Hello, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider Tech newsletter, where we break down the biggest news in tech, including:
- Google employees fight for the right to work from home
- Apple App Store model is under attack
- How Etsy’s marketplace became a free-for-all of listings for dead pets, radioactive material and weapons
Soundtrack: This week’s newsletter has been specially designed to be consumed while listening to the Beastie Boys’ “Car Thief”
This week: Googlers fight for their right to WFH
We’ve seen tech worker revolts about everything from toxic corporate cultures to sexual misconduct to workplace clampdowns on political speech. Now, some Google employees are up in arms about a new hot-button issue: remote work.
Google employees are due back in the office in September, and many are not happy about it. Some are even threatening to quit if they’re not allowed to permanently work from home, as Hugh Langley reports:
While tech firms such as Microsoft and Twitter have announced plans to allow employees to work from home permanently, Google has resisted going fully remote, and employees said there’s an increasing sense of frustration among a faction of the workforce.
Over the past few months, CEO Sundar Pichai has made other hints that Google is considering a flexible setup when employees return. Since then, questions about remote work have been continually put to leadership, said employees and internal materials viewed by Insider.
“Almost every TGIF or area all-hands, the question gets asked,” one employee said.
It’s an interesting turn of events for a company so instrumental in creating Silicon Valley’s cushy workplace trend, where campuses brim with free-to-eat restaurants, laundry service, volleyball courts and massage therapists.
As we learned in Google’s blowout Q1 results, having employees work from home saves a lot of money. Google reduced its spending on travel, entertainment and other expenses by $268 million in Q1 as a result of COVID-19.
And while Google’s interactions with employees about the future workplace has been bumpy, the company is apparently on the ball when it comes to the technical aspects of a hybrid workforce.
- A special “hot desk” prototype created by Google will remember each user’s individual preferences, automatically adjusting things like desk height, monitor tilt, temperature — even the family photos displayed on the Nest Hub device will adjust to whoever the occupant is on any given day.
Remote workers of the world, unite … or be shackled to Google’s customizable hot desk.
Read Hugh’s full story here:
Google’s push to bring employees back to offices in September is frustrating some employees who say they’ll quit if they can’t be remote forever
Apple’s Spring sprint
It’s been a busy and eventful couple of weeks for Apple — and things aren’t likely to slow down anytime soon.
- This week, Apple reported quarterly earnings that crushed Wall Street expectations thanks to booming iPhone and Mac sales.
- Apple also officially threw down the gauntlet at Facebook this week, with the release of iOS 14.5 and its famous anti-tracking feature.
- The week before that, Apple unveiled a new line up of devices, including its long-awaited AirtTag devices, as well as new iPads.
But the main event kicks off this coming week, when the antitrust trial between Apple and “Fortnite”-maker Epic Games kicks off over Apple’s App Store policies, particularly the 15% to 30% cut that Apple takes from sales on its platform.
- The trial begins Monday in federal court in Oakland, CA. Among the people expected to take the stand are Apple CEO Tim Cook, software boss Craig Federighi (also known as Hair Force One) and Epic CEO Tim Sweeney.
- The stakes are high for Apple, which could potentially lose at least some of its control over the closed iPhone platform, as well as for the broader tech landscape, where the power of platforms from Google to Amazon are being questioned.
- Indeed, Epic’s case against Apple got an extra boost on Friday when the European Commission issued a preliminary ruling that Apple’s conduct in music streaming business — Apple operates its own Apple Music service and manages the App Store platform that competitors like Spotify must use — is an unfair competitive advantage.
From the curiosities file…
Camouflage a la Zuck: Remember the photo that went viral this summer of Mark Zuckerberg riding an electric surfboard with his face covered in white sunscreen? Well, now we know the story behind the photo. Zuck purposefully — and it seems misguidedly — smeared the sunscreen all over his face in an effort to throw off a nearby paparazzi.
Too hot to handle: It took 80 firefighters more than three hours to control a blaze at the Montreal home of Pornhub founder Feras Antoon. The home was under construction and no one was injured, but authorities suspect arson. Two people were seen on the $20 million property shortly before the blaze.
“We’ve had production stop because of a USB cable. At one point, for Model S, we literally raided every electronics store in the Bay Area. For a few days there, nobody could buy a USB cable in the Bay Area because we went and bought them all to put them in the car.”
— Elon Musk on Tesla’s earnings call describing the impact of component shortages to the electric carmaker’s production line.
Not necessarily in tech:
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