The HBO series Silicon Valley pokes fun at a lot of tech industry stereotypes — and, in some cases, the show parodies real people and events.
In the most recent episode, which aired on Sunday, May 17, the writers behind the series may have cleverly snuck in one such reference.
WARNING: There may be spoilers beyond this point.
There’s a scene in which Hooli, the Google-like company that rivals Pied Piper, the company started by the show’s main characters, gathers a focus group to test out a phone it’s developing. The feedback from the focus group was pretty brutal — the team complained that the phone is slow and difficult to use.
It’s unclear if this was meant to be an intentional reference, but the scene was very reminiscent of what happened when Microsoft tested its ill-fated Kin smartphone among focus group testers, as one of our readers, Justin Khoo, pointed out.
In late 2012, after Microsoft killed the phone, Wired posted three internal Microsoft videos that show how badly the focus group reacted to the Kin and Kin Two.
“There’s a lag. That lag will make me make mistakes,” one focus group member says in the video.
“It’s frustrating, I could imagine my daughter would give this back very quickly,” another said.
In the latest episode of Silicon Valley, the people in Hooli’s focus group react similarly to the Hooli phone:
“It’s just stupid,” one person says. “It’s slow, and the apps keep quitting on me….When I’m typing, there’s a delay.”
Again, it’s unclear if this is meant to be a specific reference, but there are definitely some similarities. The episode, titled “Homicide,” was filled with tiny references to tech products that massively flopped. In another scene, Gavin Belson, the CEO of Hooli played by actor Matt Ross on the show, asks his assistant to tell him the truth about how bad the phone truly is.
“Don’t tell me this is Zune bad,” he says to the assistant, referring to Microsoft’s failed music player.
“I’m sorry Gavin, it’s Apple Maps bad,” she replies, referring to Apple’s Google Maps competitor that was riddled with bugs when it launched.
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