GigaOM Reads: A look back at the week in tech

Unicorns and Facebook Phones, now at Home:  What can one say about Facebook Home that hasn’t been said before: it is nice looking, it is smooth, it is targeted at a whole different kind of smartphone user and it might be a privacy nightmare? Or what can add to the fact that this is going to give Google some serious second thoughts about how open it can keep Android? We can simply add that this is a new deconstructed Facebook, and like all deconstructed things — food and fashion for example — the number of users are much less than most realize.

Facebook Android Home

Here are the basics of Facebook Home, which hopes to become the first stop on your mobile phone platform. Facebook Home works like this: as a layer built on top of the Android platform, Facebook essentially becomes your mobile device’s home screen providing notifications, status updates, and your feed (including large, in-your-face images) right up front. So what is it? an app? Is it an OS? We like to think it is first step to Facebook OS for the Mobile. [You can read all about it in Mark Zuckerberg’s own words.]

You can get Facebook Home baked right into the new HTC First which will be going for $99. Affordability and accessibility are two important factors for world domination, but the broader privacy implications for Facebook Home do give us cause for concern. Thank god there is no Home on iOS.


Apple’s China Syndrome: Apple loves China but China doesn’t feel that way, and its state-run media made it pretty obvious with its recent criticism of Apple. Of course, that meant CEO Tim Cook had to issue an apology to Chinese customers after being accused of “arrogance” and failing to provide the same quality of product and service befitted for other nations. Cook assured the country that Apple will work on “communication” surrounding these issues, which is said to be a good move forward for a country that could be its top purchaser in the coming years. We think Apple has to think different about China, because the dynamics of doing business are different in that country.

Video Killed the Radio Star? Not Really: Now we love our cord-cutting as much the next couch potato, but does the world need yet another video service that serves up the standard TV, movie, and music-consuming entertainment lineup? Well, apparently, Rdio thinks we do and announced Vdio. Yup, the company, after tussling with Spotify, is now going after Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and Apple’s iTunes.

There is one caveat: Vdio is limited (currently) to Rdio Unlimited subscribers in the U.S. and U.K., and offers shows and flicks from all the familiar places like ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Comedy Central, among others. The good news is that more locations are expected soon. Rdio’s VP of Product Malthe Sigurdsson says a Rdio-meets-Netflix-like subscription service is still on the table, pay-per-view be dammed. Feeling like a movie night in but don’t know what to watch? No problem — Vdio lets you see what your friends are tuning in to, then allows you to rent or buy your selection on the spot. Just add popcorn.

vdio screenshot 1

Read a good book lately?: We are not sure why everyone keeps asking that question when they can easily check out our profile on Goodreads. The bookworms love the site and helped it become a powerhouse within the industry. So much so, that Amazon purchased the social network last week. Well, looks like this is going to help Amazon sell a lot more books on Kindle and give people a chance to keep talking about them — all the time. This collaboration of sorts makes sense. But don’t worry about your digital book club being “Amazon-ed” — if past experience with Zappos and IMDB is telling, it won’t be messing with a good thing. Though, we wouldn’t count out an increase in Amazon-fueled recommendations and opportunities to buy from the large-scale online retailer.

Sir, can you please spare a Bitcoin: We’ve been hearing a lot about Bitcoin recently, but what is it? Bitcoin acts as a peer-to-peer cash system that isn’t run by any banks or governments. The value you earn is off the grid, stored in mobile devices or computers, for example, and can be exchanged for real goods and services. It’s Kind of like using Facebook credits to buy gifts, except there’s no purchasing Bitcoins — it’s digital money that’s earned by solving complex computational problems. By the way, there are a bunch of guys in Tokyo who are the real dons of bitcoin. Bitcoin’s value is rising as it becomes an increasingly popular way to make and exchange currency, even being valued higher than actual currency in some countries. Will Bitcoins become the new international, border-free way to make payments? Our own David Meyer gives us a nice breakdown and answers the tough questions.

chrome-iosIn a Blink, WebKit is dead: Or at least that is the working theory following Google’s announcement that it would be kicking WebKit, the engine powering its Chrome browser, to the curb for a forked version called “Blink.” Blink will make Chrome faster, lighter, more stable, and easier to develop for, Google argued. Google cited the current slow pace of innovation as the catalyst that spurred its decision to introduce a new rendering engine to the web, but it doesn’t come without its downsides — mainly that developers will need to test in more rendering environments, but the future of WebKit itself could be in danger. Google was its biggest supporter, so now it’s up to the likes of Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry to pick up the slack. Rob Isaac didn’t pull any punches is his must read editorial.  This can’t be good for Apple, who will now have to come up with its own twist on things. Let’s stay tuned for the next chapter.

Here are some stories you might have missed this week:


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