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Weekly Tech Roundup: Groupon, Gmail Redesign, Twitter Stories & More

One of the most controversial IPO’s from Silicon Valley, Groupon, finally went public. The company handed out their biggest coupon to shareholders. The company’s offering was priced at $20/share a night before, it increased to $28 at opening bell, reached $31 at mid point only to close at $26.11. The rally valued the company at $16.5 billion; not bad for a 3 year old company that had to redo the SEC paperwork for inconsistencies. According to Kara Swisher at All Things D, the company offered 35 million shares that raked in around $700 million for the company. To put things in perspective, Groupon’s IPO was the biggest since Google (back in 2004), for an Internet company.

Matt Lynley at Business Insider has compiled a nice list of who made the big bucks through Groupon’s IPO. Having followed Groupon’s ups and downs leading to the IPO, I’ve had my skepticism as to why one would invest in Groupon. Certainly the collective intellect on the street thinks differently.

Google redesigns Gmail and Reader to look more like Google+

All Google properties are slowly getting new user interfaces. It started with Google+, and now Gmail and Google Reader offer a consistent interface. Google also introduced new themes for Blogger and a fresh look for their company blogs. Other Google services like Adsense, Analytics and Feedburner have new designs in beta as well.

Users who rely on Google Reader for their news are unhappy with the new layout. The designer who worked on the initial Google Reader (who doesn’t work at Google anymore) publicly made an offer that he’d put his current projects on hold and work with Google to improve the interface. Many tech luminaries tweeted and retweeted his offer asking Google to consider it. The anger against the new design doesn’t mean it’s bad. As a comparatively new Google Reader user, I don’t find it appalling. Although, I still prefer native RSS clients. The new design allows users to +1 stories to share on Google+, Twitter or Facebook

Gmail’s new look hasn’t been hated as much as Google Reader, probably because a preview theme allowed users to get accustomed to the upcoming changes. In a blog post, Jason Cornwell has detailed what the changes in Gmail offer. Elastic density and the new search in mail will definitely help users who spend a lot of time within the web client. Head over to Cornwell’s post for what’s new in Gmail.

Continuing with Google, the company launched a Gmail app for iOS devices. The app launch was bumpy. For many users the app either kept crashing or giving errors that led to Google pulling the app down and then relaunching it. For those wondering the benefits of the app over the native iOS mail client… there are none as of now. The Gmail app for iOS is more of a wrapper around their mobile website.

The last Google story for the past week was the company updating and tweaking the Google search algorithm. Detailed in a blog post, Amit Singhal explained that the new update will offer recent information. Called the Freshness Algorithm, according to Singhal, when a user searches for “Olympics” he will be offered results for “Olympics 2012” as opposed to results about older Olympics.

Stories in 140 characters

Twitter has been a catalyst in revolutions and faster than traditional news agencies in breaking news. A lot happens on the website in less than 140 characters. Last week twitter introduced a new website called @twitterstories. Explained on their official blog, @twitterstories is a collection of anecdotes that happened due to a tweet. The stories aside, I love the website design—beautiful images and clean. In case you have your own stories, send them to @twitterstories or hash tag them with #TwitterStories.

Apple acknowledges iOS5 battery issues

The release of iOS5 wasn’t smooth. Several users reported that they couldn’t get the update, as it turns out, Apple’s servers could not keep up with the demand. Days after the update, users reported about battery problems on their devices. Last week in a statement to All Things D, Apple accepted that there are bugs in their software that are resulting in lower battery life. The company said they will issue an update to fix resolve the issue.

Yahoo serves Cocktails on Livestand

As a media company Yahoo hasn’t been doing well. The corporate problems plaguing the company continue with uncertainty about their future. The engineers at Yahoo, however, are doing what they do best. Last week Yahoo announced Cocktails for web developers. Like Yahoo Pipes, Cocktails let developers build platforms to serve content using newer technologies like HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, Node.JS etc. To show what can be done with Cocktails, Yahoo developers launched two cocktails:

  • Mojito—a JavaScript web application framework
  • Manhattan—JavaScript hosting environment for Mojito based application

In my last tech roundup, I shared news about Yahoo’s intentions to compete with Flipboard. The announcement of Cocktails was timed to coincide with the launch of Yahoo iOS app called Livestand—an “immersive” news reader. As it turns out, Cocktails powers Livestand.

Khan Academy’s expansion

The digital-age school also  known as Khan Academy has been a one-man show so far. Sal Khan, who has produced several YouTube videos explaining science and mathematics for all ages, has caught the attention of investors, educators and students alike. According to an update issued last week, the Khan Academy has raised $5 million to expand.

Audrey Watters at Hack Education shared details about the $5 million investment from the O’ Sullivan Foundation. The Khan Academy has previously raised funds from the Gates Foundation and Google. A key product coming out of Khan Academy courtesy the funding is a content management system. Those involved with Khan Academy are working on coming up with better ways to calculate how useful their lessons have been.

A $25 PC from Britain

India’s $35 tablet for students now has competition. Raspberry Pi, is an open source computer powered by ARM priced at $25. The computer is aimed at teaching kids how to code. In $25 one gets a business card sized CPU with the ports needed. In a demo shown by the Raspberry Pi guys does not talk about peripherals like monitors and keyboards/mice being included in $25.

Amazon, the library

If there is a company that has amazed me recently, it is Amazon. With consumer products like the Kindle and media streaming for subscribers, Jeff Bezos is disrupting a lot of businesses. Amazon Prime is now a lot more than 2-day free shipping. Prime subscribers can stream movies and music from Amazon’s catalogue. In addition to quicker shipping and multimedia, Amazon will lend books to Prime subscriber who own Kindles. The lending program introduced by Amazon currently has 4,000+ books. A list of books that are part of Amazon’s lending program can be accessed here.

The Kindle is the iPod of books.

Interesting reads for this week:
A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs
“Siri, how much data do you gobble up in a month?” Ars investigates
IBM Open-Sources Potential “Internet of Things” Protocol
Facebook vs. Google: The battle for the future of the Web
The Reengineering of Facebook Messages
The inside story of how Microsoft killed its Courier tablet
Dell Mobile Security for Android Officially Certified for Government Use by DISA