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Android overthrows Symbian as the Smartphone King

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on January 31, 2011

Google Inc’s Android dethroned Nokia’s Symbian as the global leader in smartphone software during the last quarter of 2010, ending a reign that began with the birth of the industry a decade ago. With 32.9 million handsets sold globally this last quarter, it has ousted longtime champion Nokia (with 31m) for the title of most popular smartphone OS maker in the world. The toppling of Nokia is no small event, but it is in synch with the fact that Nokia has for the last 5 years done little to excite users with its smartphone range. Nokia has been dragging its feet for literally, and even their newest projects show little promise or originality when compared to their competitors. Google and Apple have eaten Nokia’s cake, and while the latter can still rely on its dumb-phones for a steady source of income, that source is increasingly under threat from Android, and they’re running out of time to make a play for their former lofty position. Nokia is increasingly giving the impression that it no longer listens to its customers or is relying on a bunch of stubborn heads who still think that they will own the biggest chunk of market share in years to come. It has taken Android only 9 quarters to come from base zero to 33 million units.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, 33.3 million smartphones shipped with Android, up from just 4.7 million the year before. Nokia shipped 31 million smartphones, which is up from 23.9 million the year before. Apple is in third with 16.2 million, up from 8.7 million the year before.

The good news for Android does-not end there. With an aggressive push into feature phones, Android is ripe for spreading to the feature-phone market as well. It’s just a matter of time before Android is the default operating system. Nokia’s possible move to Android, which looks to be a move in desperation, is a silent acknowledgement of the fact that Nokia’s leadership is loosing its faith in its old war-horse, Symbian and perhaps the greatest recognition of Android’s strengths.

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We aint seen nothing about Apps Stores says Gartner

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces by Manas Ganguly on January 27, 2011

$15 billion! That’s the total mobile apps pie in 2011. Apple’s App Store helped mobile application downloads soar in 2010. With Google’s Android Market pushing Apple, the growth story could become a little more steeper. The $15 billion number by Gartner, is up 190 percent from $5.2 billion in 2010, and counts both users buying applications and applications generating ad revenue on smartphones and tablet computers. Consumers will download 17.7 billion applications this year, more than doubling from the 8.2 billion downloads installed in 2010.

Gartner expects free downloads will account for 81 percent of total mobile-application-store downloads in 2011. However, users will begin paying for more applications as quality and billing systems are boosted. Gartner claims that Apple accounted for 9 out of 10 apps downloads in 2010. Even with its 10 billion downloads, a 90% share of download is a very implausible number especially because of the growth in Android and GetJar. Apple seems to have mastered the art of attracting developers, organizing content and engaging users throughout the life of the store in order to remain profitable.
In many ways, this is a thumbs down to Google’s Android Marketplace. While Apple’s App Store has set the gold standard for application stores, Android Market is struggling to reduce spammy applications and improve billing options to boost paid application sales.

Gartner also expects media tablets such as Apple’s iPad and Android-based tablets, RIM’s PlayBook and other devices to drive more downloads from consumers.

With such huge growth numbers, the mobile-application market is beyond just a passing fad as many initially expected it to be. Gartner forecasts that, by 2014, 185 billion applications will be downloaded from online stores such as Apple’s App Store, Android Market, Nokia’s Ovi Store, Research In Motion’s App World, Microsoft Marketplace and Samsung Apps. Gartner also said Apple’s App Store will remain the best-selling store through 2014, although to a lesser extent, as the Android Market and other shops gain momentum. Revenue from mobile apps on stores will grow by 1000% over the next 3 years and reach a staggering $58 billion.

However, Gartner also remarked that Applications will have to grow up and deliver a superior experience to the one that a web-based app will be able to deliver. Native apps will survive the web enhancements only when they provide a more personal and richer experience to the ‘vanilla’ experience that a web-based app will deliver.

Kinect:Microsoft’s latest billion dollar baby.Technophiles/ Developers latest crush

Posted in New Technologies by Manas Ganguly on January 25, 2011

Kinect is not only one of the best things that has happened to Microsoft after a long time, it also possibly is the most remarkable product after iPhone and iPad. Apart from its impressive numbers, Kinect’s real success is in terms of being able to initiate innovation amongst developers. While Microsoft was initially against tampering of the hardware, the quality of the results that are coming in has forced it to tamper down its strict approach to tampering and jailbreaking.

Its been a long time, and a real long one at that since we heard something very positive and very good from the Microsoft stable. Microsoft has taken a lot of heat for its inability to innovate, but Kinect has proved that Microsoft is still in the game. The controller-free system for the Xbox 360 received almost universally glowing reviews and shipped 8 million units in the first quarter, making it one of the fastest selling tech product debuts in history. It also debuts fastest in the Microsoft $1 billion businesses. At $150 selling price and $59 BOM cost, Kinect is surely raking both margins and volumes.

While this is debatable, the initial inspiration came from Nintendo Wii, whose motion sensitive controller had made gaming more interactive. The idea was to get rid of the controller. Microsoft bought in a few key technologies from external companies mostly in the field of 3D imaging a human-motion sensing camera. With a start as brilliant as 8 million devices, the Kinect has evoked widespread anticipation, excitement and response amongst technolophiles. Kinect’s combination of sophisticated sensors and affordable price are opening up new possibilities for technophiles working in art, filmmaking, robotics and music. What perhaps is the greatest endorsement to Kinect’s abilities is that within a few days after launch it inspired a communal effort at hacking the software and use the Kinect hardware with PCs and other devices with free, open source code. This was called OpenKinect. As a result, the Kinect has already been used in countless ways its creators never anticipated. Within a quarter OpenKinect had 1650 people registered working as a part of open community innovating on Kinect.

Microsoft was initially skeptical. Perhaps recognizing the value of this innovation, Microsoft has since backed off their strict anti-tampering stance, even going so far as to have spokespeople appearing on the Science Friday podcast say that the port being used to connect the Kinect to PCs was “left open by design.”

Kinect was an extension of the NUI project.This Natural User Interface technology, or NUI, is already present on smart phones and tablets that feature multi-touch, pinch-to-zoom and other intuitive gesture-based control systems, but could be expanded to replace the television remote, the mouse and keyboard, and to introduce technology into new avenues of life.

Here are an assortment of the OpenKinect innovations on the Kinect platform:

Kinect Open Gravity

Kinect Illuminous

Kinect Depth Sculpting Probe

Kinect Keyboard Anywhere

Apple’s social layer: Come alive in iOS5?

Ping was Apple’s first effort at get a Facebook like network of users going for itself and it depended on its Music streaming services from the cloud, which was led by its acquisition of Lala. However Ping hasn’t really taken off inspite of the success of the iPad, iPhone and now the Apple TV. So, this time around Apple reloads its effort at Social Networking and in full measure. By full measure, I only mean that Apple is not just depending on Music streaming services from the cloud, it is putting a social layer in iOS 5.0. Expect a few vestiges of this service to surface in iOS 4.3 which should be round the corner. Essentially the dots that Apple would be joining to showcase this layer is as follows:

1. “Find my Friends” service which should be an integration of the phonebook and maps. Apple also has a patent on something called the iGroups, which should in a lot of measures be close to Facebook
2. The iOS 4.3 Beta release showcases the Media Stream service which in its present version is limited to Photo Streams only! Knowing Apple iOS 5.0 would integrate Video Streaming/ Sharing and Music Sharing/Streaming. Out here, Apple has Lala’s expertise for the Music bit.
3. Thirdly, it is expected that all or a significant bit of Apple’s social services will be cloud based. Thus the experience is customized for the user. Apple calls this the MobileMe- a users personalized experiences hosted and streamed from the crowd across all Apple devices.

Putting all these services in a single Interface is where Apple’s legendary prowess with interfaces could really make the experience out of this world. Apple has a reference from the Kin Studio which does all the above listed and More. Microsoft may have dropped Kin, but Apple could take a leaf from Kin’s book to deliver outstanding social networking experience across devices and services. Lets hope to see the Apple magic soon.

Indian Telecom Story (Part XXXVII): Overcoming MNP blues!

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on January 23, 2011

In a post some days back, i had discussed the impact of Mobile Number Portability on the Indian Telecom Operators. MNP has occupied a lot of mind space of Telecom reports, discussions and blogs over the last few days.

Impact of MNP on postpaid subscribers could be an industry-wide game changer.Marketing costs of retention of subscribers could rise gradually. Higher spends on service retention, deep discounts, near-term increase in S&M (sales and marketing) costs, network expenses and other investments could risk Telco profitabilities by 5-8%!

How does an operator optimize his investments into building a better customer service and brand-engagement? Here are a few direction pointers:

1. Process optimization based on lessons from FMCG, retail and banking industries would lead to reducing turnaround times and provisioning errors.
2. Complaint handling and document management procedures can also be enhanced.
3. Operators would need to devise holistic strategies to build ‘best-in-class’ customer services. This can be enhanced by a greater insight into subscribers and their points of engagement with the company. Outsourced operations that have customer-centric activity will be re-looked at with a renewed vigor.
4. Marketing analytics of cluster and segment subscribers based on the usage and demographic patterns can lead to a critical insight into behavioral patterns.
5. Predictive analytics can ensure a better engagement with promotions and schemes.If subscribers are broadly divided on the basis of profile or occupation, each of them is likely to have different levels of affinity to exercise portability.
6. The perception of true value, beyond the traditional freebies and promotional services, would make the subscriber more willing to remain loyal to their service providers.
7. Subscriber points of engagement would be better analyzed, quality service level differentiation better implemented and marketed.

Facebook subscribers clocking 104% CAGR

Posted in Uncategorized by Manas Ganguly on January 23, 2011

I had a blog very recently post a blog about Facebook’s amazing run in the recent times. $50 billion (or $70 billion) valuation and more, Facebook is blazing. Interestingly, FB has not been very vocal about its subscribers over the lst quarter or so. The rumor is that FB has hot 600 million subscribers. From August 2008 to December 2010, the journey from 100 million to 600 million has happened at a magnificient 104% CAGR! Imagine an investment that grows double every year!

Heres a graphic on the rise of FB subscriber numbers!

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Blackberry: Past Perfect, Present Tense, Future Unsure (Part III)

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on January 23, 2011

Continued from Earlier post.

Contemporary OS and interface apart, BB has another couple of things to be worried about majorly in 2011. The lack of a 4G Handset to complement 4G launches happening across operators in US and the handicaps in Playbook, its tablet.

The problem for BB doesnot just stop at the BlackBerry smartphone platform, their OS quagmire and how it competes with Droids and iPhones. While iPhone 4 and Droids/EVOs exhibit capability of 4G which would hence complement the LTE rolls outs that operators are investing in, LTE Blackberry phone is still in a very early development process. Lack of an imminent BB LTE offering in 4G space, which is expected to drive enterprise business and adoption could provide the opening for the Androids and iPhones to penetrate such markets and get a head start over BB.

BB’s most interesting product today is the Playbook Tablet. It generated a huge amount of interest in the CES and as a first attempt Playbook is super impressive and QNX makes the cut. However, the Playbook also has a few challenges that could play spoiler
• The current SDK doesnot do a lot of developer stuff. Hence developers would have to wait for a date closer to launch for platform readiness. That delays the developer bit.
• Secondly, the Playbook would launch after the launch of Android 3.0 and iPad 2, both second generation tablets which means more refined behavior and lesser glitches.
• Thirdly, it doesn’t help that the PlayBook absolutely requires a BlackBerry to be wirelessly tethered to it in order to do native enterprise email. A BlackBerry smartphone tethered to the PlayBook for required email support is practically a boat anchor.

RIM’s challenge now is to keep delivering on the needs of the enterprise while at the same time packing the BlackBerry with the sexiest features that will truly drive end-user interest. If it doesn’t do this well, RIM is likely to lose share and ultimately become no more than a footnote in the mobile market that it helped create and define a decade ago.

The leader in the US smartphone space is now trailing the challengers by a heavy distance and worse, it doesnot seem to have its act under control from a future perspective. From the early signs, RIM and the BlackBerry due for some bumpy weather in 2011

Google Chrome, Cloud and the new laptops

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, The cloud and the open source by Manas Ganguly on January 22, 2011

Google has been mulling as to how it extends the Chrome browser into a full operating system. A month back, Chrome started shipping a first run of test units so that developers, reporters and analysts could begin to evaluate Google’s efforts. Chrome is part of one of Google’s efforts to develop an operating system for laptops that does just about everything inside a browser window. To put it the other way around the computing experience shifts into the browser and the OS shifts the clouds. Netbooks using the Chrome will not require large 160 GB hard drives since all the OS functionalities and the data is moved into the cloud.

The idea of network computers that deliver all their functionality from somewhere other than the hard drive has been around for more than a decade. Sun and Oracle tried to jump start the market, but it is the power of the clouds, Google and HTML5 which would make this network computing OS a reality. The question is whether Google has created a new environment that will challenge more traditional PC operating systems such as Mac OS and Windows, or whether Chrome will be the latest challenger that ends up with niche success at best.

Booting Chrome OS takes about 15 seconds, and resuming from sleep takes about a second. (We have Apple’s latest MacBookAir performing the same trick with élan)

The magic of HTML5 means there’s a plethora of apps in Google’s Chrome store that work well.
However, its the simplicity of Chrome OS that could make it powerful. Imagine logging on to any computer in the world with your Google account and seeing exactly your own home-screen. This kind of a computing experience has a lot of appeal.
Google is clearly envisioning a future where more and more value for more and more users can be delivered via the Web in a way that makes it all easier to use and manage. While, Chrome OS notebooks aren’t going to take over the market anytime soon, but this platform is going to push things forward as businesses look to simplify the computing platforms they support. The trend that Chrome OS represents will only accelerate as more HTML5 apps deliver richer experiences over time.

Blackberry: Past Perfect, Present Tense, Future Unsure (Part II)

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on January 22, 2011

While the earlier post, was a study in factors that led to the slide in BB, this post examines the efforts made by BB towards a more consumer centric product approach.

While Torch was BB’s best effort till date at consumers, BB’s consumer technology compares poorly to other companies’ end-user-focused devices. RIM’s application marketplace trails Android and iOS by several orders of magnitude, and the overall consumer experience is far less polished than the competition.

RIM must find ways to evolve its platform to be more competitive with changing user needs. While recent acquisitions show that RIM is slowly picking up some of the parts that it needs, such as a new kernel and better Web technology, it will need to accelerate the process of integrating those features into a new operating system — as well as a more coherent marketing campaign to better explain RIM’s offerings. To that extent, the QNX OS that BB has introduced in its Playbook tablet is somewhat at par with the expectations in the market. It had to be because tablets are quintessential consumer devices. BB stepping into this space may give the category some shades of enterprise.

Ideally, RIM needs to transition to a new platform entirely rather than attempt to evolve its current offerings. If a modern platform suddenly became available for sale that RIM could use to leverage its core strength, while providing new features, it would be wise to become a bidder. Otherwise, the BlackBerry might become a bit of nostalgia, eclipsed by later entries that were more capable for today’s growing needs. The leaked out features and specs of the 2011 Blackberry, which include the Bold 3 and the Torch 2 have been pretty average on specs and BB 6.0 OS has not really taken the thunder out of the iOS and Android numbers.

Specs: BB Torch 2

Blackberry Storm 3 Spec and Images

Blackberry Storm 3 Spec and Images

Microsoft’s connected Living Room experience

Posted in TV and Digital Entertainment by Manas Ganguly on January 22, 2011

One central console to control content, media and entertainment at home: That has been what the Windows Media Centre along with the Windows Embedded Standard 7 OS is out to deliver to the markets.

Windows Media Centre allows turning TV tuner-equipped PCs into versatile DVRs (digital video recorders) with online program guides, burns some content to DVD, syncs media with various portable devices, and streams recorded content to the Xbox 360 and other Media Extender devices, among other features. That in effect defines the Connected Living Room experience. Inspite of the richness of Windows Media centre, HTPCs (home theater PCs) have been complex, appealing only to hardcore hobbyists. They’ve also been too expensive for service providers to consider supplying them to their customers.

Microsoft has also been lining up its set of partners for the delivery of Connected Living Room experience: Acer (Gateway), Evolve, Haier, Prime Time, and Reycom.

Stating a company release:
These devices work with Microsoft technology such as Windows Phone 7 and Windows Home Server to create a media experience that delivers more than the sum of its parts. By using connected media devices built on Microsoft products together, consumers will be able to merge multimedia content from various sources and locations such as the Internet and broadcast TV, social media portals, and personal libraries of photos, music and videos. All of this content comes together in a centralized entertainment hub that’s accessible by other Windows powered devices throughout the networked home.

The good part of this story is that the experience delivery at this time depends upon the ability of the hardware and the software to do specific things and do them the way they are designed to do. Microsoft has been making embedded software for a long time and they are good at it. Microsoft ported its Media Center software to the latest embedded version of Windows and is giving hardware partners the chance to build a DVR without spending all the big bucks on developing software. The bad news is that embedded also means restrictions, and while some are sure to hack their way to more functionality, it won’t be as easy. The inability to install one’s favorite codec isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, and installing software to automatically skip commercials is almost certainly a no go.

The other good news for Microsoft and this arrangement is that content owners such as Netflix, VUDU, Blockbuster, cable video-on-demand have all been available to embedded devices for some time.

It is an age of embedded devices with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verzion and DirecTV showing their content capabilities across a range of embedded connected devices. So embedded devices and the eco-system that is backing it up doesn’t just mean stability and affordability, it can also mean content.

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