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Cloud Gaming: When Gaming meets the cloud

Posted in Gaming, The cloud and the open source by Manas Ganguly on June 17, 2010

Content Streaming, Music Streaming and if the trend at E3 is to be believed, the world is now headed to Game Streaming. We would call it “Cloud Gaming”

The Gigahertz Microprocessors and the iPads of the world along with Cloud computing could be unveiling the age of “cloud gaming”. Several companies hope using cloud computing to store games will be the real shift by letting gamers play high-end titles anywhere, on almost any machine. A view to “cloud gaming” is that If fully realized, they say, cloud gaming could be a console killer. The need and the idea is to make video game content increasingly free from the restrictions of device and location, while showcasing the ability to instantly play the latest, most advanced games at the touch of a button. Cloud gaming uses rapid data compression to let users store their games “in the cloud” — on Web servers — and then pull them down and play them using a regular Web browser. It’s the same concept as storing photos on a site such as Flickr or music videos on a MySpace page. The user doesn’t actually have those files on any one particular computer but can access them from anywhere. The only thing the user needs is a capable device, a decent browser and an a fast internet connection. The iPAD seems to be a good answer in terms of a capable device.

The Assasins Creed II finds a new home in the cloud

There are a few companies which are making early inroads into the area of “cloud gaming” and some interesting game titles such as Assassins Creed II, “Batman Arkhalam Asylum” and “Mass Effect II” have found new homes in the crowd and more are to follow. Revenues are to be made from subscription services, or pay per play or even in terms of trail gaming before buying the real monty from a store. Microsoft with its Xbox Live network, Sony with its Play Stationplus, Virgin, aggregators like Onlive and Gaikal are early entrants into this new gaming construct.

Batman: Arkhalam Asylum is another blockbuster to go to the cloud

However, not everyone in the tech community is sold just yet on the concept of “cloud gaming”. Some question whether gamers, who presumably already have at least one gaming console, will pony up again for the ability to play their favorite titles from the cloud.Even if it costs less to rent or play a game — and it probably will … Game streaming will have a tough time competing with actual hardware for all but the most dedicated gamers.

Interesting piece and we would be keeping an eye on that.

Guardian’s Open Platform (Part 2): Where’s the money?

Posted in Revenues and Monetization, The cloud and the open source by Manas Ganguly on June 16, 2010

Guardian’s experiment with open source data has proven one thing quite clear that Public data is a growth media for an ecosystem to form. Public data on open source is a nutrient of a whole new eco-system and allow new things to happen. The key to monetization of the open systems in this case is building user centric apps which have a business model.
The applications build on the Guardian Open source platform is divided into three categories mainly differentiated by span of Guardian’s control and the revenue/revenue share model.

So then where is the money?

Guardian’s open platform gives API and Content Developers 3 tiers of access and 3 separate revenue models to choose from:

BESPOKE: Taking, Reformatting, and content augmentation with same access as that of Guardian. Allows custom access for licensing content and integrating rich applications. The revenue is a combination of sponsorship, media, fees, revenue share and downloads.

APPROVED: This involves taking the full Guardian article content, with an advert. Out of this Guardian keeps the ad revenue and the API developer keeps the rest of the page revenue.

KEYLESS: The API developer takes Guardian’s content and keeps part of the associated revenues. Thus there is free access to headlines,data,tags and meta data. There is no key required and partner keeps associated revenue from the page.

What this means for Guardian is that developers are able to access full content APIs on demand from Guardian with keys approved thus making the platform a place to do business with Guardian and engage its scale. Rapid scalability, reliability and performance are the core requirements.

The technology back end running the open source

To assist the developers, Guardian has the Microapps which is a third framework for integrating 3rd party apps into the Guardian platform. The Microapps helps developers integrate their solutions more easily and readily into the Guardian core and evolve the Guardian open platform to be the commercial future of the partners/developers.

Thus the open source platform would be instrumental for Guardian in terms of
• Moving away from content broadcast, and yet keep the growth engines running
• Partner engagement and open source contributions on journalism, data, software, applications, revenue and ads
• It would also support the developers and partners with data and APIs, scalability, reliability and speed.
Guardians enterprising effort build on open source is pretty much on its way to re-define media and thought behind media.

In times to come, media will need to evolve into a two way communication path and Guardian will be referred as a case study, as a pioneer of new media.


Guardian’s Open Platform (Part 1): Coming of Age (Driving Innovation to stay relevant in Media)

Posted in Revenues and Monetization, The cloud and the open source by Manas Ganguly on June 13, 2010

RIP, Print Media!

The proliferation of Digital and Social Media and Google have had an adverse impact on the print media by means of replacement.Communication is two way, immediate and Twitter has now added a dash of “conversation streams” to the news and print.

In this context, Guardian’s effort to move from being just a broadcast publisher to a platform and use content , search and open source to build a new business model around news and media is noteworthy. The transition from news and journalism to news, data, video, audio, content partnerships, innovation, conversation, comments, keywords, podcasts, recommendations, hashtags and live blogs is a case study.The bottomline is about Guardian’s evolution to a platform and not just a publisher.

This platform approach is about changing the perspective from “bringing the data and apps from the internet” to “enabling partners to build applications using proprietary content and services for all digital platforms”. The idea is “experimenting in combining the experience and knowledge of a large media network with experience, opinions and expertise of people who want to participate rather than passively receive content and news”.

Guardian’s open platform is thus its suite of services enabling its partners to build applications with Guardian. The platform has three parts to it:
Content API: A service for collecting and selecting content from the Guardian for re-use

Data store: A directory of useful data curated by Guardian editors.The developers can take this content of the newspaper as the raw material for building new businesses. This raw data is useful in profiling demographics and trends and data catalogues,

Politics API: Database of candidates, voting records, constituencies, election results and live data on election day. The data here is again freely available for use and analysis. Developers innovate on this data and develop interesting tools such as the voter power index for the recent British elections which lets the user know his vote’s woth basis his marginality and constituency size.

Thus Guardian has been making interesting use of Public data to make its own media eco-system and allow “open ssource” innovation to take over.The emerging trends point to change in public participation space aroud public data. Public data can create new economies, improve procurement processes and through evolutionary pressure in the marketplace increase the usability and user centricity of applications that access Government services. Guardian is stepping as a facilitator for consumers of these services to provide an environment where Consumers can get better and access to newer things, mediated by the ingenuity of the developers

Part 2: How the open source makes money?

World Cup 2010: Magnification Social Media Style

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on June 11, 2010

One of my earliest recollections of big sporting event was the Mexican Wave in the 1986 FIFA world cup at Mexico. That was the year of Maradona. 24 years later, its Vuvuzelas inside the stadiums and its Social networks outside it. The magnification effect that social media has on such large scale events is on a mind boggling state.

So far Audiences around the world have been audiences. Now they are playing the games, teams, themselves and others as much as the players are. The Number of fanpages in Facebook, the levels of participation and the frenzy; the Twitter groups, World Cup apps for Smartphones are beginning to come of age and the decibels levels dont seem to abate any soon.

Already the number of tweets weighed Twitter down when the South Africans scored the first goal of FIFA WC 2010. Just to prove point, the equalizer from Mexico also had Twitter down.

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Factors driving mobile internet in India

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on June 10, 2010

Mobility has touched the lives of 50% Indians and with the launch of 3G and enhanced spectrum, the numbers would see a bigger boost. As discussed in an earlier post, India is now going through a Data revolution. More and more people are accessing internet through their mobiles phones. Here are a key factors enabling the spread of Mobile Internet in India.

Proliferation of mobile internet
In 2011, Smartphone search rates are expected to exceed PC search rates of 2007.

In India alone, the GPRS users are estimated at 20 to 25 million, which is also estimated at 40% of desktop Internet users. Over 2009 internet traffic from metros from India grew 2.5X times other global carriers: Nearly half of this traffic was from Mobile phones.

India Smartphone penetration
Data from Admob shows that Internet traffic is mostly based on Feature phones accessing Internet through WAP sites. However, the smartphone penetration is also increasing across the country and 3G compatible devices are breaching the Rs.5000 mark. This provides an opportunity to replacement consumers to buy into higher end devices which have greater internet capability than the earlier devices.

Sample this: The Highest Mobile Traffic Mobile in India is the Nokia 5130/3310, which for most of its life was a 4K device. A user who bought into this device an year ago today has an option of upgrading to a more feature rich-internet enabled smartphone at 5-8K. That is where consumers are beginning to migrate to the internet

New Age Browsers: The start of a platform transition
With the smartphone entry price points close to the 5K, the browsing game now shifts from Mobile WAP browsing to full scale HTML browsing. While the former is optimized for Mobile, uses minimal navigation is quick loading and is without Frills to suit the limiting computing power of the mobile, full HTML browsing offers PC like browsing experience with multiple page support. The browsing experience will be aided by Location, direction and motion sensor, web apps and rich media experience.

Affordability of data plans
Mobile internet is set to surge see a surge as data plans now break down the price barriers and more and more competitors increasingly commoditize the voice revenues streams. A survey by Google puts the entry threshold for mass acceptance of data plans to Rs.100 per month citing that the volume increment in that case is a 5X multiple. As we go along, data revenues will continue spiraling downwards to the point of pay per downloads.

Two cases of Iran in 2007-08 and Algeria in 2008 prove the direct correlation between data plan affordability and surge in Internet traffic numbers.

A combination of the four factors has been and will be the driving force behind India’s Mobile internet growth in the near future.

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Smartphone showdown:The Gap between iPhone and others is reducing fast

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on June 9, 2010

There have been 4 iPhone launches over the last 3 years. Every launch bettered the previous one and put the game way beyond any of the other handset players in the market. iPhone was always a league of its own way above the Blackberrys, Nokias and Samsungs of the world. When the iPhone was launched in 2007 nobody had heard of Android and HTC was one of the usual and ordinary Taiwanese OEMs. Over the last 2 years Android was born and has grown by leaps and bounds. Late in 2009, HTC who was doing the WinMo decided to do the Android for a change. HTC has never looked back ever since and have provided ideal planks for Android releases including Google’s own Nexus One.

The eagerly awaited launch of iPhone 4G in June 2010 saw iPhone sweating it out for it habitual “best” title. The Challenger is HTC EVO 4G, an Android 2.2 powered smartphone which has some cracking and brilliant specs that measure up equal or even better than the iPhone. For Android, which almost got its act together with the Motorola Droid/Milestone (over the iPhone 3GS), the HTC EVO 4G could be the tipping point where it would nudge ahead of the iPhone. (Please note, neither of these two products have been tested and used, and the discussion is basis the specs that have been made available to the techies).

A quick comparison of the HTC EVO 4G versus the iPhone 4G:

The chart above produces a dead heat between the EVO and the iPhone 4G. The factors that weigh in next is AT&T notoriety versus Sprint’s ability to handle the EVO. There are people who would swear by iPhone’s OS and UI capabilities and the Apple Apps store. However, Android is seen to be steadily making improvements towards UI, Graphics and the Android Marketplace is also beginning to show numbers. Opinion is divided on the fact whether the EVO is the proverbial iPhone killer finally. I would say this that, whether or not the EVO is the iPhone killer is not the point. The EVO just proves one point: Apple cannot breathe easy.

Even the wall street acknowledges the competition. While the iPad launch was the reason for Apple stock soaring to No.1 position beating Microsoft, iPhone 4G it seems has not enthused investors as much.

Will iPhone 4G deliver for Apple?

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on June 6, 2010

Ending months of speculation, the fourth version of the Apple iPhone will possibly be unveiled tomorrow by Steve Jobs at San Francisco as a part of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).The iconic iPhone has sold over 50 million units worldwide making it the largest selling phone of all times. The stakes are high at Apple as the iPhone 4G launches. Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, the iPhone never knew a worthy contender. This time however it does. The Android powered Samsung, Moto and HTC are close at heals of the iPhone. The Android 2.2 Froyo has generated a large amount on Interest and the guys at Google are surely turning up the heat on iPhone now that they have crossed the WinMo in terms of OS market shares. Similarly there are reports of the Sprint HTC EVO 4G taking the game to the iPhone after the Moto Droid almost got their in November last year.

The Apple stock is at an all time high making Apple the No 1 Technology company in the world and tomorrow’s event will be a critical decider which way the stock swings. The iPhone 4G must deliver only on an outstanding note to its audiences (Tech Geeks, Developers and Carriers) to push the stock prices northward. The bid for the iPhone 4G is made tougher with the early success of the iPad tablet computer, which many say has already created a new market. Even a optimal level on-par against expectatios iPhone 4G performance may be dampener to the euphoria around the Apple stock. Thus the iPhone 4G will have to really set new standards in multimedia content and function to wow Wall Street and consumers. Longer-term, investors are squarely focused on the iPhone’s spread into international markets including China, Apple’s pricing strategy, and when the device will be available through another US carrier besides AT&T.

Foxconn, makers of the iPhone 4G will ship 4.5 million units in the first half of 2010 and 19.5 million units in the second half of 2010. If the numbers are any pointers, Apple is seeking to storm 8-10% of the smartphone shares only with the iPhone 4G. The 3GS and 3G will add up more to these figures.

For starters, the iPhone 4G will be double the RAM capacity of 3G at 512 MB and will feature a 960*640 resolution screen. That will boost the multitasking bit from Apple and will put it beyond most of the other phones from the Google Android stable. Over and above, analysts would expect price cuts in the the iPhone 3G, all new Mac OS 10.7, refreshes of the aging Mac hardware, Cloud based version of the iTunes courtesy Lala, Wireless Syncing with Free MobileMe, iPad tethering and Video iChat, iPod touch with Camera, Apple TV and a New carrier besides AT&T. With the iPhone 4G, the idea is to take the bar so far beyond Google and its alliances that it takes them a good 8-10 month to catch up.

As Jobs has promised “You won’t be disappointed”. We sure hope that we are not, Mr Jobs.

Mobile Internet: Gaining mainstream acceptance in India

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on June 6, 2010

In a few earlier posts, i had lamented the lack of data traffic focus in TELCOs in India. Given the tariff war, hyper-competition and the near advent of 3G and the necessity to augment voice incomes, TELCOs in India are changing their focus very ostensibly from Voice to Data Traffic. Ad Mob’s mobile ad requests for India is a surrogate measure but then it carries home the point that internet on Mobile is here and here to stay for good.

Over the last 24 months, Internet requests from Mobiles have registered a 220% CAGR in India. The growth percentage is 3X i.e 660% on a four month basis in 2010. Over the last 2 quarters, Indian Telecom Operators have been trying to make a point with data services and the data tarriffs have now breached the Rs.100 per month mark, which is a critical pricing threshold for mass acceptance. With the coming of 3G and Broadband, this number will become self sustaining given the following factors:

1. The high quality content and delivery systems that 3G will provide will increase traffic volumes
2. Increased traffic volumes will bring in economies of scale reducing prices and making Internet more accessible to more people.
3. The strong eco-system that is beginning to take shape with Telcos, OEMs, ODMs, Developers and Consumers will further drive compelling content that will drive data traffic.

The internet and data habit is quickly becoming mainstream and the TELCOs and other VAS players are pleasantly surprised and are hoping for an extended run into this source of revenues.

The growth registered in the last 4 months in India was also forecasted study by Cisco released in February 2010 projected that India has the highest country mobile data traffic growth rate of any country, with a CAGR of 222% from 2009 to 2014. The study says that annual global mobile data traffic will reach 3.6 exabytes per month or an annual run rate of 40 exabytes by 2014. Such a figure equates to a 39-fold increase from 2009 to 2014, or a CAGR of 108%. If AdMob is to be believed, these numbers are happening already. The same survey also concludes that by 2014, more than 400 million of the world’s Internet users will access the network solely through a mobile connection.

The rapid consumer adoption of smart phones, netbooks, e-readers and Web-ready video cameras as well as machine-to-machine applications like eHealth monitoring and asset-tracking systems, is continuing to place unprecedented demands on mobile networks. In spite of the economic downturn, the demand for mobile services has remained high, posing both challenges and opportunities for service providers worldwide.

I shall be exploring the opportunities and challenges that the proliferation of Mobile Internet will be bringing to the Indian context in my next blog.

Associated content: The Indian Internet User
State of Internet in India

Nokia’s low end phones: Return of the prodigy

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on June 3, 2010

Nokia’s high end game may be all but over, but my personal opinion is that it is taking all the right moves to firmly establish itself in the low end markets such as Asia and Africa. These are markets of the future and Nokia’s combination of services and devices is a sound strategy to garner a kings share to itself. Nokia has made email, navigation and music free and most of the users in 3rd world nations will possibly use Nokia’s as their first computer.

Nokia C1 Pics

However, this post isn’t about Nokia’s services. Over the last 2 years, white label Chinese manufacturers had started taking the low end markets away from Nokia with an aggressive feature-price combo. Nokia was seen struggling against dual SIM phones with dirt cheap features and expandable memories.

Nokia C2 Pics

Devices being its core strength, Nokia has finally hit back at the wannabees with its first two dual SIM phones, code named C1 and C2. While the C1 which is priced at 30 Euros and features a FM, Flashlight, 3.5mm headset jack,1.8” screen, possibly a 1000 mAH Battery. For most of it, this phone is handicapped by lack of Expandable T Flash Memory. However the real monty is the C2 with FM, Hot-swappable SIM (access to the second SIM card without opening battery i.e phone running), Memory Expandable upto 32GB, Mp3 Player, Nokia Life Tools, Ovi Mail, VGA Camera, Bluetooth, GPRS, possibly a 1000 mAH Battery at a price tag of EUR 45. At that price the feature combo is a rocker and would help Nokia tide over the low end market share crisis. What’s going to help Nokia is its services portfolio which in times to come will acquire size and scale and will be critical to Nokia’s market share plans.

What can still upset the Nokia’s apple cart is an integrated effort by the handset eco-system: Operators, Handset manufacturers, Mobile Network Enabler and Developer communities.

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Post Release notes on Android 2.2: Froyo (Part III)

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on June 1, 2010

Continuing on the series of posts on Android and its latest OS version 2.2: Froyo. Read the earlier posts here: Part 1 and Part 2. Froyo will feature tethering and WiFi Connection sharing, improvements to the browser and Android market place. Most Importantly Froyo comes with Adobe Flash 10.1. In Android Flash may have a strategic ally to counter the iPhone shunning them.

Froyo also sees the introduction of native support for tethering and connection sharing over Wi-Fi. Android thus is the first platform to introduce native support for portable Wi-Fi hot spots, but operator commitment to the feature will be limited, at least initially. Connection sharing puts extra strain on cellular networks, and many operators will choose to offer the service on condition that users opt for a higher-value data tariff. This scenario supports the thought that US and European markets will shift away from “unlimited” data tariffs toward a tiered structure dictated by usage and potentially even by quality of service in the longer term. The advent of tethering and connection sharing over Wi-Fi may also prompt the advent of tariffs structured according to particular functions or applications.

Of all the new features in Froyo, improvements to the browser arguably have the highest profile. Google claims the browser is the third most-widely used application on Android devices after phone and text messaging functions, meaning it is an ongoing area of focus for the platform. The primary enhancement in Froyo is to the speed at which it interprets JavaScript, through the integration of the same V8 engine as the Chrome PC browser. Google demonstrated Android 2.2, Android 2.1, and the Apple iPad running the SunSpider JavaScript test, in which Android 2.2 substantially outperformed its competitors. Google claims that Android now boasts the mobile industry’s fastest browser.

In Line with Google’s intent of providing a comprehensive browsing experience, Froyo is the first platform to offer native support for Flash Player 10.1 as well as Adobe’s Integrated Runtime (AIR) both of which were demonstrated extensively at Mobile World Congress in February 2010.However, it should be noted that although Android 2.2 supports Flash Player 10.1, hardware requirements dictate that not all Android devices will be compatible.

The final pillar of focus in Froyo is Android Marketplace. Google claims that application usage has far exceeded its expectations, with the average user downloading more than 40 applications. Google has opened up the search function in Froyo to allow developers to “plug into” it, so applications can be easily identified on the device. To this end, the search function now spans the Web, applications and contacts, offering a drop-down menu for users. Applications can also be updated automatically over the air.

However, the next version of Android will see bigger developments to Marketplace. Demonstrations showed over-the-air application downloads to the device controlled from a PC browser, and music also featuring in the Marketplace. This will be supported by Simplify Media, a company recently acquired by Google, which will enable users to stream music and photos between PC and device. This echoes Apple’s purchase of Lala in December 2009, a company similarly focussed on music streaming.

For a point release, Froyo includes an abundance of new features and Google has to be applauded for the speed at which it is innovating and improving the Android platform. However, new features in Froyo and hints of future plans confirm that the rate of innovation and the requirement for new code releases is accelerating rather than slowing down. While the seventh platform release in 18 months is a remarkable achievement and indicative of the value Google is adding, it may also be unsustainable for a large proportion of manufacturers.

The need to keep pace with a vertically integrated player in Apple is a challenge Google relishes but its partners find highly demanding.Most Android manufacturers are struggling to deliver customised user interface layers on top of Android 2.1. With competition increasing and device prices falling, the number of manufacturers will be able to maintain a high level of differentiation on Android will shrink dramatically over the next two years. Many phone-makers will be driven to offer devices with “vanilla” Android or with lightweight customisation that is largely cosmetic. As performance and feature distinctions grow larger between each Android release, manufacturers struggling to keep pace risk becoming uncompetitive.

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