Weekend Roundup: Google Anti-Trust Lawsuit; Jony Ive’s New Gig

It’s the weekend! Before you sign off, let’s take a quick jaunt through some of the biggest tech stories of the week, including the U.S. government’s massive anti-trust suit against Google. Plus, Apple’s legendary designer has a new job!

Government Kicks Off Google Anti-Trust Lawsuit

On Tuesday, the Justice Department sued Google, accusing the search-engine giant of maintaining an illegal monopoly over internet search. It’s easily the largest anti-trust action to hit the tech industry since United States v. Microsoft Corp. more than two decades ago.

The federal government’s argument against Google is pretty straightforward. In essence, it’s arguing that Google’s agreements with Apple and other companies are choking off competition in the search market (for example, Google pays Apple quite a bit of money to make its search engine the default on the iPhone). For its part, Google might argue that it’s not dominant in search, given how consumers can freely use other sites to search for everything from products to information.

The company’s lawyers may also insist that Google’s position in the search market, while dominant, doesn’t actually harm consumers. “People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives,” said a Google spokesperson.

Whatever the outcome of the case, it could have as seismic an impact on the tech industry as Microsoft’s anti-trust case. Google’s lawyers have the fight of their professional lives ahead of them. 

Jony Ive is Now Working for… Airbnb?

Jony Ive’s impact on the technology industry is enormous. As Apple’s chief industrial designer, he created the iconic (and much-imitated) designs for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, the Mac, and the MacBook. When he retired in 2019, pundits wondered whether Apple would manage to retain its design mojo; there was also much speculation about what Ive would do next.

Well, speculate no longer: Ive has a new gig at… Airbnb, of all places. Now, you may question why a technology-enhanced house-rental company would solicit the services of the most famous industrial designer on the planet, and we’re here to tell you that…

Actually, we have no idea, either. Seriously, it’s weird. Given Ive’s predilection for minimalism, maybe Airbnb wants him to design a seamless white box in which guests can sit and meditate on aesthetics. Certainly Airbnb’s official statement on the hire, penned by CEO Brian Chesky, is no help when it comes to ascertaining the company’s tactical plans: 

“Today, I’m thrilled to announce that Jony and his partners at LoveFrom will be engaging in a special collaboration with me and the Airbnb team. We have made the decision to work together through a multi-year relationship to design the next generation of Airbnb products and services. Jony will also help us continue to develop our internal design team, which he believes to be one of the world’s best. I know he is particularly excited about a relationship that will evolve to become a deep collaboration with our creative team.”

Maybe this is a learning experience for Ive, too. Perhaps he’s decided to expand his portfolio from hardware designs to shaping experiences for guests. However this collaboration pans out, though, one thing is clear: Airbnb’s future website and app are going to look distinctive.

Quibi Flames Out 

Quibi, the company that burned through hundreds of millions of dollars in the belief that people want to watch five- and 10-minute television episodes on their phones, is shutting down after a mere six months. 

“Quibi is going to go down as a case study at Harvard Business School on what not to do when launching a streaming service,” Stephen Beck, the founder and managing partner of the management consultancy cg42, told The New York Times.

To be fair, Quibi did its best, using its $1.75 billion in investor cash to hire some of the biggest stars on the planet and create dozens of series. From a technological perspective, though, the service hobbled itself from the outset by restricting certain features, such as the ability to share clips on social media. Quibi won’t just be a business case-study; it might end up as a good example of how not to design an app.  

That’s it! Have a great weekend, everyone!