On-demand everything? Uber might steer in a new direction

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick says the company's recent seasonal promotions are an indicator of what's to come.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
2 min read
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick at the Fortune Tech Brainstorm conference. Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said Tuesday at the Fortune Tech Brainstorm conference in Aspen, Colo., that the company is thinking about offering more than on-demand private drivers. That's why Uber has dabbled this year in delivering on-demand roses, helicopters, and ice cream trucks.

Uber is an app for both iPhone and Android smartphones that enables users to request a ride anywhere at any time. Once users enter a location and pickup time, a private driver is sent to retrieve them and the user's credit card on file is charged. But Uber's future might steer in a new direction.

"What we're doing right now is we're in the experimentation phase," he said. "Could it be that next summer we just do a summer of ice cream? Sure. It's very simple."

Kalanick was alluding to the slew of promotional deliveries Uber did this year -- roses on Valentine's Day, helicopters to the Hamptons on Fourth of July, and, most recently, one day ofice cream trucks on demand.

It's akin to the "give me what I want and give it to me now" lifestyle that people are drawn to these days, Kalanick said. He said the Uber platform makes it possible, emphasizing his point by saying how easy it was for Uber to do a pop-up launch in Aspen on Tuesday.

"It's a very simple platform. I called my general manager in Denver yesterday when I got into Aspen. He was able to get it up by this morning," he said.

That doesn't mean the on-demand formula works every time though, he said. For example, the company tried promotional on-demand Texas barbecue orders in Austin, Texas, but found out that on-demand barbecue doesn't taste so great if it takes more than an hour to deliver.