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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.