I would gather that if I walked up to ten people on America’s streets and asked them what Qualcomm is, nine of them would provide one of these answers:
1) the quality control program my stupid boss(es) make me use
2) an internet or phone company
3) a robot assassin bent on revenge for the untimely murder of his girl
4) a blank stare indicating the person’s desire not to talk to idiots like me
Only one in ten would know they’re carrying Qualcomm in their pockets. If the brave new modern world is one where your smartphone is more important than having two functioning hands, then Qualcomm is more important to your life than your ability to digest food.
Qualcomm chips and semiconductor technology run in almost every new thing of the internet age. They have a monopoly on the business that would make even the most jaded of 19th Century railroad tycoons sweat with envy.
For years Qualcomm has been investigated, fined, sued, yelled at by its customers, rivals, and competitors as one of the very worst of the Giant Octopi. Qualcomm’s two biggest current problems are a massive lawsuit from Apple (which I find delicious given Apple’s known desire to cheat its own customers) and a $1.2B fine from the EU’s competition watchdogs. Over the last decade Qualcomm has likely kept food on the table for at least 13,487 lawyers, judges, court clerks, court security guards, and court security doggies.
Nobody knows about these things or cares. To them, their Apple or Samsung smartphone is Apple or Samsung. They don’t know or care that the chip that makes it all possible is from Qualcomm.
(As a brief aside, you need to admire the gall, guile, and skill of Intel’s marketing goons that got them front and center in the psyche of every computer user on the planet. In the 1990’s anybody who knew anything about a computer knew about Intel chips. You bought computers based on what Intel processor it had, and barely cared whether Dell or Compaq made the overall machine.)
So for those who don’t know what Qualcomm is, or are too busy wondering who Jennifer Aniston’s ninth husband will be, Qualcomm has been under a hostile takeover bid by Broadcom. Broadcom is another chipmaker based in Singapore. The purchase price offered was $117B. Yes, $117B. Or enough money to manufacture ten large aircraft carriers with swanky Slavic tracksuit racing stripes included.
This deal was always controversial because it would have further increased a trend in American business lately: CONSOLIDATION. There are only four major American airlines left. There are three major American cellular providers. Americans pay four or five times more for cable internet compared to other Western nations, and get slower speeds for the privilege.
So it was always a concern that Qualcomm and Broadcom could become one company, when Qualcomm is already essentially a Monopoly Man of the Giant Octopi. The question was if the Trump administration would allow the deal to proceed, or block it on anti-trust grounds?
Well, all of that’s changed yesterday. What’s happened instead is Trump has disallowed the deal on national security grounds. Essentially, USA is not going to allow THE American internet chipmaker to be owned by foreigners. Trump signed an order as such.
The Washington Post, as the newspaper of the capital, thus covers this story.
Because this is politics, and it’s DC, the article must of course focus upon Trump. According to the Post, Trump has signed this order because of his “protectionist instincts”. They even got some guy (everybody loves the anonymous quote now) to state that Trump wants the lesson “don’t screw with the government” and that the order is “brutal”. Again, “It smacks of anger on the part of the government to me. This feels a little more personal to me.” How dramatic. I’m seething with excitement at the rage drama associated with this esoteric technology topic.
So what we have here is a situation where one of the worst Monopoly Man companies on the planet wants to merge with another member of the Giant Octopi and then make the situation for the consumer even worse with a super-super Giant Octopi company. The US government stops this effort, for any reason at all, and the answer of the capital’s newspaper is it’s about Trump? Really?
You know, I’ve avoided saying this for a long time, because to me there’s almost no point addressing Trump. It is what it is. People think what they’ll think. Many people seem to have a visceral emotional reaction to Trump (one way or the other) that I just can’t understand. But essentially it’s this: Trump will be gone someday (likely in three years). Trump is who he is, for all the awfulness that he is. But one day he’ll be gone. But the Washington Post will still be here.
If I was a member of The Washington Post, I think I’d make it a point to understand that. Because essentially what has happened is The Washington Post, The New York Times, and most other major news organizations have mortgaged what little benign credibility they had left, in order to get at one singular man. I get it, I hate Trump too, but that credibility is never going to return. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naïve, and certainly wasn’t before Trump came onto the scene, but it’s gone over the edge.
Hey remember when it was generally considered suspicious when a newspaper article quoted anonymous sources? Now it seems every news article is based on anonymous sources. Now I guess we just have to take it on faith that they didn’t get the quote from some guy down by the Sizzler. But seeing as how we can’t trust them [get Trump at any price] why would I believe anything an anonymous source says?
I’m never going to look at The Washington Post the same way again. It will always be an organization whose handlers sold their souls and journalistic integrity to get at one guy. To the point that they can’t even write an article about one of the most consequential technology topics of this year, without making it all about Trump.
Normally this wouldn’t be a massive problem. You’d be like, whatever, go read another newspaper each day. True. Except that every, single, person, in DC who makes decisions (Democrat or Republican) reads the Post every day. As in, the people who run government, and make decisions that impact people’s lives every day, are fed information by a publication that essentially has no credibility. That’s not a good place for any democracy to be in.
If the Post was a responsible newspaper, or at least understood their place in society, they would cover the Broadcom / Qualcomm deal through the lens of the status of monopolies, how the deal impacts American consumers (who pay more each day for their stuff because Qualcomm is corrupt), and also address the completely valid national security implications of handing Qualcomm to a foreign buyer. But instead, it’s about Trump and Trump and Trump, and the Trump lens. For everything.
That doesn’t help the Little Guy, it doesn’t help America, and that’s a sad, sad thing.
That this deal is dead, for any reason at all, is a good thing.