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Facebook loses CPO Chris Cox and WhatsApp VP Chris Daniels – TechCrunch

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Thirteen-year Facebook veteran, chief product officer and the spirit animal of the social network Chris Cox is departing the company after two years of seeking to do something new. Cox’s exit is part of a big executive reshuffle as Facebook embarks on prioritizing privacy through messaging, groups, Stories and back-end unification of its chat features.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the departure of his long-time friend, saying, “For a few years, Chris has been discussing with me his desire to do something else . . . But after 2016, we both realized we had too much important work to do to improve our products for society, and he stayed to help us work through these issues and help us chart a course for our family of apps going forward. At this point, we have made real progress . . .  As we embark on this next major chapter, Chris has decided now is the time to step back from leading these teams.”

VP of WhatsApp Chris Daniels leaves Facebook

Cox bowing out after so long is understandable, but more surprising is today’s departure of Chris Daniels, an eight-year employee who was moved from being head of Internet.org to VP of WhatsApp just last May in a major re-org. Daniels always felt like a strange choice to oversee international chat leader WhatsApp and its struggles with misinformation in India, given he’d led Internet.org when its zero-rated Free Basics app was banned in India for violating net neutrality.

The changes solidify that Facebook is entering a new era as it chases the trend of feed sharing giving way to private communication. Cox and Daniels may feel they’ve done their part advancing Facebook’s product, and that the company needs renewed energy as it shifts from a relentless growth focus to keeping its users loyal while learning to monetize a new from of social networking.

Here’s the breakdown of the executive changes:

  • Chris Cox will depart Facebook, but hasn’t revealed plans for what’s next. He will not be immediately replaced
  • Chris Daniels will leave WhatsApp, and Facebook declined to provide any details on why or the circumstances
  • Will Cathcart will go from running the main Facebook app to VP of WhatsApp
  • Fidji Simo, who was the VP of Product for Facebook video, news and advertising, will take over Cathcart’s role running Facebook’s main app
  • Javier Olivan, who was Facebook’s VP of growth, will lead the task of identifying how to integrate Facebook’s products, including the plan to unify the backend of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram direct to expand encryption and allow cross-app messaging that some see as a shield against Facebook being broken up
  • Instagram VP Adam Mosseri, Messenger’s VP Stan Chudnovsky, Simo, and Cathcart will now report directly to  Zuckerberg, while Chief Marketing Officer Antonio Lucio reports to COO Sheryl Sandberg

Cox was one of Facebook’s first 15 engineers, joining in 2005 after Zuckerberg convinced him to drop out of a Stanford grad program. He became Facebook’s director of Human Resources and, in 2008, its VP of product. He was promoted to CPO in 2014 and aided in Facebook’s clean-up after the 2016 presidential election, working on misinformation and at-risk countries to deter future attacks on democracy. Over the years, he remained a fixture of Zuckerberg’s inner circle of friends and lieutenants. Oh, and he’s a wicked keyboardist who plays is a very respectable reggae band.

Known for his hit talk revealing the Timeline profile at F8 2011 and giving rousing orientation speeches to each batch of new Facebook employees, Cox’s departure could drag on Facebook’s already shaky morale. Some staffers saw him as a preferred replacement for Zuckerberg should he ever leave the CEO role. That leaves the line of succession an open question at Facebook, with Sandberg, Olivan and Mosseri as the most likely candidates. Cox was seen as so essential that Facebook filed an 8-K disclosure with the SEC about his departure.

The biggest clue to Cox’s departure might be the juxtaposition of a line from his departure note with one from Zuckerberg’s. Cox writes about redefining Facebook around privacy and encryption that “This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through.” Meanwhile, Zuckerberg wrote “Will [Cathcart] has helped lead our teams focused on security and integrity, and he believes deeply in providing end-to-end encryption to everyone in the world across our services.” Reading between the lines, it seems Cathcart was more enthusiastic about executing Facebook’s new roadmap of encryption than Cox.

Some consider encryption as a potential hinderance to other safety work, as it could make it difficult to detect the spread of misinformation or illegal activity. TechCrunch’s investigation into child sexual abuse imagery on WhatsApp revealed that its end-to-end encryption makes it much tougher to catch bad actors.

The change in priority from growth to sustainability through privacy is cemented by Olivan’s new responsibilities. While rarely in the spotlight, his team was seen as one of the most important and powerful at the company. His talents will be applied to making Facebook’s apps work together to prevent churn of its enormous user base, which will take careful product design and a savvy understanding of people’s expectations. Instagram and WhatsApp have become golden geese for Facebook, and Olivan will have to ensure they’re not tarnished through deeper connections to Facebook’s battered brand.

Hey everyone — I want to share some important updates as we organize our company to build out the privacy-focused social platform I discussed in my note last week. Embarking on this new vision represents the start of a new chapter for us.

As part of this, I’m sad to share the news that Chris Cox has decided to leave the company. Chris and I have worked closely together to build our products for more than a decade and I will always appreciate his deep empathy for the people using our services and the uplifting spirit he brings to everything he does. He has played so many central roles at Facebook — starting as an engineer on our original News Feed, building our first HR teams and helping to define our mission and values, leading our product and design teams, running the Facebook app, and most recently overseeing the strategy for our family of apps. Along the way, Chris has helped train many great leaders who are now in important roles across the company — including some who will now take on bigger roles in our new product efforts.

For a few years, Chris has been discussing with me his desire to do something else. He is one of the most talented people I know and he has the potential to do anything he wants. But after 2016, we both realized we had too much important work to do to improve our products for society, and he stayed to help us work through these issues and help us chart a course for our family of apps going forward. At this point, we have made real progress on many issues and we have a clear plan for our apps, centered around making private messaging, stories and groups the foundation of the experience, including enabling encryption and interoperability across our services. As we embark on this next major chapter, Chris has decided now is the time to step back from leading these teams. I will really miss Chris, but mostly I am deeply grateful for everything he has done to build this place and serve our community.

At the same time, as we embark on this new chapter, Chris Daniels has also decided to leave the company. Chris has also done great work in many roles, including running our business development team, leading Internet.org, which has helped more than 100 million people get access to the internet, and most recently at WhatsApp, where he has helped define the business model for our messaging services going forward. Chris is one of the clearest and most principled business thinkers I’ve met and the diversity of challenges he has helped us navigate is impressive. I’ve really enjoyed working with Chris and I’m sure he will do great work at whatever he chooses to take on next.

While it is sad to lose such great people, this also creates opportunities for more great leaders who are energized about the path ahead to take on new and bigger roles.

I’m excited that Will Cathcart will be the new head of WhatsApp. Will is one of the most talented leaders at our company — always focused on solving the most important problems for people and clear-eyed about the challenges and tradeoffs we face. Most recently he has done a great job running the Facebook app, where he has led our shift to focusing on meaningful social interactions and has significantly improved the performance and reliability of the app. In his career here, Will has helped lead our teams focused on security and integrity, and he believes deeply in providing end-to-end encryption to everyone in the world across our services.

I’m also excited that Fidji Simo will be the new head of the Facebook app. She is one of our most talented product and organizational leaders — passionate about building community and supporting creativity, and focused on building strong teams and developing future leaders. She has played key roles in building many aspects of the Facebook app, including leading our work on video and advertising. She believes deeply in helping people get more value out of the networks they’ve built. She has already led this team for much of last year while Will was out on parental leave, and she is the clear person to lead these efforts going forward.

Our family of apps strategy has been led jointly by Chris Cox and Javier Olivan. Chris managed the leaders of the apps directly and Javi has been responsible for all of the central product services that work across our apps, including safety and integrity, analytics, growth, and ads. Javi will now lead identifying where our apps should be more integrated. Javi is an incredibly thoughtful, strategic and analytical leader, and I’m confident this work will continue to go well. Since we have now decided on the basic direction of our family of apps for the next few years, I do not plan on immediately appointing anyone to fill Chris’s role in the near term. Instead, the leaders of Facebook (Fidji Simo), Instagram (Adam Mosseri), Messenger (Stan Chudnovsky), and WhatsApp (Will Cathcart) will report directly to me, and our Chief Marketing Officer (Antonio Lucio) will report directly to Sheryl.

This is an important change as we begin the next chapter of our work building the privacy-focused social foundation for the future. I’m deeply grateful for everything Chris Cox and Chris Daniels have done here, and I’m looking forward to working with Will and Fidji in their new roles as well as everyone who will be critical to achieving this vision. We have so much important work ahead and I’m excited to continue working to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. 

It is with great sadness I share with you that after thirteen years, I’ve decided to leave the company.

Since I was twenty-three, I’ve poured myself into these walls. The pixels, the code, the products we’ve built together, the language, the culture, the values, the big ideas, and most of all, the people. Most all my personal highs and lows of the last decade have been tied up in the journey of this company, with Mark, and with so many of you. This place will forever be a part of me.

On Monday I gave my last orientation at Facebook to a hundred new faces. For over a decade, I’ve been sharing the same message that Mark and I have always believed: social media’s history is not yet written, and its effects are not neutral. It is tied up in the richness and complexity of social life. As its builders we must endeavor to understand its impact — all the good, and all the bad — and take up the daily work of bending it towards the positive, and towards the good. This is our greatest responsibility.

As Mark has outlined, we are turning a new page in our product direction, focused on an encrypted, interoperable, messaging network. It’s a product vision attuned to the subject matter of today: a modern communications platform that balances expression, safety, security, and privacy. This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through.

I’m proud of the team who will succeed me: Fidji, Will, Adam, Stan, and Antonio. They are strong leaders, serious thinkers, good managers, craftspeople, and most importantly, deeply good people. I trust that, along with Mark, they will carry on the work of building out our platforms in a way that honors the responsibilities we have to the billions of people who rely upon our tools each day.

Mark, thank you for creating this place, and for the chance to work beside a dear friend for over thirteen years. Thank you Sheryl, Schrep, and Javi for your partnership, and for showing me what a wise and dedicated team is meant to be. And to the company: thank you for your creativity, humanity, resilience, and sleepless nights. It has been an honor to work alongside you and I will miss you dearly.

-Chris

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Apple on the hook for €10M in Italy, accused of misleading users about iPhone water resistance – TechCrunch

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Apple’s marketing of iPhones as ‘water resistant’ without clarifying the limits of the feature and also having a warranty that excludes cover for damage by liquids has got the company into hot water in Italy.

The Italian competition authority (AGCM) has informed the tech giant of an intent to fine it €10 million for commercial practices related to the marketing and warranty of a number of iPhone models since October 2017, starting with the iPhone 8 through to the iPhone 11, following an investigation into consumer complaints related to its promotion of water resistance and subsequent refusal to cover the cost of repairs caused by water damage.

In a document setting out the AGCM’s decision dated towards the end of October — which was made public today (via Reuters) — the regulator concludes Apple violated the country’s consumer code twice because of what it characterizes as “misleading” and “aggressive” commercial practices.

Its investigation found Apple’s iPhone marketing tricked consumers into believing the devices were impermeable to water, rather than merely water resistant — with the limitations of the feature not given enough prominence in ads. While a disclaimer stating that Apple’s warranty excludes damage by liquids was deemed an aggressive attempt to circumvent consumer rights obligations — given its heavy promotion of the devices as water resistant.

Apple places a liquid contact indicator inside iPhones, which changes from white or silver to red on contact with liquid, and checking the indicator is a standard step undertaken by its repair staff.

The AGCM report cites examples of consumers who’s iPhone had taken a “short dive” in the sea being refused cover. Another complainant had been washing their device under the tap — which Apple deemed improper use.

A third reported that their one-month old iPhone XR stopped working after coming into contact with water. Apple told them they must buy a new device — albeit at a subsidized price.

While an iPhone XS user, with a one-year old handset who reported it had never come into contact with water was refused coverage by Apple support who said it had, complained to the regulator there’s no way for a consumer to prove their device was not immersed in water for more than the length of time and depth to which Apple’s small print specifies it has water resistance.

We’ve reached out to Apple for comment on the AGCM’s findings.

The tech giant has 60 days from the date it was notified of the regulator’s intent to fine to appeal the decision.

The size of the penalty is well under half of the operating profit the regulator says Apple’s Italian operation made in the year September 2018 to September 2019, when it note it recorded revenues on its sales and services of €58,652,628; and an operating profit of €26,918,658.

Two years ago Italy’s competition watchdog also fined Apple and Samsung around $15M for forcing updates on consumers that may slow or break their devices. While, this February, France fined Apple $27 million for capping the OS performance of iPhones with older batteries.

Apple has also faced much larger penalties from competition authorities elsewhere in Europe — including being notified of a $1.2BN fine by France’s competition authority in March this year, which accused the tech giant of operating a reseller cartel along with two wholesale distribution partners, Ingram Micro and Tech Data.

Apple also had to stump up as much as €500M in back taxes demanded by French authorities last year.

While some $15BN from Apple’s European HQ is sitting in an escrow account to cover a 2016 European Commission ‘State Aid’ charge that it illegally benefited from corporate tax arrangements in Ireland between 2003 and 2014.

In July Apple and Ireland won the first round of an appeal against the charge. But the Commission filed an appeal in September — meaning the case will go up to the CJEU, likely adding years more of legal wrangling.

EU lawmakers are continuing to work on pushing for global reform of digital taxation, while some Member States push on with their own digital taxes.

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UK shrinks timetable for telcos to stop installing 5G kit from Huawei – TechCrunch

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The UK government has squeezed the timetable for domestic telcos to stop installing 5G kit from Chinese suppliers, per the BBC, which reports that the deadline for installation of kit from so-called ‘high risk’ vendors is now September.

It had already announced a ban on telcos buying kit from Huawei et al by the end of this year — acting on national security concerns attached to companies that fall under the jurisdiction of Chinese state surveillance laws. But, according to the BBC, ministers are concerned carriers could stockpile kit for near-term installation to create an optional buffer for themselves since it has allowed until 2027 for them to remove such kit from existing 5G networks. Maintaining already installed equipment will also still be allowed up til then.

A Telecommunications Security Bill which will allow the government to identify kit as a national security risk and ban its use in domestic networks is slated to be introduced to parliament tomorrow.

Digital secretary Oliver Dowden told the BBC he’s pushing for the “complete removal of high-risk vendors”.

In July the government said changes to the US sanction regime meant it could no longer manage the security risk attached to Chinese kit makers.

The move represented a major U-turn from the policy position announced in January — when the UK said it would allowed Chinese vendors to play a limited role in supplying domestic networks. However the plan faced vocal opposition from the government’s own back benches, as well as high profile pressure from the US — which has pushed allies to expel Huawei entirely.

Alongside policies to restrict the use of high risk 5G vendors the UK has said it will take steps to encourage newcomers to enter the market to tackle concerns that the resulting lack of suppliers introduces another security risk.

Publishing a supply chain diversification strategy for 5G today, Dowden warns that barring “high risk” vendors leaves the country “overly reliant on too few suppliers”.

“This 5G Diversification Strategy is a clear and ambitious plan to grow our telecoms supply chain while ensuring it is resilient to future trends and threats,” he writes. “It has three core strands: supporting incumbent suppliers; attracting new suppliers into the UK market; and accelerating the development and deployment of open-interface solutions.”

The government is putting an initial £250 million behind the 5G diversification plan to try to build momentum for increasing competition and interoperability.

“Achieving this long term vision depends on removing the barriers that prevent new market entrants from joining the supply chain, investing in R&D to support the accelerated development and deployment of interoperable deployment models, and international collaboration and policy coordination between national governments and industry,” it writes.

In the short to medium term the government says it will proritize support for existing suppliers — so the likely near term beneficiary of the strategy is Finland’s Nokia.

Though the government also says it will “seek to attract new suppliers to the UK market in order to start the process of diversification as soon as possible”.

“As part of our approach we will prioritise opportunities to build UK capability in key areas of the supply chain,” it writes, adding: “As we progress this activity we look forward to working with network operators in the UK, telecoms suppliers and international governments to achieve our shared goals of a more competitive and vibrant telecoms supply market.”

We’ve reached out to Huawei for comment on the new deadline for UK carriers to stop installing its 5G kit.

The company has continued to reject security concerns attached to its business.

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Q3 smartphone sales down 5.7% to 366M, slicing Covid-19 declines in Q1, Q2 – TechCrunch

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We are now into the all-important holiday sales period, and new numbers from Gartner point to some recovery underway for the smartphone market as vendors roll out a raft of new 5G handsets.

Q3 smartphone figures from the analysts published today showed that smartphone unit sales were 366 million units, a decline of 5.7% globally compared to the same period last year. Yes, it’s a drop; but it is still a clear improvement on the first half of this year, when sales slumped by 20% in each quarter, due largely to the effects of Covid-19 on spending and consumer confidence overall.

That confidence is being further bolstered by some other signals. We are coming out of a relatively strong string of sales days over the Thanksgiving weekend, traditionally the “opening” of the holiday sales cycle. While sales on Thursday and Black Friday were at the lower end of predicted estimates, they still set records over previous years. With a lot of tech like smartphones often bought online, this could point to stronger numbers for smartphone sales as well.

On top of that, last week IDC — which also tracks and analyses smartphones sales — published a report predicting that sales would grow 2.4% in Q4 compared to 2019’s Q4. Its take is that while 5G smartphones will drive buying, prices still need to come down on these newer generation handsets to really see them hit with wider audiences. The average selling price for a 5G-enabled smartphone in 2020 is $611, said IDC, but it thinkgs that by 2024 that will come down to $453, likely driven by Android-powered handsets, which have collectively dominated smartphone sales for years.

Indeed, in terms of brands, Samsung, with its Android devices, continued to lead the pack in terms of overall units, with 80.8 million units, and a 22% market share. In fact, the Korean handset maker and China’s Xiaomi were the only two in the top five to see growth in their sales in the quarter, respectively at 2.2% and 34.9%. Xiaomi’s numbers were strong enough to see it overtake Apple for the quarter to become the number-three slot in terms of overall sales rankings. Huawei just about held on to number two. See the full chart further down in this story with more detail.

Also worth noting: overall mobile sales — a figure that includes both smartphones and feature phones — were down 8.7% 401 million units. That underscores not just how few feature phones are selling at the moment (smartphones can often even be cheaper to buy, depending on the brands involved or the carrier bundles), but also that those less sophisticated devices are seeing even more sales pressure than more advanced models.

Smartphone slump: it’s not just Covid-19

It’s worth remembering that even before the global health pandemic, smartphone sales were facing slowing growth. The reasons: after a period of huge enthusiasm from consumers to pick up devices, many countries reached market penetration. And then, the latest features were too incremental to spur people to sell up and pay a premium on newer models.

In that context, the big hope from the industry has been 5G, which has been marketed by both carriers and handset makers as having more data efficiency and speed than older technologies. Yet when you look at the wider roadmap for 5G, rollout has remained patchy, and consumers by and large are still not fully convinced they need it.

Notably, in this past quarter, there is still some evidence that emerging/developing markets continue to have an impact on growth — in contrast to new features being drivers in penetrated markets.

“Early signs of recovery can be seen in a few markets, including parts of mature Asia/Pacific and Latin America. Near normal conditions in China improved smartphone production to fill in the supply gap in the third quarter which benefited sales to some extent,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner, in a statement. “For the first time this year, smartphone sales to end users in three of the top five markets i.e., India, Indonesia and Brazil increased, growing 9.3%, 8.5% and 3.3%, respectively.”

The more positive Q3 figures coincide with a period this summer that saw new Covid-19 cases slowing down in many places and the relaxation of many restrictions, so now all eyes are on this coming holiday period, at a time when Covid-19 cases have picked up with a vengeance, and with no rollout (yet) of large-scale vaccination or therapeutic programs. That is having an inevitable drag on the economy.

“Consumers are limiting their discretionary spend even as some lockdown conditions have started to improve,” said Gupta of the Q3 numbers. “Global smartphone sales experienced moderate growth from the second quarter of 2020 to the third quarter. This was due to pent-up demand from previous quarters.”

Digging into the numbers, Samsung has held on to its top spot, although its growth was significantly less strong in the quarter. Even with that slump, Samsung is still a long way ahead.

That is in part because number-two Huawei, with 51.8 million units sold, was down by more than 21% since last year. It has been having a hard time in the wake of a public relations crisis after sanctions in the US and UK, due to accusations that its equipment is used by China for spying. (Those UK sanctions, indeed, have been brought up in timing, just as of last night.)

That also led Huawei earlier this month to confirm the long-rumored plan to sell off its Honor smartphone division. That deal will involve selling the division, reportedly valued at around $15 billion, to a consortium of companies.

It will be interesting to see how Apple’s small decline of 0.6% to 40.6 million units to Xiaomi’s 44.4 million, will shift in the next quarter, on the back of the company launching a new raft of iPhone 12 devices.

“Apple sold 40.5 million units in the third quarter of 2020, a decline of 0.6% as compared to 2019,” said Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement. “The slight decrease was mainly due to Apple’s delayed shipment start of its new 2020 iPhone generation, which in previous years would always start mid/end September. This year, the launch event and shipment start began 4 weeks later than usual.”

Oppo, which is still not available through carriers or retail partners in the US, rounded out the top five sellers with just under 30 million phones sold. The fact that it and Xiaomi do so well despite not really having a phone presence in the US is an interesting testament to what kind of role the US plays in the global smartphone market: huge in terms of perception, but perhaps less so when the chips are down.

“Others” — that category that can take in the long tail of players who make phones, continues to be a huge force, accounting for more sales than any one of the top five. That underscores the fragmentation in the Android-based smartphone industry, but all the same, its collective numbers were in decline, a sign that consumers are indeed slowly continuing to consolidate around a smaller group of trusted brands.

 

Vendor 3Q20

Units

3Q20 Market Share (%) 3Q19

Units

3Q19 Market Share (%) 3Q20-3Q19 Growth (%)
Samsung 80,816.0 22.0 79,056.7 20.3 2.2
Huawei 51,830.9 14.1 65,822.0 16.9 -21.3
Xiaomi 44,405.4 12.1 32,927.9 8.5 34.9
Apple 40,598.4 11.1 40,833.0 10.5 -0.6
OPPO 29,890.4 8.2 30,581.4 7.9 -2.3
Others 119,117.4 32.5 139,586.7 35.9 -14.7
Total 366,658.6 100.0 388,807.7 100.0 -5.7

Source: Gartner (November 2020)

 

 

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