Amazon tries to hold Trump to account, but nothing will come of it
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What is Amazon thinking?
The company’s online software rental unit, Amazon Web Services, has filed suit against the U.S. government (and Microsoft), charging bias by a certain mendacious ex-real estate developer and asking for permission to depose him.
Clearly, Amazon doesn’t understand a few things. It thinks that simply because it asks for Donald Trump, whose behavior would get any CEO of a Fortune 500 company fired, to answer a few questions that he will? It thinks it can openly challenge Trump while the rest of the business world cowers in his presence?
Silly, arrogant tech company.
Much has been made of the circumstantial evidence Amazon presented in its complaint over having lost the famed JEDI cloud computing contract to Microsoft (a potentially $10-billion boo-boo). Yet the document has a certain pot-boiler quality to it. Amazon details other instances of alleged presidential mischief-making, including a wall-building award to Fisher Industries and a change of plans to move the FBI headquarters, a move that would have opened a parcel near Trump’s Washington hotel for redevelopment by a competitor.
Amazon even tosses in the ultimate red meat to antagonize Trump and his Fox News viewers and anchors. It cites Trump’s public interference in the case against Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, a debacle that anyone with common sense knows changed directions when Trump piped up.
It seems pretty obvious to me that nothing will come of all this because nothing ever does. At the end of the day, the Pentagon will be able to say it awarded the deal to an outstandingly well-qualified company and that it is shocked, shocked by the suggestion of presidential interference.
It’s pretty amazing, though, to see one of America’s biggest companies even attempting to speak truth to power.
In honor of today’s New Hampshire primary, Fortune Editor in Chief Clifton Leaf has a modest proposal: Ditch the primary system as we know it. He wonders why we stick to the antiquated practice of letting Iowa and New Hampshire have an outsized role in winnowing out our presidential candidates. It’s an argument worth having.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.
Lead me to your door. The long and winding road for T-Mobile and Sprint appears to finally have reached an end. A federal judge on Tuesday morning ruled that the companies' $26.5 billion merger may go forward. The deal was first announced almost two years ago and could reshape the wireless market by reducing the number of major players from four to three. Sprint's stock price, previously down 8% this year, jumped 65% in pre-market trading on Tuesday. T-Mobile's stock, up 8% in 2020, added another 8%.
Many times I've been alone. Speaking of long waits, fintech startup Varo Money on Monday said it received permission to insure deposits with backing from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and will receive a bank charter soon. Rivals have partnered with traditional banks to provide FDIC insurance for customers.
And many times I've cried. The massive hack of credit bureau Equifax in 2017 was carried out by Chinese intelligence officers, the Justice Department revealed on Monday in an indictment of four of them. But Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke, and Liu Lei are unlikely to return to the United States to face the charges.
Left a pool of tears. Organizers of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, scheduled to start in about two weeks, say they will decide whether to cancel the show by Friday. The announcement came after two more major attendees, chip giant Intel and Chinese phonemaker Vivo, said they would not have employees in attendance, joining Amazon, Sony, and Ericsson among the missing.
It always leads me here. Congratulations, Alexa, you're still number one. Amazon's digital assistant captured 70% of the smart speaker market, according to a new report from eMarketer, versus 32% for the Google Assistant. Poor old Siri from Apple was lumped into the 18% "other" category along with such hitmakers as Invoke and Harmon Kardon (some users, including the Pressman household, use more than one brand of speaker, which is why the numbers add up to more than 100%).
(The headline reference explainer that none of you need.)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Jeff Bezos and a few of his top lieutenants, like AWS boss CEO Andy Jassy, are well-known. But Amazon has a large senior leadership team comprised of 22 people who regularly meet with Bezos. Seattle Times reporter Benjamin Romano takes a deep dive into who is on the "S Team" and what they're about. Most of Amazon's major business efforts are represented by at least one member, but not all of them.
Analysts searching for potential areas of meaningful growth for a company the size of Amazon focus on trillion-dollar markets. One such major market with no dedicated executive on the S Team is health care. “They probably want to be bigger in that market, and the question is what do they want to do there,” said [Jefferies analyst Brent] Thill.
ON THE MOVE
Google’s head of human resources, Eileen Naughton, will step down later this year amid rising tensions between the company's top executives and rank and file employees, Fortune reported...fintech startup Tally hired Twitter senior director of engineering Jan Chong as its first-ever VP of engineering...the head of Apple's News service, Liz Schimel, who joined Apple less than two years ago from Conde Nast, has left...Mike Hopkins, chair of Sony Pictures Television, is joining Amazon to run Amazon Studios and Prime Video. Longtime Amazon veteran Jeff Blackburn, who had overseen those efforts, has left on a sabbatical...former Goldman Sachs banker Michael Ronen is stepping down as managing partner of the SoftBank Vision Fund's U.S. investments.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
ARM unveils two new A.I. computer chip designs By Jeremy Kahn
Indeed shuts offices in three cities over coronavirus fears By Alyssa Newcomb
Michael Pollan and ‘How Caffeine Created the Modern World’ By Rachel King
BEFORE YOU GO
Board games have been a popular pursuit in our house for many years (though we've had to cut back on Monopoly when it got a bit too competitive). It's a pastime that's been in culture for thousands of years. Smithsonian Magazine has a fascinating piece on the best board games of the ancient world. I think we should revive Tafl or Ludus Latrunculorum. What do you think?
On Twitter: @ampressman