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Essential Tries To Cut Through the Clutter

May 31, 2017, 1:16 PM UTC

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 (AMZN) family of devices built around its Alexa personal assistant as well as the Home gadget from Google (GOOGL), 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 (AAPL). 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