Data Sheet—Amazon Isn’t Picking an HQ2 Anymore—More Like a Couple of Regional Outposts
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I watched President Trump on television for a bit Monday and heard him repeat a few times “there’s something going on” with Republicans in advance of the midterm elections. It was a calorie-free statement and a reminder that we live constantly in a reality-TV episode these days.
No tech company has internalized this message better than Amazon.com. In setting up a continent-wide competition for its second headquarters—even sturdy Toronto is in the mix!—the company created the greatest anticipatory business beauty pageant since, well, a certain real estate and licensing huckster created a phenomenally successful phony business TV show. (Long before there was fake news there was fake business.)
Amazon is about to crank up the anticipation. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday the company plans to choose two, not one, new headquarters cities. And the two are most likely Crystal City in Arlington, Va., near Washington D.C. and Long Island City in Queens, New York, the New York Times reports. Some will quibble that two new 25,000-person offices are what’s known as regional outposts, not a headquarters. After all, Amazon already has warehouses around the country. It also has significant offices in Northern California, both in San Francisco and in Silicon Valley, where its Kindle devices were born.
The Amazon announcement is expected any day, though it’d be shocking if it tried to compete with Election Day. (Sharing the news cycle is not good television.) It is to the company’s credit that it has gotten multiple municipalities to prostrate themselves at Amazon’s job-giving feet. They’ve offered billions in tax cuts and other ways to sweeten the pot.
There’s a big difference between the Amazon competition and reality TV, of course. Its business is real, and the stakes for its employees are high. No phony projects or artificial contests here.
And oh, the suspense.
Tech executives figure prominently at Fortune’s MPW International Summit Montreal today. These include WP Engine’s Heather Brunner, Barbara Humpton of Siemens USA, IBM’s Ranit Aharonov, and Caroline Louveaux of Mastercard. Follow the event at Fortune.com.
I am calling to let you know. Tired of the proliferation of mindless robo-calls, many of which are scams? So is Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai. He sent a letter to the big telecom providers asking how they’re going to do better and why they haven’t improved call authentication systems yet, as many robocallers spoof their caller ID.
Leading from the top. Sticking in telecom land, new Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg has decided to revamp his org structure around customers, not products. Out go the existing units for wireless and wired networks. In the new structure, one unit is devoted to all consumer services, a second to business, and a third will handle media and advertising (the former Oath now being renamed Verizon Media Group). Underlying them all and running the systems will be a fourth unit called Global Network and Technology. “The customers will actually have access to all the assets we have,” Vestberg tells the Wall Street Journal.
Scammed and delayed. We put up with the new chip-enabled credit and debit cards with their longer delay to check out because #security, right? But we may not be getting better security, despite the encryption the EMV chips provide. Of more than 60 million cases of credit card theft in the past 12 months, 93% involved chip cards, research firm Gemini Advisory reports. It seems thieves get the credit card numbers due to flaws in retailer systems and then print up non-chip mag stripe cards as forgeries that work sans chip.
Table for two. Consolidation is reaching hospitality tech startups. Resy, which offers both restaurant management software and a consumer-facing restaurant reservation platform, announced on Monday that it is acquiring its competitor, Reserve, a dining reservations and recommendations site.
Spewing. Obscure social network Gab, home to extremist right wingers including the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, is back online thanks to new domain registrar Epik. com and a web hosting company that can’t be discerned due to the protection service Cloudflare. The security company told Wired that it has “been vocal about that fact that deep infrastructure companies like Cloudflare should not be in the position to make editorial decisions based on content.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The embargo lifted on reviews of Apple’s newest devices, including the iPad Pro. As usual, reviewers dubbed it the best available tablet, but were uncertain about its prospects to replace a regular laptop for regular work. The Washington Post‘s Geoffrey Fowler went so far as to consult an academic expert on user interface design and human-computer interactions.
It’s ultimately about ergonomics. I called Jack Dennerlein, a professor at Northeastern University who studies the way our bodies interface with tech. “Before the mouse and desktop computing there was a pen or pencil and paper,” he reminded me. My affection for the mouse and trackpad is misplaced, he said: we put them between us and what happens on a computer screen out of technological necessity. It’s actually pretty unnatural—just trying signing your name with one.
When Apple first popularized the mouse in the 80s, people complained it required so much wrist motion. When the iPhone first arrived, people complained it lacked a physical keyboard.
I’m sure we’ll look back on the iPad Pro in the same way, but it still has some evolving to do. Until then, bring back my mouse.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
This Startup Wants to Bring ‘Common Sense’ to Self-Driving Cars By Renae Reints
5G Wireless Networks? Prepare for a Ton of New Equipment By Andrew Nusca
At 7-Eleven? There’s a New Way to Skip Waiting in Line By Aaron Pressman
BEFORE YOU GO
Elon Musk’s old Tesla Roadster and its dummy astronaut were launched into space back in February and sped past Mars’s orbit this week. But a far more mysterious stellar object continues to enthrall astronomers. A new paper about the meteor-like object that passed quickly through the solar system and was dubbed Oumuamua (Hawaiian for “messenger from afar arriving first”) posits that it might be a cast off part from an alien spacecraft, a solar sail. But Oumuamua is long gone now, so we may never now. Set an open course for the virgin sea.
And don’t forget to vote.