One of the coolest things I saw at last December’s LeWeb was Do@. They showed it to me behind closed doors and asked me to keep it secret, but it really is a great new way to do searches on your mobile phone.
Why is it more useful than Google?
Because it takes you to the services themselves instead of just a list of lame lists. You gotta see this in action. It should now be available in the iTunes app store. Only for iOS right now.
It’s not every week that I get an inside look into two companies that are absolutely nailing it, both with real results and with PR and awards.
But these two companies are why I travel so much and like visiting the companies themselves (I think I’m the only tech blogger who actually VISITS most of the tech companies they cover). Why? Because you can see a lot more about how people work together and what the culture is like better if you actually visit than if you just do interviews over Skype or something like that.
These two companies impress from all angles and are evidence of some new trends in startups:
1. Companies are springing up that sell access to APIs. Twilio, SimpleGeo, and others (Twitter makes a good chunk of its revenue by selling access to its firehose feed, too).
2. A new raft of enterprise-focused companies are finding major revenue sources around how social media is changing business. Spigit joins a bunch, from Jive, Yammer, Salesforce Chatter, Box.net, etc.
What I like about both of these companies is that they have a business model from the start!
I’ve owned a 2010 Toyota Prius since the day it shipped in June 2009 and have put 36,000 miles on it so far, so I’m uniquely able to tell you what’s cool about a new Prius. Last week Toyota invited me to the press’ first look at the new Prius V. Here you see it next to my older Prius.
From the outside you’ll see the biggest difference: it’s bigger, which will especially appeal to the American market. The rest of the auto press will focus on this size difference. It’s 300 lbs heavier as well, which gives it a nicer road ride and a slightly quieter one as well. But hearing all about how a new car drives is not why you read me, right?
We’re here to talk about the geeky features! The Prius V does not disappoint on that end.
1. Toyota’s engineers (here’s a photo of me with chief engineer, Hiroshi Kayukawa) are using computers to smooth out the ride.
2. JBL’s engineers found a way to make a car audio system that uses about half the power of the one in my car, while keeping the audio loudness and quality the same.
3. It offers radar-assisted features to make cruise control and automatic parking possible (those are the same as in my 2010 model).
4. Most exciting for Silicon Valley types like me is the new Entune system that lets you use your smartphone and a few modern services like Bing, OpenTable, and Pandora with it. That’s what I focused most of my video effort on.
Here’s a look at Entune, which matches your SmartPhone with the car and brings several new apps into the navigation system’s screen:
Why is this significant?
1. It brings several San Francisco-area startups into cars. OpenTable, Pandora, IHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, and more to come. Shows there is a bigger market out there beyond just apps on smartphones.
2. It shows Toyota is going with Bing instead of Google.
3. It demonstrates how car makers are going to start mating smartphones into the driving experience.
Watch the video demo with Toyota’s Jason Schulz (sorry for taking him off track a bit, I forgot my favorite Mexican restaurant’s name, but that makes it more real world). We use it to find a new restaurant, make a reservation on OpenTable, and we talk about what the future for these kinds of new “car apps” could be (they are only shipping four apps right now, but they will ship more in the future).
As for how the Prius works, I love my car and would buy another one without hesitation. This new model makes me jealous because it could use my iPhone in a new way that I can’t with my current car. Look for many more of these kinds of features coming soon from automakers because this is the real differentiating features beyond the basics like milage, how it looks, how many people it holds, and how it drives.