Apple’s WWDC 2018: What to Watch For


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An Apple store in San Francisco. The company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference starts Monday in San Jose, Calif.

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Jim Wilson/The New York Times

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple kicks off its annual conference for developers on Monday at 10 a.m. Pacific time. Here’s what to expect:

■ It’s all about software, software, software. Apple used last year’s event to introduce its HomePod speaker to rival Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home. But this year, don’t expect news about new gadgets.

■ Apple is set to address some of the tech backlash on issues such as data privacy and smartphone addiction, including announcing new tools for parents to monitor and limit use of their children’s devices.

■ The company also plans to preview iOS 12, the new version of the iPhone and iPad operating system, including bug fixes and other improvements.

■ Look for a major upgrade for the Apple Watch software, WatchOS.

■ Apple is also planning an update to ARKit, its platform for developers to build augmented-reality experiences on iPhones and iPads, which it announced last year. Expect some new AR demos, too.

Combating tech addiction and our loss of privacy.

Apple typically reserves this five-day conference, known as WWDC (for Worldwide Developers Conference), as its moment to show off new software features and operating system updates. So don’t anticipate news about new iPhones: The company traditionally introduces big hardware upgrades at a later media event in the fall.

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Microsoft Tries a New Role: Moral Leader


But while the company’s power has diminished since a couple of decades ago, when it controlled computing through Windows, Microsoft remains an influential voice. On Monday, its market capitalization of $733 billion made it the third most valuable technology company, behind Apple and Amazon and ahead of Google parent company, Alphabet, and Facebook.

“The irony for Microsoft is that they lost in search, they lost in social networks and they lost in mobile, and as a consequence, they have avoided the recent pushback from governments and media,” said David Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School. “This has given Microsoft the freedom to take the high road as the ethical leader in technology.”

Since taking the reins at Microsoft in 2014, Mr. Nadella has brought a more sensitive style of leadership to the company than his two predecessors, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates. That shift has proved to be more suitable for Microsoft in this era.

Two decades ago, Microsoft was depicted as a bully that ran roughshod over competitors in a landmark antitrust suit brought by the federal government, followed by similar cases brought by the European Union and private companies. Mr. Smith was brought in to make peace in Microsoft’s antitrust battles, and Mr. Nadella was the company’s first chief executive to start in the job since those suits were settled.

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“We need to ask ourselves not only what computers can do but what computers should do,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said on Monday at the company’s developer conference in Seattle.

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Kyle Johnson for The New York Times

In a phone interview, Mr. Smith, who is also Microsoft’s chief legal officer, called its legal problems in past decades a “gut-wrenching experience” that had shaped Microsoft in its current form. “It made Microsoft a better and more responsible company,” he said.

This year, Microsoft published a book that outlined some of the harmful effects that could come from artificial intelligence, such as bias in job recruiting. It has litigated four lawsuits against the United States government over the past five years in efforts to defend customers’ privacy rights. One of them, a fight over law enforcement access to data stored in an overseas Microsoft data center, went to the Supreme Court, which dropped the case after Congress enacted a law that mooted it.

“Not only did Microsoft learn from its mistakes, Satya is a unique and caring individual,” said Tim O’Reilly, a tech industry publisher and conference organizer. “He understands deeply that Microsoft must help others to succeed.”

The closest analog among Mr. Nadella’s peers is Tim D. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, who has painted Apple as a staunch defender of its customers’ privacy. He has jabbed at Facebook and Google, both advertising-supported businesses that profit from the personal data they collect from their users, a contrast to Apple’s business model of selling devices.

Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, have defended their advertising businesses for allowing them to deliver services for free. They’ve promised to add more human moderators and invest in software tools that can screen out misinformation and other prohibited content.

Mr. Cook has not turned his ire toward Microsoft, which gets most of its revenue from software, hardware and cloud computing services. The company has investments in internet services that are supported in part by advertising, including its Bing search engine and LinkedIn, the social network for professionals it acquired in 2016.

Mr. Nadella has been more hesitant than Mr. Cook to publicly criticize other technology companies, turning to more subtle types of persuasion. A low-key leader, Mr. Nadella peppers his speeches and interviews with references to literature, warning that careless creators of technology could contribute to a dystopian world of George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” His lieutenant, Mr. Smith, has become a ubiquitous ambassador for Microsoft on the big social issues facing technology in Washington, in Brussels and on the conference circuit.

Microsoft is still occasionally cast in the role of villain. A California man who sold recycled electronic waste recently pleaded guilty for creating thousands of unauthorized discs that helped people restore the Windows operating system on refurbished PCs. The recycler, who has been sentenced to 15 months in prison, has said Microsoft supported the case against him, which was brought by federal prosecutors, because he threatened part of its business. Microsoft published a long blog post that portrayed his actions unfavorably.

Still, the Microsoft of 2018 is a long way from the company that was once portrayed as a corporate predator.

“Microsoft lived through negativity that these companies are experiencing now, and it doesn’t want to go back to those days,” said Vivek Wadhwa, a distinguished fellow with Carnegie Mellon University’s Silicon Valley campus.

Mr. Smith of Microsoft said the greater scrutiny on the tech sector would not always fall on the same companies.

“At any given moment, there may be one or two companies in the spotlight,” he said. “I don’t think one should assume the same one or two are always going to be in the spotlight or always on the defensive.”

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Who Strikes Fear Into Silicon Valley? Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s Antitrust Enforcer


“Europe is acting to enforce antitrust laws where the U.S. is not,” said Jeremy Stoppelman, the chief executive of Yelp, who feels that American regulators dropped the ball when they decided not to pursue a case against Google in 2013 (Yelp is a longtime Google antagonist). “Ironically, many of the complainants in the E.U. antitrust case against Google are U.S. companies, pursuing justice in Europe precisely because the U.S., has not acted,” he said in an email.

While Ms. Vestager’s global influence is ascendant, her political fate is murky. She has made it clear that she would like a second term as competition commissioner, but there is no guarantee that the Danish government will reappoint her to the commission next year. In fact, the new prime minister, who comes from a rival party, has said he will not do so.

Though a long shot, Ms. Vestager is among the potential contenders for president of the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union. It is the most powerful job in the bloc — one never held by a woman, or by someone with her public profile.

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Facebook’s C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg, spent two days being interrogated by lawmakers in Washington in April.

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Tom Brenner/The New York Times

Her appeal partly speaks to a populist impulse from the political left, a David-versus-Goliath belief that it is high time someone stood up to giant corporations, particularly those that exert so much power. But not everyone views her as a heroic regulatory warrior.

Critics of Ms. Vestager include leaders of American tech companies who have crossed her and who take issue with both her approach and her facts; Republicans in Congress; some members of the Trump administration; the Wall Street Journal editorial board; and groups like the Business Roundtable, a conservative-leaning, pro-business collection of American chief executives.

Apple is especially aggrieved. In 2016, Ms. Vestager ordered Ireland to reclaim 13 billion euros in back taxes, or about $15.5 billion, saying that the company had illegally received a tax break that was not available to others. Apple has begun paying the money into an escrow account, but both the company and Ireland have appealed the decision. They say it ignores how much tax Apple has already paid to Ireland, misrepresents the tax rate the company is subject to there, and reflects either a willful misreading or an ignorance of tax law.

Critics also accuse her of grandstanding, and of displaying bias against American companies.

“I think she has this vision of what the law should be, and it seems to me that when this radically affects major companies that are headquartered in the U.S., you might want to have more of a dialogue with the U.S. regulators and the U.S. government about it,” said Joe Kennedy, a senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonprofit think tank based in Washington.

Both Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, and Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief, have traveled to Brussels to argue their cases in person, apparently in vain. Last June, Ms. Vestager fined Google €2.4 billion, or about $2.8 billion, after concluding that it had unfairly used its search engine to favor its services over those of its rivals. It was the largest such penalty in the European Commission’s history, and more than double similar fines levied by the United States.

Last May, she fined Facebook €110 million, or about $131 million, after concluding that it had misled the European authorities about its acquisition of the messaging service WhatsApp. And in January, she fined the American chip maker Qualcomm €997 million, or about $1.2 billion, saying it had abused its market dominance to shut out competitors.

For the moment, the attention is on data privacy, and whether it is possible to regulate how technology companies share and profit from users’ personal information.

As the top European official enforcing competition laws, Ms. Vestager has primarily concentrated on how a range of companies use, or abuse, their market dominance. But she has also emerged as a major voice of warning about the effect of tech firms on our habits, our privacy, our ability to make human connections and even democracy itself. (Europe has a new data privacy law that is to take effect May 25.)

“What’s fascinating about her role is that in her mind, the new antitrust is about data, not about market power,” said Randy Komisar, a veteran Silicon Valley executive and now a general partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

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Apple’s headquarters in Cork, Ireland. In 2016, Ms. Vestager ordered Ireland to reclaim 13 billion euros in back taxes from the company.

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Andrew Testa for The New York Times

He added: “I believe the European approach is more appropriate than the U.S. laissez-faire approach. The U.S. economy sort of lives or dies by the notion of free markets, and I think what we’re seeing is a perversion of free market economics that is very difficult to counter without regulation.”

Appearing last November at a tech summit meeting in Lisbon, Ms. Vestager was interviewed onstage by Kara Swisher, host of the Recode Decode podcast, as about 15,000 people looked on. Many in the audience were young techies who greeted the commissioner with something like euphoria, particularly when she declared that “we need to take our democracy back” from social media.

“She’s what my generation looks for in a politician,” said Corina Stoenescu, a Harvard Business School student who helped organize a conference in March where Ms. Vestager was the keynote speaker. She added: “The moment tech giants come into question, then Vestager comes into question. She’s the only person on the planet who has a voice about it.”

Other jurisdictions are following Europe’s regulatory lead. Brazil, among other countries, has begun an antitrust case against Google, and one of the search giant’s Brazilian competitors said last summer that it would use the European arguments in its own lawsuit. And in November, the state of Missouri opened an investigation into whether Google violated the state’s antitrust and consumer protection laws.

“It’s good if we can inspire each other globally,” Ms. Vestager said in a recent interview in Copenhagen.

She was juggling interviews and preparing for a speech, as a bag of knitting rested nearby. She likes to knit in meetings, and has recently been making elephants, after moving on from socks. (She also sometimes sews her own clothes.)

Trained as an economist, she grew up in Glostrup, a suburb of Copenhagen, the daughter of two Lutheran ministers. (She’s not a fan of organized religion, she said, and follows a “Believe in God, fear the church” philosophy.)

She entered politics at 21, joining the tiny centrist Danish Social Liberal Party, which was founded by her great-grandfather. Elected to Parliament in 2001, she rose to become the party’s parliamentary leader six years later — she was already national chairwoman — and was blamed as being too young, too boring and female when the Social Liberals lost half their seats in the subsequent election.

“She was very, very young, but if she had been a man, people would not have complained in the same way,” said her biographer, Elisabet Svane.

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Ms. Vestager in Copenhagen during a European Union Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting in 2012. As Danish economics and interior minister, Ms. Vestager pushed through deeply unpopular cuts in retirement and unemployment benefits.

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Keld Navntoft/Scanpix, via Getty Images

As for the boring part: “She has a lot of humor, but she is a little boring sometimes,” Ms. Svane said in an interview. “The party is boring. They are technocrats and teachers, and they always know what is best for society.”

Ms. Vestager brought in a media consultant, Henrik Kjerrumgaard, who advised her to drop the dull platitudes, simplify her message and stick to her beliefs — even if they made her unpopular. She rethought how to present herself.

“All of us have multiple selves,” she said. “Being a public figure is not about changing yourself, but maybe bringing out some other side of yourself.” She learned to smile more, she said, “to be more direct, less detailed, not like an economist lecturing.”

Her party rebounded in the 2011 elections and joined a three-party governing coalition led by the Social Democrats under Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Appointed to the new post of economics and interior minister, Ms. Vestager pushed through deeply unpopular cuts in retirement and unemployment benefits — forcing Ms. Thorning-Schmidt to renege on her own campaign promises — while helping enact more liberal immigration policies.

She made a fair share of enemies, among them a group of long-term unemployed workers angry about reductions in their benefits. She still keeps the sculpture they gave her, of a middle-finger-brandishing hand, in her office in Brussels, saying it was “a reminder that you will make mistakes, and people will have a different point of view, and that should be part of your understanding of yourself.”

In 2014, Denmark made her the country’s appointee to the European Commission, and she took charge of the competition portfolio.

Ms. Vestager appears to have found that rare thing, a decent work-life balance. (By comparison, the fictional character she and Ms. Thorning-Schmidt are collectively said to have inspired, Birgitte Nyborg, the central figure of the Danish political drama “Borgen,” struggles unsuccessfully to hang onto her marriage.) Ms. Vestager’s husband, Thomas Jensen, a math and philosophy teacher, lives in Copenhagen with their youngest daughter, 15. Their two older daughters are in college.

“Here, it’s more the rule than the exception to be a working mother,” she said. “I have sometimes been asked if I’m a bad mother to my daughters, and I say, ‘They don’t know any different — this is the mother they’ve got.’”

Lately she has been thinking about power — what it is, who has it, how it is used — after reading the historian Mary Beard’s latest book, “Women and Power.” “The #MeToo movement can be maybe the most important catalyst for decades in doing that,” Ms. Vestager said. “It tears down our understanding of power.

“Power is not something you own,” she continued. “It’s only something you’re borrowing.”

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Berkshire’s Annual Meeting: Buffett Approves of Apple’s Buyback Plan


Berkshire owns more than 60 businesses. Women are chief executives at six of those businesses, and the Berkshire-owned Ben Bridge Jeweler named Lisa Bridge as president late last year to run the jeweler’s day-to-day operations.

“I feel very good about the decisions we’ve made about our C.E.O.s,” he added.

He did not answer whether Berkshire would push for gender equality on the boards of the companies that Berkshire is invested in.

Mr. Buffett also said it was clear that women had been treated unfairly in the past.

“I have two sisters who are absolutely as smart as I am, and they have better personalities,” he said. “They didn’t remotely have the same opportunities as I had.”

Mr. Buffett said there was still a “pipeline problem” in corporate America, making it hard to find as many qualified women to lead companies.

But, he added, “you can’t use that excuse forever.”

— Emily Flitter

Buffett approves of Apple’s buyback plan.

Berkshire is quickly building its stake in Apple.

Since Berkshire first invested in the iPhone maker about two years ago, the stake has grown into Berkshire’s largest holding. At the end of the first quarter, Berkshire owned $40.7 billion of Apple’s shares, up from $28.2 billion at the end of 2017.

So what does Warren Buffett think about Apple’s announcement that it plans to buy back $100 billion of its shares?

“I’m delighted to see them repurchasing shares,” Mr. Buffett said. “We own 5 percent of it. With the passage of a little time, we may own 6 or 7 percent because they repurchase shares.”

Charles Munger added that he and Mr. Buffett don’t approve of every buyback plan, but he doubted Apple would find an acquisition target at a good price.

“The reason companies are buying their stocks is that they are smart enough to know it’s better for them than anything else,” Mr. Munger said.

What about Microsoft?

Given Berkshire’s investment in Apple, one shareholder wanted to know why Berkshire never invested in Microsoft. The question came with Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder and a director at Berkshire, sitting in the audience.

“In the earlier years, the answer is stupidity,” Mr. Buffett replied. But then Mr. Buffett added that his friendship with Mr. Gates has grown over the years, and he has stayed away from investing “because of the inference” that could be drawn.

And Amazon and Alphabet…

Mr. Buffett has famously avoided investing in tech companies because he didn’t understand them. But one investor wanted to know if Mr. Buffett’s stance is evolving. Beyond Apple, the questioner pointed out that Amazon and Google parent Alphabet have the characteristics of companies Mr. Buffett typically likes to invest in: strong brand names and little competition.

Here’s the reason Mr. Buffett gave for not investing in Amazon:

“The truth is that I’ve watched Amazon from the start, and I think what Jeff Bezos has done is something close to a miracle. The problem is if I think something will be a miracle, I tend not to bet on it.”

As for Alphabet, Mr. Buffett said that he had “made a mistake.” He said he was unable to conclude that at Alphabet’s present prices, its “prospects were far better than the prices indicated.”

He then explained that he didn’t invest in Apple because it was a tech stock. “I went into Apple because I came to certain conclusions about the value with which the capital was being deployed and about the ecosystem,” he said.

The discussion did lead to one of the more humorous exchanges of the meeting:

Mr. Munger: “I’ve been to Google headquarters. It looks to me like a kindergarten.”

Mr. Buffett: “A very rich kindergarten.”

One thing Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger aren’t fans of? Cryptocurrencies.

Warren Buffett and Charles Munger saved their harshest words for cryptocurrencies.

“Cryptocurrencies will come to bad endings.” Mr. Buffett said, responding to an attendee from Ukraine.

Mr. Buffett’s main argument against cryptocurrencies is the same one he has made about gold: They are not a “productive asset.” That means the value of cryptocurrencies is determined solely by what someone is willing to pay for it.

“If you had bought gold at the time of Christ and you figure the compound rate on it, it’s a couple tenths of a percent,” Mr. Buffett said.

But his criticism didn’t stop there. He said cryptocurrencies attract a lot of “charlatans” and “people of less than stellar character.”

Mr. Munger was perhaps harsher. “It’s just disgusting,” he said.

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Nati Harnik/Associated Press

Mr. Buffett isn’t backing off his comments about guns

In February, Warren Buffett was asked on CNBC about some chief executives distancing their businesses from the National Rifle Association. Mr. Buffett responded: “I don’t think that Berkshire should say we’re not going to do business with people who own guns. I think that would be ridiculous.”

That comment came up at Saturday’s meeting, and one shareholder wanted to know if Mr. Buffett had misspoken.

Mr. Buffett answered by largely repeating what he had said earlier this year:

“I do not believe on imposing my political opinions on the activities of our businesses.

“If you get into which of our companies are pure and which ones aren’t pure, I think it will be very difficult. I don’t think that we should question on the Geico policy form: Are you an N.R.A. member? And if you are, you just aren’t good enough for us.”

Mr. Munger then added:

”Certainly we’re not going to ban all guns surrounded by wild turkeys in Omaha.”

Warren Buffett is sticking by Wells Fargo

Over the past two years, regulators and whistle-blowers have revealed Wells Fargo employees were creating fake accounts using customers’ identities, forcing borrowers to buy unnecessary auto insurance, and overcharging on mortgage fees.

The Federal Reserve earlier this year restricted its growth until it demonstrates it is complying with bank regulations.

Berkshire first invested in Wells Fargo nearly three decades ago and is currently the bank’s biggest holder with a nearly 10 percent stake.

In response to a question about whether it was time to abandon the bank, which has already seen turnover in its executive suite and boardroom, Mr. Buffett said he thought Wells Fargo’s problems would only make it stronger in the long run.

“All the big banks have had troubles of one sort or another and I see no reason why Wells Fargo as a company, from both an investment standpoint and a moral standpoint going forward, is in any way inferior to the other big banks with which it competes,” he said.

He specifically praised the bank’s chief executive, Tim Sloan, a longtime Wells Fargo executive who took over when his predecessor John Stumpf resigned at the height of the fake account scandal. Criticism from Mr. Buffett could have increased pressure on Mr. Sloan. But the 87-year-old praised him.

“I like Tim Sloan as a manager,” Mr. Buffett said. “He is correcting mistakes made by other people.”

Mr. Buffett went further: What happened at Wells Fargo could’ve happened anywhere, he said.

“We know people are doing something wrong as we sit here at Berkshire. You can’t have 370,000 employees and expect that everyone is behaving like Ben Franklin.” On the fake account scandal specifically, which the bank has said resulted from intense pressure on its branch managers to increase sales, Buffett said: “Wells Fargo is a company that proved the efficacy of incentives and it’s just that they had the wrong incentives.”

— Emily Flitter

Is Mr. Buffett semiretired?

The question of who will succeed Warren Buffett has been a thread through many of the exchanges with shareholders.

Carol Loomis, a former Fortune writer, kicked off the question and answer session by reading a question from an investor, asking if Mr. Buffett is semiretired now. In recent years, Mr. Buffett has handed off some of his investing duties to Ted Weschler and Todd Combs, Berkshire’s two portfolios managers, and in January, Mr. Buffett promoted longtime Berkshire executives, Gregory E. Abel and Ajit Jain, to oversee Berkshire’s businesses.

“I’ve been semiretired for decades,” Mr. Buffett replied with a chuckle, but then he got serious.

“Ted and Todd each manage about 12 or 13 billion,” he said. “Together that’s $25 billion. They’re managing $25 billion and doing a very good job.”

He then quickly reminded the questioner of the size of the company’s assets: “I still have the responsibility for the other $300 billion.”

Charles T. Munger, Berkshire’s vice chairman, added: “I watch Warren. He spends most of his time reading and thinking and occasionally he’ll make a phone call or talk to somebody. Not much has changed.”

Another shareholder asked whether Berkshire will have trouble doing deals once Mr. Buffett is no longer with the company. Companies have regularly approached Berkshire over the years about being bought. That has allowed Berkshire to avoid bidding wars and to make acquisitions at lower prices.

The shareholder wanted to know if Mr. Buffett’s successor would continue to have access to those deals and whether Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger should aggressively publicize the work of their successors to help pass on thei “hometown advantage.”

“I think the reputation of Berkshire as being a very good home for companies, particularly a very good private home for a company, I don’t think that reputation is dependent on me or Charlie,” Mr. Buffett said. “It may take a little — there may be a little testing period for whoever takes over.”

”The truth is that I think some of the other executives are getting better known,” he added.

— Emily Flitter and Stephen Grocer

Where does Berkshire’s health care venture with JPMorgan and Amazon stand?

A lot remains unknown about Berkshire’s health care partnership with Amazon and JPMorgan Chase more than three months after the companies announced the venture.

The three firms said in January that they were teaming up to try to find a better, cheaper way to provide health care to their own workers, a combined one million people. And they said if their idea worked, they would seek to share it with other companies.

Warren Buffett on Saturday again called the cost of health care “a tapeworm in terms of American business.” He lamented the success other countries — he did not name any — have had keeping their own health care costs at a lower proportion of their gross domestic product.

But just how Berkshire’s partnership will address the problem remains a big question.

Mr. Buffett had no more details to offer on Saturday. He said the people leading the effort are still searching for a chief executive. They could announce a hire “within a couple of months,” he added.

“Whether we can bring the resources, bring the person, that C.E.O., is terribly important. Bring the person, support that person and somehow figure out a better way for people to continue to receive better medical care in the United States,” he mused “We’ll see if that will happen.”

But Mr. Buffett seemed uncertain, though hopeful, about the effort as a whole.

“We are attacking an industry moat,” Mr. Buffett said. “That’s a huge moat. We’ll do our best. If we fail, I hope somebody else succeeds.”

Charles Munger, Berkshire’s vice chairman, weighed in: “I suspect that eventually when the Democrats control both houses of Congress and the White House, I suspect that we will get a single payer system, and I suspect it won’t be very friendly to the existing” pharmacy benefit managers.

— Emily Flitter

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A drawing of Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting.

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Rick Wilking/Reuters

Trade ‘is a win-win situation’

The Trump administration has taken a more combative stance on trade, particularly with China.

So it comes as little surprise then that one of the first questions put to Warren Buffett and Charles Munger was about trade. Here’s Mr. Buffett’s response:

“The United States and China are going to be the two superpowers of the world, economically and in other ways, for a long, long, long, long time. We have a lot of common interests, and like any two big economic entities, there are times when there will be tensions. But it is a win-win situation when the world trades, and China and the United States are the two big factors in that.”

“It is a win-win situation. The only problem is when one side or the other wants to win a little bit too much.”

About those accounting changes…

Warren Buffett warned in his annual letter that a new accounting rule would “severely distort Berkshire’s net income figures and very often mislead commentators and investors.”

Saturday morning Berkshire reported a net loss for the first quarter because of those accounting changes. The new rules require Berkshire to include in its earnings the gains and losses on the stocks it holds but has not sold.

In the first quarter, Berkshire’s net loss was $1.14 billion, compared with net income of $4.06 billion a year earlier.

Given the new accounting rule, Mr. Buffett suggested Saturday that shareholders should look at Berkshire’s operating income, which excludes gains and losses for Berkshire’s investments, for a more accurate picture of the company’s performance.

Berkshire reported its operating income rose 49 percent to $5.29 billion from a year ago.

— Stephen Grocer

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Shareholders walking through the exhibit hall at Berkshire Hathaway’s 2018 annual meeting.

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Rick Wilking/Reuters

Questions for Mr. Buffett

The main event every year at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting is the question and answer session. Elisa Mala, a reporter working for The New York Times asked those attending Berkshire events on Friday what they would ask Mr. Buffett. Here is a sampling:

• What is the single greatest important investment in your lifetime? Is it a company? Is it a relationship? — Conner Van Fossen, Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Mass.

• What are your thoughts about the future/sustainability of health care and Medicare, and how is Berkshire Hathaway’s joint venture with JPMorgan Chase and Amazon going to address this?Timothy Liu, San Francisco Bay Area.

• What does he see in the cryptocurrency market? Is it going to be the future? Is it going to replace the way we exchange value? Is it worth the hype? — Jason Lu, Shanghai

• Where do you see the job market going, given the rise of Artificial Intelligence? — Ralph Humphrey, Hillside, N.J.

• He’s been technology averse in the past. What makes him so bullish on Apple? — Brian Hanks, Salt Lake City, Utah

• How long he plans on doing this. —Bill Skidmore, Omaha, Neb.

— Elisa Mala

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Jessica Staben taking a selfie with 1-year-old Cecilia Johnson in front of a caricature of Warren Buffett, right, and Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman Charlie Munger.

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Nati Harnik/Associated Press

Scenes from Omaha: shopping day

(As Berkshire’s annual meeting has grown over the years, it has become a three-day event. Friday is Berkshire Hathaway’s shopping day, where shareholders can buy products from many Berkshire-owned companies.)

Shareholders moseyed around CenturyLink Center, where the annual meeting takes place, perusing dozens of booths displaying goods — many created specifically for the event — from brands like Geico, NetJets and Coca-Cola.

What was really on sale? All things Warren Buffett.

Investors could snack on a Dilly Bar, the long-favored Popsicle of the Oracle of Omaha, for $1 or snag “Warren and Charlie” rubber ducks ($5 for the pair at the Oriental Trading Company booth). There were Justin cowboy boots embroidered with the words “Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Shareholders Meeting” and guests had the option to “Put yourself in Warren Buffett’s boots,” as the marketing materials suggest, and purchase a style that had been owned by the man himself.

Jim Van Fossen, a retired financial planner, bought matching Berkshire Hathaway boxers for himself and his son, Conner Van Fossen. In town from Missoula, Mont., he said he wanted a memento of their first trip to the shareholders’ meeting.

Of course, shoppers and vendors were hoping for a sighting and interaction with the man himself. Failing that, they settled for selfies with his many likenesses. See’s Candies displayed Scotch Kiss confections “made by Warren,” and one staff member’s uniform bore Mr. Buffett’s autograph.

The most photographed autograph was at the Benjamin Moore paint booth, where Mr. Buffett had signed his name in permanent marker next to a wall-size mural of his face. All day long, revelers followed suit, decorating the wall with their own signatures in dry-erase ink, and snapping selfies to preserve the memory.

— Elisa Mala

health care

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Apple Says It Will Buy Back $100 Billion in Stock


Luca Maestri, Apple’s chief financial officer, said in an interview that Apple was making significant investments in hiring, research and development, and manufacturing, “but we also have a very, very profitable business.”

He said that “because we’re making all the right investments all around the company, it makes perfect sense for us not to keep the cash on our balance sheet but return it to investors.”

No company has ever done stock buybacks like Apple. In the most recent quarter, Apple repurchased $23.5 billion in stock — the largest single stock buyback ever and more than the market value of 275 of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, said Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst with S&P Dow Jones Indices.

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Analysts were worried that Apple was charging too much for its new iPhone X. But consumers appear to have accepted its price.

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Stephen Lam/Reuters

Apple said Tuesday that it had now returned $275 billion to shareholders since 2012 and that it planned to finish its previous stock-buyback program in the current quarter, about nine months early.

In March, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Democrat, introduced legislation that would restrict companies’ ability to buy back stock, though the bill has little chance of passing.

Other academics and investors cheered Apple’s continued returns to shareholders.

“People like to believe the stories that C.E.O.s do things to boost the short-term stock price and line their own pockets,” said Alex Edmans, a finance professor at the London Business School. “But if you look at hundreds of examples, you find that stock buybacks do increase long-term value.”

He said that companies typically bought back stock only when they had extra cash that they would not reinvest otherwise, and that investors would spend that money elsewhere.

Apple said its profit increased 25 percent to $13.8 billion in the most recent quarter on the back of strong revenue growth for iPhones, the Apple Watch and its services business. Apple earned $2.73 a share, it said, beating Wall Street estimates by 6 cents. Revenue rose 16 percent to $61.1 billion.

The three months ending with March were Apple’s first full quarter selling its new flagship phone, the iPhone X. Analysts had pointed to signs, including the financial results of Apple’s suppliers, that the device and its sister iPhone 8 and 8 Plus had not revitalized Apple’s iPhone business as the company had hoped. Many analysts lowered their estimates for Apple in recent weeks as a result.

Apple said it sold 52.2 million iPhones in the quarter, or 3 percent more than a year earlier. But an 11 percent increase in their average price — driven by the $1,000 iPhone X — helped raise iPhone revenue by 14 percent.

Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, hit back at the notion that the iPhone business, which accounts for 62 percent of the company’s overall revenue, had little room to grow. “I don’t buy the view that the market is saturated,” he said.

Investors have also worried that Apple’s influence in China, the company’s No. 2 market, is waning amid stronger competition from Chinese rivals. But Apple’s results suggest that Chinese consumers are willing to pay for the pricier iPhones. Apple said revenue in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong had risen 21 percent to $13 billion, the largest increase in 10 quarters.

And Apple’s services revenue, which includes iCloud and Apple Music subscriptions and its share of app sales, rose 31 percent to $9.2 billion. Apple said consumers had paid for more than 270 million subscriptions for its services or ones sold via its App Store, up from roughly 170 million a year earlier.

Continue reading the main story

Telsa Reports Another Loss but Beats Expectations: DealBook Briefing


• Revenue climbed to $3.41 billion, topping analyst expectations of $3.28 billion.

• Tesla’s negative free cash flow increased to about $1 billion in the first quarter, up from $277 million during the fourth quarter of last year.

• The company had $2.67 billion in cash at the end of the first quarter, compared with $3.37 billion at the end of December.

White House considers further restrictions of Chinese telecoms

The Trump administration is considering executive action to further restrict the sale of Chinese telecommunications equipment in the United States,

What is in the executive order, which could be released within days:

• It is expected to raise the barrier for government agencies to buy products from foreign telecom equipment providers like Huawei and ZTE, two of China’s most prominent technology firms.

• Private government contractors may also be restricted from buying foreign telecom products, which the United States believes may be vulnerable to Chinese espionage or disruption.

The order would follow a series of intensifying actions by the Trump administration to block Chinese technology.

• In March, the Federal Communications Commission took action to block broadband companies that receive federal subsidies from buying equipment from suppliers that are deemed a risk to national security.

• In April, the Commerce Department barred ZTE from purchases of American technology for seven years, saying that the company failed to punish employees who violated sanctions.

• On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Department of Defense said it was stopping the sale of phones made by Huawei and ZTE in stores on American military bases around the world because of security concerns.

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Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Investors focus on Fed’s use of ‘symmetric’

As expected, the Federal Reserve held interest rates steady at the conclusion of its two-day policy meeting on Wednesday.

The central bank acknowledged rising inflation but provided little indication that officials are worried about a sudden, rapid escalation in prices or an abrupt slowdown in economic growth that could alter its gradual pace of rate increases.

Perhaps the biggest change to the Fed policy statement was the use of the word “symmetric” to describe its inflation target.

“The Committee will carefully monitor actual and expected inflation developments relative to its symmetric inflation goal.”

The Fed uses the word “symmetric” to emphasize that its goal is to prevent inflation running persistently above or below 2 percent. Put another way, investors should not see a 2 percent inflation rate as a level never to be breached. Indeed, on Wednesday, investors appeared to view the Fed’s use of “symmetric” as a signal that the Fed was willing to allow inflation run above the 2 percent level for a period. Ward McCarthy, the chief financial economist at Jeffries, wrote:

“To the extent there is a surprise in the policy statement, it is that the addition of the description of the 2% inflation objective as being ‘symmetric.’ This intended to reinforce some of the inflation rhetoric that has indicated that deviation of inflation to the upside will not necessarily elicit a policy response, especially in light of the prolonged period of below-target inflation.”

Why Apple’s share repurchases have been good for investors

Apple’s stock buyback program isn’t just bigger than those of other companies, it’s also better at doing what investors want share repurchases to do.

Apple on Tuesday said it was going to buy back another $100 billion of its own stock. The company announced the plan as it is about to complete a $210 billion stock repurchase program. As large as those numbers seem, they don’t reveal the degree to which the repurchases have benefited shareholders. What matters to them is whether Apple has significantly fewer shares outstanding at the end of the program. If that is achieved, Apple’s earnings per share will be higher, which could lead investors to view the stock more positively.

Apple’s diluted shares outstanding have fallen nearly 24 percent over the past five years. Here’s how that compares with some companies that are known for their large stock buybacks. Over the past five years, IBM’s shares outstanding have declined by some 18 percent, Cisco’s have decreased just over 8 percent, and Microsoft’s have fallen by 7.5 percent.

Apple’s cash flow statements show it has spent nearly $200 billion on stock repurchases over the past five years, which works out at 57 percent of its cash flow from operations for the period. That percentage is also above that of other companies. The cash Cisco spent on stock repurchases over the past five years amounted to 46 percent of its cash flow from operations. At IBM, that number was 44 percent.

— Peter Eavis

Apple’s big tax cut plan: stock buybacks

Repurchasing $100 billion worth of shares should use a lot of Apple’s famous $252 billion cash hoard. But it isn’t an investment in R.&D. or hiring, and it disproportionately affects wealthier stockholders rather than most people.

The buybacks aren’t coming at the expense of U.S. investment or job-creation, Apple says. (Its C.F.O., Luca Maestri, said Apple was indeed investing, but that didn’t mean it should keep extra cash on its balance sheet.) But there’s a pattern of American companies using their tax windfalls to reward investors rather than to expand.

Peter Eavis’s take: The amount sounds like a lot, but Apple has a huge stock market value, and investors are now used to buybacks.

How Apple’s business looks: Pretty good. Higher iPhone prices helped. And services revenue is growing strongly.

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Officials including Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve’s chairman, have noted some potential risks to growth, and it is possible, though unlikely, that the Fed will reflect more of those concerns in its statement after Wednesday’s meeting.

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Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Will the Fed offer clues about future rate increases?

Most everyone expects the Federal Reserve to hold interest rates steady at the conclusion of its two-day policy meeting on Wednesday.

But investors and policymakers will comb over the Fed’s policy statement for clues about whether the central bank plans to raise rates more quickly than previously telegraphed.

Here’s what to watch:

• Any new signs of officials expressing concern about an acceleration in prices. Investors would likely interpret any new worries about inflation to mean the pace of rate hikes could quicken.

• Are risks to the economy increasing? Fed officials are broadly optimistic about the strength of the economy, but a few have noted that there are some risks on the horizon for growth — most notably a potential drag from a trade dispute with other nations. Growing concerns about these risks would likely to be taken by the markets as evidence that the Fed will not deviate from its plan to raise rates gradually.

Amazon reportedly to bid for Flipkart

Amazon has reportedly made an offer to buy a 60 percent stake in India’s leading online retailer Flipkart, according to CNBC affiliate CNBC TV-18. Amazon’s offer would set up a potential bidding war with Walmart, which the NYT reported late last month was nearing a deal to acquire a 60 percent stake in Flipkart. The deal would value Flipkart at about $20 billion, the NYT reported.

Snap is trading at its all-time low.

The stock is down more than 18 percent after Snap’s revenue, profit and daily average users all fell short of analysts’ estimates. Snap said its recent redesign of its Snapchat app was dragging down the company’s performance.

“A change this big to existing behavior comes with some disruption,” said Evan Spiegel, Snap’s chief executive.

Critics’ corner

Ross Sandler, an analyst at Barclays, writes that there was little positive to point to in Snap’s first-quarter results.

“SNAP remains a volatile story and execution since the I.P.O. has been less than desirable (outside of 4Q17), but we think a lot of the problems around pricing and Android may start to resolve in 2H.”

Brian Nowak, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, said:

“1Q:18 miss and forward ad commentary speak to continued challenges SNAP faces in turning its business model around.”

Sam Kemp, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said:

“Snap is a poorly structured company that is demonstrating a clear pattern of mismanagement.”

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Carl Icahn

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Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New York Times

How activist investors shook Xerox

Carl Icahn and Darwin Deason can celebrate a major achievement: getting the onetime American icon to replace its C.E.O., Jeff Jacobson, and chairman, Robert Keegan, and to rethink its planned merger with Fujifilm. (They own 15 percent of the company between them.)

More from David Benoit of the WSJ:

Xerox chose to settle with the activists after a judge last week temporarily blocked the Fujifilm transaction, siding with Mr. Deason in a lawsuit and saying the talks were conflicted by Mr. Jacobson’s tenuous position. Seeking a settlement would avoid a distracting fight over its board and uncertainty about the future of the deal, Xerox’s existing board said Tuesday.

The fight may not be over: Fujifilm said today that it’s appealing the injunction.

A must-read: What C.E.O.s get wrong about activists, by Frank Partnoy and DealBook friend Steven Davidoff Solomon. And unrelatedly, are they oversharing?

What regulators will ask about the T-Mobile deal

As the T-Mobile and Sprint C.E.O.s make the rounds in Washington this week to pitch their $26.5 billion deal, three regulators have a role:

• The Justice Department, which has been harder than expected on M.&A., will assess whether consumers face higher prices.

• The F.C.C. will consider whether it’s in the national interest to let the national wireless market shrink from four providers to three.

• Cfius will rule on how the deal might affect national security.

The F.C.C. chairman has sounded warm about consolidation, and controlling shareholders of both companies have passed Cfius reviews before. But regulatory approval is still an open question, and Sprint and T-Mobile’s share prices reflect that.

The political flyaround

• California sued the Trump administration over the E.P.A.’s efforts to weaken car emissions standards. (NYT)

• Robert Mueller reportedly warned President Trump’s legal team that he may seek a subpoena. James Comey thinks the president should submit to an interview. But there are reasons it could prove tricky. Rod Rosenstein described receiving threats, and said that the Justice Department “is not going to be extorted.”

• Scott Pruitt’s trip to Morocco in December was partly planned by a lobbyist who then landed work from the Moroccan government. (NYT)

• Mr. Trump’s former doctor, Harold Bornstein, said that said two Trump Organization executives had “raided” his office last February to seize the president’s medical records. (NBC News)

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Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

The difficulties of a multifront trade fight

As President Trump continues to negotiate with the E.U., Canada and Mexico after extending tariff exemptions by 30 days, his administration is finding that fighting a trade battle on multiple fronts is tough, Peter Eavis writes.

Canada and Mexico’s reprieve from aluminum and steel tariffs may advance Nafta negotiations, but the E.U. got its concession without apparently giving anything up, probably putting it in a stronger position. And the longer the U.S. and the E.U. are at an impasse, the less likely it is that they can push back against China together.

He said it: “There will be pain, but the idea there will be Armageddon and everything will be horrible simply is not true,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said at the Milken Institute Global Conference yesterday.

Elsewhere in trade: The Treasury Department has given Rusal a potential way off a sanctions blacklist. T hat could prevent its delisting from the London Stock Exchange — and ease panic in the global aluminum markets.

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Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Facebook resumes empire building

Yes, the social giant introduced a tool at its F8 developer conference to let people wipe their browsing history on the site. And Mr. Zuckerberg acknowledged the rough times he and the company have endured this year, wincingly joking about his congressional testimony. But the company’s attitude toward growth hasn’t changed. “The world would lose if Facebook went away,” he told developers.

Facebook said it was working on a portable Oculus virtual reality device and — what got everyone’s attention — a dating app that sent shares in the Match Group plunging. (The C.E.O. of IAC, which owns Match Group, responded: “Their product could be great for U.S./Russia relationships.”)

Elsewhere in social media: Snapchat’s users didn’t like its redesign, and investors didn’t like its parent company’s results. The creators of Signal say Amazon has threatened to remove their messaging app from its CloudFront service unless they stop disguising web traffic’s origins. Iran blocked Telegram.

Elsewhere in tech: Netflix wasn’t at the Milken Institute Global Conference, but everyone was talking about it. Amazon is still choosing a second home city, but it’s building in Boston and Vancouver. Can Google’s collegelike culture survive? U.S. regulators are examining whether Ether’s creation broke securities laws.

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Chris Pizzello/Invision, via Chris Pizzello/Invision/Ap

Lantern Capital won The Weinstein Company

That’s despite an 11th-hour bid from Inclusion Media, whose $315 million offer — Lantern’s was $310 million — included a settlement fund for Harvey Weinstein’s victims and was backed by several of them. The board of the bankrupt movie studio said it didn’t consider Inclusion’s bid credible.

Next stop: The judge in The Weinstein Company’s will decide whether to approve Lantern’s deal.

Elwhere in misconduct news: Wendell Jamieson, who resigned as the NYT’s metro editor, had been accused of inappropriate behavior by at least three female employees. Time’s Up has backed #MuteRKelly.

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ITV News

The deals flyaround

• J Sainsbury’s C.E.O. probably shouldn’t have sung “We’re in the money” as he waited for a television interview about his bid for the Asda supermarket chain — at least, not with the camera rolling. (NYT)

• Vista Outdoor is selling its gun-making business. (NYT)

• Birchbox reportedly sold a majority stake to an existing investor, Viking Global, leaving other shareholders with nothing. (Recode)

• Cisco sold its video business back to Permira for $1 billion, a fifth of what it paid in 2012. Cisco also bought Accompany, an A.I.-based relationship analysis start-up, for $270 million.

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Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Revolving door

Dan Loeb is stepping down as chairman of Success Academy Charter Schools after five years. (NYT)

• The medical advice start-up HealthTap fired its C.E.O., Ron Gutman, over accusations he intimidated employees. (Recode)

• MetLife’s C.F.O., John Hele, will leave after the company reported “material weakness” in its financial statements. (FT)

Jess Verrilli, who went from Twitter to GV to Twitter, is back at GV. (Recode)

• Morgan Stanley named Clare Woodman as its first female head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. (FT)

The speed read

• Goldman Sachs has just two women on its 11-member board, lagging other banks. (The Street)

• A common job-interview question helps maintain the gender pay gap. (NYT)

• Some rust belt cities have kept their sheen, but it may just be good luck. (NYT)

• AllianceBernstein is reportedly moving to Nashville to cut costs. (WSJ)

• How a crackdown on aggressive borrowing in China is hurting Hollywood. (The Information)

• BP’s C.F.O., Brian Gilvary, dismissed a claim that its C.E.O., Bob Dudley, had been poisoned in Moscow as “a complete urban myth.” (CNBC)

• Britain is to order its overseas territories, including the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, to publicly identify company owners. (FT)

• Switzerland is prosecuting two PetroSaudi International officials over alleged dealings with the Malaysian state investment fund. (WSJ)

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You can find live updates throughout the day at nytimes.com/dealbook.

We’d love your feedback. Please email thoughts and suggestions to bizday@nytimes.com.

Continue reading the main story

Facebook Takes the Punches While Rest of Silicon Valley Ducks


For now, at least.

Before Mr. Zuckerberg testified on Tuesday, Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent letters to Mr. Pichai and Mr. Dorsey with 14 questions. In his letter to Google, Mr. Grassley wanted to “understand how Google manages and monitors user privacy for the significant amounts of data which it collects.”

[2 days, 10 hours, 600 questions: Read about what happened when Mark Zuckerberg went to Washington.]

The companies have until April 25 to respond. When asked whether they were concerned about congressional or regulatory scrutiny, Google and Twitter, though company representatives, declined to comment.

“Outside of Facebook, there is probably no company paying more attention” than Google, said Jason Kint, a frequent critic of Google and Facebook and chief executive of Digital Content Next, a trade group that represents entertainment and news organizations, including The New York Times. “They’re absolutely ducking for cover while the heat is on Facebook. They don’t want to try to trip any alarms.”

Like Facebook, Google collects vast amount of data on users — including their YouTube choices, internet searches, and location history — to target advertisements. While Facebook has more than 2 billion users globally, Google has seven products, including YouTube, Gmail and its Android software, with more than a billion users each.

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Mark Zuckerberg, questioned about Facebook’s tracking of logged-off users, pointed out that Google and “the rest of the industry” employed similar tactics.

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Tom Brenner/The New York Times

On Wednesday, when Representative John Shimkus, Republican of Illinois, questioned Facebook’s tracking of logged-off users, Mr. Zuckerberg was quick to point out that Google and “the rest of the industry” employed similar tactics. It was one of the few times Google’s data practices were mentioned in the two days of hearings.

Mr. Zuckerberg didn’t get a chance to say much more about Facebook’s industry peers this week. Over two days of hearings, Google was referenced 11 times by lawmakers. Twitter was mentioned 10 times and Amazon once. Apple was mentioned three times, mostly in passing.

Google employees said they have not received explicit order from management to keep a low profile because most already understand the risk. One employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because workers were not allowed to speak publicly on the issue, said there is an understanding inside Google that the company is the obvious next target.

In a statement, Aaron Stein, a Google spokesman, said the company is “completely focused on protecting our users’ data” and “will take action” if it finds evidence of “deceptive behavior or misuse of personal data.”

Google has been criticized — even fined — for its privacy practices over the years. It paid a $17 million fine to settle a case when it bypassed privacy settings in Apple’s Safari browser to track users and show them advertisements in 2011 and 2012. It also got dinged for scooping up people’s passwords, email and other personal information during its Street View mapping project.

Privacy advocates also criticized a Google social network, called Buzz, in 2010 for automatically including users’ email contact. Google eventually settled the matter with the Federal Trade Commission and agreed to strengthen an existing privacy program.

Google is staying on the sidelines in other ways. Four days before Mr. Zuckerberg was set to testify, Facebook surprised many in Washington when it endorsed the Honest Ads Act, a Senate bill that would require more transparency and stricter rules for political ads on the internet. Facebook’s endorsement was a reversal from its previous opposition, said a spokeswoman for one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia.

Mr. Warner and another co-sponsor, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, called on Twitter and Google to also back the bill. Twitter quickly responded with an endorsement. Google has not taken a public position.

Similarly, Facebook and Google had donated $200,000 each to a group opposing a California ballot initiative that proposes enabling Californians to sue companies for data breaches, among other things. Facebook this week dropped its opposition to the initiative, which organizers said is on track to appear on the November ballot in California.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s notes, which were photographed during the testimony, also contained a prepared response if lawmakers echoed criticism from Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, who has chided Facebook and other companies for collecting gobs of personal information about their users.

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Google’s main campus in Mountain View, Calif. The tech giant has been criticized and fined for its privacy practices over the years.

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Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

“Lots of stories about apps misusing Apple data, never seen Apple notify people,” said the document. “Important you hold everyone to the same standard.”

Representatives for Facebook and Apple declined to comment on Mr. Zuckerberg’s notes.

Apple has long campaigned to draw a distinction between the way it operates and Facebook and Google.

“We’re not going to traffic in your personal life. I think it’s an invasion of privacy,” Mr. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, told MSNBC. “I think everybody needs to understand Silicon Valley is not monolithic.”

After users download Apple’s most recent software update for iPhones and iPads, released on March 29, their devices prominently display a message that Apple believes “privacy is a fundamental human right.” Fred Sainz, an Apple spokesman, said the update, which has been in the works for months, is designed to better inform users on its data practices and comply with Europe’s new data-privacy rules that take effect May 25 — not taunt Facebook.

When asked if it was worried about regulations for the industry stemming from new scrutiny of Facebook, Apple referred to recent comments Mr. Cook made to MSNBC. He said he typically believes “the best regulation is no regulation” but “I think we’re beyond that here.”

Amazon, for its part, has mirrored Google’s approach, staying silent despite the frequent attacks President Trump has made against the company on Twitter. Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesman, declined to comment.

Amazon uses shoppers’ purchase history to target ads, though Forrester Research estimated its advertising revenue last year was $2.5 billion, versus $39.9 billion for Facebook and $95.4 billion for Google.

Privacy advocates are also concerned about the tens of millions of Amazon Echo smart speakers and other voice-controlled devices that have put microphones in people’s homes.

Amazon’s top competitors for that business? Google and Apple.

Many tech companies understand that Washington’s renewed focus on privacy is likely to reach them soon, said Dean Garfield, head of the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade group representing the largest tech companies.

“The tide has shifted,” he said. “I don’t think this is passing us by.”

Continue reading the main story

Mark Zuckerberg’s Own Data Disclosed After Senate Hearing: His Notes


The notes also included what Mr. Zuckerberg should say if asked whether Facebook should be broken up. “U.S. tech companies key asset for America,” was the suggested reply. “Breakup strengthens Chinese companies.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, asked if Facebook was a monopoly. But he did not press Mr. Zuckerberg on whether the company should be divided, and the answer citing Chinese competition was not used.

“You don’t think you have a monopoly?” Mr. Graham asked.

“It certainly doesn’t feel like that to me,” Mr. Zuckerberg replied.

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The talking points gave a detailed view of Facebook’s extensive preparations for Mr. Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress.

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Tom Brenner/The New York Times

Mr. Zuckerberg’s notes also guide a response to recent criticism from Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, who has described his own company as a far more robust defender of consumer privacy.

“Lots of stories about apps misusing Apple data, never seen Apple notify people,” read the notes. But Mr. Cook’s comments were not raised during the hearing, and the response was not used.

Another section warns Mr. Zuckerberg about comments to avoid. In response to any questions about European Union privacy and data protections, the notes instructed that he should not say Facebook already complies with a data privacy law that goes into effect in May.

The image was photographed by Andrew Harnik of The Associated Press and was included in a tweet from Stefan Becket, a senior news editor at CBSNews.com, that was shared widely.

“I took 70 photos of Zuck today,” Mr. Harnik wrote in response. “Leave it to the writers to love the photograph of pages of text.”

Mr. Harnik said he didn’t think the photo constituted the sharing of private information.

“He left it on the desk surrounded by probably upwards of 100 film and still cameras pointed at the desk from every direction,” he tweeted. “I do not think that constitutes an invasion of privacy.”

Photos of notes during official events have a long history of revealing more information than those who held them intended.

In 1975, a photograph of then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the Helsinki Accords showed him reading a document with the heading “TOP SECRET SENSITIVE EXCLUSIVELY EYES ONLY CONTAINS CODE WORD.”

The document, which discussed diplomatic relations between France and North Vietnam based on a C.I.A. source with access to the French Foreign Ministry, undermined ties between Washington and Paris, Lawrence Martin-Bittman, a Boston University scholar, wrote in 1981.

More recently, President Trump was photographed during a meeting with parents, students and teachers who lost loved ones in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting holding notes that included the line, “I hear you.” The image raised questions about his ability to empathize with people who were grieving.

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They Tried to Boycott Facebook, Apple and Google. They Failed.


Ms. Cunningham, who has freelanced for The New York Times, added that she had immediately begun missing Facebook as a research tool for her documentaries. “I don’t know if I can get out of the ecosystem,” she said.

People looking to punish major tech companies by abstaining from their products have been bedeviled time and again by the difficulty in escaping them. After Google fired an engineer, James Damore, for criticizing the company’s diversity efforts last year, hundreds of people on social media called for a boycott of the company. But an analysis of nearly 7,000 tweets using the hashtag #BoycottGoogle since August showed that 26 percent of the tweets came from devices using Google’s Android software, according to Keyhole, a social-media research firm.

One Twitter account named Milton Prescott tweeted on Aug. 8: “Google’s firing of James Damore proves his point completely. I will no longer be using Google for any services. #BoycottGoogle.” The tweet came from an Android device. A message to the account went unreturned.

Even Breitbart is running into the same dilemma. The conservative website is planning to host a panel on how tech platforms like Facebook suppress conservative voices — and it said it would livestream the discussion on Facebook. Breitbart didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Marisa Richardson, a program manager at a life-sciences company, said she began boycotting Amazon recently after learning that it offered the NRA channel on its streaming-video service. So when she needed laundry detergent, she avoided the e-commerce site and instead braved the crowds and traffic — and spent a few dollars more — at a nearby Target.

But a few days later she shopped at the Whole Foods near her home in Oakland, Calif. “I completely forgot that they’re owned by Amazon,” she said.

After the shooting in Parkland in February, gun-control activists called for a boycott of certain Apple and Amazon services because they hosted the NRA channel.

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Ms. Bruzzese said her social media options were limited. Few of her friends are on Twitter, and many have stopped using Snapchat.

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Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times

People used the hashtag #March1NRABoycott to spread the message on social media. An analysis of about 58,500 tweets with the hashtag showed that nearly half came from an iPhone or an iPad, according to Keyhole. Those included popular tweets using the #March1NRABoycott hashtag from the actress Alyssa Milano.

“Had I sent the same tweets from an Android phone, the same issue would apply. There is an NRATV app for Android phones,” Ms. Milano said through a spokeswoman. “We are only just beginning to understand how these companies have infiltrated not only our ideologies, but also our lives in the most in-depth way imaginable.”

Nearly a third of the 4,700 tweets using the #BoycottApple hashtag since August came from iPhones, according to Keyhole.

“I do have an iPhone, but as a customer of Apple’s, am I not allowed to hold them accountable?” Mr. Knight, the activist who used an iPhone to call for an Apple boycott, said in an interview.

Eddy Cue, a senior executive at Apple, recently said that the NRA channel didn’t violate the company’s policies. Facebook, Google and Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Many of those who recently abandoned their Facebook accounts are still in the company’s orbit, not only with Instagram but also with the company’s popular messaging apps WhatsApp and Messenger.

When Cher recently deleted her Facebook page, she said on Twitter, “2day I did something VERY HARD 4 me.” But her Instagram account, with 768,000 followers, was still active.

Likewise, Elon Musk, chief executive of SpaceX and Tesla, deleted the Facebook pages of both companies — but left their pages and his personal account active on Instagram. The photo-sharing platform, he said on Twitter, is fine “so long as it stays fairly independent.”

Stephen Cox, 39, a woodworker in Los Angeles, recently posted on Facebook that he was deactivating his account in favor of Instagram. When someone commented that the two sites were owned by the same company, he replied, “It’s a double-edged sword, but for me one edge is slightly more blunt than the other.”

Instagram has proved an effective hedge for Facebook against people losing interest or trust in its main site. While the percentage of American adults who use Facebook has remained flat at 68 percent since 2016, according to a January survey of 2,002 American adults by the Pew Research Center, Instagram use rose to 35 percent from 28 percent over that period. Instagram is also more popular with younger people than older people, according to the survey.

Rayven Bruzzese, 26, a sign-language student in Philadelphia, said she had been a frequent user of Facebook for years but deleted her account in March because she found it upsetting and a drain on her time. Now she spends her time on Instagram.

While she acknowledged the irony of moving to another Facebook-owned service, she said her options were limited. Few of her friends are on Twitter, and many have stopped using Snapchat.

“Where am I supposed to go?” she said. “I wish there was something else.”

Continue reading the main story

Silicon Valley Warms to Trump After a Chilly Start


Yet quietly, the tech industry has warmed to the White House, especially as companies including Alphabet, Apple and Intel have benefited from the Trump administration’s policies.

Those include lowering corporate taxes, encouraging development of new wireless technology like 5G and, so far, ignoring calls to break up the tech giants. Mr. Trump’s tougher stance on China may also help ward off industry rivals, with the president squashing a hostile bid to acquire the chip maker Qualcomm this month. And Mr. Trump let die an Obama-era rule that required many tech start-ups to give some workers more overtime pay.

Mr. Trump “has been great for business and really, really good for tech,” said Gary Shapiro, who leads the Consumer Technology Association, the largest American tech trade group, with more than 2,200 members including Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Mr. Shapiro said that he had voted for Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump’s opponent, in 2016, but that he and many tech executives had come around on Mr. Trump. While they disagree with him on immigration and the environment, they have found areas where their interests align, like deregulation and investment in internet infrastructure.

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Mr. Trump has praised Apple for saying it would build new plants in the United States. But the company, whose new Silicon Valley headquarters are shown here, has no such plans.

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Jim Wilson/The New York Times

“This isn’t Hitler or Mussolini here,” Mr. Shapiro said. And even though the president’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum could hurt American businesses and consumers, “disagreement in one area does not mean we cannot work together in others,” Mr. Shapiro said. “Everyone who is married knows that.”

Mr. Trump himself has taken to naming tech companies he says are on his side.

After Apple took advantage of the new tax law in January to bring back most of the $252 billion cash hoard that it had parked overseas, the company said it would make a $350 billion “contribution to the U.S. economy” over the next five years. That prompted Mr. Trump to suggest he had made good on a campaign pledge to get Apple to bring jobs back to the United States.

“You know, for $350 million, you could build a beautiful plant. But for $350 billion, they’re going to build a lot of plants,” the president told members of Congress last month. Mr. Trump said he had called Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, to personally thank him.

In fact, Apple has no plans to build a plant in the United States. The company is uneasy with Mr. Trump’s invoking it to signify how his policies are working, according to a person close to Apple who was not authorized to speak publicly. Apple has not, however, publicly corrected the president.

Mr. Trump has also stayed quiet on the controversy engulfing Facebook over user privacy, while other politicians have called for more regulations after revelations that the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested the information of 50 million Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica used that data to aid Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Michael Kratsios, the White House’s deputy chief technology officer, said in an interview that while Mr. Trump and Silicon Valley had their differences, “in places where we do see eye to eye, I think we’re achieving extraordinary success.”

Dean Garfield, head of the Information Technology Industry Council, a 102-year-old advocacy group that represents the biggest tech firms, said his members walked a tightrope, supporting and opposing the president on different issues. Lately, he said, “we have reached balance in the tightrope.”

The equilibrium marks a turnabout from what had been a testy relationship between Mr. Trump and the tech sector. On the campaign trail in 2016, Mr. Trump was so critical of tech companies that Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, once joked he might send Mr. Trump to space in a rocket.

Some tech executives have since disagreed with Mr. Trump on social issues. Mr. Cook emailed staff last June to say he had unsuccessfully lobbied the president to remain in the Paris climate accords. In November, Microsoft sued the administration to protect a law that blocks deportation of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers. More than 100 companies, including Google, Facebook and Uber, filed a brief supporting California’s lawsuit on that issue.

Even so, tech executives worked to build a relationship with the president, with some meeting him at Trump Tower before his inauguration and again at the White House in June. While in Washington for the second meeting, Mr. Cook and Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, also dined with Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, and Ivanka Trump at the couple’s Washington home, according to a person briefed on the meeting who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about it. This month, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin visited Apple’s headquarters.

Silicon Valley has found plenty to like about the Trump presidency. In September, tech giants including Facebook and Microsoft teamed up with the administration to pledge $500 million to computer science education. Amazon, Microsoft and Google are also eyeing the administration as a potential customer as Mr. Trump pushes to modernize the government’s digital infrastructure.

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Mr. Cook, right, and the venture capitalist Peter Thiel met with Mr. Trump in December 2016. “In places where we do see eye to eye, I think we’re achieving extraordinary success,” said Michael Kratsios, the White House’s deputy chief technology officer.

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Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

But Silicon Valley’s favorite thing about Mr. Trump is almost certainly his new tax code. Many tech companies lobbied for corporate tax reform for years before Mr. Trump signed the new tax bill.

Tech giants immediately reaped the benefits. Under the new rules, Apple saved $43.7 billion in taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan tax research group. Apple then announced the $350 billion “contribution” to the American economy over five years.

Most of the tally was previously planned spending with American suppliers and a $38 billion tax payment on its overseas cash. But Apple also said it planned to hire 20,000 new workers, invest in new data centers and another domestic campus, and increase a fund for innovative American manufacturers to $5 billion from $1 billion. It also gave employees $2,500 bonuses.

The president was quick to tweet the news.

The shifting relationship between Silicon Valley and Mr. Trump appears to have upset some tech employees. A Facebook page called “Angry Googler,” with nearly 1,000 followers, has been dedicated to criticizing Google for any sign it was cooperating with the president.

“Not happy about Google pulling a 180 and jumping into bed with Trump? Same here,” said the “About” section of the page, which suggests it is run by a Google employee. This month, the page posted an article about Google helping the Defense Department analyze drone footage. “We’ve gone from organizing the world’s information to … optimizing weapons of war,” the page said.

Messages to the account were not returned. Google declined to comment.

Some tech firms remain discomfited about appearing as the president’s allies. Last month, Rob Goldman, Facebook’s vice president of advertising, played down Russia’s impact on the 2016 election after the Justice Department charged 13 Russians with trying to subvert its outcome, including by using Facebook. Mr. Trump retweeted Mr. Goldman approvingly.

Facebook was uncomfortable with that association with the president, said a person close to the company who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Two days later, Facebook’s policy chief, Joel Kaplan, distanced the company from Mr. Goldman’s comments.

“The special counsel has issued its indictments, and nothing we found contradicts their conclusions,” he said in a statement. “Any suggestion otherwise is wrong.”

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