On Wednesday evening, X CEO Linda Yaccarino appeared onstage at the Code Conference with frustration and protest. “I think many people in this room were not fully prepared for me to still come out on the stage,” she told interviewer Julia Boorstin, senior media and tech correspondent at CNBC.
Yaccarino sounded rattled. She’d found out earlier in the day that Kara Swisher, a Code Conference co-founder, had booked a surprise guest to appear an hour before her: Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety. He has been an outspoken critic of the direction Elon Musk has taken the site.
In his interview with Swisher, Roth recounted how Musk put him personally in danger. Musk suggested on Twitter that Roth had advocated for sexualizing children — a completely unfounded claim — which led to death threats and his address being posted online. “I had to sell my house. I had to move,” Roth said. He encouraged Yaccarino to think about how Musk could turn on her, too, and said the site was bleeding users and advertisers.
These criticisms are nothing new, but Yaccarino was visibly bothered by having to appear shortly after a well-known critic of her company. “I’d be happy to respond,” Yaccarino said. “I think I’ve been given about 45 minutes [of notice].” The conference’s 300-some-seat ballroom was packed for her appearance; I caught Swisher reclining on a couch in the back before things kicked off, waiting to see the results of her surprise play out.
“I work at X, he worked at Twitter.”
Throughout the interview, Yaccarino repeated that she’s only been on the job at X for 12 weeks, as if to say there’s only so much she could have done by now. But in that time, she’s managed to do one thing consistently: dismiss concerns about X, whether it’s the platform’s disinvestment in moderation or Musk’s chaotic leadership.
Her dismissive stance was very much on display Wednesday night. She wrote off Roth’s claims about the platform’s performance as outdated (“I work at X, he worked at Twitter,” she said); she said the Anti-Defamation League — which Musk is threatening to sue — pays too much attention to the antisemitism on X and not enough to the improvements the platform has made; and she argued that despite the panic around advertisers fleeing, most of the big ones are coming back.
These were not satisfying answers if you’re a person who thinks Musk is destroying Twitter or stoking harassment. But they were, for the most part, confident answers. Yaccarino answered slowly and carefully, and she seemed determined to push the complaints aside as collateral damage for reinventing the platform.
“X is a new company building a foundation based on free expression and freedom of speech,” she said at the start.
“We talk about everything.”
Boorstin prodded Yaccarino for hard numbers on how X is doing amid all these crises. Yaccarino said the company would be profitable “in early ’24.” The platform has 200–250 million daily active users. “Something like that,” Yaccarino said. She went to check her phone, as if to confirm the number but never finished checking. Later, she suggested that X has 540 million monthly active users and 225 million daily active users. (That would be slightly down from the 238 million daily users Twitter had before the acquisition.)
It was hard to know whether Yaccarino wasn’t prepared enough or if she simply didn’t want to give definitive answers. At one point, Boorstin asked about Musk’s recent statement that X will eventually charge all users to post on the platform, and Yaccarino appeared unable to speak to the proposed change.
“Can you repeat?” Yaccarino asked.
“Elon Musk announced you’re moving to an entirely subscription-based service,” Boorstin said. “Nothing free about using X.”
“Did he say we were moving to it specifically or is thinking about it?” Yaccarino asked.
“He said that’s the plan,” Boorstin said. “Did he consult you before he announced that?”
“We talk about everything,” Yaccarino said. She never clarified X’s plans.
The interview was filled with rocky moments like this, but Yaccarino didn’t run. As the clock ran out on the interview, Boorstin said she would let Yaccarino stay as long as she wanted — and Yaccarino took her up on it. Even when Yaccarino finally said she needed to leave, she stuck around for a few more questions. At close to 40 minutes, it was the longest interview of the conference.
It was a long conversation and a far more complicated one than Yaccarino may have wanted to have. At the top of the interview, she tried to push aside concerns about X with a statement of confidence. “It’s a new day at X, and I’ll leave it at that,” she said.
But it could never be that simple. As long as Musk is in the mix, she’ll always need more time to explain whatever’s going on at X.
Microsoft Paint’s OpenAI-powered “Cocreator” image generator is here
Microsoft is officially launching its Cocreator image-generating AI feature within the Paint app for Windows 11. The new integrated text-to-image generator, powered by OpenAI’s DALL-E 3 model, was previously available only to Windows Insiders. As Windows Central points out, the new Cocreator button in Microsoft Paint has now been widely released, giving all users the ability to enter a description of something they’re visualizing and get three generated images to choose between.
As powerful and capable as Copilot is, it’s also kind of overwhelming. Microsoft has pushed Copilot onto countless offerings, from Windows 10 to Microsoft 365 services, and it’s starting to feel like an AI Kool-Aid Man bursting onto the scene. But Cocreator and Paint feel deliberate and like they intuitively belong together, another step toward a future where image generators are the new clip art.
Clever tech hacks for less stress this holiday, from Amazon spoilers to family pics
Gift shopping, scammers, cooking the prime rib just right … There’s too much to worry about this time of year. Before you dive headfirst into the festive frenzy, I’ve got tech tips that’ll sprinkle a little magic on your celebrations.
As my holiday thanks to my loyal readers, I’m giving away an iPhone. Yep, you can win a new iPhone 15 (valued at $799). Enter to win now!
Cook up a storm with a digital cookbook
Picture this: All your go-to holiday recipes are neatly corralled in one digital cookbook. No more frantic shuffling, clicking through a million tabs or misplaced ingredient lists.
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If your recipes are printed or handwritten, snap a pic with your tablet. Add all the pics to one folder (or try the Notes app if you’re on an iPad) for easy swiping between them. Cooking from recipes you found online? Save the PDF versions and toss them in one spot. No iPad? Use your phone!
Bonus: An inexpensive cookbook holder will keep your tablet out of the mess of flour, stock and butter in the kitchen. (This one is gorgeous if you have a bit more to spend.)
Do cards the easier way
I’m giving you permission to go digital with holiday cards this year. Canva, Adobe Express, Paperless Post and Mailchimp are solid options. You can choose a template, whip up a greeting and send it off in just a few minutes — no trip to the post office required.
Before you start buying holiday gifts in a frenzy, make sure your Amazon account is set up the right way.
- Hide and seek: Archive any orders you don’t want someone else to see. On a computer, hover your cursor over Account & Lists and click on Orders. Find the order you want to hide and click View order details, then Archive Order. Click Archive Order again to confirm.
- Banish the browser: Remove items from your browsing history to avoid revealing your gift ideas. Hover your cursor over Account & Lists and click on Browsing History. For each item that you want to hide, tap Remove from view.
Stop arguing about when to leave
The classic holiday battle: When should you leave the house to get to your destination on time and avoid traffic? Stop guessing and let traffic-predicting algorithms make your drive easier.
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You can get a pretty accurate traffic forecast for a future date based on what the conditions are like on that day and time. Then you can fine-tune your departure time to find the ideal time to hit the road.
Here’s how to set a planned time and date for a trip in Google Maps:
- Open Google Maps and tap on the Search here field.
- Enter a destination and select it from the results.
- Tap Directions and then tap the three-dots button to the right of the Your location field.
- Tap Set depart or arrive time.
- Select Depart at and enter a date and time, then tap Done. You’ll get various route options and details such as time and distance.
- Select a route and tap Start.
Steps are here to find out the best time to leave based on when you want to arrive — and steps to do both in Apple Maps.
Say ‘Cheese!’ to better group pics
Remember the days of designating one unlucky soul to be the photographer? You know, the family friend or someone’s random date. Upgrade to your smartphone camera’s timer.
- On iPhone: Open your Camera app and tap the up-facing arrow at the top of the screen. Scroll right to the option that looks like a clock, then tap it. Select a 3- or 10-second delay.
- On Android: In the Camera app, select Timer and turn it on. Choose from a delay of 2, 5 or 10 seconds.
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If someone insists on taking the pic, ask them to use burst mode. All they have to do is hold down on the shutter button to capture a ton of photos at once. Better chance you’ll get everyone smiling!
Smile! But do it the right way. Here’s how to look better in pics.
Remove the screen temptation
It’s not the weekend to be glued to your phone, scrolling headlines or social media. Need a little help disconnecting?
- On iPhone: Open Settings > Screen Time.
- On Android: Open Settings > Digital Wellbeing.
Rather than a blanket screen time limit, be strategic and limit the stuff that sucks you in. Maybe you set a 10-minute limit on Instagram, for example.
If you set your phone to Do Not Disturb, all good — just make sure you get the calls you want.
Keep your tech-know going
My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.
PODCAST PICK: Selfie-related deaths, TikTok Jesus scam & expired tech in your house
Plus, Gary Larock needed a kidney, so his family turned to Facebook. A stranger saw the post and stepped in with a life-changing decision. Apple is opening up to Android messaging, and the Feds want to monitor your car. Also, affordable home mesh Wi-Fi systems.
Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”
Sound like a tech pro, even if you’re not! Award-winning popular host Kim Komando is your secret weapon. Listen on 425+ radio stations or get the podcast. And join over 400,000 people who get her free 5-minute daily email newsletter.
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GM wants you to know that it’s also unhappy with the slow pace of its EV business
General Motors is dealing with a lot right now: a slowing EV business, delays in battery manufacturing, a safety crisis with its robotaxi unit, Cruise, and financial headwinds from the monthslong autoworker strike. On top of it all, its stock price is still struggling to get back to where it was this summer before the strike started.
With all that in mind, GM CEO Mary Barra hopped on a call with investors early Wednesday to address these compounding challenges and assure them that they have a number of fixes in mind. Costs will be reined in, factories will be delayed, and stock buybacks will recirculate cash to shareholders. It’s a crucial moment for GM, which is locked in a tight race with Ford, Tesla, and others to develop EVs and roll out autonomous driving safely and profitably.
Costs will be reined in, factories will be delayed, and stock buybacks will recirculate cash to shareholders
Barra said she is “disappointed” with the slow pace of its Ultium battery development, which is supposed to underpin the company’s forthcoming lineup of EVs. She is “not satisfied” with GM’s low stock price. And the Cruise “incident,” in which a driverless vehicle drug a pedestrian 20 feet after she was struck in a hit-and-run, is now under independent review, but the robotaxi company will be smaller and slower going forward.
“We will be very transparent with what our go-forward plan is,” Barra said. “But I think there’s been some concern about when that comes.”
Cruise, in particular, was under the microscope. The company has paused all robotaxi operations in the aftermath of the incident in San Francisco in October. Two top executives, CEO Kyle Vogt and chief product officer Dan Kan, have resigned, and the company has said that layoffs will be coming.
In the call, GM offered more details on Cruise’s uncertain future. The company hired two outside law firms to review Cruise’s safety protocols as well as determine whether Cruise purposefully withheld video footage from the California DMV of its driverless vehicle dragging the hit-and-run victim to the side of the road. The company issued a voluntary recall of all 950 Cruise vehicles earlier this month to update the software to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Photo by Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu via Getty Images
GM has lost $8.2 billion on Cruise since 2017 but expects to lose much less going forward. The automaker didn’t share specific cash reductions, but chief financial officer Paul Jacobson said it would likely amount to “hundreds of millions” of dollars.
“We are projecting to have a little bit of a narrower scope as we focus in on safety and scaling up in a much narrower view,” Jacobson said.
But unlike some of its competitors, GM is not pulling out completely from the autonomous vehicle business. “We’re going to be very deliberate about how we go forward,” Barra said, adding that when Cruise restarts its operations, it will be in only one city. The company also will need to “build trust” with local leaders and first responders, Barra said, in a nod to complaints from San Francisco officials that Cruise’s vehicles obstructed city operations.
“There’s been a lot of uncertainty in our industry and frankly, we didn’t execute well this year”
On the Ultium battery delays, Barra was blunt in her assessment. “There’s been a lot of uncertainty in our industry and frankly, we didn’t execute well this year, as it relates to demonstrating our EV capability and the capability of Ultium because of the module manufacturing automation equipment issues that we had,” she said. “So I’m disappointed in that. I think that has created some concern.”
Recently, GM said it would delay production of its upcoming slate of electric pickup trucks at its plant in Michigan’s Orion Township by “a few months.” Barra assured investors that the issues with Ultium manufacturing were being resolved.
“Our module production issue is not really related to Ultium,” she added. “As I’ve said before, it is really an automation manufacturing issue.”
Barra said that while EV growth has slowed, demand is still heading in the right direction, noting that US car buyers were on track to purchase 1 million EVs this year for the first time.
“There’s really no reason that EV demand won’t be higher in the years ahead,” she said. “Consideration is rising, the policy environment is favorable. The public charging infrastructure is growing and customer choice is expanding.”
She also acknowledged that the recent contracts with the United Auto Workers union are spooking investors because of their associated costs. GM estimates that the new contracts will result in added labor costs of around $500 per vehicle in 2024 and $575 on average over the life of the contract. The company also expects to raise battery costs by about $3 per kilowatt-hour, but it still expects to achieve “mid-single digit profitability” on its EV business by 2025.
GM expects to reduce net costs by $2 billion through 2024, which includes lower salaries, lowering marketing expenses, and additional overhead reductions. And tellingly, Barra also managed to slip in some praise for the company’s internal combustion engine vehicles, which continue to generate profits for the company at a time when costs are rising across the board.
“Our strong ICE business that frankly has gotten stronger, and we still believe there’s growth there,” Barra said.
GM has said it expects to go completely carbon neutral by 2040.
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