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Remote work was easy. Hybrid is hard.

Image: hristina @ wocintechchat.com / Protocol
Hybrid work

Good morning! This Thursday, the companies that made remote work easier are already thinking about hybrid work, Bill McDermott's plan for ServiceNow, Amy Klobuchar's antitrust bill and Chamath Palihapitiya's thirst-trap Twitter pics.

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The Big Story

How hybrid work works

Remote work was easy compared to what comes next. Pretty soon (hopefully!) some people will be back in the office, which means suddenly reckoning with whatever a hybrid work environment is supposed to look like. And you know what sucks? Meetings where half the team is in a room together and the other half is on the phone.

Conferencing and meeting providers know what's coming, and are already trying to build better solutions.

  • Zoom and Poly have both built software that can isolate individual people in a room, and bring them into a video chat as rectangles on a screen just like everybody else. Right now, "if you have 10 people in a meeting on Zoom, everyone's head is the same size," Zoom CIO Harry Moseley told me. That kind of "normalization of people," he says, is really useful, and should carry over even when a few people can be together again.
  • Poly, meanwhile, is launching new cameras and soundbars for home offices — because your MacBook webcam and AirPods won't trick anyone into thinking you're sitting across the table from them. "We have to figure out how to not treat the remote participant as the second-class citizen," said Poly VP Beau Wilder, "which, if we're honest, has been the case for the last five years."

There's a flattening happening here: The home office getting a little more professionalized, and the conference room getting a little more virtualized. Poly is working with IT managers and procurement teams to help them build WFH kits for employees who are outfitting their home offices. Zoom is building a virtual receptionist tool, too, and a way to use Zoom Room cameras to make sure conference rooms aren't overcrowded.

  • Hybrid offices are going to be a big business, both Moseley and Wilder told me. Zoom already works with a big set of hardware manufacturers (including Poly) and Poly's gear supports an ever-growing set of conferencing services (including Zoom).
  • And over the next few years, practically every work tool — from the whiteboard to the water cooler — is going to have to change all over again. Everyone being at home was a new setup, but at least a consistent one. The hybrid workplace is going to be much messier. But that's where we're headed.

Oh, and one to watch: Teamflow just launched. It's founded by ex-Uber exec Florent Crivello, and uses spatial audio and a video game-level design to make walking around the virtual office look and feel much more like a physical office.

Enterprise

Bill the Builder

Protocol's Joe Williams just published a profile of Bill McDermott, the CEO of ServiceNow. You should read the whole thing, but I asked him to explain a bit about the man and the company.

Bill McDermott is one of the most prolific leaders within the software industry, after taking SAP from a roughly $50 billion on-premise provider to a $160 billion cloud player. Now, he's trying to work his sales magic again and push ServiceNow into the upper echelon of tech vendors.

  • ServiceNow started off as a supplier of tools to help IT workers manage the more mundane aspects of the job, such as arming new employees with laptops. But now, the company is trying to expand enterprise-wide, pitching itself as a solution that can completely reimagine how employees across the organization work on a daily basis.
  • And McDermott, who joined as CEO in November 2019, is hoping a knack for flair — he hosted both Barack Obama and Sheryl Crow at virtual events for employees — and a Rolodex of the world's top business leaders will help ServiceNow cross the $10 billion sales mark.

But that mission is increasingly pitting ServiceNow up against industry giants like SAP, Microsoft and Salesforce, who all sense an opportunity to expand into the burgeoning (and lucrative) employee experience industry.

  • Still, McDermott is already making progress toward the goal: He recently brought on former Salesforce and Oracle leaders who can help the company continue to expand into verticals such as human resources and customer service.

Three more quick Bill McDermott fun facts:

  • He was once rumored as a potential third-party candidate in the 2016 election, and hasn't ruled out a future run for political office.
  • He tends to be seen in sunglasses because he lost an eye in an accident in 2015. He credits it with making him pretty much unflappable.
  • He bought a deli at 16 in his hometown of Amityville, New York, and had to compete with a 7-Eleven down the street. So you could say he knows how to take on giants.

Antitrust

Here comes Klobuchar

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the newly installed chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, is moving quickly to keep fighting the antitrust fight against Big Tech, Protocol's Emily Birnbaum reports. Klobuchar plans to introduce sweeping legislation to reform the country's trust-busting laws today, and while it has some high bars to clear it also points to what the Biden administration might try to get done.

  • Her new bill is called the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act of 2021 (which has the slightly unfortunate acronym CALERA), and is in many ways a repackaging of bills she's been pushing for a couple of years.

Klobuchar is taking aim at the biggest tech companies. Her bill comes out strongly in favor of making it harder for larger tech companies to acquire smaller competitors; they'd have to prove the mergers don't cause problems, rather than the government having to prove they do.

  • It would also give the DOJ and FTC more power to penalize companies for their bad actions, with fines of up to 15% of total revenues.
  • And get ready to hear the term "monopsonies" a lot, because CALERA wants to ban them as well.

A MESSAGE FROM SLACK

Slack

Why sales teams at Box and Segment rely on Slack to build stronger customer relationships and seal deals faster.

Read how sales organizations at Box and Segment are harnessing the power of channel-based messaging to keep communication strong, seal deals and streamline the sales cycle when everyone is remote.

Read more

People Are Talking

Vinesh Kannan quit Google because of what's happened to other employees:

  • "I left because Google's mistreatment of @timnitGebru and @RealAbril crossed a personal red line I wrote down when I started the job. I know I gained a lot from Google, but I also gained a lot from both of their work, and they were wronged."

Tiffani Ashley Bell said what we were all thinking about that Chamath Palihapitiya picture:

  • "VC thirst traps are not something I expected to log on and see today, but okay."

Speaking of Palihapitiya: He's not running for California governor after all:

  • "What I need to do is, I need to figure out a) My business and where it's going and b) I do think it's worth figuring out what are the conflict of interest laws and what do you have to do if all of this were to come to pass."

Elon Musk acknowledged some of Tesla's production quality issues:

  • "Friends ask me: 'When should I buy a Tesla?' And I'm like: 'Well, either buy it right at the beginning, or when the production reaches a steady state.' But during that production ramp, it's super hard to be in vertical climb mode and get everything right on the little details."

Speaking of Elon, he's also back on Twitter, and using it to pump up Dogecoin, praise "Sandstorm" and embrace his new identity:

  • "I am become meme, Destroyer of shorts."

Dom Leca is now building a browser, and explained why he got out of working at gig economy companies:

  • "I felt the bulk of tech I was working on was detrimental to society. I wasn't very happy about having 150 guys waiting in the staircase of the company to get a $15 an hour job. I felt myself going the wrong way. So I quit."

Making Moves

Matt Francis is the new CTO of GameStop. He was previously an engineering exec at AWS, and is joining GameStop at a super chill time.

John Matze was fired as Parler's CEO. He said in a memo to staff: "I did not participate in this decision."

Deborah Liu is the new CEO of Ancestry.com. She joins from Facebook, where she was Marketplace VP.

Ott Kaukver is Checkout.com's new CTO, and Nick Worswick its new head of sales and marketing. They previously worked at Twilio and WeWork, respectively, and were hired in part for their "public market" experience.

Tencent fired more than 100 employees and blacklisted 37 companies as part of an anti-bribery and embezzlement investigation.

Gearbox Entertainment is merging with Embracer Group, putting two big game developers together. Lots of consolidation in the gaming industry right now.

Box bought SignRequest, adding a digital signature tool to its offering. Arguably a little late to that particular party, though it is a pretty hot market right now.

In Other News

  • The Biden administration is willing to discuss a global tech tax, Germany's finance minister said. Trump had previously withdrawn from OECD talks on the tax.
  • The EU and U.K. will investigate Nvidia's Arm acquisition, the Financial Times reported, with concerns around Arm losing its neutrality as a supplier. "Scrutiny may lead all the way to a prohibition," one anonymous source told the paper.
  • India threatened Twitter employees with jail time for having restored access to accounts the government wants blocked. It told Twitter to re-block the accounts, which are mostly critical of the Indian government.
  • Myanmar ordered telecom networks to block Facebook, including Instagram and WhatsApp. The restrictions are currently due to be lifted on Feb. 7.
  • GM cut car production over chip shortages. Mazda said its production would also be affected, while Qualcomm said the shortages could hurt its growth. Xilinx CEO Victor Peng said the problems are now extending beyond wafers, with Nikkei Asia reporting that lead times for some chip-packaging substrates substrates are now more than 30 weeks. Meanwhile, Taiwan said its meeting with U.S. officials tomorrow about semiconductors will be general, and not just about the auto chip shortage.
  • Amazon is going to use AI cameras to monitor delivery drivers. It said the cameras, made by Netradyne, will detect risky driving behavior and issue verbal warnings like "please slow down."
  • Canada said Clearview AI was illegal, and asked it to delete Canadians' data.
  • Hackers had accessed SolarWinds' email by December 2019, its CEO said. They breached one Office 365 account, using that to access the wider Office 365 environment.

One More Thing

The office is wherever you are

A weird trend of the pandemic has been the huge growth in tiny-house offices, backyard-shed offices, tent-on-the-lawn offices and all manner of other ways to get away from the kids without technically leaving your own property. Well, here's a better idea: Take the office on the road! The new Airstream Flying Cloud Office has pull-down dry-erase boards, plenty of USB power and a big desk in the back with lots of room for an office chair. So you can both be "at work" and "in Yosemite" all at the same time this spring.

A MESSAGE FROM SLACK

Slack

Why sales teams at Box and Segment rely on Slack to build stronger customer relationships and seal deals faster.

Read how sales organizations at Box and Segment are harnessing the power of channel-based messaging to keep communication strong, seal deals and streamline the sales cycle when everyone is remote.

Read more

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, Ott Kaukver's name was misspelled. This story was updated on Feb. 4, 2021.

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