It's been an interesting few months at the intersection of Tech and Trump. First, tech executives like LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and others spoke out loudly against candidate Donald Trump. Meanwhile out on the campaign trail, Trump took a number of high-profile shots at Silicon Valley, blasting Apple and Amazon for various perceived displays of arrogance and misuse of corporate power.
More recently, both those companies released good-vibes TV ads, each of them urging Americans to put aside their differences in a post-election spirit of domestic détente, each of them a slightly veiled denunciation of some of Trump's more controversial sound bites.
Then last week, adding a dollop of intrigue to the awkward dance between Trump and the tech world, one of the valley's corporate elites showed up as a visitor during the incoming president's vetting-fest at Trump Tower. Speculation has swirled even since about a possible cabinet post for Safra Catz, co-CEO of Oracle, though her meeting with Trump remains wrapped in mystery. An Oracle spokeswoman confirmed the meeting took place, but offered no other details.
It's not clear how well, if at all, Catz and Trump know one another. The Washington Post reported that Catz, who was named co-chief executive (along with Mark Hurd) of Oracle in 2014 when company co-founder Ellison stepped back from the CEO role, has donated to both Democratic and Republican candidates in the past. This year, Catz, Hurd, and Ellison all gave money to the campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio, who ran against Trump in the Republican presidential primaries.
If she were indeed being considered for a post in the Trump White House, Catz comes with stellar credentials, boasting extensive experience in finance. At Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette, she worked as an investment banker. Coming to Oracle in 1999, Catz served as the software giant's chief financial officer for several years and developed a reputation as being one of Ellison's closest and most loyal advisers. A place for Catz on the Trump team would mean a ringside seat for the head of one tech's most iconic companies.
"What's going on here is exactly what you'd expect after the sort of rhetoric that surfaced during the campaign," said analyst John Jackson with IDC in Boston. "And that is a kind of cautious circling of the table, with the tech companies doing most of the circling."
Jackson said tech companies and Trump's team are feeling each other out, just as the Election Day dust starts to slowly settle. "Nobody, including the tech industry," he said, "is really sure what the conduct of this new administration will be, so there's some groundwork being laid here. And if someone like Catz is truly being considered for a cabinet spot, that would do nothing but bolster confidence in the tech sector because Trump's people are being smart to go out and find people with highly informed perspectives."
Meanwhile, two of the companies targeted for criticism by Trump are hitting back, but with velvet gloves on. First came Amazon, with its heartwarming if slightly sappy television ad proposing a Kumbaya moment for the post-election discord consuming the nation of late. That ad featured an aging priest and an imam enjoying a bit of bromance while ordering cool things for each other on Amazon Prime.
This week, as Donald Trump tweets out curious messages in the middle of the night and his VP-elect gets schooled by the cast of Hamilton, Apple weighs in with its own why-can't-we-all-just-get-along pitch. Have a peek:
Apple's 2016 Christmas ad features Frankenstein's monster making an awkward attempt to play nice with his fellow villagers in some snowbound hamlet and, in the process, warming the cockles of everyone's heart, both onscreen and off. The monster is played by "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Brad Garrett, who also did "Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World," "An Extremely Goofy Movie," and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows."
In his Apple role, instead of coming out of the shadows, Garrett's creepy character comes out of his isolated cabin, bringing with him the gift of song to his startled neighbors. "An unexpected holiday visitor finally receives the warm welcome he's always yearned for," the ad's description on YouTube says.
With a syrupy version of "No Place Like Home" playing in the background, the monster is embraced by the village, much like Apple apparently wants us all to embrace each other, regardless of which side of the political aisle we sit on, and preferably holding an iPhone 7 while we do it.
The two commercials represent a major cheek-turning, as both Apple and Amazon have been stung by election politics. Last February, candidate Trump blasted Apple for not cooperating with an FBI request and subsequent court order to help investigators unlock the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Cook did not support Trump in the election and afterward wrote an internal memo to Apple employees, basically telling them to stand united, regardless of whom they supported in the campaign, and get back to work.
"We have a very diverse team of employees, including supporters of each of the candidates," Cook wrote. "Regardless of which candidate each of us supported as individuals, the only way to move forward is to move forward together."
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, also took heat from Trump during his White House run. Coming on the heels of a report that the Post had put together a team of 20 reporters to dig into Trump's real-estate holdings, the candidate attacked Bezos and accused him of using the newspaper to fight against higher taxes for Amazon. Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity that the company is "getting away with murder, tax-wise. [Bezos is] using the Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don't tax Amazon like they should be taxed."