telephone and cable industry came together to defeat the rules.

“This collaboration between Silicon Valley and cable companies has never been done before,” Gene Kimmelman, president of nonprofit advocacy group Public Knowledge, told Kindy. “Their united, massive economic and political power was insurmountable.”

BEFORE YOU GO

They are the mystery hacking group that, as I noted in today's news, has released apps from the NSA's cyber-arsenal with plans to keep going. But just who are the Shadow Brokers? Security expert Bruce Schneier digs into the puzzle on his blog. He starts, like Sherlock Holmes, by eliminating some possibilities, so whatever remains, no matter how improbable, is the answer.

"I also don't think that it's random hackers who stumbled on these tools and are just trying to harm the NSA or the US. Again, the three-year wait makes no sense. These documents and tools are cyber-Kryptonite; anyone who is secretly hoarding them is in danger from half the intelligence agencies in the world. Additionally, the publication schedule doesn't make sense for the leakers to be cybercriminals."

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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