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Post release Notes on Android 2.2: Froyo (Part II)

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on May 31, 2010

Android 2.2 betters on runtime performance, enterprise capability, exchange calendars, data back-up and cloud to device messaging services.

Android 2.2 includes a new just-in time compiler which Google claims improves application performance by two to five times compared with Android 2.1 using the same hardware. It is clear that Google views the capability of application runtime is central to the long-term success of the platform. Android is extending across a diverse range of hardware, so performance needs to reside on a consistent basis within the software stack rather than requiring hardware acceleration or changes to device specifications.

Froyo also improves Android’s enterprise capability following the addition of support for Microsoft Exchange Server in Android 2.0. The latest update extends the number of features supported with a particular emphasis on security and device management. Additions include remote wipe support and the ability to enforce password policies over the air.

In addition, Exchange calendars are now supported within the native Android calendar, and configuration has been simplified with auto-discovery only needing an e-mail address and a password to set up an account (on Exchange 2007 and beyond). Global address book look-up is also included.

Although these are vital improvements, Android still falls some distance behind RIM and even Apple as an enterprise-class platform. However, personal devices are increasingly making their way into organizations, and a fuller suite of business-friendly features will mean Android will also start to enter corporate networks as the iPhone has done.

Developers at the event reacted very favourably to two new services and their corresponding APIs. The first of these is a data back-up feature, which ensures application data as well as the application itself are backed up to a Google ID in the cloud. This means previously downloaded applications and associated data can be restored to a device over the air.

The second service — cloud-to-device messaging — is among the most interesting features in Froyo. The messaging service enables developers to build Web-based functions that communicate directly with an Android device. A demonstration showed a location in Google Maps viewed in the Chrome browser on a PC sent via Google’s server and pushed down to a device. Similarly, a Web page was sent straight from Chrome on a PC to an Android handset. This will prove highly attractive to users at a basic level for content synchronization between different devices but also offers huge potential for developers, particularly given the recent announcement of Google TV. The cloud-to device messaging API will allow developers to create applications that remain synchronized across a wide range of devices.

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Post release Notes on Android 2.2: Froyo (Part I)

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on May 30, 2010

Android is beginning to see the traction that it was always expected to it as Manufacturers, carriers and Consumers are opting for Android. The recently concluded Google’s annual developer event is a clear indication of the phenomenal momentum Android has secured in 18 months flat. Over 5,000 people were present at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, with a further 24,000 watching the first day’s key note presentations on a live stream on YouTube.

Android is now running in over 60 devices from 21 manufacturers in 48 countries with 59 carriers. It has over 180,000 developers and more than 50,000 applications are available in the Android Marketplace. The most significant statistic is the activation rate for Android phones, which is now in excess of 100,000 units a day. This has increased from the 30,000 units announced at the end of 2009 and the 60,000 mentioned by Eric Schmidt at Mobile World Congress in February.

While Android may have some distance to go in the Apps space and creating a UI which wows the consumer (Apple’s forte), Gartner and other numbers seem to suggest that Android is well on its way to become one of the top 3 smartphone OSs around. Gartner’s Q1 results for Smartphone OS markets shares have shown Android taking a 8X volume growth to position it 4th in the leaders board. It beat the WinMo in doing so. CCS insight has predicted that Android would ship close to 35 million devices in the 2010 calendar year. These doesnot include other Android devices such as tablets, set-top boxes and netbooks,which are likely to appear later in 2010.Given Android’s growing momentum and broad segment coverage, CCS insight predicts shipments of Android-powered phones will overtake those of Apple’s iPhone in 2011.

Frozen Yoghurt (Froyo) is Android’s latest Android version releases (2.2) and it looks like Google has been busy at work plugging the gaps in its earlier releases as each new release not only plugs the older one’s holes and gaps but also manages to better it.

The Froyo feature lists include the portable Wi-Fi hot-spot functions, improvements to the browser, including support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1, changes to Android Market, new enterprise capabilities and a range of new application programme interfaces (APIs).

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Profiling Cognitive Radio: The 5G driver

Posted in New Technologies by Manas Ganguly on May 27, 2010

The technology evolution from GSM/CDMA to LTE/WiMAX and the Cognitive Radio (which would enable 5G)!

Cognitive radio technologies includes the ability of devices to determine their location, sense spectrum use by neighboring devices, change frequency, adjust output power, and even alter transmission parameters and characteristics.A cognitive radio is a transceiver that is able to understand and react to its operating environment. Thus cognitive radio concerns devices and networks which are computationally intelligent about radio resources and related communications to detect user communication needs as a function of use context and provide radio resources and wireless services appropriate to those needs. Thus the Radio is aware/cognitive about changes in its environment and responds to these changes by adapting operating characteristics in some way to improve its performance or minimize loss in performance.

• At one extreme, is an intelligent device that can reconfigure itself to interact with any radio network in the vicinity, depending on the requirements of the user
• At the other extreme, there is a intelligent device that detects interference and change their operating frequency to avoid it.

Spectral occupancy measurements consistently show that some bands are under utilized in some areas at some times. Recent measurements by the FCC in the US show 70% of the allocated spectrum is not utilized. Time scale of the spectrum occupancy varies from milli-secs to hours. Cognitive Radio increases the utilization of the Radio Spectrum and decreases spectrum holes and white spaces. Thus Spectrum holders are able to use their spectrum more efficiently and sub license it further and supports new models not directly tied to spectrum availability. In short it could facilitate spectrum trading.

The potential benefits include expansion of critical communication networks, higher date rate services to users, enhanced coverage, more extensive device roaming and cost management.Cognitive radio is a promising technology that can significantly enhance utilization of radio spectrum and has the potential to facilitate new spectrum trading approaches and business models.

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Gartner: Q1,2010 Mobile Phone and Smartphone market shares

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on May 22, 2010

The Gartner Global mobile phone market share data for Q1, 2010 was released a day back and according to Gartner, Global mobile phone sales to end users totalled 314.7 million units in the first quarter of 2010, a 17 per cent increase from the same period in 2009. Smarpthone sales to end users reached 54.3 million units, an increase of 48.7 per cent from the first quarter of 2009. Among the most successful vendors were those that controlled an integrated set of operating system (OS), hardware and services. (Read that as Apple who have registered a 112% growth YOY)

Q1’10 saw RIM, a pure smartphone player, make its debut in the top five mobile devices manufacturers, and saw Apple increase its market share by 1.2 percentage points. Android’s momentum continued into the first quarter of 2010, particularly in North America, where sales of Android-based phones increased 707 per cent year-on-year.

Growth in the mobile devices market was driven by double-digit growth of smartphone sales in mature markets, helped by wider product availability as well as mass market price tags. Increasing sales of white-box products in some emerging regions, in particular India, also drove sales of mobile phones upward. We expect sales of white-box products to remain very healthy for the remainder of 2010, especially outside of China.

The rise of white-box manufacturers from Asia has also helped the “others” section, as a proportion of overall sales, increase its market share to 19.20 per cent in the first quarter of 2010, up 2.7 percentage points. This is having a profound effect on the top five mobile handset manufacturers’ combined share that dropped from 73.3 in the first quarter of 2009 to 70.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2010.

In the smartphone OS market, Android and Apple were the winners in the first quarter of 2010.Android moved to the No. 4 position displacing Microsoft Windows Mobile for the first time. Both Android and Apple were the only two OSs vendors among the top five to increase market share year-on-year. Symbian remained in the No. 1 position but continued to lose as Nokia remains weak in the high-end portfolio.As seen with the iPad and web books based on Google’s Android platform, mobile OS ecosystems are developing and will move beyond smartphones to continue to deliver consumer value and a rich user experience.

Mobile e-mail, rich messaging and social networking will continue to drive demand for smartphones and enhanced phones that feature full qwerty hardware keyboards.To compete in such a crowded market, manufacturers need to tightly integrate hardware, user interface, and cloud and social networking services if their solutions are to appeal to users. Just adding a qwerty keyboard will not make a device fit the communication’s habits of today’s various consumer segments.

Indian Telecom Story (Part XXXb): The case for Telco viabilities

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on May 21, 2010

Continued from earlier post: Indian Telecom Story (Part XXXa): 3G a near Reality

The 3G spectrum winning bids are under the microscope because of the huge drains on the Telco P&Ls and there is a lot of debate about how and why the costs that the Telcos have brown to get a 20 year stake in 3G Spectrum are unjustifed. This post tries looking at the costs and the accruals from a long horizon perspective.

High Tariffs and Low Returns
Doubts exist whether 3G services will prove to be a big money-spinner and ease the pressure on the sector, and some experts cite the experience of developed western markets where 3G services are only now starting to gain traction despite being around for at least five years.
The fear of higher prices is misplaced. The higher spectrum charges are sunk costs. Economists remind us that in a competitive market, such costs cannot be passed on to customers. A mobile company cannot attract customers if its tariff is not competitive. In India’s telecom market, raising prices will require a level of concerted action difficult even in simpler markets with fewer players.

Accrual of Benefits
The benefits of 3G spectrum will become even more pronounced once mobile number portability (MNP) is implemented. The presence of 3G offerings will allow operators to retain their premium subscribers and attract subscribers from competing networks; ARPUs for these subscribers are nearly four times the industry ARPUs, resulting in significantly higher profitability.

The Road ahead
The winners will be awarded spectrum in September, which means rollout of 3G services will be possible only by the end of 2010 or early 2011.For at least the first year, the main focus is expected to be on improving call quality. 3G uptake in India is expected to be slow in the initial stages as 3G handsets are costlier than 2G handsets.
Initially, the 3G spectrum to be primarily used for voice services, enabling operators to address the spectrum shortage that characterises the sector today. 3G technology, which is at least twice as spectrally efficient as 2G, will enable operators to service more subscribers with the available spectrum, without compromising on quality of service. This is critical given the lack of clarity on further allocation and pricing of 2G spectrum. However, the commoditised nature of voice services provides little scope for operators to differentiate in this arena. Therefore, to gain an edge, players will gradually leverage 3G technology and provide differentiated value-added services such mobile TV, videoconferencing and high-speed internet browsing. This will enable them not only to improve their ARPUs, but also to ease the pricing pressure that they face on account of intense competition in 2G services. 3G will also help operators reduce network congestion, and thereby cater to more 2G subscribers as well.

A new dimension to TVs: Google TV

Posted in New Technologies by Manas Ganguly on May 21, 2010

TV meets Web. Web meets TV.

This is a successor to the first post on Active TV and Android.

4 billion people across the world watch TV and it was time before TV became a more active medium than the passive one way medium that it is presently. Not only does this give a new dimension to TV but also helps it counter the fight from the entertainment experience from phones and computers. The main reason why TV lags Phones and Computers is because of the lack of the Web. With the web, finding and accessing interesting content is fast and often as easy as a search. But the web still lacks many of the great features and the high-quality viewing experience that the TV offers.

Google now strides into this green space fusing the experience of Live TV and the best of Web in one seamless experience. Thus the TV invades the Personal computing and laptop computing space and provides a two way experience including favorite video, music and photo sites.

Google TV is a new experience for television that combines the TV that you already know with the freedom and power of the Internet. The Google TV will be powered by the Google Chrome which will allow access to user’s favorite websites and easily move between television and the web. This opens up TV from a few hundred channels to millions of channels of entertainment across TV and the web. The television is also no longer confined to showing just video. With the entire Internet in the living room, the TV becomes more than a TV — it can be a photo slideshow viewer, a gaming console, a music player and much more. Google TV uses search to provide an easy and fast way to navigate to television channels, websites, apps, shows and movies.

This possibly is just scratching the surface in Active TV viewing. Basis the Android and Chrome Open Platforms, Web Developers may have to re-define the internet experience altogether and design content and apps especially for TV viewing. Google is making available the Google TV SDK and web APIs for TV so that developers can build even richer applications and distribute them through Android Market. It is also in strategic alliance with and Rovi at the leading edge of innovation in TV technology for providing semantic search, personalized recommendation, guide applications and social features for Google TV across all sources of premium content available to the user.

Google has also commented that they are in talks with Logitech and Sony to put Google TV inside their Televisions, Blue Ray players and companion boxes and is aiming to hit the market by Spring 2010.

This is an incredibly exciting time — for TV watchers, for developers and for the entire TV ecosystem. By giving people the power to experience what they love on TV and on the web on a single screen, Google TV turns the living room into a new platform for innovation.

Watch this You Tube Tutorial on Google TV

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Indian Telecom Story (Part XXXa): 3G a near reality

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on May 20, 2010

After 4 years of delay, 34 days and 183 rounds of frenetic the Great Indian 3G auction has been a Great Big Fat Success. The proceeds of Rs.67,719 crore raised by GoI on higher-than-expected 3G mobile spectrum sale inflows could lower the government’s borrowing by up to Rs35,000 crore ($7.6 billion) in the 2010-11 fiscal year from estimates of Rs4.57 lakh crore ($99.3 bn). The government is likely to garner an additional Rs 12,000 crore from BWA auction.The notional value of a pan-India slot amounted to Rs16,828 crore, almost five times the reserve price of Rs3,500 crore. GoI fiscal deficit is slated to slide down to 5% from the existing 5.5% from the proceeds of the spectrum auction.

This post examines the views in the industry and otherwise debating viabilities. In an earlier post, I had written about how and why 3G would not be a viable alternative for enterprises.

Disturbing Balance Sheets
The unexpectedly high bids mean that companies have to raise a huge amount of cash to pay for licences, after which they will have to find more funds to buy equipment and roll out services. Operators that have won spectrum will have to pay for it within the next 10 days. Companies will have get rid of some of their assets to pay for 3G.
Airtel’s debt to equity ratio after factoring the cossts of 3G Spectrum acquisition stands at 2.3X while the debt to equity for Idea and Rcom was 3.5X.

Ten years back, European 3G auctions led to a similar bidding frenzy that left telecom operators with broken balance sheets and battered share prices. Telcos are expected to make money on their 3G spectrum only after 4 or 5 years.
The net margins of operators that have acquired 3G spectrum will be strained over a longer period of three to four years. This will be because of increased capital charges (the interest outgo on account of debt raised for 3G network rollout, and the amortisation of 3G spectrum charges). This would place additional pressure on operators’ bottom lines. Estimates by CRISIL for 3G investments at this level by any operator to be value-accretive, the operator will need to garner a total of 2.5 crore 3G subscribers by the fifth year, and charge an ARPU (average revenue per user) premium of 35% over 2G services. By 2013-14, a 3G operator that would enjoy a 500-700 bps advantage in EBDITA margins over one that does not.

Dawn of Industry Consolidation
3G services would be margin-dilutive in the near term, but could eventually lead to a significantly higher margins. Over the longer term, the availability of 3G spectrum can be a game-changer by catalysing consolidation in the telecom industry. For Telcos already battling a savage price war@, the end of the process marks the start of possible consolidation activity or network sharing pacts between operators as losers look to plug service gaps to prevent customers from jumping ship. Given that no single player has acquired pan-India 3G spectrum, the process of industry consolidation would be hastened. The significant pressure on profitability, and the need to gain scale, could induce players without 3G spectrum and new entrants to actively look to merge

to be continued

Gartner: A study in Mobile Gaming

Posted in Gaming by Manas Ganguly on May 18, 2010

Mobile gaming is Big… If the reports from the Apps store reports have to be believed. Gaming is one of the top 3 most downloaded applications from Apps stores: Be it Apple, Google, Ovi or the many others. Gartner estimates 70 percent to 80 percent of all mobile consumer applications downloaded are mobile games.

The mobile gaming industry grew by 19% YOY 2009-10 versus 2008-09 and Gartner redicts the growth to remain intact at 15% CAGR for the next half a decade. The mobile gaming market is expected to reach $11.4 dollars by end of 2014. While a majority of Apps downloads are games, 60 to 70% of downloads are “free”. This trend doesnot look like its going to change at least in the next 2-3 years.

According to Gartner , the factors that will be boosting the global popularity of mobile gaming include the following:
1.The increasing accessibility of mobile games in emerging markets, where alternative gaming media are limited.
2.Growing availability of micropayments for mobile gamers attracts users previously wary of investing larger amounts of money upfront to try out a game and also attracts groups whose disposable income is limited
3.Even with the popularity of the Apps stores,Gartner doesnot expect the ad-supported model to take off within the next three years – despite the success seen with this approach in the Japanese market
4.Improved user interfaces are a top priority for handset vendors as a competitive differentiator. A growing number of devices are implementing touchscreens and gesture, and enhanced qwerty keyboards will also improve the end-user experience.
5.An increasing number of games are taking advantage of existing device features, such as camera, GPS and accelerometers, to enhance game play.
6.Direct billing is one of the most significant value-adds that Content Service Providers can provide their partners – allowing consumers to charge purchases directly to their wireless bills.
7. Improvements to boost access to mobile games via search and recommendation engines are also improving take rates for mobile gaming, while more-competitive data pricing will lower barriers to adoption.
8.As more devices become connected, consumer electronic devices, such as tablets and portable gaming consoles, will join this space, adding another aspect to the market

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Why 3G would be non-starter in Enterprise segment?

Posted in Industry updates, New Technologies by Manas Ganguly on May 17, 2010

The Great Indian 3G auction was worth Rs. 15814.15 crore (for a pan India License) till the last round of billing (172 rounds of bidding over 31 days). This exceeded revenue expectation of Rs. 3500 crore by 352%. The revenues to the government at this price would be Rs 62254 crore against an estimated Rs.35000 crore in the budget 2010-11. However, the question that now comes up is that with spectrum coming dear, will the Telcos be able to provide 3G bandwidth at decent prices to consumers and enterprises.There is already a growing thought that enterprises will not opt for 3G at all.

The initial assumption thats been in the fore front was that 3G will be a solution to all and sundry. It would benefit the dual customer segments: Enterprises as well as Individual Consumers. Amongst the keys apps Social networking is one of the hot favourites for Consumers where as eMail, Connectivity, Video Conferencing and Web Sharing are the bigger enterprise apps. Enteprise adoption of 3G services would also help them to provide large bandwidths across a moving workforce to enable them to work from anywhere and secure access the company internet in lesser time with greater convenience and speed.Financial Inclusion of the masses across the geography and a unified communication service is the community extension of 3G services.

A recent survey by Voice & Data – IDC amongst enterprises found that only 13% of the enterprises seem to be excited about 3G and 87% enterprises were not very enthusiastic about the 3G roll outs. The reason being the better Return on Investement from competing technologies. What enterprises need today is predictability and a clear value proposition which helps them save costs, improve existing customer services and utilize their current investmenets in infrastructure the most.

The concern in adoption of 3G by enterprises is the availability of services uniformly across large areas and cities with consistent quality of service along with cheap tarriff plans. Here the cost factor is important. Too many different frequencies in the 3G spectrum would also drive down the scale and increase the cost of terminals. 3G is mostly about mobility and mobility as an application is not used much by enterprises. They mostly use email and voice which is also supported by the existing 2G networks in the country at very reasonable tarriffs. 3G would make the experience better but a lot of the adoption would depend upon the prevalent tarriffs. The higher order enterprise applications would possibly have to wait for 4G before they become mainstream.

However, the case for WIMAX entreprise led solutions is particularly strong. As against mobile services, WIMAX offfers fixed services within a geography unit with data speeds upto 70MBPS (versus 3G data speed of 15MBPS). The low cost of the WIMAX spectrum and its enhanced features such as security will drive service providers towards enterprise apps and enterprise adoption. The enterprises will also find WIMAX to be more suitable for their needs.

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Is Intel falling behind ARM in the war of Smart Computing?

Posted in New Technologies, The Technology Ecosystem by Manas Ganguly on May 14, 2010

Microprocessors and Intel is synonymous. I am the generation that has grown on the 236, Pentium I,II,III,IV generation of microprocessors and had been re-assured of the computing experience with the “Intel Inside” logo.

However, Intel’s story has been very different in mobile computing. It started late, was not fleet footed and hence let ARM run over with a near monopoly @ 90% market share and tie ups with giants such as Marvell, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung, ST Ericsson, Texas Instruments and even Apple.

Intel’s reaction to ARM came late through the Atom series and platforms Menlow (its first attempt at a processor platform) and Moorestown (the latest one). Moorestown for all that its worth doesnot include design wins in high volume device categories and is thus unlikely to reach high volume products globally. Thus the appeal for Moorestown is rather limited and can at best be Intel’s “opening the door” or “beach-head” in the mobile devices computing space. It will possibly get the smartphone game started for Intel and cement relationships with tier one device manufacturers. The Moorestown platform will also be important from the perspective of joint development exercises such as Meego and Android based products.The next evolutionary step of Intel, called the Medfield will possibly be the best solution for the advanced mobility devices which thus will take Intel’s fight to ARM.

On the other hand, ARM is gaining from strength to strength. First a 90% Monopoly on Mobile and Handheld computing devices and then the partnerships with chip makers such as Nvidia, Qualcomm, Marvell, Samsung, Texas Instruments and Apple. That is some arsenal out there. Not to leave it alone at the markets and their partnerships, ARM is rapidly evolving its platforms to multiple core supports which thus enable very high computing power. This is something that Intel is missing in its arsenal sorely and there is no Intel product in its roadmap which takes the multi-core to higher levels. Thus ARM with its products and technology may exceed Atom based processors in raw computing terms by 2011.Intel thus needs a multi-core architecture plan for Atom processors within this year or risk being out-computed.

What it also means is that ARM will take the threat to Intel’s strong hold i.e Computing devices very effectively. So while Intel tries to enter ARMs market with Moorestown, ARM is planning to invade into Atoms home turf with multicore processors.

The future @ Intel appears to be hinged on its own software on its processors and its partnerships with larger manufacturers. Intel’s acquisition of Wind River (for software, middleware and embedded systems), Meego and Nokia Qt platforms are critical to Intel’s success even with a less advantageous Moorestown for the time being.

Last word: Intel seems to be going the Nokia- Microsoft way who failed to read the winds and were swayed away by the changed that ensued. Intel being Intel however, it will be interesting to watch how it goes from here.

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