Want to hear a Silicon Valley joke? Two geek billionaires walk into a coffee shop and nobody notices.
There’s no punchline. This actually happened a couple of weeks ago when I was in Mountain View and the co-founders of WhatsApp popped into their local for a brew. Despite being full of start-ups, nobody in the Red Rock Café seemed to recognise the pair who had just sold their app to Facebook for upwards of $16bn.
WhatsApp has almost 500m active users around the world but many in Silicon Valley’s elite only discovered the chat app when Mark Zuckerberg opened his chequebook. It’s entirely possible that, in the past year, more people here have tried Google Glass, the sci-fi headset that most outside Silicon Valley love to hate, than sent a message on WhatsApp. Read more
Ray-Bans via Instagram
Google has been working hard lately to dampen the constant, rumbling criticism of Glass. First, it issued guidelines on etiquette for its pioneering wearable gadget, warning early adopters: “Don’t be a glasshole.”
Then last week, it decided that the people buying its $1,500 headset weren’t glassholes after all, trying to dispel ten “myths” about the prototype product: Glass really isn’t a “distraction from the real world” or “the perfect surveillance device”, it insisted in a blogpost.
The ground suitably prepared, Google has now made a much more meaningful step towards mainstream acceptance: it is partnering with the maker of Ray-Ban and Oakley frames to make Glass fashionable. Read more
It would be easy to glance at Samsung’s new Milk Music service and dismiss it as another copycat. The personalised internet radio service for Galaxy smartphone owners that launches in the US on Friday is, in essence, pretty similar to Pandora or Apple’s iTunes Radio, which launched last year.
But while maintaining feature parity is an important if unglamorous part of the hypercompetitive smartphone market, Milk does bring something new to Samsung Galaxy: great software design. Read more
In a mobile world where single-serving apps are replacing vast monolithic services, Jawbone on Thursday poured out a shot of Coffee: its new caffeine-consumption tracking app.
The move to a standalone app that does not require its Up wristband to work is a first for Jawbone, which is raising $250m in new funding. It comes as part of a big push by Jawbone to up its game in software and services, as step-counting gadgets fast become a commodity. Read more
It was just a regular Tuesday afternoon in Mountain View’s Red Rock coffee shop: rows of young entrepreneurs sitting behind their MacBook screens, working on what they hope might be the next WhatsApp.
The low-key cafe served as an office for Brian Acton and Jan Koum, WhatsApp’s founders, when they were starting out back in 2009. It was here that Sequoia’s Jim Goetz met them in 2011 before becoming their only venture-capital investor. WhatsApp’s modest, unmarked offices are still just around the corner. Read more
Facebook is paying up to $19bn in cash, stock and earnouts to acquire WhatsApp Messenger, the world’s most popular mobile chat app with more than 450m regular users. Here Tim Bradshaw and Hannah Kuchler brought live reaction and comment from Facebook’s conference call.
Google is expanding the number of people who can get hold of Glass, as the FT reported late last year. Now a few friends of each of its first “Explorers” and selected other developers can purchase the experimental wearable device.
With all those new lenses wandering around, it hasn’t escaped Google’s notice that its wearers are getting “a lot of attention”. Google has talked to its existing community of Explorers for some tips on how to deal with the rest of the world, finally acknowledging that it can look “pretty weird”. Read more
Millions of addicted gamers are in a flap over the untimely death of Flappy Bird.
The Vietnamese creator of the most popular mobile game of 2014 has removed the app from sale after saying its internet fame “ruins my simple life”, despite making him tens of thousands of dollars a day. Read more
It may not be the biggest Microsoft story around today, but it’s a big deal for Foursquare: Microsoft is investing $15m in the social-location app as part of a new four-year commercial partnership.
The $15m investment comes in addition to the $35m that Foursquare raised in December last year from DFJ Growth and Capital Group. The app lets users share their location with friends by “checking in” and then recommends new places based on where they’ve been in the past.
Although uptake hasn’t quite lived up to the hype when it launched in 2009, it has collected a lot of data since then: 5bn check-ins, 60m places and 40m tips, all crowdsourced from some 45m users. Read more
Friday’s Personal Tech column reviewed the Narrative Clip, a small wearable camera that takes a photo every 30 seconds. Although it is a well-made product, I encountered some difficulties with the privacy aspects of wearing such a device, and felt that the images it produced were not worth the social awkwardness that it created.
Narrative’s co-founders are a thoughtful bunch and Oskar Kalmaru, the start-up’s chief marketing officer, sent the FT these comments in response: Read more
Apple speculators, take a breath.
Executives from the iPhone maker, including its head of operations, met with officials from the US Food and Drug Administration last month, public records show, to discuss “medical applications”.
What could they possibly have been discussing? Read more
Hardware is hard, so the saying goes. Raising millions of dollars on Kickstarter or Indiegogo can create as many problems as it solves. So the recent explosion in hardware start-ups has produced a crop of incubator and accelerator programmes, such as Lemnos Labs and Haxlr8r. The latest, Highway 1, is a new project from Liam Casey’s PCH International, which typically handles supply chains for rather larger electronics companies such as Apple and Beats Electronics. Read more
Expectations are high that Apple can go back to its old forecast-busting ways when it reports earnings for its December quarter on Monday.
“Investors think that Q1 is going to be a blow-out and the Q2 guide is quite strong,” said analysts at Berenberg in a note after meetings with shareholders last week.
While the iPhone and iPad both look set to turn in double-digit percentage growth rates, falling prices and margins could minimise revenue and earnings growth.
Here’s what to expect after the markets close in New York: Read more
In an interview on Monday afternoon, Nest’s co-founder and chief executive Tony Fadell told the FT that he sold the “smart home” company to Google because he wanted to focus on new product innovations, not worry about managing the behind-the-scenes infrastructure that handles all the data generated from its “Learning Thermostat” and “Protect” smoke alarm, and to ensure the company stays ahead of mounting competition. Read more
The taxi industry’s war on app-enabled chauffeur services such as Uber has broken out into physical combat on the streets of Paris. During a strike by French cab drivers who are protesting against the rise of what are locally called “voitures de tourisme avec chauffeurs”, several drivers and limos who crossed the picket line were attacked, with windows smashed and tires slashed. Read more
The verdict is in and it’s unanimous. The best gadget of this week’s Consumer Electronics Show 2014 is not a curved television, a health-tracking wristband, a Bluetooth speaker or a connected car; in fact, it’s not even a finished product. Yet the latest prototype of the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset has so excited attendees that tech blogs the Verge and Engadget – not to mention this FT reporter – have named it their “best in show”. Read more
Say you’re a fairly aggressive taxi app company with a reputation for hiking prices at peak times and raising hundreds of millions of dollars to crush your competitors. What’s the one thing with enough internet love to offset your karma? That’s right: kittens.
And so it came to pass that Uber, “everyone’s private driver”, for one day only delivered kittens and cupcakes. And the internet said it was good. Even for $20 for 15 minutes of “snuggles”. Read more