Uber Technologies Inc. helped pioneer the ability to book a car ride using a smartphone. Now it wants to offer that service within every other mobile application.
OpenTable Inc., Starbucks Corp., TripAdvisor Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc. and seven other companies are Wednesday introducing updated versions of their mobile apps, each with a button to hail an Uber ride. The San Francisco-based car-booking company is also releasing a tool kit that will let any programmer plug Uber's features into their apps.
The moves are part of Uber's strategy to become more ubiquitous in the software on smartphones and geographically. The startup is growing rapidly and adding resources to spread its influence, announcing yesterday that it has hired a new executive, David Plouffe, to deflect attacks from competitors and regulators and help shape public perception. Plouffe, a former political adviser to President Barack Obama, will become senior vice president of policy and strategy starting in late September.
Uber's new development platform is one of the biggest initiatives for extending the company's reach, said Emil Michael, senior vice president of business, in an interview. "We're the only company out there with global scale," Michael said. "You're going to see the dorm-room developers start to develop on this platform, too."
Google Inc. added a button to Google Maps for smartphones in May that redirects users to the Uber app. The latest tools extend what software developers can do, letting people book an Uber ride, estimate the fare and input the destination, which is transmitted to the driver, all without leaving that app, Michael said in an interview.
United Airlines, for example, can send a notification to customers' phones when they need to leave for the airport and book the nearest Uber car. Then when guests at Hyatt Hotels Corp. use the app to check into their room after they land, they'll be able to request an Uber vehicle to ferry them to the hotel.
The software updates will be introduced region-by-region over time in order to test demand on Uber's system, Matt Wyndowe, head of product partnerships, said in an interview.
In June, Uber landed a $17 billion valuation in a $1.2 billion financing, making it one of the most highly valued startups in Silicon Valley.
The company has been locked in a war of words and price reductions with Lyft Inc., another San Francisco company, and faces competition from regional technology startups worldwide that are trying to gain a foothold in markets where Uber doesn't yet operate.