FORTUNE -- After a long day or week, the last thing I want to do is house chores. So plates and laundry stack up. The floors don't get Swiffered. When that happens, I'll spend more time clambering around, pajama-clad, and deliberating -- time I could have used to actually perform these chores -- wondering which I'd prefer: scrubbing the tub or paying someone to do it for me?
Here in Silicon Valley, there's a startup offering to do almost anything. Too lazy to clean the house? Hit up Exec or Homejoy. Too busy for groceries? Instacart's platoon of Bay Area personal shoppers do it for you. Hasty brings healthy, gourmet cooked meals to your door; Prim picks up, does, and drops off laundry; Medicast connects users with doctors who make house calls. And popular smartphone apps like Uber and Lyft mean never having to stand on a rainy street corner hailing a cab ever again. The number of startups in this space of "on-demand" services grows seemingly by the week. Yet the business model remains simple: build a service fulfilling tasks people wish they could outsource, do it swiftly, and charge extra for sheer convenience.
Many Bay Area tech employees don't work 9-to-5 schedules. Marissa Mayer, obviously an outlier, worked 130 hours a week during her first five years with Google (GOOG) -- an incredible average of 18.5 hours a day. And with the exception of early-stage startup founders who routinely pay themselves nil or just enough to get by, many of these same techies make significantly more than the average American: $101,278 in 2012, according to career sites provider Dice Holdings.
Long days, high salaries and the widespread availability of service startups in the Bay Area make for some interesting use cases. That's certainly the case for TaskRabbit, a startup that screens freelancers to do short-term errands and projects including IKEA furniture assembly or store returns. Tasks also verge on the idiosyncratic. One highly paid software engineer admitted he hired a TaskRabbit to stand in line for hours outside the local Apple (AAPL) store to pick up his iPhone 5 on launch day. Roy Bahat, former IGN Entertainment president and head of the $75 million Bloomberg Beta venture fund, admits he hires a TaskRabbit to drive his car from meeting to meeting all day, while he sits in the passenger seat making work calls.
For two years, I've used Uber for work and fun. Being able to summon a car and know exactly how far away it was still makes paying extra worthwhile, especially in a city where cabs can be infuriatingly elusive and I'm rushing to an appointment. (Newer Uber options like Uber X conjure up company-approved citizen drivers in lieu of black cars, but actually charges 10% cheaper than traditional taxis.) I've also used Instacart, which tacks a small variable delivery fee on top of reasonably priced produce. In that case, it saves me the time-suck of hoofing it among Safeway (SWY), Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Costco (COST).
Less familiar with other services, I decided to test several out. I gave up on having Prim, which charges $25 for the first laundry bag and $15 for each one after -- the earliest they could do was almost a week out. The same was true for Homejoy. I had more luck with Exec somewhat, snagging a next-day appointment for a pricey $187, nearly $40 more than Homejoy's estimate. While the maids rendered the place near-spotless, they left an unexpected souvenir: $70 worth of damage to my roommate's turntable. (Exec promises to cover repair costs.) And with TaskRabbit, I hired someone to do my laundry for no less than $50. He did it, but missed my deadline by 2.5 hours. (In return, he knocked $10 off the total cost.)
With these brief flirtations also came persistent guilt. Using Uber to make a meeting and Instacart to bring five bags of groceries to my door felt acceptable, but ponying up $50 for two or three laundry loads? Paying someone $100-plus to stand in line for an iPhone 5? Those crossed a psychological line into inexplicable opulence. I suspect some services will scale better because they're addressing a wide-enough need -- Uber in some cities, Medicast for patients too sick to leave the home, cheaper cleaning services like Homejoy -- but many more others will flounder, serving as reminders that what may fly in places like the Valley, New York, and elsewhere are clearly aimed at those with large disposable incomes to burn.
No. If anything, it was a faulty charger. But Apple has promised to investigate her death.
FORTUNE -- The news first appeared on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, posted Saturday under the official @Stewardess network account. It went (as translated by reader Anne Nimick):
"Ma Ailun, a Southern Airline stewardess, was going be married on Aug. 8 and would have turned 24 on Aug. 16. In the evening of Jul. 11, 2013, while MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 15, 2013 7:00 AM ET
Translated from Icelandic: "Get a phone that understands you."
FORTUNE -- If there was a press release from Samsung announcing that the Galaxy S4 supports the native language of Iceland, we missed it. No matter. The point of this surreal ad -- tailor-made for the island nation's addressable market of 320,000 men, women and children -- is that Apple's (AAPL) iPhone does not.
A $4.3 billion ad budget is a terrible thing to MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 7, 2013 5:42 AM ET
Probably the same London tabloid that called Samsung's Galaxy S4 the "most-loved."
FORTUNE -- Here's what passes for tech news on ABC TV these days:
"Tough news for Apple. Research firm We Are Social names the iPhone 5 the most-hated smartphone on the market for receiving the most complaints on social media. Last year, by contrast, the Samsung Galaxy S4 was named the most-loved smartphone."
That item, which aired Friday on at least MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 6, 2013 9:55 AM ET
Samsung's shares have a long way to go before they could match Apple's meltdown.
FORTUNE -- In a note to clients Friday, ISI's Brian Marshall offers a chart and some commentary on Samsung's disappointing earnings warning.
The chart shows just how far Apple's (AAPL) shares fell after the launch of the iPhone 5 and how much further Samsung's would have to fall to come anywhere close.
Comparing Apple's iPhone sales reports to Samsung's MORE
Comparisons to Cupertino are inevitable as Samsung shares drop 3.8% in one day.
FORTUNE -- You might have thought that all the starch had been taken out of Samsung in June when a wave of analysts' downgrades trimmed its market value by 13%. But the stock got hammered again on Friday, losing 3.8% in one trading day following a disappointing earnings forecast.
Analysts wasted no time making comparisons to Apple (AAPL).
"Apple is MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 5, 2013 7:34 AM ET
A smartphone with physical keyboard? The Canadian company believes there's still a place for its new device in a market dominated by touch.
FORTUNE -- Confession: I use a BlackBerry.
Or well, I have a BlackBerry Bold 9930 for my work email (my choice) and an iPhone 5 for everything else. And you know what? It works. I've enjoyed my iPhone's many strengths over the years -- industrial design, app selection, MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jun 23, 2013 10:24 PM ET
When Apple reported record iPhone 5 sales, the stock began a six-month free fall.
FORTUNE -- It's been years since Samsung reported any unit sales numbers at all for its mobile phones, so the tech press took notice Thursday when the South Korean manufacturing giant decided it had something to brag about.
Samsung Electronics co-CEO Shin Jong-kyun told reporters at an industry forum in Seoul that he is confident shipments of the Galaxy S4 MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - May 17, 2013 10:31 AM ET
Reading the comments on these smackdowns, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
FORTUNE -- The outcome of the many drop tests that have surfaced on YouTube comparing the ruggedness of the Samsung Galaxy S4 with that of the Apple (AAPL) iPhone 5 was never really in doubt.
In falls that shatter the screen of the new Galaxy, pop its back off and kill its camera, the iPhone 5 takes a licking MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - May 1, 2013 7:03 AM ET
Of the 10.4 million new smartphone users between Nov. and Feb., 85% went to Apple.
FORTUNE -- One way to view the U.S. smartphone data released Thursday by comScore (spreadsheets below) is to look at the total number of new subscribers in the 3-month period covered (November 2012 to February 2013) and compare the number of users who bought Apple (AAPL) iPhones with those who chose Google (GOOG) Android phones.
Total new MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 5, 2013 7:13 AM ET
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