Ronnie05's Blog

Semi Closed mWallets to be mainstream soon (Move over Debit cards!)

Posted in mWallets and mPayments by Manas Ganguly on May 7, 2011

Reserve Bank of India has increased the amount that users can store in their m-wallet (mobile wallet) to Rs 50,000 from current Rs 5000. It has also relaxed the daily transaction limit for this growing segment from Rs.1000 per day to Rs.5000 per day. This brings semi closed m-wallets on par with the other semi-closed prepaid instruments.A semi closed prepaid wallet allows loading of money into a payment instrument, but cannot be used to withdraw money.Semi-closed wallet are prepaid payment instruments that are redeemable at a group of clearly-identified merchant locations/ establishments which contract specifically with the issuer to accept the payment instrument. These instruments do not permit cash withdrawal or redemption by the holder. Essentially, what this implies is that operator subscribers cannot use the ‘currency’ to buy talk time (RBI has mandated that the prepaid currency needs to be kept separate from talk time currency).

The move has come after intense lobbying from banks and other stakeholders like mobile operators, who argued that Rs 5,000 transaction limit is too little to let the m-wallet system grow.Through a notification, RBI has announced the move attributing it to “the potential of such mobile-based prepaid instruments for promoting non-cash based transactions and the interest evinced by non-bank (like Mobile operators) entities in promoting these products”. With this change, the mobile based prepaid payment instruments are being brought on par with other prepaid services, like Itz Cash, Done Card, Beam, Oxigen etc.

RBI, however has set two conditions,on the Mobile wallet transactions:
– These wallets cannot be purchased or reloaded against airtime/talktime. However, they can be used to buy recharges
– These wallets can only be used to allow purchase of goods and services, not person to person transfer of value.

The success of the m-wallet system in the country can be judged by the fact that of the 39 banks, that were granted approval for mobile banking, 34 banks have launched the mobile banking services.On an average, 6.8 lakh transactions amounting to 61 crore in a month are settled through this channel (data point for the month of February 2011 courtesy The Mobile Indian).

As the number of cell phone users is many times more than the number of bank accounts, m-wallets can serve the purpose of enhancing the reach of banking to large sections of the country. M-wallets can also facilitate payment of utility bills including water, electricity, telephone, insurance premiums, cooking gas, etc. But the biggest advantage of mobile banking is that it cuts down on cost of providing banking related services to the customers. For telecom companies as well as banks, mobile banking is the surest way to achieve growth.

Leading mobile operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea have tied up with SBI, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank respectively to offer such facilities to their subscribers.

Q1,2011 Smartphone market shares: Canalys

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on May 5, 2011

1. Smartphones globally have grown by 83% to 101m (In Q1,2011) from 55.2m (In Q1,2010). However the markets have been flat Q1, 2011 over Q4.2011 with sales at 101million.
2. As against an estimated 80-84 million PCs shipped in the quarter, Smartphones have over sold PCs second quarter in succession.
3. Android, Apple and Bada have grown in the flat market whereas Symbian, Blackberry, Windows phones and others have lost footing.

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4. APAC emerges as the largest market for smartphones accounting for 40% of smartphone shipments (inspite of Japan’s poor show due to the earthquake). APAC has doubled its smartphone shipments (37.3 million) with biggest smartphone growths registered in China, South Korea and India.
5. US remained the largest country for smartphone shipments. Apple has substantially extending its lead, achieving a share of 31% device market share and growth of over 150% year on year. Volumes were boosted significantly by shipments of the iPhone 4 with Verizon Wireless. Android remained the leading smart phone platform in the US for the third consecutive quarter, with a 49% share. Growing by well over 200%, HTC became the leading Android vendor in the US and the second-place smart phone vendor in the country overall.

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6. Android emerges as the No.1 OS second quarter in succession and the trend does not look like changing any time soon in the future. Canalys expects Android to grow twice as fast as others in 2011. Android has registered a 35% market share, up by 7.2% against Q4,2010. Overall, Android shipments were helped by strong sales by its vendors including HTC, Samsung, LG, Motorola and Sony Ericsson.
7. Nokia’s lost 15% share points and dropped from 39% smartphone share (with 21.5 mln volumes) in Q1,2010 to 24% in Q1,2011 (with 24mln volumes). Of these 9mln Nokia smartphones were sold alone in China and APAC region shipments contributed for 53% of Nokia global smartphone sales. Nokia sales fell 22% QOQ. Nokia has launched a few Symbian based smartphones which are expected to help Nokia’s smartphone numbers before it gives way into WP7 early next year. Nokia is under considerable strain in the smartphone market as it transitions strategy, platforms and people and that is showing through.
8. Apple with its double operator/ CDMA phone strategy grew 18% over Q4,2010.
9. Blackberry also shared the similar faith as Nokia with the wind being knocked out of its sails and registered a 4% QOQ drop. It returned a 14% market share in Q1, 2011 as against 19% in Q1,2011.
10. Samsung shipped nearly 3.5m phones running its Bada OS – which Canalys says outstripped total shipments of Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS, launched in the fourth quarter of 2010. This shows that there is still room for multiple operating systems, and that vendors can benefit from maintaining control of device development to hit the right markets and price points.

Sony Data breach: User backlash and lessons in security

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on May 4, 2011

The data breach at Sony obviously has left the corporation a bit shaken and stirred and on its part Sony has been trying to make good on the losses both on credibility and services. While, Customers will get complimentary downloads and 30 days of free premium services as a make good, it raises fundamental questions on user-data security. A few questions to be answered in transparency by Sony are

1. Even though, the initial analyses saw that Credit card data wasn’t stolen, what kept Sony waiting for 7 days before they made this event public. The ensuing 7 days did not record any fraudulent activities but then the possibility of frauds in these 7 days were the maximum. All that Sony did was to shut down its Playstation network on learning of the crime which stopped further leaks but did not address lost information adequately.
2. Sony probably did not pay enough attention to security when it was developing the software that runs its network. In the rush to get out innovative new products, security can sometimes take a back seat. Also, New software has errors in it. So they expose code with errors in it to large numbers of people, which is a catastrophe in the making. Sony would have to do with explaining the lack of adequate security in guarding sensitive information.
3. Data storage is categorized into sensitive credit card information which is given higher class of access security versus other details such as name, password, age, gender, family details etc. These layers in security may cause larger ripples in terms of individual email based phishing scams and attacks. ALL USER DATA NEEDS TO BE ACCORDED FORTRESS SECURITY SET UP.
4. The second data breach has reportedly happened from a 2007 out-dated database. If that be the case, the question arises how is out-dated data treated and accorded security. Shouldn’t that be well secured as well?

Sony has been more forthcoming on the security breaches given that bulk of attacks on corporate and governmental computer networks go unreported because victims want to avoid the embarrassment and public scrutiny that come with acknowledging that their systems have been hacked. In many cases companies seek to keep the matter quiet by telling individual customers of the problem without issuing a public statement like the one from Sony this week. For example, 85 percent of some 200 companies in electricity-producing industries said that their networks had been hacked, according to a survey released this month by security software maker McAfee Inc and the non-profit Center for Strategic and International Studies. Yet utilities rarely disclose such attacks. In many cases, intrusions go undetected by the victim company, leaving the firm and its customers completely unaware that criminals have access to their sensitive data.

The hacking of Sony Corp’s PlayStation Network,Sony Online entertainment, Qriosity and has earned a place in the annals of Internet crime. It is one of the biggest online data infiltrations ever and is a sign that the industry may face new threats. It also serves a reminder that as we move into the digital world, we put more and more of our digital identity into the cloud, or digital devices … Security is going to be a tremendously important part of what we do. Payments security is evolving along with intelligent devices, like smartphones and contactless cards, and technologies such as NFC. Security standards and their up gradation is a key component to maintaining data privacy and data integrity.

How safe is user data online? (The Sony episode)

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on May 3, 2011

Julian Assange in an interview some time back alleged Facebook to be the “most appalling spying machine” which exposes private information of over 600 million subscribers to law makers and other national security agencies in a breach of fair rules of user privacy. Inside days of Assange’s interview, we heard from Sony Corp, a leading Durable and Gaming brand about 2 counts of security breaches of its online networks. The first attack on Sony’s play-station video game network and Qriosity online music and film service which happened between 17th-19th April exposed names, addresses, passwords and possibly credit card numbers of its 77 million customers. The second attack (which preceded the first one but was discovered later possibly 16th-17th April) had drilled a hole through Sony Online entertainment network and had compromised credit card data relating to 24.6 million of its consumers and debit card data of around 10,700 more customers in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. Sony in a statement has said that the main credit card database had not been compromised as it is housed in a safe and secure environment.

What saves the day for Sony corp is that second level security data – The three- and four- digit codes are used as a second source of authentication for many online vendors. The network passwords were also protected by a level of security called hash algorithm in which the word users type in is converted on Sony’s servers to a string of characters entirely unrelated to the original password. With passage of time, the value of this stolen information diminishes greatly as banks and users increase security precautions around such credit card data or altogether cancel it. However, hackers may be trying to hijack e-mail accounts by attempting to access ones provided to Sony, and plugging in PSN passwords to see if they were re-used for both, and spear fishing for data through fraudulent emails that contain enough personal information to persuade the victim to let down their defenses, which can be enough to get them to click on a link that downloads malicious software onto their personal computer.

The financial impact of this security incident for Sony depends on how well the company convinces customers it “will make things right”. The outflow for Sony in terms of credit card fraud, network repair and marketing costs is $50 million. The cost of legal suites would add to that figure in some measure. The impact for Credit card majors could be around $500 million. How about user faith and confidence on Sony? The loss of that (in Mastercards’ tag line) is priceless.

WebOS: MIA but a force in reckoning

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on May 2, 2011

Even as iOS, Androids, WP7, Blackberry 7, Symbian and more are engaged in a bloody battle for supremacy in the OS space, Palm-HP’s WebOS, hasn’t really been the feature in any discussion and HP seems content at WebOS’s MIA status. Why would one be concerned with WebOS in the first place? That’s because Fanboys world over have been debating that the WebOS is the true blue competitor to Apple’s iOS in a digitally connected world. How can one compare an iOS that has an installed base of more than 10 million devices and has enabled 10 billion app downloads to a rookie OS which is yet to hit the road. More so, research agencies such as Gartner donot feature the WebOS as a sizeable competitor in forecasts up to 2015.

HP has already launched new generation WebOS products such as HP Veer, Pre 3 and Touchpad. The specs of Pre 3 and Touchpad are frighteningly close to the bests in the competition.

So what might the success factors for WebOS be?
1. WebOS is as optimized as it gets for touch screen devices and was built ground up for touch devices. That puts it beyond the reckoning of Symbian and BB already. This puts it in par with the iOS.
2. WebOS will feature across a cluster of device categories which would include the tablet, smartphone and laptop. (Would loved to have seen TV there as well)
3. Sharp features on the UI such as Cards (instead of home screens) to group apps. Again at par with iOS.
4. The WebOS will be cloud ready at launch and the Synergy feature would automatically back up data on the cloud eliminating the need of a synch.
5. Touchstone features such as bump to share and induction charging would be other differentiators in the pack.

WebOS’s weaknesses
1. Absence of an ecosystem to support the app hungry users. By the time, WebOS surfaces, developers would be more engrossed in Apple, Android and WP7 to cause a crisis of quality apps for WebOS.
2. While Palm has some presence in US, the game is to step it up world over and though HP has the muscle, this may take longer than expected.

The WebOS could be a huge threat to incumbents such as BB and Symbian. Even Android with its issues of fragmentation could feel the challenge from WebOS. With its bells and whistles, WebOS actually closes on the king, iOS and while many have written the WebOS off, it could really be the fight of this decade between WebOS and others going forward. HP needs to get the launch dates and pricing right….

We’re only scratching the surface with the current lot of Smart TVs (Hint: The possibilities are Limitless)

Posted in TV and Digital Entertainment by Manas Ganguly on May 1, 2011

In an earlier post i had blogged about Smart TVs with features such as search and social networking, web browsers, apps, media sharing capabilities, video calling, streaming rich internet media, WiFi and others. However, the argument here was that for everything that the Smart TV does, an iPad does better except perhaps a large screen 3D experience.

Paul Otellini, CEO Intel in an interview some time back stated that we are only scratching the surface in as far as Smart TV is concerned. I second that and i firmly believe that possibilities are limitless. A Skype, Facebook or Twitter integration is really the low hanging fruit here. I am attempting to list out possibilities of internet based Smart TV experience here:

1. The TV could become a Library of media titles which could mean that BBC, Universal, Sony pictures and other such content owners could put thier whole content catalogue up for discovery and purchase by the user.

2. A Smart TV with a 25GB space in the cloud where the user could store all his media and entertainment stuff is another possibilities. Imagine not having to purchase DVDs and Blu-rays of favorite movies and shows. The whole content bit goes digital with the user purchasing media online and putting it in his personal cloud based hard drive. He would also have the option of taking CD back ups mailed to his home. Neat!

3. Related content: A quick index of all web based related content available to the user for detailed and comprehensive updates. An example here: If i am keen to know more on a particular news snippet which BBC is televising, i could immediately check with CNN, ABC, Fox and more on more information on that piece.

4. Media would be consumed across all devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers. It would be interesting if all such media snippets which is being “Favorited” could be sent to my TV cloud for leisure viewing. Remember the You Tube video which you are crazy about, but every time have to search for before viewing. Now one could organize the content into the Smart TV cloud drive for ever.

5. Talking to the source. This one is my favourite part. The idea behind is that if the “smartness” could profile my media patterns and return results more tailored to my tastes. For example, if my media profile shows that i have seen 80% of Man U soccer games, my TV would then provide me information about the next Man U game and better, record it even if i am travelling, so that next time i switch my set on, it would provide me the option of watching the match.

6. Talking to source has other huge IP and privacy related possibilities such as profiled targeted advertisements on user opt-ins.

That would be my higher order list of feature empowerments from the Smart TV. Currently Smart TVs are talking highest features in TV and some integration with Internet. In times to come it would be more about personalized media wraps around users and usages with relevant and customized content: Smart Media?

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