California looks to adopt Obama-style net neutrality rules

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California lawmakers moved on Thursday toward imposing the nation’s strictest net neutrality laws on internet providers, flying in the face of sweeping new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules seen as a win for the companies.

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Net Neutrality protest the FCC’s recent decision to repeal the program in Los Angeles, California, November 28, 2017. REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot

Members of the California Assembly voted 58-17 to send the bill to their colleagues in the state Senate, who have until midnight to pass so-called SB 822 on the final day of the legislative session or wait until next year.

If the measure passes both chambers of the Democrat-controlled state legislature it would still require approval from Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, who has not said if he would sign it into law.

“We have just one final vote left to go to get the strongest net neutrality protections in the nation passed out of the legislature and onto the governor’s desk,” state Senator Scott Wiener, the bill’s author, said in a statement.

“We will take nothing for granted, but we have momentum and the support of a broad and diverse coalition that understands the importance of a free and open internet for everyone,” Wiener said.

Proponents of California’s proposed regulations contend that net neutrality rules would bar major internet providers from blocking, slowing down or giving preferential access to online content.

Critics say the restrictions limit internet providers’ ability to recoup the costs of network improvements and lead them to curb investment.

In June, the FCC under President Donald Trump repealed rules adopted during the Obama administration that barred internet service providers from blocking content or charging more for access, a move intended to establish a more level playing field or “net neutrality.”

State attorneys general and the District of Columbia asked a federal appeals court earlier this month to reinstate the Obama regulations.

They were joined in that action a week later by a coalition of trade groups representing companies including Alphabet Inc, Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc.

The U.S. Senate voted in May to keep the Obama-era internet rules but the measure is unlikely to be approved by the House of Representatives or the White House.

(This version of the story corrects day of the week to Thursday in first paragraph)

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Paul Tait

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Why California's Privacy Law Won't Hurt Facebook or Google

California, that innovative economic juggernaut that so often takes the regulatory lead on matters such as automobile emissions, is once again establishing the ground rules to a vital industry. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in June, is the improbable result of a wealthy real estate investor, with the colorful name of Alastair Mactaggart, and a gang of volunteers taking an interest in consumer privacy. Mactaggart used California’s zany ballot initiative system (and his personal fortune) to get a version of a proposed privacy law onto the November ballot. Faced with the horrifying prospect of a well-funded privacy evangelist jamming regulation down the throats of the state’s golden-goose tech companies, legislators quickly devised their own alternative. This rollicking policy adventure is recounted at length in a cover story by Nicholas Confessore for The New York Times Magazine.

Look through the rah-rah triumphalism of the piece, however and you’ll see that far from succumbing to some irresistible activist push, incumbents Google and Facebook craftily shaped the legislation to suit themselves. When in the history of American democracy have state legislators voted to severely and onerously regulate trillion-dollar companies in their home districts, motivated only by an overweening concern for consumer rights (and not donor pressure)? Never, is the answer—which is why the implications of CCPA could use some further scrutiny. (Spoiler alert: Facebook doesn’t hate the law).

Antonio García Martínez (@antoniogm) is an Ideas contributor for WIRED. Previously he worked on Facebook’s early monetization team, where he headed its targeting efforts. His 2016 memoir, Chaos Monkeys, was a New York Times best seller and NPR Best Book of the Year.

First, what the law does.

CCPA resembles a weaker form of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which took effect in May. The California law requires companies to provide an opt-out to data sharing (GDPR required an opt-in), clear statements of what data is being collected or shared with third parties (as does the GDPR), and the right to delete data about yourself. The unique element, and the only one that the tech giants really pushed back on, was a provision granting individuals the right to sue companies for violating their privacy. The clause was effectively neutered when a political compromise limited the right to cases of egregious data loss or theft.

This resemblance to GDPR, if you’re a privacy activist, is more bug than feature: Companies like Facebook and Google already comply with GDPR (or comply as much as anyone) and have extended those GDPR protections to US users. When the CCPA takes effect on January 1, 2020, the average Facebook user will likely not notice.

To understand why the CCPA won’t impact Facebook in any meaningful way requires understanding (at a high level, not to worry) how Facebook’s ads ecosystem treats data and outside partners. Unlike much of the ad-tech world, Facebook lives in a walled garden where no data leaves and very little enters. When an advertiser wants to retarget you, it exchanges your contact information with Facebook, both sides agreeing to a pseudonym for you, before placing you in one or more targeting buckets (“shoe shoppers,” for example). For Facebook’s most powerful and invasive micro-targeting, almost no data is shared between advertiser and publisher, and data middlemen are largely absent. Which is why, if you download your data from Facebook, the juiciest information is in the least remarkable section: “Advertisers Who Uploaded a Contact List With Your Information.” Users and journalists fixate on the supposed creepiness of Facebook having a call log for you, for example, but the real targeters are buried in that list of companies sharing contact information. The CCPA won’t change this.

So who is impacted by the CCPA?

Primarily, companies you’ve never heard of like Drawbridge and LiveRamp (now owned by Acxiom, another company you’ve never heard of, but which knows everything about you). Drawbridge, using data that it managed to beg or borrow, like your IP address or GPS-derived location, figures out all the devices you own. Why? So that an online retailer that notices you browsing for a new handbag on your work computer can serve you an ad for that handbag on your mobile device on your commute home. Such “cross-device targeting and attribution” is one of the holy grails of modern digital advertising.

What does LiveRamp do? Ever notice how you seem to get served ads online for products you bought in physical stores? That’s not because Facebook is eavesdropping on your phone. It’s done via what’s known as “data onboarding,” where personal data like your name, address, or phone number (which retailers know through loyalty-card programs and the like) are converted into ways to target you online. Middlemen like LiveRamp join online with offline by buying your personal data and then working with publishers—email newsletters, dating sites—to identify your browser cookies. Don’t sweat the details; the net of all this hackery is a table with your personal data plus a browser cookie or mobile device ID, which allows, say, a pharmacy chain that knows your phone number (which you entered at checkout to save 5 percent) to link all your purchases to your online presence.

Together, these relatively small players provide an alternative targeting ecosystem that competes with Facebook’s one-stop-shop. If you’re Walgreens, you can use LiveRamp (or its competitors) to target people via real-time ad exchanges. Or you can upload your customers’ contact details to Facebook. The advertiser is agnostic, so long as the pixels reach the right audience.

Here’s why Facebook is better positioned for CCPA, or GDPR: It has a direct relationship with you. How does it know every device you use? Because the first thing you do when you buy a new device is log into Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp. How does it know your name, phone number, and address? Because you told it those things, or opted into sharing your location via the Facebook app.

The California and European privacy rules favor these first-party relationships. Data coming from elsewhere—known as third-party data—is viewed with more suspicion, so this privileged state of affairs is unlikely to change soon. So long as Facebook’s apps remain as addictive as they are, Facebook will know who you are, where you are, and every digital pseudonym for you, whether a browser cookie or a mailing address.

You might now be wondering if this approach to advertising was a piece of far-sighted strategy by Facebook, to avoid the inevitable privacy storm. I can state, with some authority since I was at Facebook at the time, that the answer is no. This closed system of identity-matching with minimal data sharing was conjured mostly to assuage the mutual suspicions of Facebook and its advertisers: Advertisers didn’t trust Facebook not to recycle their precious consumer data, and Facebook didn’t trust advertisers not to repurpose its user data. A minimalist data join, with all Facebook data remaining safely within its walls and Facebook not touching often dubious outside data, was the result. It’s just a happy accident (for Facebook) that this is the optimal architecture for weathering privacy regulation like the CCPA and GDPR.

Ultimately, the CCPA is a fatal blow not to Facebook but to the competing middlemen. Shortly before GDPR took effect, Drawbridge announced it was leaving the European market. Then it announced it was leaving advertising altogether. LiveRamp is reported to be up for sale. Facebook itself shut down its Partner Categories program that used targeting segments from data brokers like Acxiom, cutting off its last connection to that world. Under CCPA and GDPR, if you want to target consumers across devices, or use your trove of offline consumer data online, you’ll have to use Facebook instead of the few competitors that once eked out a business outside its walled garden.

It’s as if the privacy activists labored to manufacture a fearsome cannon with which to subdue giants like Facebook and Google, loaded it with a scattershot set of legal restrictions, aimed it at the entire ads ecosystem, and fired it with much commotion. When the smoke cleared, the astonished activists found they’d hit only their small opponents, leaving the giants unharmed. Meanwhile, a grinning Facebook stared back at the activists and their mighty cannon, the weapon that they had slyly helped to design.

The good news is that while the activists missed their big, showy target, they hit the often sketchy data arbitragers who do the real dirty work of the advertising machine. Facebook and Google ultimately are not constrained as much by regulation as by users. The first-party relationship with users that allows these companies relative freedom under privacy laws comes with the burden of keeping those users engaged and returning to the app, despite privacy concerns. Acxiom doesn’t have to care about the perception of consumers—they’re not even aware the company exists. For that reason, these third-party data brokers most need the discipline of regulation. The activists may not have gotten the legal weapon they wanted, but they did get the legal weapon that users deserve.


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3 Changes America Needs to Make to Revive Our Entrepreneurial Spirit

Entrepreneurship is, at its essence, about problem-solving. And real-world problems are complex, even messy. The solutions may change how we deal with health issues, transportation, business, the environment, and just about every facet of our lives.

Solving these problems often takes working in a diverse environment, with different kinds of thinkers bringing their own strengths. During the past century, America excelled at uniting people from different backgrounds and points of view, fostering a spirit of open collaboration and an exchange of ideas.

We need to once again encourage that collaborative spirit, and with it boost the type of innovation we need in the 21st Century. By focusing on a few key areas, we all can aid in the effort to stimulate entrepreneurs and innovation.

1. Increase STEM research and interest.

Schools have made a positive impact on efforts to increase interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), which can give future entrepreneurs the skills they need. But, federal investments in research has been dropping since the 1970s. We need to do all we can to encourage a new generation of STEM learners. And it’s not just teachers that need to increase interest in the scientific and technical — it’s something we all need to encourage in our culture.

For example, after-school programs, such as the After-School All-Stars, which is able to connect with more than 70,000 kids nationwide, are a great way to get kids interested in STEM. Programs outside of school hours are particularly helpful to broaden the “branding” for STEM, because those concepts can be applied almost everywhere in our world, so it’s good to make associations outside of a traditional academic environment. Business leaders can make a big difference here by partnering with a school or after-school program to ensure these programs have the resources they need to thrive. Plus, a partnership could help introduce students to entrepreneurship and business careers.

2. Turn researchers into entrepreneurs.

Researchers are constantly making discoveries that could improve our lives and the world we live in. But often their passion for research is disconnected from the practical implementation of their ideas. Instead, they may publish a paper and only hope an entrepreneur will be inspired to act. That means the people who understand a concept best are too rarely the ones that will lead the effort to create a practical solution — let alone form a company around the idea. To help counter that pattern, the country’s top universities have increased their push for researchers to take their ideas from the lab to the marketplace.

One fruit of this effort is SentiAR, which uses a mixed reality headset and the Microsoft HoloLens to arm physicians with a less invasive tool for treating patients with heart rhythm abnormalities. The researcher team, a married couple who teach at Washington University in St. Louis, created the tech then started the company and sought funding, including a NIH SBIR fast-track award of $2.2M. And both have remained actively involved in the business. That kind of expert oversight of a concept and product idea is the kind of deeply connected leadership we need more of in the business world.

3. Offer support to entrepreneurs who are buried in student loan debt.

The total amount of money that Americans owe in student loans has reached an incredible level — it’s now at $1.5 trillion. High student loan debt severely limits the life choices of many post-college Americans, including would-be entrepreneurs. This may drive some of them to go for sure bets over riskier innovation, and that can stifle entrepreneurial creativity. Need proof? Just look to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s study, which found that counties with high student debt fall behind other counties when it comes to establishing new businesses.

Although the government offers incentives toward aspiring entrepreneurs in the forms of special student loan repayment options, merely temporarily lowering the minimum required payment on interest-earning loans isn’t doing enough. For potential startup founders, having student loan debt is enough to make investors and lenders think twice before helping to fund their venture. Our aspiring innovators need better options and more support. Business leaders can take action by starting scholarship programs and advocating for policies that help aspiring entrepreneurs take the risk, even if they have student loan debt.

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Twitter's CEO Asked Elon Musk to Speak to All of Twitter's Employees. Here's the Truly Surprising Way It Changed 1 Musk Fan's Life

A few weeks ago, the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, took the stage at an unusual event in San Francisco, with virtually every Twitter employee in attendance. Looking down at his phone, he read aloud some direct messages he’d been trading with Elon Musk–inviting Musk to speak, in fact, at that very event. 

“I kinda hate speaking events,” Musk had replied, literally two minutes after the initial invitation. “But maybe for you all. I do love Twitter and I think it is a force for good.” 

As rumors about Musk’s appearance had spread among Twitter employees, their excitement had built. But now, literally minutes before some hoped that Musk would appear, Dorsey reported: “Unfortunately, he got extremely, extremely busy, and isn’t able to make it.” 

Twitter wouldn’t comment beyond Dorsey’s remarks (which haven’t been reported before, and which you can see in a video at the end of this column). And my efforts to reach Musk via both Tesla and SpaceX went unanswered. But two things are very clear.

First, literally an hour before the speaking slot at this event, Twitter didn’t know who was going to wind up speaking instead of Musk.

And second, the person they found to fill in–Jon Carmichael, a Twitter photographer who describes Musk as “my biggest source of inspiration”–turned the experience into a truly life-changing moment.

‘I was so devastated.’

In retrospect, it’s not such a big surprise that Musk wasn’t able to make it. The Aug. 2 event at the Moscone Center in San Francisco came basically halfway between his “pedo guy” tweet and his “funding secured” tweet–to say nothing of the fact that Musk was crushing to try to meet Tesla production goals at the time.

He had a lot going on. But, his absence apparently created a vacuum–and an amazing opportunity for Carmichael.

On the rumor and hope that Musk might speak, Carmichael had decided to give him a truly breathtaking gift: the first print of his now-iconic eclipse photo (which almost nobody had seen yet, on Aug 2). It was “printed on crystal with laser,” as he told me, “and back-mounted onto Dibond, which is like aluminum.” 

But then, Musk didn’t show.

“I worked very hard and spent a lot of money on this gift for him, and I got to the event and last minute, Elon [wasn’t there]. And I was so devastated,” Carmichael told me. “So I thought, maybe I should give this to Jack. You know, Jack Dorsey, the CEO.”

‘We’re changing the whole program’

An hour before Dorsey wound up taking the stage to talk about Musk not being there, Carmichael in a ballroom just above. He has literally started to write a note to Dorsey explaining the gift. 

“All of sudden, I’m in this giant ballroom by myself and here’s Jack Dorsey walking right toward me,” Carmichael recalled. “He’s never by himself. He’s always extremely busy.”

“Hey Jack,” he called out. 

“Yeah, what’s up?” 

Carmichael gave him the Dibond print of his photo that he’d originally intended for Musk.

“It’s heavy, and he opens it up and goes, ‘What is this?'” Carmichael told me. “I said, ‘Oh, you remember The Great American Eclipse last year?’ Yada, yada, yada. ‘This is a photo I took.’ I told him the whole story.” 

Dorsey was blown away by the photo. And with 45 minutes to go before show time, he told Carmichael that he wanted him to do the speech.

“And he goes, ‘Okay, here’s what’s going to happen. In 45 minutes, I’m going to be introducing you on stage to share this story and this image with my entire company. Can you do that?'” Carmichael recounted. “And I’m like–internally, I’m freaking out.”

‘This is my first speech I’ve ever given’

We’ll just give away part of the ending here. Carmichael rose the occasion like nobody could have predicted. Right at the start, he confessed with a smile: “This is my first speech I’ve ever given,” and the audience was pretty much immediately won over.

(A video of Dorsey talking about Musk, and then Carmichael’s entire internal presentation to all of Twitter’s employees, is at the end of this post.)

“It was just the most beautiful moment I could’ve ever imagined,” Carmichael recalled. “It was so moving. I got multiple standing ovations. This was my first unveiling [of the photo] to 3,500 people … three weeks before I was going to unveil it publicly, on the one year anniversary of the eclipse.”

And as a result of his talk, Carmichael said, Twitter completely bought in. The company flagged his photo on the platform so that nobody could share it until he officially unveiled it.

And when he did actually share it,–on the anniversary, it came in the form of a streamed broadcast to all 32 Twitter offices around the world.

A life-changing experience

There are many ironies in Carmichael’s story, including the fact that he had his hopes dashed twice in its course, only to find that what he’d hoped would happen wasn’t as advantageous as what actually did happen.

The first example was that he’d originally entered a contest to get a seat on a special Alaska Airlines eclipse flight to photograph the eclipse–but he didn’t win. However, it turned out that the Southwest flight he found, and that he flew on as a regular passenger, offered a far better vantage point to create his photo.

The second disappointment was his excitement over the idea of meeting Musk. But had Musk been there to speak, that would have meant Carmichael never would have had his chance on stage. And then Twitter wouldn’t have been as involved to use its publicity machine and help him share the photo around the world.

“I immediately thought in that moment, this quote by the Dalai Lama,” Carmichael recalled. (In fact, the Dalai Lama was briefly one of his photography clients.) “And he says, ‘Remember, that sometimes not getting what you want can be a wonderful stroke of luck..” 

Carmichael says his ultimate goal is to try to the use his photo and his story to inspire more interest in astronomy and the idea of another total eclipse. In 2017, he said, tens of millions of people lived within a half hour of where they could have experienced totality, but didn’t make the trip.

“I’m really passionate about that, because this was such a uniting moment in our history and it was such a beautiful moment, too,” he said. “So in six years I want that to be even bigger.” 

Six years: The next total solar eclipse visible over the United States will be on April 8, 2024.

So if you’re moved, and you take the opportunity to go and observe totality yourself in April 2024, just remember the chain reaction: You might never have seen it, if Elon Musk had been able to give a speech at Twitter in August 2018.

Here’s the video of Dorsey talking about his DMs with Musk, followed by Carmichael’s speech at the Twitter event.

[embedded content]

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Mayo Florida Temporarily Changes Name to Miracle Whip, Supposedly Fooling 1,232 Residents

The Northern Florida town of Mayo in is temporarily changing its name to Miracle Whip. As you might guess, this is part of a marketing campaign by Miracle Whip maker Kaft Heinz, which is reportedly paying the town somewhere between $15,000 and $25,000 for the name change.

As far as that goes, this is not an unusual story. IHOP, the International House of Pancakes, temporarily became IHOB, the International House of Burgers, to mixed reviews. Hot Springs, New Mexico changed its name to Truth or Consequences in order to bring the then-popular game show to town. Topeka, Kansas tried the same approach, temporarily changing its name to Google, in the hopes that the search giant would bring high-speed internet, but it didn’t. North Tarrytown, New York even changed its name to Sleepy Hollow, just to make sure people knew it was the setting for Washington Irving’s headless horseman story.

But there’s one big difference. None of these other towns claimed to be trying to play a trick on 1,232 unsuspecting residents. Mayo–or, rather, Miracle Whip–town officials seem to think they can fool everybody who lives in their community into thinking the name change is permanent. 

The idea of the prank is for videographers from Miracle Whip to record townspeople’s reactions when they discover that their street signs and water tower are being changed to the new name. They also want to record what happens when people in town are asked to give up any mayonnaise they may have in their homes, presumably to be replaced with Miracle Whip.

How exactly did town officials expect to fool 1,232 people? For starters, they held a closed-to-the-public meeting with Kraft Heinz where they worked out the details of the surprise. Ann Murphy, the mayor, gamely tried to stick with the illusion that the name change was permanent, telling the Associated Press, “We’re not going to be boring old Mayo anymore. We are going to be Miracle Whip! I definitely think this will put us on the map.” (In case you’re wondering, the town got its original name from Confederate Colonel James Mayo.)

Unfortunately for the town’s wannabe prankster leadership, Linda Cone, town clerk, was more forthcoming, admitting to reporters that, yup, the name change is temporary and that town officials were trying to fool residents, at least for a few days,  by pretending it was permanent. But in a town of just over 1,200 people, she added, everyone knows everyone and it’s not easy to keep a secret. “It’s been kind of difficult to keep everything under wraps.”

Nothing is under wraps anymore. Any residents who might have been fooled probably are in on the joke now since the story’s gone out over the Associated Press and has appeared in the Tampa Bay Times and on a local TV station’s website.

So that would appear to be that, except for one thing. That closed meeting town officials held with Kraft Heinz to plan their prank? It may have been illegal under Florida’s Sunshine Law, which guarantees open access to most government meetings.

“If this is all supposed to be a big joke perpetuated on residents, I expect they probably violated the law to pull it off,” Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation located in Tallahassee told the Associated Press. “I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but seriously, I don’t think they thought this through.” 

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Mr. Dorsey Goes to Washington: Twitter CEO to Testify Before House Panel on Sept. 5

Twitter has been ground zero in the culture wars that have been raging on social media. Now its CEO Jack Dorsey will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Sept. 5, the panel said.

The Energy and Commerce Committee made the announcement—where else?—on Twitter Friday.

“Twitter is on incredibly powerful platform that can change the national conversation in the time it takes a tweet to go viral,” committee chair Greg Walden said in a statement on Twitter. “When decisions about data and content are made using opaque processes the American people are right to raise concerns.”

Walton said that the Energy and Commerce Committee “intends to ask tough questions about how Twitter monitors and polices content, and we look forward to Mr. Dorsey being forthright and transparent regarding the complex processes behind the company’s algorithms and content judgment calls.”

Dorsey has found himself facing the brunt of criticism from the political left and the political right because of Twitter’s evolving, and sometimes vague, policies regarding what content is and is not allowed on the social network.

Last week, Twitter suspended the accounts of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his media site Infowars after Jones posted a tweet that violated the company’s rules against inciting violence. That followed a controversial decision by Dorsey not to fully ban Jones from Twitter, even though Apple, YouTube, Facebook, and Spotify had done so on their platforms.

Dorsey also said in an interview with CNN last weekend that, while the company’s employees may have a “left-leaning” bias, “we do not look at content with regards to political viewpoint or ideology.” But many right-wing media companies focused on his remark about a left-leaning bias.

Also on Friday, President Trump went on Twitter to call out social media companies like Twitter for silencing “millions of people.”

September’s hearing will not be the first time that Dorsey has been invited to testify before Congress. The Twitter co-founder was previously invited to share information with lawmakers in 2017, but declined to participate, according to Recode.

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U.S. tariffs cast a cloud over Huawei's solar electronics launch

(Reuters) – Huawei Technology Co’s coming U.S. launch of a solar-panel control device is expected to collide with new Trump administration tariffs on Chinese electronics, undermining a product that analysts had seen as challenging rivals on pricing.

FILE PHOTO: People walk past a Huawei sign at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Asia 2018 in Shanghai, China June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

The Chinese company, best known for its smart phones and telecommunications equipment, has developed a new generation of low-cost solar inverters, which convert, manage and monitor energy produced by solar panels for home use.

Huawei has said it was aiming to roll out the product, called FusionHome, in the United States before the end of the summer, a year after its original target. Analysts and distributors had expected it to knock $100-$200 off current market prices of similar devices costing between $1,000 and $1,500 per household.

But a coming 25 percent tariff on Chinese electronics that would overturn much of Huawei’s expected price advantage may have stalled talks with U.S. installers and distributors, said analysts and research firms.

Huawei will either have to reduce its margins or raise prices, they said, potentially benefiting rival producers including SolarEdge and Enphase Energy, which are ramping up manufacturing outside China.

Huawei declined to comment on tariffs and did not respond to detailed questions from Reuters on the current status of FusionHome.

Company spokesman Joe Kelly said in July that the company was planning to introduce the new product to its partners in the United States this summer and that the timing of the roll-out would depend on those distributors.

The 25 percent tariff, if implemented, will take effect Aug. 23, and analysts covering the sector say it will affect the new Huawei product.

“It certainly would eat into profits and is just a question on how aggressive Huawei wants to be,” said Cowen & Co analyst Jeffrey Osborne.

Huawei’s foray into the high-margin residential market comes after panel installations fell in 2017 for the first time in seven years. GTM Research recently cut its forecast for 2018 residential solar market installations by 8 percent to 2.2 gigawatts.

Of four major solar panel makers Reuters talked to, only Utah-based Vivint Solar confirmed it was considering adding Huawei’s inverter to its lineup.

SunPower Corp and Tesla’s SolarCity did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. A SunRun spokeswoman said the company welcomed new innovations that made solar energy cheaper and more accessible.

“A 25 percent tariff could eat up the margins of cost-competitive Chinese manufacturers and potentially change the player landscape of the U.S. solar inverter market,” said another analyst, Iben Frimann-Dahl from Rystad Energy.

Reporting by John Benny in Bengaluru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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In an Open Letter, Arianna Huffington Gave Elon Musk Really Good Advice You Should Follow Too

Huffington begins her message to Musk by reminding him what a devoted father he is:

I’ve always loved how, whenever I see you, the first thing you do is whip out your phone to proudly show me videos of your adorable children and their latest exploits. Clearly you have much going on in your life, but it says a lot about you that this is what you lead with.

You would think this opening statement might have hit home, since one of the many problems a tearful Musk acknowledged to the Times reporters is that his near-24/7 work schedule at Tesla for the past year was not good for his kids.

Huffington continued with an argument calculated to break through Musk’s denial–science. Musk is nothing if not a scientist, so Huffington asked him to look at the science of human overwork and sleep deprivation:

The science is clear. And what it tells us is that there’s simply no way you can make good decisions and achieve your world-changing ambitions while running on empty.

To cite just one study, after 17-19 hours without sleep, we begin to experience levels of cognitive impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .05 percent, just under the threshold for being legally drunk. No business leader would hire people who came to work drunk, so don’t model that behavior for your employees.

She ends with a plea to Musk. For his own sake, for Tesla’s sake, and for the sake of the planet he is trying to save from climate change, she begs him to please, please get some rest and time off so that he can be what his companies need him to be–a leader functioning at his very best.

Musk, to say the very least, doesn’t get it.

He seems to be stuck on two of the most common justifications people make for working too hard and refusing to get the sleep, relaxation, and companionship they need:

1. No one can do it but me.

2. I am so strong and so smart that I don’t need rest like other people do. I can power through this challenge and save the day.

Let’s take these two fallacies one at a time. The first one presupposes that there is no other executive at Tesla as dedicated as Musk, or as smart, or capable of managing the company’s most important task at the moment which is keeping Tesla Model 3 production at its target capacity so that the new model can be profitable and slow the depletion of Tesla’s cash reserves.

I have no idea if there’s anyone else at Tesla who could manage this task in Musk’s place but I know this: If there isn’t, then finding someone who can and putting that person in the right role is Musk’s and the Tesla board’s most pressing job.

Because–what if? What if Musk came down with an illness again, as he did when he caught malaria? What if he were in an automobile accident? He does, after all, tweet while driving. What if one his children fell ill or were injured, meaning that he simply couldn’t stay at the factory. Is Musk willing to risk his company’s future on a bet that nothing like this will happen? And even if he is, is his board willing to? There are no two ways about it: If truly no one but Musk can manage production at the Tesla factory, they need to put someone else in place who also can. Yesterday. 

It shouldn’t be impossible. Musk’s other major company, SpaceX, has a capable COO, Gwynne Shotwell, who has been running that company day-to-day while Musk spends his days and nights as Tesla. And–as opposed to building electric cars–SpaceX’s work actually is​ rocket science. 

Is Musk really helping Tesla by working 24/7?

The second fallacy has already disproved itself. Huffington points us toward the science that says we lose productivity, not to mention good judgment, when we’re deprived of appropriate rest. But we don’t even need to review the science, we can just consider Musk himself.

Musk has always spoken–and tweeted–somewhat impulsively, without much review by anyone. But he has never made a habit of getting himself or his company into trouble with his public statements. Until the past four months. In May, Musk’s comments about “boneheaded” questions on an earnings conference call led to a fall in Tesla’s stock price–a win for the short sellers he hates.

He himself acknowledged that this was a mistake when Musk apologized to the analysts on the next quarter’s call–and he himself blamed the long hours he’s been putting in. “There are reasons for it and I’d gotten no sleep and been working sort of 110-hour, 120-hour weeks,” he said. So he had every reason to know that by working through exhaustion he was harming Tesla more than helping it.

In July, the still exhausted Musk stepped in it again. When a British expert involved in the Thai cave rescue belittled the rescue submarine Musk created for the effort (which turned out to be unneeded and might not have worked) Musk took out his anger on Twitter, calling his opponent “pedo guy” with no evidence whatsoever. The comment may not have immediately affected Tesla, but it certainly damaged Musk’s personal brand–and Musk’s status as a widely beloved and trusted figure is one of Tesla’s biggest assets.

Then, of course, came last week, and Musk’s tweet that he would take Tesla private with “funding secured.” Tesla’s stock price went flying upward. Then it turned out funding had been discussed but was in no way secured. That earned Tesla a subpoena from the SEC. Next came his confessional Times interview. It was an extraordinary thing–try to imagine Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos saying any of those things on the record. I suspect it was intended partly as a cry for help, partly to make people like him again. But once again, Tesla’s stock price dropped in response. Over the weekend, the short sellers–Musk’s arch-enemies–had recovered $1.3 billion of their possible losses as a result. 

Don’t let this happen to you.

Musk is accustomed to listening to no advice, charting his own course, and being stubborn, even pig-headed, if not boneheaded. So I don’t know whether he will see the illogic of his own actions and change them before he and his company suffer the consequences.

I do know that the rest of us can look at these events and learn from them for our own work lives. No matter how smart you are, or how tough, or how dedicated to your job, you cannot escape the laws of human biology and neuroscience any more than you can the laws of physics. You may be able to pull an occasional all-nighter or working weekend to meet a tight deadline, but no one can go months or years working late into the night, working weekends, working birthdays, and never taking a vacation without serious consequences. Learn from Musk’s mistakes or it could kill your reputation, your biggest project, or even your company. It could even wind up killing you.

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Delta Just Made a Surprise Announcement That Shows How Different It Is From American Airlines

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

It was a piece of news that seemed to drift by like a contrail of marijuana at a Jack White concert.

Well, it came out on Friday, so you’d think even Delta Air Lines might think it wasn’t important.

The words, though, seemed meaningful:

More screens, more choices: Delta equips 600th aircraft with seatback entertainment.

Wait a minute.

I thought many airlines were stripping seatback screens out of their planes.

Parker believes that ultimately people will prefer to bring their own devices. The airline’s job will merely be to give them great Wi-Fi and content they can stream.

Delta’s announcement, though, shows the contrary approach. The airline’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Tim Mapes explained:

We continue to invest in seatback screens, because customers continue to tell us they’re important. With seatback screens, customers don’t have to choose between using their phones or watching a movie. Whether they want to work, relax, or a little bit of both — we want to give our customers the ability to choose and make the most of their time in flight.

Sadly, it’s a multitasking world, which means that too many people are used to — because they’re often forced into it — using two screens at the same time.

And it may be that ultimately Parker will be right. We’ll all be carrying around vast numbers of screens, all synced with the chips in our heads.

Perhaps only then will Delta begin to dismantle its screens.

However, Delta went on to explain that its entertainment system provides customers with a qualitative depth and breadth.

How often, indeed, do you get on a plane with good seatback entertainment and find movies that you’d love to see but had forgotten about? Or movies that you simply hadn’t heard of, but turn out to be wonderful?

The fact that an airline bothers to offer this suggests it’s got at least some understanding of customer service. 

Customer service doesn’t just mean smiling and being pleasant — though goodness, does that help. 

It means anticipating a customer’s needs and bringing them a little delight — hopefully unexpected delight.

American’s approach implies that a family of five will actually bring five devices with them in order to remain entertained. 

How likely is that?

Google recently published some research it performed in the travel sector. It found, indeed, that customers’ greatest wish when booking travel wasn’t a fine loyalty program. 

It was customer service. 

Some airline executives simply don’t see the immediate return from giving something to customers for free. 

Soon, though, you might find them bemoaning the state of their business. 

Why, just last week, an airline president said he was concerned that his company was falling behind in attracting premium customers.

And which airline did he reference as being ahead of American? Why, Delta.  

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Foxconn profit below forecast on soaring operating costs, shares fall

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Foxconn posted second-quarter net profit well below expectations as a rise in component costs and unsold inventory weighed on the performance of the Apple supplier and world’s top contract electronics maker, analysts said.

FILE PHOTO: A shovel and FoxConn logo are seen before the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump as he participates in the Foxconn Technology Group groundbreaking ceremony for its LCD manufacturing campus, in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, U.S., June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Hauck/File Photo

The company, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, reported net profit of T$17.49 billion ($567.25 million) late on Monday, 20 percent short of analyst expectations and slightly below the year-earlier results. Foxconn shares fell more than 3 percent on Tuesday.

Analysts said the results reflected concerns about a loss of momentum in global smartphone sales. Last week, Foxconn unit FIH Mobile Ltd posted a wider first-half loss and acknowledged that it faced a high risk of saturation in the smartphone market.

Foxconn’s results showed that its gross margin narrowed in the second-quarter in part owing to the cost of carrying unsold inventory of the iPhone X. Overall global smartphone shipments fell 3 percent to 350 million units in the April-June quarter compared with a year earlier, market research firm Strategy Analytics says.

However, Vincent Chen, an analyst at Yuanta Research, predicted a brighter outlook projected by Apple would benefit Foxconn and boost its margins in the third quarter.

Apple has forecast above-consensus revenue for later in the year, when it typically launches new iPhone models. Reports suggest these models will use OLED screens, which can display colors more vividly.

“We expect Hon Hai to be the main assembler of OLED version new iPhones and we believe the OLED iPhone model will see better demand in 2H18F,” Chen said in a research note.

The company’s report also illustrates its moves to diversify by pushing into new areas such as display screens – it bought Sharp Corp earlier this year – autonomous car startups and investments in cancer research.

Still, Foxconn earns most of its profits from manufacturing smartphones for Apple and other brands and from Foxconn Industrial Internet, a unit that makes networking equipment and smartphone casings, among other things.

“Investment in factory automation and component price hikes capped gross margin,” said Fubon Research analyst Arthur Liao.

Foxconn’s operating costs jumped 18.8 percent in the quarter.

Liao noted that Foxconn absorbed some expenses related to the Sharp acquisition this quarter, as well as development costs from setting up a factory in the United States, and taking Foxconn Industrial public in June.

Additional reporting by Chyen Yee Lee in Singapore and Yimou Lee in Taipei; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Neil Fullick

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