This Week In Tech - 9/4/2015
Don't let people think you've been living under a rock.
- There’s been a lot of news - and even more rumors - surrounding Apple’s latest batch of product releases, including new iPhones, iOS 9, and a revamped Apple TV. In a move sure to strike fear in the hearts of mobile marketers, the company announced that iOS 9 will allow third party ad-blocking applications in the App Store. While the new offerings will only affect Apple’s mobile Safari browser, the announcement touches on a growing industry-wide tension between the desire to provide clutter-free user experiences and the need to generate revenue through in-app advertising.
- It was a great week for stylish new user experiences as some of the biggest names in tech debuted high-profile updates. Tumblr simplified its reblogging and commenting designs, effectively removing one of the blogging platform’s ugliest features. Meanwhile, Skype updated its desktop and Android apps with enhanced search and multi-tasking features, Instagram introduced improved functionality for directly sharing others’ posts to your network, and Google released Chrome 45, which will automatically pause flash-based content (less ads!), among other improvements.
Tumblr’s improved reblogging & comment design (puns notwithstanding)
- The ongoing battle for dominance in the streaming entertainment space took a few interesting turns this week. Netflix announced they will not extend their licensing deal with Epix, the company responsible for bringing blockbuster franchises like Transformers and The Hunger Games to the platform. Instead, Netflix’s future offerings will be focused on exclusive content as well as a recently-announced partnership with Disney. Amazon (who will continue their own licensing agreement with Epix) announced that users of its Prime service will soon be able to save video content for offline viewing. Rounding out the week, Hulu rolled out a new "commercial free" tier of their subscription offerings to compete with Amazon and Netflix. Too bad it’s actually not commercial free at all. Regardless, consumers still have plenty of options when it comes to the choice of staying inside and avoiding the outdoors.
This Week in Bootstrapping
Everyone has advice for startups. Here’s some worth listening to.
- Required reading for bootstrappers and entrepreneurs: location-based social messaging platform Fling recently went through a bit of a rough patch that ultimately led to being banned from the Apple App Store. CEO and founder Marco Nadone went to TechCrunch to explain why it was the best possible outcome for the company.
- Social marketers of the world, rejoice! Twitter expanded their lucrative self-service advertising platform to include over 200 countries and 15 languages, effectively decreasing the barriers to entry for new players in the digital marketing industry. If you’re thinking about becoming part of the marketing scene in these emerging economies, now would be the chance.
- Thinking about jumping into the on-demand service space? You better have your labor policies figured out. Uber lost significant ground in their high-profile worker misclassification suit this week when a California judge granted class-action status to the plaintiffs. It remains to be seen exactly how many of the company’s drivers, who are classified as independent contractors, could potentially join the class action. Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that the so-called 1099 Economy is struggling to maintain financial and legal legitimacy.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in Uber’s labor misclassification suit.
This Week in Funding
Baby I got your money, don’t you worry.
ODB: "I don’t got a problem with you funding me, but I got a li’l problem with you not funding me"
- 500 Startups, the Mountain View VC firm, recently closed its third round of funding, totaling $85 million.
- Blackberry, your favorite phone manufacturer from 2005, purchased mobile device management service Good Technology for a cool $425 million.
- Microsoft expanded its analytics holdings by acquiring corporate data firm VoloMetrix. The Seattle-based computing titan plans to integrate VoloMetrix’s tech into their Delve analytics service by the end of this year.
- On-demand alcohol delivery service Saucey closed their first round of seed funding with $4.5 million after choosing to operate without VC investment for two years.
What we’ve been reading, tweeting, slacking, and talking about.
- VR evangelists often speak of how the new technology will transform traditional media. This week we saw a huge strides towards that goal with the release of Waves of Grace, a fully immersive VR film that documents the effects of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. You can watch the film, a joint venture between the United Nations and LA-based Vrse Studios, on Vrse’s apps for Android and iOS (provided you have a Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR setup).
- Google’s logo went sans serif this week, the first major change to the company’s visual branding in about 2 years. Although the update introduced new icons, logos, and animations for desktop and mobile, the familiar blue-red-yellow-blue-green-red color scheme remains the same. It looks great, but we can’t help but wonder if the company is attempting to put on a friendlier face.
- Like it or not, Kanye West is a major figure in pop culture and tech culture as well, from the recently shuttered bitcoin currency Coinye to viral flash games like KanyeQuest and KanyeZone. Elon Musk even wrote up a glowing profile on Yeezy for this year’s edition of TIME Magazine’s Most Influential People. Now there is YEMOJI, a sticker-based emoji keyboard that lets users communicate using only the rapper’s likeness. We can only imagine how this will shape Yeezus’ recently announced 2020 presidential run (Full disclosure: I am an unapologetic fanboy).