When the calendar starts getting close to April 1, any announcement from any company gets met with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) felt the brunt of that this year as its March 31 launch of its Dash buttons -- which allow product reordering by simply touching a small wi-fi-enabled device -- led to a flood of speculation that the product was an April Fools' prank. The curious release timing even prompted a USA TODAY story headlined "Amazon Dash button -- Not an April Fools' joke."
While Dash proved to be real, Amazon was one of the technology companies that played pranks in the good-natured spirit of the holiday today. Some were silly while others left you ready to pull out your credit card. But, as is usually the case with the best April Fools' Day jokes, most danced on the line between believability and fancifulness, leaving the people exposed to them not quite knowing what was real and what was a prank.
Amazon goes retro
The online retailer's holiday effort was not so much a prank as a tip of the hat to pranks-gone-by. Amazon changed its homepage to its look circa 1999 dubbing it "Amazon goes retro." The old-school page offered a list of prank-related items for sale, including whoopee cushions and a book stemming from George Plimpton's famous Sports Illustrated April Fools' Daystory that profiled a non-existent superstar pitcher who threw 168 miles per hour and was allegedly signed by the New York Mets.
Amazon did not actually offer up a prank in the traditional sense, but turning over the fourth most-visited page in the United States (seventh in the whole world), over to the holiday certainly plays into the April Fools' spirit.
Google's Panda update
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Panda is a term well-known in the web development world where Panda updates are changes to the company's search algorithm that can impact how web content is seen. The company's April Fools' prank involved announcing through YouTube a different type of Panda, a personal assistant which actually involved talking to a stuffed bear.
The company went as far as shooting video of a fake press conference to introduce the panda, which described it as a "product so brilliant that you can ask it anything and so cute you want to hug it."
Though the idea seems preposterous, the press conference staging -- specifically the fact that much of the interaction was done in Japanese -- along with the spot-on crowd reactions made the Panda seem possible. Google, of course, had many other pranks on the go as well, including Google Maps Pac-Man.
Samsung gets a little silly
While Google pushed for believability, Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) pushed the edges of credibility with its web page touting the Samsung Galaxy Blade Edge. Shown on a cutting board, this smartphone was housed in a case that looked like a cleaver, making it appear to be a dual purpose phone/chef's knife.
"Samsung is proud to announce the world's first smart knife with smartphone capabilities, the Galaxy BLADE edge," the website touted. "Galaxy BLADE edge is the ultimate cooking companion, made with the modern chef in mind. Building on the expertise it has already displayed with its Chef Collection series, Samsung is taking its commitment to culinary expertise and cutting-edge technology even further -- literally."
It's a silly idea that's hard to believe, but Samsung went all-in, offering details like "It not only features a beautiful diamond-cut finish on its tough ceramic body, but is also equipped with a razor-sharp diamond edge, tough enough to cut through a lobster tail and sharp enough to slice though tender heirloom tomatoes."
PlayStation in the swimming pool?
Sony (NYSE:SNE) got into the spirit by introducing PlayStation Flow, a set of goggles which allow users to "take your PS4 gameplay experience to a deeper level." Though at first glance the idea of immersive gameplay goggles sounds ridiculous, Sony worked hard to sell its practicality:
Get ready to make a splash with PlayStation Flow, the latest innovation from the PlayStation Wearable Entertainment Technology division. PlayStation Flow lets you dive into a fully immersive experience that combines gaming with real life swimming When you get to a swimming section of a game like The Last of Us Remastered, simply pause the action, head to your nearest pool, dive in and resume playing once you're in the water.
The company strains the bounds of credibility with this one, but makes it seem plausible by making the web page comprehensive and believable. The page even includes an invitation to see the technology at the upcoming E3 convention.
The best of the rest
In addition to the pranks above, a number of other April Fools' pranks were played in the tech universe. Here are a few of our favorites:
- The U.S. Army, not usually an outfit known for humor, threw its hat into the prank ring by releasing plans to "deliver custom pizzas to forward operating bases" using drones.
- Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) had a very subtle prank using a Lumia blog page to announce MS Dos for mobile, showing screenshots of the antiquated PC operating system and touting it as " going back to where productivity started for millions of people, launching a beautifully simple OS."
- Groupon jumped into the fray with "Grouber" an Uber-like taxi service driven by cats using the tag line "Our Ride, Our Cat, Your Treat."
- In the same spirit, a web page went live April 1 for Ubar, a service devoted to "drink sharing," an almost-believable service. "Our founders have created the first and only drink sharing service. People just like you who have extra alcohol that they won't drink until the morning can deliver anywhere between one to 10 drinks to you at a time."
Use the comments section below to tell us about the best pranks you saw this year.