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Tesla and Intel CEOs win best tech quotes of 2021

June 2, 2021, 2:02 PM UTC

Dear Data Sheet readers,

Today I begin with some news about me, as they say. This is my last week at Fortune and thus my second-to-last newsletter for you.

Starting later this month, I’ll be covering the local tech scene for the Boston Globe. I have greatly enjoyed bringing you the highlights–and lowlights–of the tech world, and being a member of the community that has arisen around Data Sheet. You’ll be in good hands with my Fortune colleagues going forward, but first a few 2021 mid-year awards for the most interesting quotations to hit the newsletter so far.

The cut-to-the-chase award goes to U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who ran the trial of Epic Games versus Apple with an iron hand. The judge frequently broke in to question witnesses and lawyers herself, eventually laying waste to Tim Apple himself. When Cook tried to say Apple had cut commissions for app developers due to competition, the judge wasn’t buying it. “That seemed to be a result of the pressure that you’re feeling from investigations, from lawsuits, not competition,” Gonzalez Rogers said. You tell ’em, judge.

The equal but opposite beating-around-the-bush award goes to lawyer David Nussbaum who helped craft the paperwork for the first special purpose acquisition companies in the 1990s. Noting the boom, even bubble in the market, he told the Wall Street Journal that “the reputational disadvantage SPACs had is dissipating dramatically.”

The best listener award goes to Google vice president Shimrit Ben-Yar who works on the company’s Photo app and the giant A.I. engine that backs it. After Wired writer Lauren Goode told the sad story of constantly being reminded by her phone of her cancelled wedding, Ben-Yar announced some changes to the Photo app. “We heard from you that controls can be helpful for anyone who has been through a tough life event, break up, or loss,” Ben-Ya said.

The award for having the most fun at their job was a tie between new Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger and Jennifer Daniel, the Google designer who heads the Unicode consortium’s emoji subcommittee. As he toils to revive Intel, Gelsinger’s signature expression the last time we spoke was “the geek is back.” As he explained: “We’re bringing the geek back, the execution back, and the Grovian culture”—a reference to former Intel CEO Andy Grove—”needs to be revived.” Daniel is taking emoji seriously while at the same time not taking herself too seriously: “It isn’t high art. I’m not here with a monocle on to talk to you about fine art. It really was just about exploring what could be done.”

The prize for paying it forward goes to a teenager known as “boatbomber” on gaming site Roblox. Zack Ovits used to make Roblox games to entertain his friends and later as a business. Now he’s focused on creating educational resources for younger developers to follow in his footsteps. “I wanted to improve that experience for the people who would come after me,” he told me.

In another inspiring moment, Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, at 31, became the youngest women ever to take a company public. “We’re excited to hopefully have this record be broken soon,” she said afterwards. “We are very excited to cheer on the next woman who beats this record.”

In the award for secretly auditioning for SNL when nobody knew, Elon Musk was cracking jokes when he appeared on Clubhouse back in February. Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev showed up and Musk jumped. “Is anyone holding you hostage,” Musk asked. “Spill the beans, man… Did something shady go down here?” Musk demanded to know.

The final award for the most bonkers quote of the year so far was a very close race. Should it go to accused crypto scammer John McAfee? Or is former Uber boss Travis Kalanick’s F*cking Good Pizza somehow worthy? No, no, the most 2021 quote of all was issued from the basement gaming lair of none other than the OG GameSTONKs investor Keith Gill. “I am not a cat,” the guy who goes by the handle RoaringKitty testified. And it must be true; he was under oath.

I’ll see you back here one more time on Friday. Until then, watch out for those feline investment scams.

Aaron Pressman
@ampressman
aaron.pressman@fortune.com

NEWSWORTHY

Change in the weather. For much of its life as a top social media service, Twitter has struggled to add compelling new features users might want to use. It seemed finally to be getting on track with its new premium program, but the first offering, announced on Tuesday, was a bit of a head scratcher: a local weather service that costs $10 per month. In a bit more logical product news, the Firefox browser got a design overhaul to make the app less cluttered and easier to switch among tabs.

Free as in phone. Not to be outdone by rival T-Mobile, Verizon on Tuesday unveiled a free 5G phone offer of its own. New and existing customers can trade in their recent vintage phones and get a free iPhone 12 Mini or Samsung's S21 5G (via the usual paid-over-24-months plan). AT&T, your move.

I comped the sheriff, but I did not bribe the deputy. Former Apple security chief Thomas Moyer is off the hook for bribery. You may recall that Moyer was indicted in November for allegedly using free iPads in an effort to sway the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office into issuing gun permits to Apple security workers. A state judge dismissed the charge on Tuesday saying there was no evidence of "the required corrupt intent" on Moyer's part.

SoFi away, doesn't anybody lend in one place anymore? Along with many students, some startups graduated this week. Online student lender SoFi Technologies went public after merging with a SPAC. Trading under the ticker symbol SOFI, the company's shares closed up 12% on Tuesday giving it a stock market value over $2 billion.

Exit through the gift shop. In another kind of exit, online fashion site Depop is selling to Etsy for $1.6 billion. Etsy CEO Josh Silverman called Depop the "resale home for Gen Z consumers." Finally, at the other end of the startup spectrum, construction automation venture Katerra is shutting down. The SoftBank-backed company sucked up more than $2 billion before going el floppo.

Steady as she goes. On Wall Street, a couple of tech beneficiaries of the pandemic economy reported better than expected results but nothing that got investors too excited. Zoom avoided the gloom with revenue almost tripling to $956 million but said it expects only 50% growth for the year in total. Its stock price, previously down 3% in 2021, rose 2% in pre-market trading on Wednesday. At Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, revenue increased 11% to $6.7 billion. Its stock, already up 36% this year, was about unchanged in premarket trading.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

We often focus on the newest, fastest computers but many people make do with hardware years older than the cutting edge. In a feature for Nature, writer Anna Nowogrodzki tells the stories of why some scientists keep their old PCs around.

Some labs use old computers to meet technical requirements. Newcastle University, UK, hosts a custom computer which runs Microsoft’s 12-year-old Windows 7 operating system for ultrasound imaging of human tongues, says Lauren Ackerman, the linguist who manages the laboratory. The computer’s primary requirement is storage: the computer needs to retain, for each hour-long session, vast quantities of image, audio and video data; linguists use these to study how different tongue shapes produce different sounds. The computer also requires a specific type of expansion slot for communicating with the imaging hardware, and must be able to capture audio, visual, nasal-airflow and electric signals from throat electrodes, which measure whether the vocal cords are open. A new computer that meets those requirements would cost thousands of pounds, Ackerman estimates. And it still wouldn’t work with the old equipment, which her team want to use for teaching purposes.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Inside the ad, ad, ad, ad world of YouTube By Aaron Pressman

How Amazon is tackling the A.I. talent crunch By Jonathan Vanian

The female CEOs on this year’s Fortune 500 just broke three all-time records By Emma Hinchliffe

How did Carvana make it onto the Fortune 500? Unconventional values—and car vending machines By Nicole Gull McElroy

How Chewy charmed pets, owners, and investors to become a Fortune 500 company By Jen Doll

Yes, you can spend cryptocurrencies using Apple Pay By Chris Morris

5 new books to read in June By Rachel King

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BEFORE YOU GO

I can't decide if I like HBO's just-concluded gritty detective series Mare of Easttown more or less than the spot-on SNL parody "Murdur Durdur." But Kate Winslet was simply amazing in the lead role. It wasn't exactly shattering any of the crime noir genre's conventions, more embracing them, but a worthwhile exercise if you're into that sort of thing. 

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