VMware says it’s looking to acquire Pivotal

VMware today confirmed that it is in talks to acquire software development platform Pivotal Software, the service best known for commercializing the open-source Cloud Foundry platform. The proposed transaction would see VMware acquire all outstanding Pivotal Class A stock for $15 per share, a significant markup over Pivotal’s current share price (which unsurprisingly shot up right after the announcement).

Pivotal’s shares have struggled since the company’s IPO in April 2018. The company was originally spun out of EMC Corporation (now DellEMC) and VMware in 2012 to focus on Cloud Foundry, an open-source software development platform that is currently in use by the majority of Fortune 500 companies. A lot of these enterprises are working with Pivotal to support their Cloud Foundry efforts. Dell itself continues to own the majority of VMware and Pivotal, and VMware also owns an interest in Pivotal already and sells Pivotal’s services to its customers as well. It’s a bit of an ouroboros of a transaction.

Pivotal Cloud Foundry was always the company’s main product, but it also offered additional consulting services on top of that. Despite improving its execution since going public, Pivotal still lost $31.7 million in its last financial quarter as its stock price traded at just over half of the IPO price. Indeed, the $15 per share VMware is offering is identical to Pivotal’s IPO price.

An acquisition by VMware would bring Pivotal’s journey full circle, though this is surely not the journey the Pivotal team expected. VMware is a Cloud Foundry Foundation platinum member, together with Pivotal, DellEMC, IBM, SAP and Suse, so I wouldn’t expect any major changes in VMware’s support of the overall open-source ecosystem behind Pivotal’s core platform.

It remains to be seen whether the acquisition will indeed happen, though. In a press release, VMware acknowledged the discussion between the two companies but noted that “there can be no assurance that any such agreement regarding the potential transaction will occur, and VMware does not intend to communicate further on this matter unless and until a definitive agreement is reached.” That’s the kind of sentence lawyers like to write. I would be quite surprised if this deal didn’t happen, though.

Buying Pivotal would also make sense in the grand scheme of VMware’s recent acquisitions. Earlier this year, the company acquired Bitnami and last year, it acquired Heptio, the startup founded by two of the three co-founders of the Kubernetes project, which now forms the basis of many new enterprise cloud deployments and, most recently, Pivotal Cloud Foundry.

On the road to self-driving trucks, Starsky Robotics built a traditional trucking business

More than three years ago, self-driving trucks startup Starsky Robotics was founded to solve a fundamental issue with freight — a solution that CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher believes hinges on getting the human driver out from behind the wheel.

But a funny thing happened along the way. Starsky Robotics started a regular ol’ trucking company. Now, nearly half of the employees at this self-driving truck startup help run a business that uses the traditional model of employing human drivers to haul loads for customers, TechCrunch has learned.

Starsky’s trucking business, which has been operating in secret for nearly two years alongside the company’s more public pursuit of developing autonomous vehicle technology, has hauled 2,200 loads for customers. The company has 36 regular trucks that only use human drivers to haul freight. It has three autonomous trucks that are driven and supported by a handful of test drivers. Starsky also employs a number of office people who, as Seltz-Axmacher notes, “know how to run trucks.”

The CEO and co-founder contends that without the human-driven trucking piece, Starsky won’t ever have an operational, or profitable, self-driving truck business. The trucking business has generated revenue, led to key partnerships such as Schneider Logistics, Penske and Transport Enterprise Leasing, and importantly, helped build a company that works in the real world. It has also been a critical tool for recruiting and vetting safety drivers and teleoperators (or remote drivers), according to Seltz-Axmacher.

“The decision to have a trucking business interact with the real trucking world in parallel with developing the robotics piece is a necessary part of building a longstanding business in the space,” said Reilly Brennan, general partner at Trucks VC and the first institutional investor in Starsky.

Starksy, which was co-founded by Seltz-Axmacher and Kartik Tiwari, has raised $21.7 million in equity from investors including Shasta Ventures and Trucks VC.

The evolution over at Starsky illustrates the challenge that awaits the autonomous vehicle industry and the giant companies and startups operating within it. Even after engineers solve the complexity of building an AI-powered driver that’s better than a human, these companies must figure out the equally intricate task of operations. Robotaxis, autonomous delivery robots and self-driving trucks won’t matter if humans don’t use, like or trust the tech.

Figuring out the basics of operations — including the rather pedestrian and obvious ones — will mean the difference between making or losing money. Or, having a business at all.

And the stakes are high. Trucks are the backbone of the U.S. economy and moved more than 70% of all U.S. freight and generated more than $700 billion in 2017, according to the most up-to-date statistics available from the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

Companies pursuing robotaxis and other autonomous vehicle programs are going to eventually wake up — if they haven’t already — to the same realities that Starsky has accepted, Brennan contends.

“The interaction with the market, particularly in logistics, is vital,” Brennan said, adding that companies pursuing robotaxis that haven’t built out and tested a consumer-facing app risk the same problems. “They need to have a business on day one, not on day 720.”

For Starsky, it started with something as basic as having a working vehicle and access to mechanics that could fix it.

Trucks, the hard way

Seltz-Axmacher admits now he underestimated how difficult trucks could be.

“Hey, it’s a truck, how hard can buying one be?,” said Seltz-Axmacher, as he described the company’s first major purchase of a truck for about $50,000. “We quickly realized that having a truck and driving a truck are not easy things to do.”

Starsky engineers retrofitted the truck, named Rosebud, with its autonomous driving system and made plans to test it at the Thunderhill Raceway about 150 miles north of San Francisco. It didn’t make it. The truck’s engine was smoking by the time it crossed the Bay Bridge. And then the truck, along with all those engineers, sat for two weeks while Seltz-Axmacher hunted for a diesel mechanic.

Self-driving truck startup Starsky Robotics began with this first, and problematic truck

The truck, pictured above, continued to break down. The company ran into more snafus, including a problem with insurance and the title of the vehicle. Starsky was going to miss a key milestone and Seltz-Axmacher was going to have to tell investors that it wasn’t because of bottlenecks in engineering, but because they didn’t know how to manage the truck part of this self-driving truck company.

The founders learned that even “average” trucks needed to go to the shop every 60 days, which is operationally complex when vehicles are traveling throughout the United States.

Starsky ended up making a key hire, Paul Schlegel, who is a veteran of trucking operations, to organize the enterprise. Schlegel, who has 32 years in the transportation industry with companies such as Schneider National and Stevens Transport, developed the trucking business that enabled autonomous trucks, but still worked in their absence. The trucking operations team is in Dallas. 

The driver pinchpoint

Seltz-Axmacher has said repeatedly that “unless you’re getting the driver out of the truck, you’re not solving anything.”

The problem in trucking is the supply of drivers. The chronic shortage has, in turn, driven up costs. For instance, the median salary for a truckload driver working a national, irregular route was more than $53,000 — a $7,000 increase from ATA’s last survey, which covered annual pay for 2013, or an increase of 15%. It’s even higher for private fleet drivers, who saw their pay rise to more than $86,000 from $73,000, or a gain of nearly 18%.

Starksy soon found that finding the right drivers was just as hard as finding the right trucks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows the company has reported three crashes of its manually driven trucks.

Seltz-Axmacher said they’ve had a driver make a wrong turn and have a low-hanging branch rip a hole in the side of a trailer. The most serious incident involved a new driver who took an offramp in Florida too fast and rolled the truck onto its side. No one was injured and the driver was terminated.

These drivers are critical to the autonomous program and the best of them end up becoming teleop controllers, a job that involves sitting in an office, not logging days and weeks in a truck.

Starsky is taking a dual approach to its autonomous trucks. It outfits regular trucks with a combination of sensors like radar and cameras along with software that allows long-haul trucks to drive autonomously on the highway. When the truck is about to exit, a trained remote operator, who is sitting in an office, takes over and navigates the truck to its final destination.

The promise of being able to be promoted to teleoperator is a big part of how Starsky is able to hire drivers effectively. The company contends it wouldn’t be possible to find 25 highly skilled safety and remote drivers without having a broader fleet of regular truck drivers to choose from.

Robotrucks or bust

The ultimate goal of Starsky Robotics hasn’t changed, Seltz-Axmacher said. To get there, the company recently hired Ain McKendrick as vice president of engineering, and former Tesla executive Keith Flynn to head up its hardware manufacturing to support Starsky’s fleet build. McKendrick, who co-founded Podtek and Lyve, also has experience at autonomous vehicle company Cyngn, Highfive, Netflix and Dell .

By early 2020, the company aims to have 25 autonomous trucks — a goal that is only possible if it has 100 regular trucks, he added.

The only way Starsky can scale its operations on the autonomous side is to continue to scale its regular trucking operations six months in advance. In other words, the regular trucking business is inextricably linked to the success of deploying autonomous trucks.

The company has already found that the 15-plus brokers that are regularly giving it freight to haul are ready for driverless trucks.

“Many times the brokers who have given us loads have been fairly ambivalent to whether or not we’re hauling that freight with a self-driving truck, Seltz-Axmacher said. “A lot of the concern that people might have is that this is a technology-averse industry and might not be willing to accept self-driving trucks has proven not to be true.”

Medivis gets FDA approval for its augmented reality surgical planning toolkit

Augmented reality is coming to the operating room theater sooner than anyone may have predicted.

Medivis, which launched its product suite earlier this year, has now received approvals from the Food and Drug Administration and will begin rolling out its service in hospitals around the country.

The SurgicalAR platform is a visualization tool that guides surgical navigation, which the company claims can decrease complications and improve patient outcomes, while lowering surgical costs.

The New York-based company, which was founded by Osamah Choudhry and Christopher Morley who met as senior residents at NYU Medical Center, raised $2.3 million in financing led by Initialized Capital  and has secured partnerships with Dell and Microsoft to supply its hardware.

“Holographic visualization is the final frontier of surgical imaging and navigation,” said Osamah Choudhry, a trained neurosurgeon who serves as the chief executive at Medivis, in a statement. “The surgical world continues to primarily rely on two-dimensional imaging technology to understand and operate on incredibly complex patient pathology. Medivis introduces advancements in holographic visualization and navigation to fundamentally advance surgical intervention, and revolutionize how surgeons safely operate on their patients.”

In addition to its hardware partnership with Microsoft, Medivis has also lined up Verizon (whose media group owns TechCrunch) as a partner for its much ballyhooed 5G network.

The company has also launched a toolkit for educational training in augmented reality. The AnatomyX platform for medical training is available on Hololens and Magic Leap’s devices and is already in use at West Coast University.

Medivis is one of a number of companies that are looking to bring new technologies like AR and VR into the OR.

Vicarious Surgical is another upstart that’s got a vision for medicine’s future that includes augmented or extended reality. That company is combining visualization tools with robotics to enable remote surgeries that could, one day, happen across the country or across globe.

What these technologies have in common, and the reason why Verizon is likely very happy to partner with a company like Medivis, is the huge amounts of bandwidth that are going to be required to make their visions of the future come true.

As high speed networks begin cropping up, the attendant use cases haven’t kept pace. And new visualization tools that hoover up data are just the thing to keep money flowing into my corporate overlord’s pockets.

Not that it’s a bad thing. As Medivis’ chief operating officer, Dr. Christopher Morley said in a statement. “We are achieving this by rethinking core limitations in current medical visualization pipelines, and continuously pushing the limits of what’s possible.”

With foldable phones in limbo, foldable display laptops are on the horizon

With the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X currently in limbo for very different reasons, PC makers are apparently jumping at the chance to make their own foldable display ambitions known. It’s been clear, of course, for as long as flexible screens have been a viable technology, that hardware manufacturers would be experimenting with any and all form factors. In just the past week, two key players have talked up their plans for how it might be utilized on the PC front.

Last week, Lenovo showed off a prototype ThinkPad X1. The company’s been no stranger to experimental convertibles, and utilizing a foldable display could further blur the line been tablets and PCs. The technology allows for a large screen in a compact form factor. Here it’s 13.3 inches that can be collapsed into half the size, making it a lot easier to take with you.

It’s a slick prototype, and obviously folding form factors are already the standard in the laptop world. But like Lenovo’s past attempts at dual-screen devices, the on-screen removes the tactile keyboard, one of the biggest pain points in moving consumers away from more traditional laptops. Perhaps that’s something that could be addressed with the sorts of overlays provided by companies like Sensel.

Dell, too, recently told Gizmodo that it’s experimenting with a similar form factor. No surprise on that front, really. One expects that any PC maker worth its weight in netbooks is, at the very least, playing around with the concept as we speak.

All of this is complicated by the fact that the foldable phone category has been plagued with issues — though not necessarily the ones most people predicted. Samsung indefinitely pushed back the launch date of the Galaxy Fold after several reviewers ran into issues with their units.

We’re still waiting for official news on that front. Huawei, meanwhile, had a wrench thrown into its stratospheric ascendancy when the company was blacklisted by the Trump White House, leaving aspects of its future in jeopardy.

Neither of these are direct indictments of the concept — though Samsung’s model certainly failed in real-world testing. For that reason, it’s probably safe to say that the jury’s still out on consumer demand, though many of the major concerns, including pricing, would likely carry over to the PC category.

Google Cloud brings on 27-year SAP veteran as it doubles down on enterprise adoption

Thomas Kurian, the newly-minted CEO of Google Cloud, used the company’s Cloud Next conference last week to lay out his vision for the future of Google’s cloud computing platform. That vision involves, in part, a hiring spree to give businesses that want to work with Google more people to talk to and get help from. Unsurprisingly, Kurian is also looking to put his stamp on the executive team, too, and today announced that former SAP executive Robert Enslin is joining Google Cloud as its new President of Global Customer Operations.

Enslin’s hire is another clear signal that Kurian is focused on enterprise customers. Enslin, after all, is a veteran of the enterprise business, with 27 years at SAP, where he served on the company’s executive board until he announced his resignation from the company earlier this month. After leading various parts of SAP, including as president of its cloud product portfolio, president of SAP North America and CEO of SAP Japan, Enslin announced that he had “a few more aspirations to fulfill.” Those aspirations, we now know, include helping Google Cloud expand its lineup of enterprise customers.

“Rob brings great international experience to his role having worked in South Africa, Europe, Asia and the United States—this global perspective will be invaluable as we expand Google Cloud into established industries and growth markets around the world,” Kurian writes in today’s announcement.

For the last two years, Google Cloud already had a President of Global Customer Operations, though, in the form of Paul-Henri Ferrand, a former Dell exec who was brought on by Google Cloud’s former CEO Diane Greene . Kurian says that Ferrand “has decided to take on a new challenge within Google.”

 

Nvidia announces its next-gen RTX pods with up to 1,280 GPUs

Nvidia wants to be a cloud powerhouse. While its history may be in graphics cards for gaming enthusiasts, its recent focus has been on its data center GPUs for AI, machine learning inference, inference and visualization. Today, at its GTC conference, the company announced its latest RTX server configuration for Hollywood studios and others who need to quickly generate visual content.

A full RTX server pod can support up to 1,280 Turing GPUs on 32 RTX blade servers. That’s 40 GPUs per server, with each server taking up an 8U space. The GPUs here are Quadro RTX 4000 or 6000 GPUs, depending on the configuration.

NVIDIA RTX Servers — which include fully optimized software stacks available for Optix RTX rendering, gaming, VR and AR, and professional visualization applications — can now deliver cinematic-quality graphics enhanced by ray tracing for far less than just the cost of electricity for a CPU-based rendering cluster with the same performance,” the company notes in today’s announcement.

All of this power can be shared by multiple users and the backend storage and networking interconnect is powered by technology from Mellanox, which Nvidia bought earlier this month for $6.9 billion. That acquisition and today’s news clearly show how important the data center has become for Nvidia’s future.

System makers like Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus and Supermicro will offer RTX servers to their customers, all of which have been validated by Nvidia and support the company’s software tools for managing the workloads that run on them.

Nvidia also stresses that these servers would work great for running AR and VR applications at the edge and then serving the visuals to clients over 5G networks. That’s a few too many buzzwords, I think, and consumer interest in AR and VR remains questionable, while 5G networks remain far from mainstream, too. Still, there’s a role for these servers in powering cloud gaming services, for example.

Robotics, AR and VR are poised to reshape healthcare, starting in the operating room

About 20 years ago, a medical device startup called Intuitive Surgical debuted the da Vinci robot and changed surgical practices in operating rooms across the United States.

The da Vinci ushered in the first age of robotic-assisted surgical procedures with a promise of greater accuracy and quicker recovery times for patients undergoing certain laparoscopic surgeries. 

For a time, it was largely alone in the market. It has skyrocketed in value since 2000, when the stock first debuted on public markets. From the $46 million that the company initially raised in its public offering to now, with a market capitalization of nearly $63 billion, Intuitive has been at the forefront of robotic-assisted surgeries, but now a new crop of startups is emerging to challenge the company’s dominance.

Backed by hundreds of millions in venture capital dollars, new businesses are coming to refashion operating rooms again — this time using new visualization and display technologies like virtual and augmented reality, and a new class of operating robots. Their vision is to drive down the cost and improve the quality of surgical procedures through automation and robotic equipment.

“There were 900,000 surgeries done using surgical robotics out of a total of 313 million surgical procedures,” globally, says Dror Berman, a managing director of Innovation Endeavors.

Berman is an investor in Vicarious Surgical, a new robotics company that plans to not only improve the cost and efficiency of surgical procedures, but enable them to be performed remotely so the best surgeons can be found to perform operations no matter where in the world they are.

“Robotics and automation present multiple opportunities to improve current processes, from providing scientists the opportunity to vastly increase experimental throughput, to allowing people with disabilities to regain use of their limbs,” Berman wrote in a blog post announcing his firm’s initial investment in Vicarious.

The $3.4 billion acquisition of Auris Health by Johnson & Johnson shows just how lucrative the market for new surgical robotics can be.

That company, founded by one of the progenitors of the surgical robotics industry, Fred Moll, is the first to offer serious competition to Intuitive Surgical’s technological advantage — no wonder, considering Dr. Moll also founded Intuitive Surgical.

Last year, the company unveiled its Monarch platform, which takes an endoscopic approach to surgical procedures that is less invasive and more accurate to test for — and treat — lung cancer.

“A CT scan shows a mass or a lesion,” Dr. Moll said in an interview at the time. “It doesn’t tell you what it is. Then you have to get a piece of lung, and if it’s a small lesion. It isn’t that easy — it can be quite a traumatic procedure. So you’d like to do it in a very systematic and minimally invasive fashion. Currently it’s difficult with manual techniques and 40 percent of the time, there is no diagnosis. This is has been a problem for many years and [inhibits] the ability of a clinician to diagnose and treat early-stage cancer.”

Monarch uses an endoscopy procedure to insert a flexible robot into hard-to-reach places inside the human body. Doctors trained on the system use video game-style controllers to navigate inside, with help from 3D models.

The largest software acquisition ever: IBM to buy Red Hat for $34B

At a price typically reserved for semiconductor companies, telecoms, and pharmaceutical giants, IBM announced today it would pay a record $34 billion in cash and debt to acquire enterprise open source provider Red Hat. Eclipsing Microsoft’s $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, this is the biggest software acquisition in history. It’s not the biggest tech acquisition ever, though, as that title belongs to Dell’s $67 billion buyout of data storage business EMC.

You can learn about what IBM is buying Red Hat to become a hybrid cloud company in TechCrunch editor Ingrid Lunden’s deep dive here:

So how does the IBM-Red Hat deal (if it closes), stack up against the other largest acquisitions of all time?

Top Tech Acquisitions

  1. $67 billion – Personal computer company Dell buys EMC data storage
  2. $37 billion – Semiconductor company Avago Technologies buys and renames as semiconductor giant Broadcom
  3. $34 billion (pending) – IBM computers buys open source software provider Red Hat
  4. $31.4 billion – Japanese conglomerate SoftBank buys semiconductor company ARM Holdings
  5. $26.2 billion – Software company Microsoft buys professional social network Linkedin in 2016

Top Software Acquisitions

  1. $34 billion (pending) – IBM computers buys open source software provider Red Hat in 2018
  2. $26.2 billion – Software company Microsoft buys professional social network LinkedIn in 2016
  3. $22 billion – Social network Facebook buys messaging app WhatsApp in 2014
  4. $13.5 billion – Security software maker Symantec buys storage management software maker Veritas in 2004 ($18 billion adjusted for inflation)
  5.  $11 billion – Database company Oracle buys human resources software company PeopleSoft in 2004 ($14.7 billion adjusted for inflation)

Top Acquisitions Ever

  1. $202 billion – British telecom Vodafone buys German telecom Mannesmann in 2000 ($296 billion adjusted for inflation)
  2. $165 billion – ISP AOL buys media conglomerate Time Warner in 200 ($241 billion adjusted for inflation)
  3. $111.8 billion – Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer buys pharmaceutical company Warner Lambert in 1999 ($164 billion adjusted for inflation)
  4. $130 billion – Telecom Verizon Communications buys Vodafone and Bell Atlantic’s Verizon Wireless in 2013
  5. $130 billion – Dow Chemical buys chemical company DuPont in 2015

The Red Hat deal is proof that the scalability of software can massively concentrate wealth. Unlike industrial giants of old that split their fortunes with the physical resource providers that supplied and distributed their oil, chemical, or packaged good empires, software requires almost no material cost to create or distribute. The aggregation of value to software giants and their leaders offers both a great incentive to build a world-changing busines, but also a dangerous extraction of capital from the working class. While it’s fine to celebrate Red Hat’s accomplishment, society must inevitably grapple with the poverty and populism fueled by how software funnels money to the few.

Dell will soon be a public company (again)

Dell, which went private in one of the the largest leveraged buyouts in tech circa 2013, announced today that it will once again be going public through a relatively complex mechanism that will once again bring the company back onto the public markets with founder Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners largely in control.

Dell’s leveraged buyout largely marked the final page in the company’s storied history as a PC provider, going back to the old “dude, you’re getting a Dell” commercials. The company rode that wave to dominance, but as computing shifted to laptops, mobile phones, and complex operations were offloaded into cloud services like Amazon Web Services, Azure and Google Cloud, Dell found itself navigating a complex environment while having to make a significant business transition beyond the PC era. That meant Dell would be beholden to the whims of public markets, perhaps laden with short-term pessimism over the company’s urgent need to find a transition.

The transaction is actually an offer to buy shares that track the company’s involvement in VMWare, converting that tracking stock into Dell Technologies stock that would mark its return as a publicly-traded company. Those shares will end up traded on the NYSE, around five years later after its founder took the company private with Silver Lake Partners in a deal worth roughly $25 billion. Silver Lake Partners owns around 24% of the company, while Dell owns 72% and will continue to serve as the chairman and CEO of the company. This move helps the company bypass the IPO process, which would remove the whole time period of potential investors scrutinizing the company (which has taken on a substantial debt load).

Dell said in its most recent quarter it recorded revenue of $21.4 billion, up 19% year-over-year, and over the past 12 months the company generated $82.4 billion of revenue with a net loss of $2.3 billion. The company said it has also paid down $13 billion of gross debt since its combination with EMC back in 2016. All this has been part of the company’s transition to find new businesses beyond just selling computers, though there’s clearly still demand for those computers in offices around the world. As it has expanded into a broader provider of IT services, it’s potentially positioned itself as a modern enterprise tools provider, which would allow it to more securely navigate public markets while offering investors a way to correctly calibrate its value.

A look back at the best tech ads of the last 35 years

Last week the Association of Independent Commercial Producers announced the winners of its annual awards honoring the best moving image marketing of the year and Apple’s “Welcome Home” ad took home the prize for Advertising Excellence in the single commercial category. Directed by Spike Jonze, the person behind movies like Her and Being John Malkovich, the musical short film follows the journey of a young woman, FKA Twigs, as she returns home from a challenging work day to an empty apartment. After asking Siri to “play something [she’d] like” her world is literally transformed as the music of Anderson .Paak’s “Til It’s Over” spills out of her HomePod.

With stunning visuals (most of which were not CGI) and captivating choreography, Jonze breathes life into a product that got mixed reviews after its release in February. This made us think, what other tech commercials have grabbed our attention in the last 35 years and transformed how we think about technology? Here are a few of our favorites.

 

“1984”

It’s hard to talk about transformative tech ads without mentioning this one first. This Super Bowl ad from 1984 was directed by Ridley Scott (who directed Alien in 1979) and was the world’s introduction to the Macintosh personal computer. The ad draws some not-so-subtle connections between PC consumerism and soulless corporate office spaces of the 1980s to George Orwell’s dystopian ‘1984.’

In the commercial, a depiction of Big Brother speaks hypnotically to a mass of identical workers as a woman in bright colors streaks through the crowd, mallet in hand. With Olympian effort, she sends it flying into the screen, disrupting the status quo of personal computing and promising the world that with the Macintosh “1984 won’t be like ‘1984′.” 

 

“Dude, You’re Getting a Dell”

Noticeably less high-concept than the introduction of the Macintosh, this 26-commercial campaign still captured a lot of attention in the earlier 2000s. The spots feature a character named Steven — a stereotypical easy-going, cool teenager who has a particular knack for charming parents into buying Dell computers for their families. A popular spot for Dell, the commercials even launched the star Ben Curtis into a little bit of fame himself. The actor recently appeared in a 2017 off-Broadway show, The Crusade of Connor Stephens.

 

“Get a Mac”

Confession time: I loved these commercials as a kid. Like, binge-watched-them-on-Apple .com loved them. This campaign ran for four years between 2006 and 2009 and featured suit-clad John Hodgman as a PC and hoodie-toting Justin Long as a Mac. The commercials put these two computers in direct conversation with each other (quite literally) and highlighted different features of Mac computers (e.g. iMovie, Time Machine and being dual compatible with Windows) against its PC counterparts.

Not biting or hostile, Mac came across as laid-back and creative — everything Apple was telling its customers they could be — and left PC flustered in its wake. In 2010 Adweek declared this campaign the best in the first decade of a new century.

 

“Can You Hear Me Now?”

Stepping outside the world of personal computing, we can’t fail to mention this famous Verizon campaign. These spots ran between 2002 and 2011 and featured a character named Test Man, decked out in a Verizon jacket and large glasses, who traveled around to test the strength of Verizon’s network. Ever thorough, he consistently asks the tech on the other side of the line “can you hear me now?” In 2002 Test Man won an award from Entertainment Weekly for “Most Mysterious Pitchman.”

While the Verizon campaign ended a little less than 10 years ago, the character has been recently revived — for Sprint. As another campaign of my childhood, this betrayal still stings.

 

“Parisian Love”

You might want to get some tissues ready for this one. This minimalist commercial aired during the Super Bowl in 2010 and follows the love story of a couple from their first meeting to marriage and starting a family; all within the window of a Google search. The ad was one of the most popular aired during the game and was actually designed by a handful of ad and design students known as “Google 5.” According to AdAge, the commercial concept was sparked by a comment in a Google brief to “remind people what they love about Google search” and a maxim by Google Creative Lab VP Robert Wong that “the best results don’t show up in a search engine, they show up in your life.”

Did we miss any ads that changed how you thought about technology? Let us know in the comments!