Why Jeff Williams May Not Be the Next Apple CEO—Data Sheet

July 30, 2019, 12:46 PM UTC

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A trio of tech snippets—with my take—to start your day:

* Bloomberg Businessweek’s estimable Apple reporter Mark Gurman has a piece in the current issue that calls Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams the heir apparent to his longtime boss, Tim Cook. It reminded me of the feature I wrote in Fortune in 2008 calling Tim Cook the most likely replacement for Steve Jobs. I quoted an unnamed source in that article—still a prominent Silicon Valley personage—calling Cook’s ascension “laughable.” While old-school Apple aficionados will similarly argue vociferously that Williams shouldn’t succeed Cook, Gurman makes a textured and forceful argument why he will. The reason: Smooth operations and profitable services define Apple today more than nifty products and outside-the-box thinking. If I were placing bets, I’d guess that Apple’s board will not choose the next CEO in the mold of the current one, though, just as Cook couldn’t have been more different than Jobs. Seeing as Cook doesn’t appear to going anywhere, the argument seems to be more parlor game than urgent analysis. Apple reports earnings this afternoon.

* An IBM government-affairs official has published a post supporting changes to the key legislation that allows Facebook, YouTube, and others to avoid being regulated and otherwise legally treated like the publishers that they are. (Policy wonks will recognize the law in question as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.) IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has spoken favorably on this topic before, including in a meeting with journalists in San Francisco in February. Breakingviews has a good take on the nuances of IBM’s position.

* We’ll look back one day on the era when travelers paid extra for a service that allowed biometric identification to unlock special access to get through airport security. But for now Clear is a game-changing offering, and my only fear about it is that it will become too popular—because I love it. As mentioned in Monday’s Data Sheet, there were two pieces of great news for coast-to-coast United customers (like me!): discounted memberships for United frequent flyers and the expansion of Clear to Newark.   

Adam Lashinsky

On Twitter: @adamlashinsky

Email: adam_lashinsky@fortune.com


Hand in the cookie jar. A former Amazon software engineer was arrested on Monday in Seattle for hacking into credit card company Capitol One's servers and stealing consumer data from tens of millions of credit card applications. Paige A. Thompson, aka the hacker Erratic, was charged with computer fraud and faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

Disruption in aisle three. Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Amazon is "quietly exploring" creating another grocery chain alongside Whole Foods that would shake up the industry with a greater focus on pickup and delivery options, The New York Times reports. Amazon declined to comment.

The real world. Now a public company and facing greater pressure to, I don't know, turn a profit some day, Uber on Monday cut its marketing department by one-third, laying off 400 people. “This happens naturally as companies get bigger," CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote to his staff in an email obtained by Bloomberg.

That's one way to stop leaks. Google pre-announced that its forthcoming Pixel 4 phone would have a face unlock feature much like current iPhones and will use a form of radar to pick up a user's control gestures made in midair, above the device.

Fly me to the moon. Researchers at the University of California Berkeley built a solar-powered drone with lighter, more efficient photovoltaic cell technology that could transform the industry. The new thermophotovoltaic cells could eventually power a house with a generator the size of an envelope, the researchers said.

I'll be your server for this evening. With more companies following a so-called hybrid cloud strategy, seeking to keep some data and apps on local servers, Google is getting closer to VMware. Google's cloud service will start supporting VMware Cloud Foundation, used by companies who set up hybrid cloud arrangements. Elsewhere in enterprise computing land, Microsoft acquired startup BlueTalon, which helps companies control data sharing, for an undisclosed sum. And AT&T won a 15-year, $1 billion contract to provide communications services to the Justice Department.


My kids use an expression that was new to me: yeet. It means to leave, to bug out, to fly the coop. So let this be the yeeting edition of On the Move...Jon McNeill, who was hired last year to run Lyft’s operations, is leaving the company. His responsibilities will be distributed to others...the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission's cyber unit, Robert Cohen, is stepping down next month...Expedia president Aman Bhutani, who oversees the company's online travel businesses, is leaving for another opportunity...We do have one joiner. Former Homeland Security Advisor and U.S. cybersecurity chief, Tom Bossert, started at start-up Trinity Cyber as chief strategy officer.


As the debate around Facebook's Libra digital currency proposal stirs, it's interesting to recall the history of paper money, itself a wild invention that nearly broke the global financial system. John Lanchester has a wide-ranging recounting of the history of money, filled with plenty of interesting digressions, in The New Yorker. The first paper money was used in China in the 13th century, as explorer Marco Polo discovered.

Marco Polo was right to be amazed. The instruments of trade and finance are inventions, in the same way that creations of art and discoveries of science are inventions—products of the human imagination. Paper money, backed by the authority of the state, was an astonishing innovation, one that reshaped the world. That’s hard to remember: we grow used to the ways we pay our bills and are paid for our work, to the dance of numbers in our bank balances and credit-card statements. It’s only at moments when the system buckles that we start to wonder why these things are worth what they seem to be worth. The credit crunch in 2008 triggered a panic when people throughout the financial system wondered whether the numbers on balance sheets meant what they were supposed to mean. As a direct response to the crisis, in October, 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto, whoever he or she or they might be, published the white paper that outlined the idea of Bitcoin, a new form of money based on nothing but the power of cryptography.


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It ain't my fault that I'm out here makin' news, so goes the super-catchy new tune Juice by Lizzo. The multi-talented singer visited NPR on Monday and spent some time in the network's "Tiny Desk" studio playing some of her new hits. Worth a listen (many expletives in use, however).

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

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