Ronnie05's Blog

2009: The impact of Facebook and Twitter on social networking

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on December 29, 2009

2009 has been the Year of Twitter and Facebook. The micro-blogging service Twitter’s mainstream popularity exploded while Facebook passed MySpace to become the world’s leading social network. Facebook doubled their size this year from 150 million users to 350 million users. With 350 million members, if Facebook was a country it would be the fourth most populous nation. On the other hand, Twitter had a count of two to four million users at the beginning of the year. Now there are near 40 million, a 10-20X explosion over the year.

The flight of Twitter :Twitter has reportedly spurned takeover offers worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Google and Facebook, and its influence as a communications and news-breaking tool has been validated in a number of ways over the past year. Twitter’s potential for instant, up-to-the-minute news delivery became evident in the 2008 presidential elections. And it grew ever more prominent with big-time news events in ’09 like the Hudson river emergency plane landing, the death of pop star Michael Jackson. In June, the State Department (US Fed) asked Twitter to delay scheduled maintenance on the service because it was being used by protestors angered by the results of Iran’s disputed presidential election. More recently, Google and Microsoft began integrating Twitter messages into their respective search engines, a new feature described as real-time search. Rampant adoption of smartphones has much to do with Twitter’s growth. Twitter has developed into a communications platform, a hybrid between instant messenger and email.

Facebook started making money: Facebook, which started the trend of opening up to outside creators of fun mini-programs, was also quick to realize the appeal of being able to connect from anywhere at any time. The thing they’ve done and MySpace didn’t do is they’ve really expanded the scope of their network past the initial site, Facebook Connect is a big piece of that, where the user can take his Facebook account and log in from other places. In ’07 and ’08, the hot developer trend was to build an application for Facebook’s platform that members could install and share with their friends; in ’09, the usage multiplied so much that the platform clogged and spam concerns caused Facebook to crack down on the rules. Some Facebook Platform apps continued to flourish phenomenally–namely, games. Companies like Zynga, Playfish and Playdom manufactured one “social game” after another, pulling in revenue that collectively may have surpassed Facebook’s own. Thanks in part to the phenomenal traffic of these apps and the ad space that app makers purchased to pull in even more players, Facebook became cash flow positive well ahead of schedule.

The effect of Twitter and Facebook is in the manner they are redefining the way in which companies or politicians relate to their consumers or constituents. Companies or politicians who have taken to Facebook or Twitter or YouTube are building more of a permanent relationship with their constituents or with their customers because they’re engaged in a conversation

Continued: Comparing users and usages of Twitter and Facebook

Earlier posts:

Indian Telecom Story (Part XXII): Mobile banking guidelines laid out

Posted in Industry updates, The Technology Ecosystem by Manas Ganguly on December 28, 2009

RBI Christmass gifted a relaxed and a more wider ambit to the banking and telecom eco-sytem in India with wider and more relaxed mobile payment transaction and banking guidelines

In the overall context the number of cell phone users is four and a half times the total number of bank accounts in India. So mobile banking is being looked at as an option for providing transfers across the length and breadth.

The transaction limit: Essentially the RBI has now said that banks will be able to do transactions with a daily cap of Rs 50,000 per customer for both funds transfer as well as transactions involving purchases of goods and services. Presently the transactions are subject to caps of Rs 5,000 and 10,000 respectively.

Lower Value transactions: RBI has relaxed the technology and security standards and allowed banks to undertake transactions upto Rs 1,000 without end to end encryption. So, they have basically in some ways reducing the cost of transactions.

Remittance of funds for disbursements in cash: Directly related to facilitating the use of mobile phones for cash. In the prepaid mobile phones which accounts for about 90% of the entire user base across the country, the transaction is essentially a cash transaction where the user puts in money, gets the credit and uses it. Mobile phone companies have been therefore talking about extending this for direct transfer so if you have a phone in Delhi where a person adds Rs 1,000 that money can be delivered somewhere in the hinterland of Bihar or UP. The maximum value of these transactions will be Rs 5,000 per transaction; the banks can place a cap on the velocity of such transactions subject to a maximum of Rs 25,000 per month per customer. The disbursal of these funds can be done through both, an agent or an ATM.

Given the lack of infrastructure/ATMs and Banks in the rural areas, banks have been allowed to appoint agents to do such transfers. Some of these agents could well be the mobile phone operators, the service providers and the handset resellers in the hinterland.

Analysts and experts and banks see this as a big push for financial inclusion across the country. Also, this is a move for retail payment from cash and cheque based transaction to mobile based transaction, which means great convenience and also reduces costs. While Operators, device makers and banks will now be able to drive this initiative across the geography, it is the consumer in India who will now be able to exercise more convenience for the money that he owns.

Microsoft drives IE9 to stay relevant in Browsers

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on December 28, 2009

Microsoft has been the dinosaur of the Browser kingdom, but then as with the worthy comparison, Microsoft’s vice grip of the browser markets is loosening out. The latest report of market shares shows 65% share for IE. Mozila Firefox has scaled upto to 25% market share. Android and Safari are small at 4%, but Android atleast is making the right kind of noises and moves and is radically redefining the Browser markets. The Internet Explorer needs to keep up and IE9 seems to be Microsoft’s bet in the new age of browsers.

Whats new with IE9?

Hardware accelerated text and graphics.

The acceleration feature takes advantage of hitherto untapped computing power in a way that’s more useful than other browser-boosting technology–Google’s Native Client to directly employ PC’s processor and Mozilla’s WebGL for accelerated 3D graphics. This is a direct improvement to everybody’s usage of the Web on a daily basis. Web developers are doing what they did before, only now they can tap directly into a PC’s graphics hardware to make their text work better and graphics work better

An increasing fraction of Microsoft’s business is moving online, too, through its Bing, Live, and now online Office 2010 sites and Microsoft is trying to consciously migrate consumers to the cloud. The task is to build a better IE so all the Web sites have a better experience. Microsoft has recently joined the HTML standards effort. Microsoft uses the Direct 2D, which is a hardware-accelerated, immediate-mode, 2-D graphics API that provides high performance and high-quality rendering for 2-D geometry, bitmaps, and text. Direct2D also facilitates a technology called sub-pixel positioning that can smooth the appearance of text on the screen.

With the old technology, that chore can update the screen at a rate of about 5 to 10 frames per second while using 50 to 60 percent of the processor’s horsepower, but using the Direct2D method, the frame rate jumps to a range of 40 to 60 per second while the CPU usage plunges.

Another is the execution of JavaScript, a programming language used widely on the Web for everything from mundane tasks to full-on applications such as Gmail and Google Docs. However, JavaScript isn’t the only bottleneck for browsers. Browser is also an important aspect of the whole internet speed experience.

Google Chrome: A study in Technology disruption

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on December 25, 2009

In sheer numbers, Google Chrome is small compared to a IE or a Mozilla. It accounts for 4% of the browser usage worldwide. However, Chrome (which was released in 2008) is Google’s real time bet into the way web is used in terms of speed and the way it supports cloud based applications, which arguably is the future for Google going forward. The Chrome integrates with HTML5 for faster deliveries of web based applications.

Chrome started out as one of Google’s efforts to accelerate the Web–launching faster, loading pages faster, and running Web-based JavaScript programs faster. Google’s argument: a faster Web experience means people will spend more time online, do more things, and, naturally, click more Google search ads. Google’s ambition is to speed the transformation of the Web from a static medium into a foundation for applications

1.For starters, the Chrome leverages on Javascript for faster performance that helps expand the browser capabilities.

2.Next, Google has begun building its 03D plug in for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics into its Chrome browser. This paves the way for high-powered Web-based games.

3.Google plans to build Native Client into Chrome, too. This is designed to let Web applications take advantage of a computer’s native processing power.

But the Google’s big daddy of all ambitions was the Google Chrome OS, which coupled with the Google Chrome browser will stream applications and computing power from the cloud. This then would not only be a shot in the arm for Google’s Cloud ambitions but there is also a very real market of Netbooks which would love to have this booster.In other words, Google’s cloud-computing ambitions just got a lot bigger and there is a very real market for it.

The Chrome OS will also help Google take the competition out in a click since all Web-based applications on netbooks will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux, thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform. Masterstroke!

In terms of real time action: Google released the rough Chrome OS source code in November 2009 and released beta versions of Chrome browsers for Linux and Mac by December 2009.

Many Chrome ambitions are still far from any practical reality, but the browser had effects in terms of stirring up competition. Mozilla programmers have improved launch speed in the Firefox 3.6 beta.

Microsoft and Apple, who enjoy the privilege of packaging their browsers in their operating system, released major new versions, Internet Explorer 8 and Safari 4, respectively. Safari took the 64-bit leap, and Apple boasted of its big JavaScript speed boost. IE 8 brought a number of user-interface refinements, but notably, Microsoft lists better security and privacy as primary features.

The 2nd Half of 2010 will see Google unveil the Chrome OS and coupled with HTML 5 and “forever getting better” Chrome Browser, this may disrupt the technology that drives mobile and netbook computing. Something that Google is not unused to doing.

Nokia Image Space: Crowdsourcing Photos for a Cool App!

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 24, 2009

Nokia combines a bit of crowdsourcing,its GPS/compass capabilities and its smartphones to create an interesting and cool application called the Nokia Image Space.On a higher level, the Nokia Image Space a service for organizing and presenting community generated content, e.g. storytelling, without it becoming too computationally intensive.Put simply Nokia Image Space lets the user create his own 3D pictorial presentations of the places visited. It requires a Nokia smartphone with GPS and compass and a Flickr account.

As illustrated in this screenshot representing a harbor in Honfleur, France, the service displays links to neighboring photos overlaid on the foreground photo. User can navigate through the location by browsing the interlinked photos.

The service prototype consists of three elements:
1.Servers – content and data storage. The servers also provide necessary APIs for creating the spatial presentation of the content.
2.Camera client – the mobile client for S60 delivers rich sensor data when the photo is taken and uploaded to the server.
3.Web browser – a flash-based browser allows the user intuitively navigate the space, comment the media and communicate with other users. The system needs an Adobe Flash 10 plugin for browser and Firefox, IE or Safari.
4.Nokia Image Space uses digital maps, location-based content and MapTP technology from NAVTEQ.

The user has to take a few shots of the place he is visiting while the GPS records the coordinates of the place where the image was taken and the digital compass records the orientation. The GPS coordinates, the compass orientaton and the metadata-heavy image are then uploaded with the mobile Nokia Share Online client.

Image space then crowdsources other photographs of the same location (measured by the GPS coordinates) from Flickr and generates a 3D presentation using all the photos.The full pic can then be viewed on the Nokia Image space browser (which needs to be downloaded on a laptop).

The Nokia Image space is available on the Nokia N97 mini, Nokia 6210 Navigator, Nokia 6710 Navigator, Nokia 6720 Classic and is also expected to work on many more phones powered by S60 (3.2 or 5.0), which also have an built-in compass.

Below are two YouTube videos that detail the Nokia Image Space.

Apple and Microsoft:Study in contrasts

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 18, 2009

Yet another report by yet another survey agency has yet again concluded the usage disruption that the iPhone is bringing about in mobile computing. Morgan Stanley puts Apple in the pole position to control mobile internet computing. Not only that the study also concluded that the iPhone, iPod touch and iTunes platform has seen the fastest rate of adoption of any new technology in history.Though the iPhone and iPod touch represents just 17 percent of global smartphones, the two devices are responsible for 65 percent of handheld Web browsing, according to Net Applications, and half of all mobile app usage, according to AdMob. Compare that to Nokia’s Symbian platform, which has 45 percent of all mobile devices, but just 7 percent of the Web share.

The Morgan Stanley presentation goes on to define the future of the mobile Internet as the overlap between social networking and mobile devices (Haven’t we heard that before?).

Smartphones have been smartphones for a while, but Apple is perhaps the first device and platform which pioneered the internet on the handheld. The iPhone thus has become more than a device as it integrates internet, social networking, music and gaming into the handheld device helping people live out their “internet lives” seamlessly. The US markets are definitely swaying away to the iPhone and Apple.

In another report, by Comscore which measured the usages of smartphone and operating systems, Apple has upstaged Microsoft as the No.2 smartphone in US. The bad news for Microsoft is that there is Android in 2010, which is waiting to get past Microsoft. As reported earlier in a post, Android will ship through 50 or more devices in 2010 and it is only a matter of time before, Android pushes past Microsoft. Microsoft’s WinMo 6.5 has been a damp squib (it was supposed to be Microsoft’s answer to Android). Microsoft can only hope that WinMo 7 is able to work it out for them provided it is released before Microsoft is all and written off by the market. There is a dangerous trend building on that as well.

Ovi’s second coming

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates, Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on December 15, 2009

Nokia is feeling the heat all over. It now has closed down in North American stores in Chicago and New York and one of its two London stores across the pond. It is also shifting its Sao Paolo store in Brazil. Not only in its brick and mortar form, but also with its online Ovi store, Nokia seems to have hit a breaker. Nokia’s case is quite paradoxical to Apple which has tasted success in both forms of the stores: Online as well as Brick and Mortar. A beleagured Nokia faces competition from RIM, Apple, Palm, Moto and Samsung in the Smartphone space; is threatened by OEM imports in emergingmarkets and its software services platform never really took off. Once a stock market darling, Nokia’s shares have fallen 20% since September even as the broader market has rallied.

Nokia launched the Ovi Store in May/June 2009 clearly challenge the Apple Dominance on Apps. However 5 months after an otherwise lukewarm launch, Ovi has stats on its side, but these pale infront of the Apple Juggernaut.

• Ovi Mail has more than 3 million subscribers, and carriers like the push email because it boosts data usage. Nokia has signed over 20 partners for a carrier version of Ovi Mail.
• Downloads of apps on the Ovi Store are growing 70 percent per month, and every registered Ovi user has downloaded eight apps on average.
• In terms of downloads, Ovi is the No. 2 app store
• The number of users downloading apps is going up 50 percent every month.
• The Ovi suite – which also includes music and mapping services – now has 80m active users, up from 54m in August.

George Linardos, head of products at Nokia’s media group, said on 8th December 2009 that Ovi Store had been outpaced by Apple after complaints on stability and reliability. He also admitted that the chorus of complaints from end-users were driving the next version, noting that his company has “screens up in [their] offices running Twitter feeds [of gripes] all day long.” In fact, he likened the act to “sitting there and getting punched in the face.” So while the first coming of Ovi was beaten comprehensively unable to compete with the Apple Apps store, a second coming of Ovi has been planned in Spring 2010. New features will include in-application payments, a redesigned user interface that makes apps easier to discover, and faster operation. Longer-term, Ovi Store will include recommendations based on friends’ app purchases and more localised content.

In its second coming, the company wants to localize the Ovi Store for 20 countries by the end of the first quarter of 2010. Localization can mean instant success. In India, for example, Nokia’s music download service is becoming popular mostly because many people don’t have PCs and are using their phones to download music. Similar trends are being observed in Brazil and Mexico. Nokia believes the success of its Ovi Store and services is going to come from its traditional strongholds: Europe, Latin America and Asia. Ovi’s big opportunity is overseas — outside of the U.S. However, while US is not on the focus geographies list, it is also important for Nokia to maintain a mind share in US so that they are abreast of the best apps and platforms and are exposed to the most advanced development eco-system globally.

On Ovi, Nokia need’s to get all their ducks lined up, including hardware, software and services. At the moment, none of those are working properly. One hopes that Ovi gets it right this time because second chances are rare, and there are no third chances.

Mark Anderson’s 2010 Tech industry predictions

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on December 15, 2009

Mark Anderson, strategist and visionary known for his sense and knowledge of markets around the world has released his list of 10 trends for 2010 which make an exciting read.Here are the ten:

1. 2010 will be The year of Platform Wars: netbooks, cell phones, pads, Cloud standards. Clouds will tend to support the consumer world (Picnik, Amazon), enterprises will continue to build out their own data centers, and Netbook sector growth rates continue to post very large numbers.

2. 2010 will be The year of Operating System Wars: Windows 7 flavors, Mac OS, Linux flavors, Symbian, Android, Chrome OS, Nokia Maemo 5. The winners, in order in unit sales: W7, Mac OS, Android. W7, ironically, by failure of imagination and by its PC-centric platform, actively clears space for others to take over the OS via mobile platforms.

3. All content goes mobile. Everything gets tagged, multi-channeled, and the walled gardens open up. TV and movie content, particularly, break free of old trapped business models. We are moving toward watching first-run TV and movies on phones, for a price. Which leads to no. 4.

4. MobileApps and Mobile Content drive MicroPayments, which move from niche to mainstream payment models. Payment for content will split along age lines, at around 35; above, pay; below, don’t pay.

5. The Phone vs. the PC: A Split Along Two Paths (enterprise vs. consumer).Note: The phone is now the most interesting computer platform, and it is driving innovation: software, business models, distribution. Netbooks are next up as drivers.

6. There will be a Cloud Catastrophe in 2010 that limits Cloud growth by raising security issues and restricting enterprise trust. CIOs will see the cloud as the doorstep for industrial espionage.

7. A huge chasm opens in computing, between Consumer and Enterprise (government/business.), with Apple, Google and most Asian hardware companies in Consumer, and Dell, IBM, Cisco, and MS on the Enterprise side. HP will straddle both. Before 2010, talk was all about unifying consumer and enterprise. Now, talk will be about their split.

8. Microsoft loses in its Consumer play: except for gaming, it is Game Over for MS in Consumer. This will make Consumer the place to be, where the most robust and exciting change artists will work.

9. News media that survive will move to the subscription model, in whole or in part, along age lines. (See no. 4)

10. Connecting remote data to people and things in real time will lead to a series of exciting new devices and applications. Possible examples: real time comparison and recipe-driven shopping, facial recognition (in social spaces) linked to bios, self-guided tours by phone, voice-queried information about your personal environment. Many of these are technically proved out today, but they will start to emerge as an exciting and brand new trend in applications in 2010.

Google unveils Nexus One!

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 14, 2009

The Google smartphone and its impact on the telecom eco-system has been covered in an earlier post.

So here it is… Ending a month long speculation of whether it be or not be, Google has unveiled its own Android smart-phone which means a direct assault on Apple on yet another front. The Google phone is named as Nexus One. This one is powered by the Android 2.1 and packs in a WiFi, Google Navigation, Google Goggles, a dedicated volume key and from the looks of it an updated OS features with new 3D elements to the app tray and a new grid icon at the bottom of the homescreen, which when pressed brings up a webOS card-style preview of all homescreen pages — which raises some interesting possibilities.

On the other hand, Android’s trickle (10 products released this year), looks set to become an avalanche in 2010 with 50 products lined up for launch. This includes 5 products from Acer, 5 from HTC, 10 from Motorola and the Sony Ericsson Xperia Android phone. However, Having its own device gives Google more control over how the hardware and software works together, and intensifies competition for Apple. The trend world over is getting to access the internet through smart-phones and Google needs to make sure it has an influence on that. The Google smart-phone makes sure they Google influences how the mobile Web will develop.

Even if the device is not a commercial success, Google may use the device as a way to show other manufacturers and wireless carriers the possibilities of mobile computing.

Google’s phone may be “unlocked,” meaning that it wouldn’t be tied to a specific phone network. Customers would then have to sign up for wireless service from a carrier.

Search: Competition spurs innovation and dynamism

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on December 14, 2009

Advances in online search have been picking up momentum in recent months, culminating in a burst of announcements this week that could change the face of search all together, according to industry watchers. They see the increasingly heated battle between Microsoft and Google as bringing an avalanche of innovations that should continue well into 2010 or 2011. Google has the keys to the castle and everyone else is storming the gates. Whenever you have heavy competition, you’ll see rapid changes.

Google started giving real time search results to its users this week. That means users who query a topic can get results only a few seconds old, and it also means that Twitter posts will also be pulled out in users’ result lists. Google this week also unveiled Google Goggles, a photo-based search. That announcement came the week after Google announced that it was personalizing search results.

Not to be left out, Microsoft Bing last week released the beta of the latest version of Bing Maps. The feature-rich update has some industry watchers saying that Bing may have bested Google Maps at its own game.

Search, which used to be a slow evolving domain once, has seen a wave of change in the recent times. While, search has never really been static. search is growing from something that served up the same search results to everyone to a service that’s more individualized and more about images, video, tweets and posts. Search is starting to look much more like the dynamic online lives of its users. It’s getting much more personal and granular. With these new capabilities, you can now pull up much more specific results that resolve down to a single – non-famous — person or opinion.

The competition between Microsoft and Google is driving a war of innovation and a constant ‘upping the bar’ in terms of features and function. And the face of search is changing as a result.

Tagged with: , , ,
%d bloggers like this: