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Indian Telecom Story (Part XXIV): January Round Up!

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on January 31, 2010

The 3G licenses are now transcending into an area of pathetic governance. On the other hand record subscriber numbers donot seem to drive profits and the industry is anticipating a M&A policy from the Department of Telecom.

The 3G licence drama continues in the Telecom industry in India. The latest is that the spectrum auction could be pushed as far back as September 2010. The original date of the spectrum option was calendar year 2007 and its been delayed 30 months since. The delays have trivialized matters to such an extent that many industry watchers are recommending that India directly graduates to 4G and bypasses 3G such that consumers are able to benefit from 4G as a technology and stakeholders in the Telecom system do-not sink monies in 3G which would be outdated by the time it hits the ground. That the exchequer is loosing out on Rs.35000 crore as license fee which could have powered the economy elsewhere is a completely different thing.

The latest delay of 3G comes after the law ministry warned the government of heavy financial penalties if it auctions 3G airwaves not in its possession. This ten will most likely lead to most likely leading to another delay in the sale of spectrum for high-end telecom services such as ultra-fast internet on mobiles. under the terms of a telecom department proposal, the winning bidders can ask for their money back plus interest if they are not handed the 3G spectrum by the end of this year. If the process is completed before the end of the year in December, phone companies will be able to roll out 3G services only by the middle of next year.

Earlier in the month of January 2010, a panel of ministers headed by Finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee reiterated the government’s commitment to auction four slots of radio bandwidth, in addition to the one already allotted to state-owned telcos BSNL & MTNL, before April, hoping to raise about Rs 30,000 crore. The telecom department and the armed forces are involved in a standoff over control of a large chunk of 3G airwaves. The defence ministry has said that it will free up 5 Mhz of 3G spectrum, equivalent to one slot, in July and a similar amount in August 2010. But the defence ministry is complaining that the telecom department is not keeping its side of the bargain. Work is yet to start, it says, on building an alternative fibre optic network cable for the armed forces.

For consumers, a further delay will mean they will have to wait other year-and-a-half for high-end services such as ultra-fast internet, video-conferencing, interactive gaming, mobile TV and high-speed downloads of movie and music clips on mobile phones.

The Indian Telecom markets registered another record shattering growth in the month of December 2009 with total additions of 19.10 million connections with 12.52 GSM connections. The total number of wireless connections was 525.15 million by the end of the year 2010.

In the mean time, Airtel, Indias largest Telecom operator beat analyst expectations and still returned a -1% drop in revenue and -5% drop in profits. Understandly, this was the effect of the hyper competition that the Indian markets have been subject to for the last 6 months. Elsewhere, Idea, India’s fifth largest Telecom Operator, returned better results than Airtel on the 3Q,2009, reporting increase in revenues but dip in profits. Indian Telcos telcos are streamlining their cost structure to minimise the impact of the tariff war. The broad consensus is that this bruising tarriff battle is likely to continue for the next 2 years and broadly cost $2-3 bn per operator before consolidation would start kicking in. Speaking on the sidelines of World Economic Forum , Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman Bharti Enterprises has indicated no business viability with 13 operators and has also highlighted the need of a M&A policy which would facilitate consolidation.

The Indian Telecom story over 23 posts captures the state of Indian Telecom sector and offers a snapshot into the sector. To read earlier posts click here:

Here comes the iPad

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on January 28, 2010

After Jesus Phone (viz iPhone), the iPad ought to be the Mosses tablet!

After months of speculation and 6 posts later (References below), the iPad finally arrives. Apple seeks to supplement the falling iPod sales with the iPad. Heres the first look at the iPad

Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs took the wraps off the “iPad” tablet on Wednesday, the 27th January, making a big bet on a new breed of gadgets that aim to bridge the gap between smartphones and laptops. The iPad is Apple’s biggest product launch since the iPhone three years ago, and arguably rivals the smartphone as the most anticipated in Apple’s history.

The iPad turns out to be a cross between the Laptop and a iPhone. The touch-screen tablet-shaped gadget acts as an ¬internet browser, computer, music and film player, and an e-reader that can download and display books and newspapers. With a 9.7-inch screen and weighing just 1.5lb Apple is banking on the device generating massive global demand for a new generation of less costly computers. Prices are expected to start at £309 for the iPad with the smallest memory and WiFi internet connectivity, rising to £513 for the biggest memory model and a faster 3G internet connection. It goes on sale in the US in March accompanied by the debut of a new Apple online shop called iBooks where customers can buy and download “e-books” in the same way as iPod and iPhone users download music from the iTunes store. The books project follows a deal between Apple and major publishers including Penguin and Harper Collins. The iPad has a near life-sized touch-screen keyboard on which users type directly. Objects on screen can be manipulated with fingers, as on an iPhone.

The iPad feature set (from its first looks) is as follows: Apple’s own 1 GHz Apple A4 chip, 16 – 64 GB of Flash storage, Bluetooth 2.1, 802.11n, 10 hours of battery life, Speaker, microphone and 30-pin connector, Fully multi-touch Capacitive screen, 9.7 inch IPS LED backlit LCD, Half an inch thick, Accelerometer and Compass,3G UMTS/HSPDA and GSM/EDGE data (optional), Assisted GPS and Digital Compass (3G version only),3.5mm headphone jack,VGA out support or AV out via dock connector and converter cable.

iPad’s missed opportunities : Doesnot support Multitasking, No Camera, Adapters, ugly thick black lining, multi operator support, No Flash support, Could do better with Augmented Reality

iPad initial thoughts: Great job on pricing, backward compatibility, New UI enhancements but cud have done more with the basic UI

Despite the buzz surrounding the launch and Apple’s storied golden touch on consumer electronics, the tablet is not necessarily an easy sell, analysts say. Consumer appetite for such a device category has yet to be proven, though plenty of devices such as’s Kindle e-reader are vying for that market.

Apple’s task is to persuade consumers that they should buy this “third category” product if they already have mobile phones and laptop computers. Apple’s design and marketing expertise would ensure the iPad was a sure-fire hit with customers. The iPad is essentially a big iPhone but with more functionality so it is a scaled-up iPhone. For the category to succeed, the iPad really needs to capture people’s imagination and act as a catalyst for a whole new ‘pad’ format. The e-reader thing will be quite key because they seem to have been growing more popular since Christmas and with Apple’s competencies in gaining access to content and distribution, this can be a clincher. You don’t bet against Apple anyways.

As iPod sales wane, Apple is looking for another growth engine and hopes to find one in the tablet. But the move is not without risk. Consumers have never warmed to tablet computers, despite many previous attempts by other companies. In an online poll on, 37% of more than 1,000 respondents said they would pay $500-$699 for the tablet. Nearly 30% weren’t interested, while 20% said they would pay $700-$899.Analysts’ sales predictions for the tablet vary widely, with many believing Apple can sell 2 million to 5 million units in the first year.


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Is social media a marketing hyperbole? (Part III)

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on January 28, 2010

Dell is one of the few companies which have driven the social media to their advantage. While such examples are widely acknowledged and appreciated, working out such examples and such business models is tricky.

However, driving social media to one’s advantage isn’t as easy across. The beauty (and the problem) with social media marketing is that it’s a new field. As of now it’s more of an art than a science. I think we just need to see marketing guess/test/refine to find the perfect balance of advertisement and engagement. Also it is important to have the relevant engagement strategy. More often, companies are planning social media for the heck of planning it without a core idea of what they would like the social media to achieve for them. Until a good mix is found we probably will see approaches flounder… when was the last time you clicked on a FB ad?

2009 was also an year of experimentation with Social media launched to drive brands towards perceived relevance. Budgets for most parts were borrowed from other divisions to fund largely experimental programs. In many cases, these Social media programs were introduced without a relevant and integrated strategy and in 84% cases the ROI was not even monitored. In 2010, executives are demanding scrutiny, evaluation, and interpretation. Even though new media is transforming organizations from the inside out, what is constant is the need to apply performance indicators to our work. They want measurable results from social media but the exact implications of social media still evade CMOs.

53% CMOs are unsure about return on Twitter
50% are unable to access the value of LinkedIn.
Source: Bazaarvoice 2009

Most importantly, about 15% believe there is no ROI associated with Twitter, and just over 10% cannot glean ROI from LinkedIn or Facebook. This may be because of a direct disconnect between social media activity and a clearly defined end game. CMOs must establish what we want to measure before we engage. By doing so, Marketing Organizations can answer the questions, “what is it that they want to change, improve, accomplish, incite, etc?”

Quoting Brian Solis, Social Media expert, principal of FutureWorks and author, observer of Social media trends:
The debate over measuring social media investment inspired many brands to cannonball into popular social networks and join the proverbial conversation without a plan or strategic objectives defined. At the same time, the lack of ROI standards unnerved many executives, preventing any form of experimentation until their questions and concerns were addressed.

In 2010, we’re entering a new era of social media marketing — one based on information, rationalization, and resolve.
Business leaders simply need clarity in a time of abundant options and scarcity of experience. As many of us can attest, we report to executives who have no desire to measure intangible credos rooted in transparency and authenticity. In the end, they simply want to calculate the return on investment and associate social media programs with real-world business performance metrics.

Over the years, our exploration and experience has redefined the traditional metrics and created hybrid models that will prove critical to modern business practices and help companies effectively compete for the future.

Thus 2010 would be the year when Social Media Marketing takes on wings but the flight would need a well charted plan, a clear intent and dimensional details of what the Advertisers want to do in the first place. The greater the clarity on these aspects, the better the focus and the definition, the greater the efficiency for the marketers from social media. Unless it is backed by a strategy, intent and proper metrics, a hyped-up approach to social media will only make it a marketing hyperbole.

Is social media a marketing hyperbole? (Part II)

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on January 27, 2010

Is Social Media a Marketing Hyperbole? This was an earlier post that I had written 9 months back. I return to this topic not any clearer after 9 months of social media exploits though. There is lot of hype around, but is there enough substance backing the hype.

Money spent on social media-related advertising is expected to grow this year significantly. Forrester Research’s Interactive Marketing Forecast for the next five years, estimates social media marketing to grow at an annual rate of 34 percent – faster than any other form of online marketing and double the average growth rate of 17 percent for all online mediums. Forrester had estimated that $716 million would be spent on the medium this year in 2009, growing to $3.1 billion in 2014. At that point, social media will be a bigger marketing channel than both email and mobile, but still just a fraction of the size of search or display advertising ($31.6B and $16.9B, respectively). Not surprisingly, some of this growth comes at the expense of offline advertising. Forrester estimates that online advertising will grow from 12 percent of total marketing spend this year to 21 percent by 2014, meaning that offline ad spend will fall. In fact, Forrester concludes that “overall advertising budgets will decline,” meaning efficiencies are being had by shifting money to the Web.

Another recent report published by eMarketer, has now declared that the medium is considered the top priority in the digital space according to a survey of senior marketers. 45.4% of respondents considered social a ‘top priority’ while another 42.2% deemed it ‘important’. That narrowly beat out digital infrastructure for the top spot, with other marketing tactics like search, mobile, and blogger outreach trailing significantly. The data, also indicates that ‘time on site’ is now the metric marketers are most interested in, followed by unique page views, click-thru rate, and the traditional page view. that engagement is here to stay as the preferred way of doing business. That means both more engaging ads that leverage social media, and more engaging web sites that keep users around beyond a simple page view.

Social media marketing will definitely be an important portion of the marketing mix as businesses are able to tailor their products better with engaging with users using sophisticated communication platforms. Marketeers around the world are watching some successful models like Dell execute social media in an optimal way.

Dell is one of the few companies which have driven the social media to their advantage. While such examples are widely acknowledged and appreciated, working out such examples and such business models is tricky. We would discuss the Marketeer’s dilemna in going for Social Media in my next post.

Sino-Google Conflict (Part IV): The Impact of Information censorship on free information and societal development

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on January 20, 2010

If Google walks away entirely from its business dealings in China, it’s unlikely that other U.S. companies will follow it out the door. However, they might be emboldened to speak up in the future when they encounter uncomfortable restrictions imposed by the country’s government. A possible Google pullout could also anger China’s public and embolden other companies to vent grievances. China’s Internet-connected public has for long tolerated a gap between rapid economic and technological progress and a closed, secretive political system. The political outcome of this stand-off is that it could stir up a restive group of people, which is the younger people and the Internet users in China who may look at access to information as a civil right. China’s potential Internet lobby is vast. China’s online population soared by nearly 30 percent last year to 384 million people, bigger than the whole U.S. population. It includes the Chinese elite of entrepreneurs and professionals who have benefited most from economic reform and usually support the ruling party. While, other companies that accept pervasive controls in exchange for access to China’s huge and growing market appeared unlikely to follow Google’s lead. Still, there could be less drastic changes in their relations with Beijing. There may not be a lot of foreign companies stand up and walk out of China, but you might see a lot more foreign companies standing up and being much tougher in dealing with what they consider to be an unfairness in market access and trade issues.

A good example of how the Chinese government “censors” page resuts that are considered Offensive to the Chinese Government!

Many in China’s public disagree, to judge by the bundles of flowers left outside Google’s Beijing offices in the period when the issue was on boil and pleas on Internet sites for it to stay.It was a striking show of support and affection for an American company in a society where foreign investors have created millions of jobs but are regarded with distaste by some Chinese officials and a vocally nationalistic segment of the public.

Google also has millions of Chinese admirers. One group created a Web site, hosted on a California blog service, whose plaintive title says it all: — Chinese for “Google, Don’t Go!” Such sentiments might extend to the princelings, children of the communist elite who have played on family ties to make fortunes from partnerships with foreign investors and might be uneasy about alienating them.

Chinese and foreign businesses rely on Google’s email, maps and other services based abroad, which could lead to disruptions if authorities try to retaliate for a Google pullout by blocking access to its U.S. site.

The conflict also could fuel trouble for China’s companies abroad, where its swollen trade surplus and complaints about trade barriers are straining ties. Chinese investments in mining and oil face opposition in Australia and elsewhere.
Already, Chinese companies abroad will start hitting a ceiling caused by this stuff happening at home. Being Chinese might be a liability.

Beijing caused a similar uproar in 2002 when its new filters blocked Google’s main site outright. Scientists pleaded that they needed it to find information online. The government of then-President Jiang Zemin relented and eased access.
That was hailed at the time as a victory of common sense,” Clark said. “Will they be able to do it again?”

Political analysts say the government may be waiting to measure the level of public sentiment before deciding how to proceed

A compromise solution could also expose Google to some criticism after having taken the stand it would not countenance Chinese censorship

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Apple’s Domination of the Mobile Apps Space

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on January 20, 2010

The numbers are out. In an earlier post , I had discussed Apps stores and the race to Mobile Apps, I had mentioned that the Apple Apps store constitutes 71% of the total Mobile Apps available globally. Such was the dominance of the Apple Apps store, that Apple is 2.5 times the number of Applications in all other Apps stores combined together. A latest report from market research firm Gartner suggests that mobile apps are big business, and that business should only grow in the next few years. According to Gartner’s numbers, Apple completely owns this market, grabbing almost every one of the 4.2 billion dollars spent on mobile apps in 2009. Apple owns 99.4% of all mobile apps sold through 2009. Based on Gartner’s estimates and our own analysis, Apple could hold on to at least two-thirds of the market if current sales trends hold for 2010.

Apple first opened the App Store in July 2008, along with the launch of the iPhone 3G and the release of iPhone OS 2.0. Sales were brisk, with 300 million apps sold by December. After the holidays, that number had jumped to 500 million. Earlier this month, Apple announced that sales had topped 3 billion; that means iPhone users downloaded 2.5 billion apps in 2009 alone. Gartner’s figures show another 16 million apps that could come from other platform’s recently opened app stores, giving Apple at least 99.4 percent of all mobile apps sold for the year.

Going forward, Gartner expects Games to remain the number one application, and mobile shopping, social networking, utilities and productivity tools continue to grow and attract increasing amounts of money.

Gartner’s predictions for 2010 are 4.5 billion apps sold, for a total of $6.8 billion in revenue. If Apple can merely maintain its current rate of about a quarter billion app sales per month, it stands to be responsible for 3 billion apps sales—67 percent—good for $4.5 billion in revenue. Apple’s cut would be $1.35 billion, with developers taking the remainder. However, as Apple gains more users from sales of new iPhone models and possibly from an expected tablet, Apple could get an even larger share of the mobile app market. This then is a key profitability driver for Apple, the fulfillment of a prophecy made with regard to profitabilities and Apps stores.

Predictions for 2013, just a few years away, are even bigger—21.6 billion apps sold for a total of $29.5 billion revenue. The firm predicts that by then, 25 percent of the revenue generated by mobile apps will be from free versions supported with advertising. Growth in smartphone sales will not necessarily mean that consumers will spend more money, but it will widen the addressable market for an offering that will be advertising-funded. That makes Apple’s acquisition of a mobile advertising firm seem like an even smarter move, just for the extra revenue alone.

The App Store model has become de rigueur on all the smartphone platforms, with RIM, Microsoft, Palm, and Google each building a similar way for developers to make apps available, and for users to find them and pay for them. Gartner warns that developers will have to carefully consider which platform’s app store is best to promote their app. Even with the hundreds of thousands of options that vie for users in the iPhone App Store, the numbers suggest that Apple remains most developers’ best bet.


Sino-Google Conflict (Part III): Of and for Free societies

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on January 19, 2010

Google’s threat to quit China over censorship and hacking intensified Sino-U.S. frictions. Washington said Internet control was a serious issue and demanded an explanation from Beijing. In the mean time, China has said it does not sponsor hacking. Its officials have also accused the West of seeking to undermine China’s one-Party rule by backing dissidents and campaigns against censorship. Now Google is at the heart of those tensions.

Pressing China for an explanation, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton said: “The ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy.”We have been briefed by Google on these allegations, which raise very serious concerns and questions,” Clinton said in a statement in Honolulu. “We look to the Chinese government for an explanation.”Earlier, U.S. President Barack Obama, during a visit to China in November, told an online town hall that he was “a big supporter of non-censorship”.

With China the largest lender to the United States, holding $800 billion in Treasury bills, these Internet tensions will make steering this vast, fast-evolving relationship all the more tricky, especially with the U.S. Congress in an election year.
The issue was snowballing beyond Google and its problems.

On one end is the ego of the Chinese establishment: If this becomes heavily politicised, and there are signs that it is, and people in the Chinese government say, ‘This is good. It serves you right, and we won’t bow our heads to the United States, then there’ll be no way out,”

On the other, the impact on China’s image will gradually also affect the enthusiasm of investors. It’s not the pure economic losses — a billion or so — it’s the deteriorating environment

There are already pressures such as Climate, Economy, Security and Cyber-Security straining the US-Sino relations. The Google issue may yet be one of the reasons for a significant deterioration in U.S.-Chinese relations in the 2010-11.

The third angle is much more subtle: Culture and People. China is one of the major movers and shakers on the world economic, trade and political forums and yet its Human Rights record is far from normal. As a society, putting fetters to free flow of information may stunt the societal growth. China’s idea of having its own “The Truman show” would be a unviable and unsustainable experiment which could only results in a stunted society and unrest amongst the educated masses, the best representation of which is the students’ unrest which caused the Tiananmen square massacre in 1989.
The “Chinese Wall” may not be required to break but it definitely needs to allow free access of information across its borders for a better Chinese future.

This page result on Google Images is “Censored” information in Chinese Mainland.

Sino-Google Conflict (Part II): Plain Business!

Posted in Industry updates, Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on January 18, 2010

The conflict apart, China is one of the largest markets that Google caters to globally.There are hardcore business interests that Google is putting on the line. This post is about the search business and the view that other internet companies could take of the Sino Google conflict.

Chinese citizens have urged Google not to leave China. This Picture taken outside the Google Headquarters in China shows people offering flowers with notes such as “Dont Go, Google”

Google is generating $200 million in annual revenue from China. Annual search revenue in China is estimated to be more than $1 billion. Google controls about 31.3 percent of the Chinese search market, versus 63.9 percent for local search powerhouse, Baidu Inc, according to Analysys International. Annual search revenue in China is estimated to be more than $1 billion. Google’s second-place standing in China means it won’t feel an immediate sting if it does close shop there. Analysts estimate revenue from China to be a fraction of the roughly $22 billion in annual revenue Google generated in 2008. Shares of Google dipped 1.3 percent although an executive described China as “immaterial” to its finances. Shares in Baidu, Google’s main rival in China, surged 7 percent

However, with growth slowing in mature markets such as the United States, Google needs all the sources of growth it can find and China is a strategic market for most technology companies. This decision does not necessarily mean Google will abandon China entirely, as it could follow the footsteps of other U.S. Internet companies that have chosen to partner with local companies instead of maintaining their own sites. In 2005, Yahoo Inc handed over exclusive rights to the “Yahoo China” brand and folded its Chinese mail, messaging and other operations into the Alibaba Group, in a $1 billion deal that gave Yahoo a 40 percent stake in Alibaba. In 2006, eBay Inc folded its Chinese operations into a new venture controlled by a local partner, Tom Online as it switched tack in a fast-growing market where it has struggled.

It is highly unlikely that Google would get any support from other internet majors in China. Microsoft for instance has huge investments planned up for China. Yahoo cannot risk its relationship with the Chinese to fall out either as it also has significant vested interests in Thus both Microsoft and Yahoo could be reluctant to take any steps seen as hostile at the risk of endangering its wide-ranging interests in China.

China’s three oldest major Internet firms, Sina, Sohu and Inc, all operate e-mail services in China and are careful to steer clear of content and other actions that could raise the ire of government censors. From their original roots as Web portals, all three have diversified into other services, from online games and e-commerce to mobile added-value services and search. Given their almost 100 percent reliance on the China market, the trio would be the least likely to join hands with any movement by Google.

In the search arena, Google’s main China rival, search engine Baidu, self-censors itself in accordance with Chinese law to avoid sensitive, mostly political, topics.Like Sina, Sohu and NetEase, Baidu would be highly unlikely to Google in standing up to Chinese censors due to its near-total reliance on the China market for all its business.

Analysts have said that working with a local partner in China could help Google get a better competitive footing in a foreign market with different languages and customs.

The wait is now for who blinks first. The Chinese government will be under pressure from international business, the American lobby, its own consumers and more. A compromise solution could also expose Google to some criticism after having taken the stand it would not countenance Chinese censorship.

We will watch the space.

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Sino-Google Conflict (Part I): The What and How?

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on January 17, 2010

Google has shaken and stirred the Hornet’s nest in China by threatening to pull out of China in wake of continous hacking attempts which are apparently government controlled and censorship attempts of the Chinese government on Google search results.

Google Inc delighted free-speech advocates as it threatened to pull out of China over censorship and may shut its Chinese-language website because of cyber attacks, but the move upends one of Google’s most important growth initiatives. Google’s decision is tantamount to exiting the world’s largest Internet market, with more than 360 million users, since it is highly unlikely the Chinese government would allow Google to operate an unfiltered search engine. This follows Google’s discovery Mid December 2009, where it detected that a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on its corporate infrastructure was originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident — albeit a significant one — was something quite different.

The results of Google’s investigation into this attack yielded the following results:
1.First, this attack was not just on Google. At least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses — including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors — have been similarly targeted.
2.Secondly, attackers were trying to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. According to Google, this objective was not met through the attacks.
3.Third, accounts of dozens of US-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users’ computers.

Google has also shared information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech. Google has now stated that it will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. Google has stated that if it was unable to achieve the objectives outlined, Google would not hesitate to reconsider its approach to China and close down the

Google’s China Timeline
Google’s troubles in China are not unique and have affected other companies seeking a foothold in the huge Internet market.
Following are some key developments in Google’s bumpy foray into China:
2000 – Google develops Chinese-language interface for its website.
2002 – becomes temporarily unavailable to Chinese users, with interference from domestic competition suspected.
July 2005 – Google hires ex-Microsoft executive Lee Kai Fu as head of Google China. Microsoft sues Google over the move, claiming Lee will inevitably disclose propriety information to Google. The two rivals reach a settlement on the suit over Lee in December.
Jan 2006 – Google rolls out, its China-based search page that censors search results in accordance with Chinese rules. Google says it made the trade-off to “make meaningful and positive contributions” to development in China while abiding by the country’s strict censorship laws.
Aug 2008 – Google launches free music downloads for users in China to better compete with market leader Baidu Inc.
March 2009 – China blocks access to Google’s YouTube video site.
June 2009 – A Chinese official accuses Google of spreading obscene content over the Internet. The comments come a day after, Gmail and other Google online services became inaccessible to many users in China.
Sept 2009 – Lee resigns as Google China head to start his own company. Google appoints sales chief John Liu to take over Lee’s business and operational responsibilities.
Oct 2009 – A group of Chinese authors accuses Google of violating copyrights with its digital library, with many threatening to sue.
Jan 2010 – Google announces it is no longer willing to censor searches in China and may pull out of the country.

Microsoft goes NUI as a step into future

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Internet and Search, New Technologies by Manas Ganguly on January 11, 2010

Microsoft looks to Natural User interfaces (as against Graphic user interface) for its big leap into the future.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is finally taking and talking about its leap into the future. The 6th January Key Note address that Steve Ballmer delivered at Las Vegas sees the company talking about future with technologies that are disruptive rather than incremental. The Huffington Post featured this article penned by Ballmer on Microsoft and its future plans.

In my keynote Wednesday night at CES, the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, I talked about a number of trends transforming the role that technology plays in our lives — trends like the proliferation of ever cheaper and lighter HD screens, the combination of smart devices and powerful PCs connected to the cloud and the changing nature of television when combined with innovative software.

But if I had to pick one technology trend I think will have a major impact this year, it’s the entirely new ways in which computing technology will work more naturally alongside us.

For years, we’ve relied on familiar GUI (graphical user interface) tools and methods — the keyboard and mouse; menus and commands; clicking and scrolling; files and folders — to control and manipulate computers and the applications that run on them.

But I believe we will look back on 2010 as the year we expanded beyond the mouse and keyboard and started incorporating more natural forms of interaction such as touch, speech, gestures, handwriting, and vision — what computer scientists call the “NUI” or natural user interface. This process is already well underway through the proliferation of new touch screen phones and PCs, and in our growing reliance on voice-controlled in-car technology for communications, navigation, and entertainment.

In some ways, this transformation has been a long time coming. For many years now, Microsoft has been working on NUI-based technologies such as speech, touch, contextual and environmental awareness, immersive 3D experiences, and anticipatory computing — all with the goal of a computer that can see, listen, learn, talk and act smartly on our behalf. Ever since the development of the first computers, this lofty goal has been one of the most challenging problems in computer science. But an incredible expansion in computing power along with new breakthroughs in software have enabled us to solve many of these problems, putting us at the verge of an important leap forward.

Microsoft’s recent work in the area of video gaming is starting to bring NUI to life in a tangible way. As we shared at CES, an ambitious effort codenamed “Project Natal” which uses sophisticated sensors and software to track body movements, recognize faces, and respond to spoken directions is something we plan to bring to market by holiday of this year. With Project Natal your whole body is turned into a video game controller, so that you can enjoy games with friends the same way that you play them in the real world — by talking, shouting, running, swinging, and a million other movements and gestures.

While Project Natal will transform the video gaming and in-home entertainment experience, I believe it only hints at the potential of the technology behind it. In the near future, computers will do more than work at our command: they will work on our behalf, acting as assistants that understand what we want and possessing the intelligence to carry out complex tasks in a way that accurately reflects — and even predicts — our preferences and intentions.

Simply put, NUI is about easing discovery so that the computing technology that surrounds you acts as a more natural and dynamic partner, not a tool, for helping you work, live and have fun. And, I believe these advances will help usher in a new generation of human-computer interaction this decade.

This then is the most “forward looking” and “direction pointer” statement that’s come from Microsoft Steve Ballmer in a long time. For the record, there are those who think that CEO Ballmer was long lost in the Smartphone space with Winmo as ever. Then there was Google that was snapping at the heels of the beleaguered software giant.

Azure, Microsoft’s venture into Cloud computing and the NUI/Natural User Interface are Microsoft’s bets into the future. It is heartening to see that Projects such as Natal and Surface are finally gaining traction and would see mainline inclusion in times to come. Way to Go Microsoft!