Morning Coffee Apr 19 2012

We're in the Dark Ages of Tech

By joseph walker

Facebook is set to go public in May in what could be the largest Internet IPO ever. The same company just bought a San Francisco start-up with a dozen employees and no revenue for $1 billion. TV Channel Bravo is making a reality TV show about Silicon Valley's entrepreneurs and hangers-on. In terms of prestige and financial reward, technology has hit its apex. But in terms of innovation and original thinking, tech is at a nadir, writes Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic.

The mobile and social revolutions, the confluence of which is embodied in the Instagram acquisition, has achieved its goals, Madrigal writes. But because of the tremendous valuations of companies like Facebook and Instagram, hundreds of start-ups raising cash are all chasing a variation of the social/mobile dream.

What about the rise of cloud computing and big data analytics, you say. Well, "the cloud" is just new jargon for what the Internet has always been--the ability to access data online, Madrigal writes. As for big data, it's benefiting companies looking to sell stuff to consumers, but not the consumers themselves.

Madrigal isn't a lone voice of dissent in the technology world, though few want to bring down the party just as everyone is getting rich and buying Porsches. "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads," early Facebook employee Jeff Hammerbacher told Bloomberg Businessweek last year. "That sucks."

Madrigal doesn't try to predict the next great leap in technology. He suggests, though, that we might benefit from less reliance on free products. Most Web companies build scale by giving their product away then try to build revenue via advertising. But most of these products end up looking "cheap, fun, and about as world-changing as creating a new variation of beer pong," Madrigal writes. (The Atlantic)

Hot Seat (WSJ)

Google Chief Executive Larry Page had a tough day in court yesterday, claiming he didn't recall an email from one of his engineers stating that Google would have to buy a Java license. Nor did he recall who the engineer, Tim Lindholm, was.

Jobs Showing (FINS)

Mountain View, Calif.'s Jumio Inc. plans to hire up to 30 new employees in the U.S. and Austria this year. The company makes a technology that allows consumers to buy items by waving their credit cards in front of a webcam.

Free Trip (Business Insider)

The tech folks in Boulder, Colo., are so confident that you'll love their city that they're offering 10 free plane tickets for a May Start-up Week event. There are hundreds of jobs available in the city, including at big brands like Google and Microsoft.

Going Abroad (WSJ)

U.S. multinational corporations in 2010 expanded their work forces by 1.5% overseas, but by just 0.1% in America. It's a continuing trend: Since 1999, such companies have cut 1 million jobs in the U.S., but added 3.1 million abroad.

Battle (BetaBeat)

Check out this article to see if you are more like Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg or Google's Marissa Mayer. Sandberg says there's nothing wrong with leaving the office at 5:30 p.m., whereas Mayer says pulling all-nighters is the key to success.

Close-Up (WSJ)

Hollywood is looking to dramatize the tech gold rush. There's a reality show coming out, two Steve Job biopics, and maybe even a TV show written by Moneyball author Michael Lewis.

Price Tag (DealBook)

More details emerge about Facebook's $1 billion acquisition of Instagram. Turns out the deal was about 70% stock and 30% cash.

New Paradigm (WSJ)

Two European gaming companies are poised to knock Electronic Arts off its second-place perch in the social gaming world. EA has made a big effort to compete in the new digital world.

Small Payoff (ZDNet)

When a company opens up a big data center, it doesn't necessarily translate into jobs. Apple's $350 million data center investment in Oregon will bring 35 jobs.

Buzz Around the Office

Just Swimming Around (YouTube)

These otters look bewitched.

List of the Day: How to Approach a Job Search

1. Evaluate the company like a Wall Street analyst would.

2. Think beyond title and salary to longer-term concerns.

3. Ask yourself if this is really what you want to do.

(Source: CBS Money Watch)

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