Technology

Meet Silicon Valley’s latest craze – company buses: Best of the Web

Andrew Sadauskas /

There are some weird and wonderful business ideas floating around in Silicon Valley. And, there are few fads the Bay Area’s startup entrepreneurs will turn down; especially when it comes to unconventional workplaces and management techniques.

The latest toy of choice for young entrepreneurs with a fistful of venture capital dollars, according to Nitasha Tiku at The Verge, is to buy a company bus.

Why on Earth would any self-respecting businessperson want a bus, you might ask? Tiku explains:

Late Friday afternoon, I was sitting in the back of a Leap bus with CEO Kyle Kirchhoff when the bus manager, a young blond guy named Richard, approached, holding his smartphone like a menu. Kirchhoff had just shown me how riders can use the Leap app to buy snacks. He ordered himself a bottle of Happy Moose Juice, a San Francisco-based brand that sells organic libations in saturated primary colors. Blue Bottle coffee and Boxed Water are also available for purchase. “Sorry sir, we’re actually fresh out of that particular flavor of juice,” Richard told Kirchhoff. “Would you prefer a different flavor?”

Kirchhoff had ordered Tropical Roots, but settled for Strawberry Fields. At $7, the cold-pressed beverage was more expensive than the bus ride, but not by much. Leap, which has raised $2.5 million in venture capital, charges $6 for a one-way ride. (MUNI charges $2.25.)

The startup’s fleet consists of five vehicles, all heavy-duty transit buses that have been retrofitted with reclaimed wood, bar stools, USB ports, and Wi-Fi. The result feels like the reception area of a mid-to-large tech company. The kind that makes you sign an NDA on an iPad before they’ll let you in.

Robots could soon have their head in the clouds

When it comes to robotics, one of the big limitations on how smart you could make them has been the amount of processing power you could fit in a fairly limited physical space. However, as Sean Gallagher discusses at Ars Technica, leading researchers are now combining the possibility of combining cloud computing with physical robots:

Despite all of the science fiction over the past half-century that has foretold the coming of intelligent, autonomous mechanical beings that attain consciousness—Neil Blomkamp’s Chappie being the latest—robots generally remain limited to the most basic of programmed tasks. Even the most advanced and deadliest of unmanned aerial vehicles depend heavily on their network tethers back to human beings. Otherwise, they’re nothing more than glorified model aircrafts on autopilot.

Up to this point, the performance of a mobile robot is largely limited by the amount of memory or computation that it has onboard,” Dr Chris Jones, Director for Research Advancement at iRobot, told Ars. “And if you’re trying to hit price points that make sense, that computation and memory can be fairly small. So by connecting to the cloud, you end up with a lot more resources at your disposal.”

Why BlackBerry is now selling Samsung tablets

Earlier this month, BlackBerry announced it is returning to the tablet market with a new package called the SecuTab. But, instead of building its own tablets, it is instead opting to install its software on Samsung tablets.

Ewan Spence from Forbes explains why the strategy is far more shrewd than it might at first appear:

I suspect the SecuTab is not going to be easily available to consumers, but will be pitched and offered as a turn-key package to government departments and contractors where security certification is vital. While there will still be marketing, there’s no need in these scenarios to work on a marketing plan to sell the concept to the general public.

After all, there’s enough consumer knowledge about BlackBerry as ’the phones with the little keyboards’ to give the BlackBerry Passport, Leap, and Classic devices enough recognition in stores for those who need that sort of thing. Trying to push a consumer tablet with BlackBerry’s limited resources would be foolhardy at best, especially in the current climate of stagnating tablet sales due to a mix of longevity of the existing tablet hardware and the saturating market.

Setting the record straight on Steve Jobs

Finally, over the past week, a new biography called Becoming Steve Jobs has shed new light on the charismatic Apple cofounder. As Kyle VanHemert points out, in the new book, Jobs’ closest colleagues give their own take on the legendary entrepreneurs’ legacy:

One thing has become exceedingly clear in the run-up to the new biography  Becoming Steve Jobs: The people closest to Steve Jobs do not like that other biography of Steve Jobs. And with this one, they’re eager to set the record straight.

The criticism for Walter Isaacson’s official biography, which was rushed to press following Jobs’ death in 2011, has flowed steadily from Apple’s inner-sanctum in the weeks preceding the new book’s release. First, there was Jony Ive in the New Yorker, saying his regard for Isaacson’s book “couldn’t be any lower.” Then, we heard from Apple exec Eddy Cue, who tweeted that Becoming Steve Jobs was the “best portrayal” of his former boss and “first to get it right.” Finally, there’s Tim Cook, in the pages of Becoming Steve Jobs itself, saying Isaacson’s tome did Jobs a “tremendous disservice.”

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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