Benner on Tech: Jawbone Looks Up, Apple Looks Ahead

Katie Benner is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about technology, innovation, and the cult and culture of Silicon Valley. She lives in San Francisco.
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Jawbone is pleased to announce that its UP3 fitness tracker will ship on April 20, just four or five months after customers expected. The company says all of the people who pre-ordered the band will receive their units no later than mid-May. That’s not exactly Christmas, but those who really want this product and believe that no other tracker on the market will do probably feel quite relieved by this news.

Things haven't been so easy for Jawbone. Back in July 2014, I wrote that the company seemed to be doing poorly and its future was uncertain. Sales of the bluetooth headset that had made it famous had flatlined. The Jambox speaker was squeezed, pricewise, by Bose on the high end and Harman on the low end. The company’s supply chain process in China had hit some snags that had to be smoothed out. And it was racing to transform itself into a software play ahead of the release of the Apple Watch.

Forbes reported last September that the company was unable to find takers for an estimated $250 million funding round. Last year it also quietly discontinued the original Jambox but continued to sell the mini and large versions.

Fortune took a look at Jawbone in January of this year, noting that on top of the aforementioned issues Flextronics had sued Jawbone for breach of contract, alleging that Jawbone couldn't pay a $20 million bill due to its “perilous” financial position. The suit was settled, and Jawbone told Fortune that it had been a case of "miscommunication." Bloomberg recently reported that Jawbone could get some money from BlackRock.

Even so, some people have wondered whether Jawbone will try to sell itself, as it doesn’t seem quite ready for the scrutiny of the public markets and it doesn’t always have the easiest time selling equity.

I have no idea whether Jawbone will sell, but I'm curious about what kind of price tag a buyer would put on the company. It's currently valued at around $3 billion. The late stage funding rounds have resulted in lots of preferences and guarantees for some investors and not others. The company also raised $93 million in debt from lenders including JPMorgan; they’re in line ahead of the equity. That’s a lot of hurdles to clear before some early shareholders and the common stock holders (meaning employees) will see a dime.

Apple MacBook is here.

Here’s what the reviewers had to say:

The Wall Street Journal: “All you have to do is look at it to observe the future ...”

Bloomberg: “MacBook is Apple’s vision of the notebook of the future ...”

Wired: “This is what the future of laptops looks like ...”

The Verge: “This new MacBook is the future ...”

Mashable: “This is the future ...”

Ars Technica: “A future that’s not quite here ...”

TechCrunch: “This is a future-oriented notebook ...”

International Business Times: “Apple’s vision for the future of its notebooks ...”

Apple’s own website: “It’s the future of the notebook ...”

But no one (with the possible exception of Apple) seemed to think that this is a product to buy in the present.

** Apple has spent $38 million on the Apple Watch television campaign "Watch Reimagined." (Reuters)

** MacRumors lists the Apple Stores that will carry the Apple Watch Edition.

Weekend Reading

** China Digital Times is the California-based website dedicated to breaching China’s Great Firewall. (McClatchy)

** Photos and videos taken with our phone are changing the way citizens fight back against law enforcement. Most recently, video of a police officer in South Carolina lethally shooting an unarmed black man in the back led to that officer’s arrest. The New York Times argued the incident is evidence of the bigger, more powerful role tech can play to protect citizens. Columbia Journalism Review takes a look, more broadly, at how video and surveillance have changed the way journalists report on incidents of alleged police violence.

** A tech entrepreneurship program was started in San Quentin by venture capitalist Chris Redlitz and his wife Beverly Parenti, who works at a tech accelerator. (the Wall Street Journal)

Entrepreneurs often seek to improve something in their own lives. This was no different for the inmates, though their grievances didn’t have to do with hailing taxis or finding rooms for rent. Instead, many zeroed in on the moments when their lives veered off track.

Ventureland

Managed by Q is an on-demand startup that wants to change the way that workers are treated in the on-demand economy. Here’s my story.

Prosper raised about $165 million and is now valued at $1.9 billion. (the Wall Street Journal)

Uber is now letting riders in India hail three-wheeled auto rickshaws and pay in cash. (the Wall Street Journal)

Forget everything you think you know about how a startup becomes a unicorn. After studying 32 consumer companies with big valuations, Shasta Ventures found some surprising themes.

Companies

Alibaba held a contest where more than 400 same-sex couples competed for the opportunity to travel to California, all expenses paid, and get married in a group wedding ceremony in West Hollywood. (Quartz)

Amazon sued websites -- with names like buyamazonreviews.com and buyazonreviews.com -- that are allegedly selling five-star reviews of products on the site. (the Verge) The company’s cloud division now has an artificial intelligence service that people can use to add predictive capabilities to their apps. (Bloomberg)

EBay has promised that about 80 percent of gross merchandise sales will be routed through PayPal for at least five more years. (the Wall Street Journal)

Facebook was hit with a class action lawsuit in Vienna, alleging the company breached EU privacy laws and took part in the NSA’s Prism spying program. (the Guardian) Facebook says that Max Schrems, the 27-year-old Austrian law graduate who is leading the case is making money off the suit. (the Wall Street Journal) Pew research found that 71 percent of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 use Facebook, down from 77 percent in 2012. (Re/code)

LinkedIn bought Lynda.com, a subscription online training company, in a deal that values Lynda at $1.5 billion.

Microsoft partnered with Dropbox so users could access and edit any Office files stored in Dropbox. 

Media Files

Disney is pushing for all or most of its channels to be available on the upcoming Apple TV service. (TheStreet)

News and Notes

Electronic health records vendors have made it costly and cumbersome to share patient information, and they’ve stood in the way of a $30 billion push to use digital records to make things more efficient. (the Wall Street Journal

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the editor on this story:
Maria Lamagna at mlamagna@bloomberg.net