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Yahoo:”It’s You”

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on October 7, 2009

Yahoo attempts to re-package itself. Its got what it takes, or is it a different ball game altogether..this time round.

Its You

What do you do to 581 million visitors visiting your ssite every month! What do you do when 76% of the US population use your website? That was a question that Carol Bartz and her management team at Yahoo faced after it off sourced its Search to Microsoft Bing. The answer was design the Yahoo portal around its user. Make the portal an all in one shop keeping the “user” at the centre. The user ws the king and teh site was his slave. Yahoo gave the power of customization and personalization to the user saying “Its Y!ou”. It has plans to support this with a $100 dollar marketing campaign! Lines that will be featured on the homepage such as “It’s time to get personal” and “The new Yahoo lets you do it your way every day.” Yahoo said it expects to see a shift in consumers’ perspective of the company brand within 12 months as a result of the campaign. Bartz has hinted that Yahoo’s  the Q3 plans include an initial wave of incremental marketing spend which will increase substantially into Q4 and next year.”

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Since Carol Bartz took over the helms of Yahoo, there has been a lot of pruning of the portfolio and services.  Offloading Search to the Big game players: Google and Microsoft was probably a smart thing to do in face of very little differentiation and absence of scale. Offloading Zimbra, the open source email company that Yahoo bought in 2007 for $350 million goes to show the seriousness about portfolio prunning.

Yahoo 2

Yahoo 3

So far, as i remember, Yahoo too me was about messaging and emails and general trivial stuff. That is what propelled the initial growth at Yahoo. Those were the days when there was no Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and others. However, the years 2000-2005 are very different from 2009. Even though Yahoo in its new avatar sports the Facebook and other local relevant content, will the users find it so compelling to make it their home on the internet? For me, i will take time getting used to Yahoo’s new avatar. May be i will love it, may be i wont. May be Yahoo will convince me with its $100 million. May be it wont. We shall see.. wont we?

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Indian Telecom Story (Part XVIII): Eroding profits for higher acquisitions

Posted in Industry updates, Revenues and Monetization by Manas Ganguly on October 6, 2009

I have discussed many and most of the times, that Pricing cannot and shouldnot be a differentiator of Telecom services in India. Instead branded services should be sought to differentiate telecom airtime. For long Indian telecom operators have been happy to reduce costs to entice more customers. While reducing the operating expenses may be a manna for consumers, it does not spell right for the telecom operators. Erosion of margins may get eclipsed by the huge subscriber add ons, but in 2-3 year time, when growth flattens, the slim margins will squeeze the profits. An earlier blog post posses the challenge in terms of Telco net operating profits at risk.

Qouting from an earlier post: “Lowering the cost of ownership has been extremely successful ploy in terms of expansion of the Indian Telecom markets. The ARPU today is around the theoretical $5 break point. In mature markets an ARPU under $5, does serious harm to the bottom-line. In a growing market like India, the strain of a decreasing ARPU may not be significantly visible presently. However, with markets maturing, the focus will shift from growth to sustainability. The new classes of consumers are mostly rural and their ARPU would be well below $5 (probably $3-3.5). Managing bottom-lines at such low levels of Revenue per user and increasing costs of acquisition will prove to be a challenge.”

Subscriber adds are exploding and September 2009, should see India sail past the 500 million Telecom subscriber mark. Of the 9.31 million GSM subscribers added in August 2009, 3.4 million were added by Tata DoCoMo, the youngest Telecom operator.  Tata DoCoMo is celebrating and raising a toasst to its success. They owe this to a disruptive per second plan. Even SMSs have become Diet, i.e pay per character! It couldnot have gotten better than this for the users. Moving from minutes plan to a seconds plan would save approximately 20% of the operating costs for the users. (Read this here). Diet SMS would be another saving.

These figures are corroborated by a research report by HSBC. If all operators adopt it the sector’s revenue could fall by 10-15 percent. It TRAI enforces the Pay per second plan, the Telecom majors could feel the heat. Translated further, revenue drop could mean lower EPS which would imply adjustment of share prices as lower levels and reduction in M-Cap.

The idea here is not to be against price drops. Lower cost of ownership of services is of paramount importance for higher penetration. The idea is service differentiation. Sample this: A $360 ARPU user has no special services available to him compared to a $5 ARPU user. Both suffer from the same lack of bandwidth problems, the same apathy from Telco representatives in case of wrong billings, and both of them also pay at the same counters. For start, atleast the quality of service can be different for High ARPU users ( A leaf out of book from HNI Retail banking).

With MNP and 3G auctions looking in the horizon, there is a reason and an opportunity to differentiate.

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Adobe goes multi-platform with Flash Player 10.1

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces by Manas Ganguly on October 5, 2009

Adobe goes multi-platform with its Flash Player 10.1. There is a list of goodies to the new version of Flash player and here’s listing the few big differentiators out there.Adobe

1.Flash Player 10.1 will be the first of its kind to support the full package of Flash services and will come for most of the mobile and desktop OS – Windows Mobile, Palm webOS, Android, Symbian and Blackberry OS, along with the Linux, Mac OS and Windows.

2.Flash content will be playable directly from the OS file manager, web browser or streaming applications.

3.Flash Player 10.1 will support all popular touch gestures (including multi-touch ones), the accelerometer functions and stylus inputs

4.The browser-based runtime will allow viewing all the Flash content on the Web, playing streaming videos, interacting with games, banners, ads, etc.

5.Flash Player 10.1 wi’ll be actually GPU accelerated, meaning that it would play back YouTube in HD perfectly.

Adoce

This being a spin out from the Open screeen project, the roll outs will be on the same basis. While Windows and WebOS will get the Flash betas late this year, Android and Symbian will come early next year and Blackberry would take longer/since RIM just joined the Open Screen project.It also means that Apple will not recieve the Flash 10.1! Thus, the full Flash will be on basically every single smartphone platform except Apple OSX.

About Open Screen Project

Flash Player 10.1 is the first consistent runtime release of the Open Screen Project that enables uncompromised Web browsing of expressive applications, content and high definition (HD) videos across devices. Using the productive Web programming model of the Flash Platform, the browser-based runtime enables millions of designers and developers to reuse code and assets and reduce the cost of creating, testing and deploying content across different operating systems and browsers. Flash Player 10.1 is easily updateable across all supported platforms to ensure rapid adoption of new innovations that move the Web forward.

The browser-based runtime leverages the power of the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) for accelerated video and graphics while conserving battery life and minimizing resource utilization. New mobile-ready features that take advantage of native device capabilities include support for multi-touch, gestures, mobile input models, accelerometer and screen orientation bringing unprecedented creative control and expressiveness to the mobile browsing experience. Flash Player 10.1 will also take advantage of media delivery with HTTP streaming, including integration of content protection powered by Adobe® Flash® Access 2.0. This effort, code-named Zeri, will be an open format based on industry standards and will provide content publishers, distributors and partners the tools they need to utilize HTTP infrastructures for high-quality media delivery in Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe® AIR® 2.0 software.

Ref: http://gizmodo.com/5374115/flash-101-full-flash-for-everyone-but-iphone-actually-playable-hd-vids

Vernacularization of mVAS: The Indian Challenge (Part II)

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on October 5, 2009

In an earlier post, i had spoken about opportunities, challenges and work that has been done on Indic Language SMS i.e SMS/MVAS in 22 Indian languages. The rubber looks to hit the road by mid 2010 and this post in my slide share account is a detailed report of the Indic Language SMS and the telecom eco-system.

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Vernacularization of mVAS: The Indian Challenge

Posted in Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on October 2, 2009

Telecom in India is an exciting opportunity. While voice roughly connects 40% of the Indian population, services through mobiles is the next frontier being sighted. However, every frontier has its set of challenges and opportunities. A short note of mVAS vernacularization in India. 

Indic

The Indian government sees mobiles as the next big opportunity to engage, empower and interact with its 1.14 billion population. That said while India has been leading subscriber ads and footprint expansion, the mVAS service usage has not been all too great. Indians on an average send 35 SMSs in a month compared to 100 in China and 750 in Phillipines. SMS today is seen as a mass media information delivery channel, being themost effective and timely way to reach out to people for business, economic and social perspective. 

 The differential in multiples is explained by lack of vernacular medium in MVAS and SMSs. Language SMS is available at most in Hindi only. India on the contrary has 22 national languages. On the other hand english literacy in India is only 10%. The next available opportunity is the roll out of 3G services and it is thus imperative that the telecom eco-system in India would need to gear up for content delivery in vernacular for rural penetration.

By COAI estimates, the MVAS industry is going to generate cummulative revenues worth Rs.121,000 crore in the next 5 years. Other industry figures put the estimate at $74 billion by 2013, with off deck downloads contributiong to $1Billion. Toward this then, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Department of Telecomuunication (DoT), Cellular Operator Association of India (COAI), Broadband Wireless Consortium of India (BWCI),  National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), Cenre of Excellence in Wireless Technology (CeWIT) have been working at creating standards amongst the eco-system: Operators, Device manufacturers and Application Providers for effective and efficient roll out of Language based mVAS services in India.

The challenge is making available a standard amongst eco-system (service providers as well as handset manufacturers). The task is thus

  1. To evolve a core system of Indic MVAS/SMS to be implemented uniformly across vendors and service providers
  2. Making SMS services cost effective. Presently India is high on the SMS versus Call costings. Penetration will be a factor of pricing.
  3. Font rendering to make the fonts standard across all handsets
  4. Key pad design challenge
  5. How do legacy handsets which donot have this Indic feature be included in them

Work done so far:The initail stages of work has been very encouraging. Unlike the Turkish and Philippines scripts which have a commonality with Roman alpha numerics or Chinese alphabets which are phonetic (and thereby easier to use), India provides a larger challenge in terms of number of scripts (Devanagri, Bengali, South Indian languages etc) and corresponding transliteration (a solution that needs to exist).

  1. 10 tables for 22 Indian Languages have been made. These may not be perfect, but give a 80% solution to the need of Vernacular SMS. A 100% Lingual text solution is still being worked upon
  2. There are some solutions that exist to graduate Legacy handsets to Indic MVAS/SMS though the solutions are not complete by itself.
  3. The code change in the Indic MVAS takes care of the fact that it uses 152 alphabets instead of 70 that was the prevalent solution earlier.
  4. There are basic two routes for Indic SMS/MVAS: Single Shift Mechanism and Locking Shift Mechanism. Out of this the Locking shift mechanism is more efficient in language styles.

 The scope of work next: The progress so far has been good and encouraging. However, there are challenges in terms of font, key design, legacy handsets support and SMS price normalization.

  1. Font rendering: Bringing all service providers, handset manufacturers and application developers is going to be a key standard platform for rolling out the language mVAS initiative.
  2. Key Pad design: Fitting in more than 100 characters of Indian languages in 12 keys plus the screen with dynamic and intutive strokes without expanding the application footprint  
  3. Inclusion of Legacy handsets: there are 500 million people in India with devices, many of which donot support the language based application. One would need to look at upgrading these people and getting them cconnected to the vernacular application. The delivery process and medium are a blackbox. 
  4. SMS pricing normalization: While India is one of the lowest tariff countries as far as voice is concerned, the SMS to voice Tariffs are not proportionate. More so with the vernacular medium which is 3X the ost of regular services. Regularization of these tariffs will be a must for mass acceptance of this media.
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