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Twitter CEO: ‘We need to be prepared for all scenarios’

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Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal acknowledged the possibility that Elon Musk’s deal to purchase the company could fall through in a series of tweets this afternoon that sought to explain why he’s shaking up Twitter’s leadership. Agrawal said that he’s still “accountable for leading and operating” Twitter for the time being and that his recent changes are meant to “build a stronger Twitter” and help manage costs.

“While I expect the deal to close, we need to be prepared for all scenarios and always do what’s right for Twitter,” Agrawal said.

His remarks come after Musk tweeted this morning that his $44 billion purchase of Twitter is “temporarily on hold” over concerns about spam and fake accounts. While it is entirely unclear whether Musk can actually pause the deal — Matt Levine at Bloomberg says putting a deal on hold “is not a thing” — the remarks were still enough to send Twitter’s stock plummeting around 10 percent today, scaring off investors over the concern that the agreement could fall through.

Agrawal now has two sizable problems: Musk, who’s threatening to pull out of the deal, and his own company, which has now been shaken both by the chaotic acquisition deal and Agrawal’s newly announced hiring freeze and dismissal of two top product leaders.

On Thursday, Agrawal announced the departures of Kayvon Beykpour and Bruce Falck, who led Twitter’s consumer and revenue products, respectively. He also announced that the company was “pausing most hiring and backfills” and trying to reduce costs elsewhere.

“I won’t use the deal as an excuse to avoid making important decisions for the health of the company, nor will any leader at Twitter,” Agrawal wrote today. He said to “expect more change for the better” while he remains CEO.

In a followup to his “temporarily on hold” tweet Friday morning, Musk noted that he was “still committed to acquisition.” On Friday evening, Twitter chairman Bret Taylor said in a quote tweet that “we are too. We remain committed to our agreement.”

Update May 13th, 8:10PM ET: Added tweet from Bret Taylor.





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The new Framework Laptop is another step toward a truly modular gadget

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A little more than a year after announcing the first version of its ultra-repairable, upgradeable notebook, Framework is launching the second-generation Framework Laptop. It’s meant to be substantially faster and a little more sturdy, but mostly it’s a signal that Framework is serious about building truly long-lasting devices, and might actually be fulfilling the often-promised and rarely-delivered dream of upgradeable, modular gadgets.

The new Laptop’s headline spec is the processor: It comes with a 12th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 chip, with the top-of-the-line, $2,049 model running the Core i7-1280P. (That’s a full generation jump from the current model, and these new Alder Lake chips promise big performance improvements and a boost in efficiency.) The base model, which runs a Core i5-1240P, starts at $1,049 fully assembled. All are available for pre-order now and start shipping in July, though you shouldn’t expect one too quickly: Framework is using a pre-order system to manage demand, and seems to anticipate shipments taking a while.

In addition to the performance jump, Framework also re-built the Laptop’s top cover, which it says is now much more rigid than before. That’s a welcome change: When The Verge’s Monica Chin reviewed the first model, the Laptop’s unavoidable flimsiness was one of the device’s worst qualities. Beyond that, Framework also said it has “carefully optimized battery life,” which was only average on the last model.

Most of the other specs haven’t changed: The new Laptop still has a 13.5-inch screen, weighs a shade under three pounds, and has the same decent keyboard and trackpad. In general the new Framework Laptop sounds like a nice, if fairly predictable, improvement on what you can buy already. It’s worth noting, though, that even the existing model is already a meaningful upgrade over what the company launched last year: Framework has added Wi-Fi 6E support since launch, and offers a handful of new dongles for its expansion ports. That’s Framework’s whole thing, really; the Laptop isn’t a static device, it’s an ever-changing one.


The new Framework Laptop is also an upgrade to the old one.
Image: Framework

Which raises the real question for Framework: how do you launch a new laptop when your whole company is based on letting people upgrade and improve their laptop without just having to buy a new one?

That’s where Framework’s announcement gets cool: the new chipset is also going to be available in Framework’s Marketplace, meaning you can buy a mainboard with a 12th-generation chip and slot it into your existing Framework Laptop without having to buy a whole new device. Or you can opt to replace your top cover with the new, stronger one, without changing anything else. (The Upgrade Kit, which includes both pieces, starts at $538.) Framework is planning to continue selling the first-gen Laptop at a discounted price of $899 while its inventory lasts, too, so you can start on your upgrade path whenever you want.

The idea behind Framework’s announcement is really more exciting than the announcement itself. Framework’s plan for building longer-lasting laptops could only work if the company stayed committed to upgradeability, and made sure to do right by the users who bought its devices on the promise of future upgrades. We’ve heard that promise before, of course, whether at the beginning of Alienware’s failed Area-51m dream, Google’s canceled Project Ara, or Intel’s semi-upgradable NUC Extreme and abandoned Compute Card initiatives. These things don’t tend to work out.

It’s still very much an open question how long Framework will support its original chassis and design, given how many companies have made promises about modularity and longevity only to break the system as soon as a shiny new thing came along. The new Framework Laptop is both a new thing and a thoroughly backwards-compatible thing. That’s a big deal.



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I tried (and failed) to channel my inner Bezos

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We live in an age where the power of narrative is so strong that it has become the defining way to build organizations, products and brands. In recent decades, the tech industry has presented itself as the savior to all of our problems, and now dominates so much of our culture as a consequence. And there is a quasi-religious fervor to this, especially when we look at the lionization of certain individuals, or the fact that paid-for-marketing-types are called “evangelists,” and the in-group mentality that forms afterward.

If the model for this sanctified tech guru was Steve Jobs, then its most recent exponent must be Elon Musk. Musk’s rise coincided with a vacuum left in the wake of Jobs’ demise, and his image – his personal brand – has been tweaked several times in the last two decades. Compare this footage when he received his first McLaren F1 to a . And Musk’s savviest piece of personal branding is to make him an aspirational figure both as an engineer and entrepreneur.

Noted philosopher Andre Agassi once said that “image is everything,” and that was back in the days before social media. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently after watching Apple TV’s WeCrashed. There’s a scene where Anne Hathaway’s character enlists the help of a personal branding expert who asks her, deep down, what sort of person she wants to be. It’s a scene designed to emphasize her inner turmoil at the time, but it got me wondering. Were these consultants invented for the purposes of the story, or do they really do exist?

It turns out that there’s a whole industry of people helping the titans of industry massage their personal brand. But branding, in this context, isn’t the same as styling or something similarly superficial. Its boosters would say it’s a combination of psychotherapy and marketing that, when done properly, is about resolving deep-seated internal conflicts in your psyche. And yes, you might need to pick a pair of shoes that test well with adults aged 29-45, but it’s a lot more about crafting a story around you, about you, which you can present to the wider world.

Branding consultant Lucy Freeman says that many of her clients reach their late ‘30s or early ‘40s and feel suddenly unmoored from their own personalities. “They come to this realization that [having reached a point of leadership in a company] they’ve let themselves disappear,” she said. That’s a problem, especially if they’re now expected to take on a more public-facing role and now need to “fight their way out of the company brand.”

Branding expert Am Golhar says that, often, it’s about how people “want to be perceived” that drives them to seek out help. Ed Zitron, owner of PR agency EZPR, agrees, saying that the point of personal branding is to gain “attention with the media,” so a person can “position themselves as good at, or smart, about something.” He added that “third-party validation is huge: You’d rather listen to a reporter that’s ostensibly done research on something than an ad or piece of marketing collateral.”

Emerge founder Emily Austen recruits a behavioral psychologist as part of her process, with a mission to help identify “what [the client’s] POV should, or could, be to have the space to say something others cannot.” She added that being seen as an “entrepreneur has become a status symbol,” a phenomenon supercharged by the ability to broadcast what you’re doing over social media. “It satisfies the [public] fascination with success, and it looks glamorous and exciting,” she said.

I also asked if it would be possible to drag some random from the street, My Fair Lady style, and turn them into a branding superstar. Golhar says that there’s “got to be something there,” citing the example of Gemma Collins, a British reality TV star who leveraged her larger-than-life personality on The Only Way is Essex to become a household name.

All of the people I spoke to described, in one way or another, a process whereby the figure looking to change has to first interrogate themselves. Golhar says that it’s about them going through an “alignment process [to discover] who they are.” Thought Leadership PR founder Helen Croydon added that the questions you ask people include “why they chose this career path” and what are their “talking points.” Before you can brand, or rebrand yourself, you need to understand what it is that you’re selling.

One common anxiety that clients share is the belief that they’re about to become a strutting diva. After all, executives don’t need a brand, which sounds a little too much like caring about what other people think of you, do they? (I mean, we all do care about what other people think about us, but it seems gauche to do anything so drastic as to do anything about that.) Freeman says that the process is more about re-discovering your “non-negotiables and absolute truths.”

Another thing that came up repeatedly was a desire for these figures to demonstrate that they were an expert in the subject matter at hand. “They do care about their image,” said Croydon, “but [they’re] more concerned with portraying professional expertise in their industry.” The hope is, as always, that the greater your esteem, the more you’ll be able to leverage that into future opportunities.

There are shortcuts, if you can afford it, that will help cut some of the time it would normally take to build your new brand. Croydon, for instance, explained that agencies will hire journalists to ghostwrite material on behalf of their clients. She herself employs a number of writers who can produce such content in the service of furthering someone’s brand. Not, she explains, because the individuals can’t do it themselves, but often they’re sufficiently time-poor that they need the help.

Zitron has made his name as a vocal critic of much of what the PR industry does and isn’t a fan of the idea of personal branding at all. “There isn’t an honest [process],” he said, “personal branding is intentionally choosing what you want to share with the world at large.” That, however, “involves hiding specific things, or intentionally obfuscating parts of your life so you look better or are accepted by more people.” “If you are building a narrative for a singular person that is not ‘this is their history and this is where they’ve got to in their lives,’ then you are intentionally misleading people.” Zitron added that while there is “nothing wrong with trying to present your best self,” which, of course, we’re all doing a lot of the time, there’s a problem if “you are doing so with malicious intent.”

But despite Zitron’s warnings, I did want to explore the world of personal branding, hell, it might even help me in my career. Freeman was kind enough to sign me up for a 90-minute session where we would delve into what exactly my personal brand was, and what it could be. She started by asking me questions about what I like, what my values are and what brings me joy. Then we moved on to questions about what I’d like to do more and less of, looking for problems in my day that I’d like to get past.

Then we spent a long time discussing, for instance, how my friends, family and co-workers perceive me – or how I think they do. These were, I’ll admit, hard questions, and there’s a noticeable pause when I’m asked Who do you tell yourself you are? The follow up was harder: Who are you afraid to tell yourself that you are? It was heavy stuff. Now, in any normal story, this is the point where I reveal I’ve got lots of good tips on finding my own personal brand to share with you. But that didn’t happen, mostly because, based on my responses, Freeman told me “you have never, actually thought about [your authentic self] for a second.”

Ah. Maybe it’s true, then, that in order to cultivate a personal brand that there has to be some nugget of raw something that can be shaped into something more effective. I wonder, too, if you don’t require a fairly hefty dose of self-belief, enough to propel you toward the idea of considering your brand in the first place. Clearly that is something I’ll need to work on.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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Microsoft tests Windows 11 desktop widgets with web search bar

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Microsoft is adding an optional web search to the Windows 11 desktop in the operating system’s latest Insider Preview Build. The company describes the feature as “lightweight interactive content” — the first, it says, of many such tools it’s considering adding to Windows 11 — but let’s call the thing what it really is: a widget.

Not everyone signed up to the latest Windows 11 preview build will see the new search box, but anyone who does and doesn’t like it can disable the feature by right-clicking on the desktop, selecting “Show more options,” and then toggling “Show search.”

If you are running the latest preview build, you’ll also have to restart your computer to give the search box a chance to show up.

Is it a useful feature? Probably for some, and probably not for others. It’s a web search rather than a system search (which you can add to the taskbar in Windows 10 and 11 for easy access), and could be useful if you need to quickly pull up content after starting your machine from scratch. But most people, I suspect, constantly have at least one browser window open, and will probably find it easier to search from there than go to the desktop. (A cynic might note that it’s also another way for Microsoft to steer users to Edge and Bing.)

At any rate, it’s interesting to see the company play with desktop widgets, as opposed to corralling these tools into a separate panel (for more on that, see our review of Windows 11).



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