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Summarizing 2011 for Indian telecom

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on December 25, 2011

2011 is perhaps Indian telecom’s biggest year yet with launch of 3G services, mobile number portability implementation and 175 million new mobile phone subscribers in 10 months, taking the total subscriber base to 881 million.

However there have been challenges for the Indian telecom businesses-

1. 93 percent of users are low-spending pre-paid users
2. A low ARPU together with high energy costs for the diesel backup for a half-million towers, it’s a struggle for margins.
3. 3G licenses have come at a very heavy cost and the impact is in terms of cash strapped operations for many Telcos. The government made a lot of money and squandered off a little more, but that is a different story.
4. Inspite of huge investments on 3G, Poor user experience and a lack of content failed to draw users, killing all operator hopes of recovering that money.
5. Mobile number portability: 25 million users applied to switch operators while retaining their number, with 2.5 million requests pouring in each month. The churn is also taking its toll as Operators are responding with tariff cuts and deals.

A few future defining trends also shaped up in 2011 as markets evolved, matured and consolidated:

1. 2011 is possibly the year, when the Indian Telecom Industry moved up from a entry to a replacement market. The new sub adds plummeted to 6-7 million per month as against an average of 15-20 million activations in 2010.
2. Data emerges the hero as Telecom starts evolving from a some-what voice centric industry. 2011 should herald the decade of data for India with preliminary 3G and EVDO Rev. B launches. LTE is round the corner.
3. New classes of devices such as Smartphones and Tablets in the entry level with advanced OSs and application capabilities widen the consumer choice as well as the experience. Low cost Androidss are driving smartphone adoption rapidly across in ~$80 price segments
4. Tariffs bottoming out, Indian Telcos look for the next springwell of revenue and profits and new revenue models would start to emerge. Operators are looking at various VAS aided business models to augment their margins and profits.
5. The Aakash Tablet (and NotionInk’s Adam before that) established India’s status as a low cost innovator. Going forward with the markets in SE Asia and Africa being key to telecom growth, India will feature as a global innovation and R&D centre
6. The government has announced the NTP (National Telecom Policy) which is a proactive step in terms of defining telecom sector businesses going forward. The industry awaits greater clarity on a few issues such as mergers and acquisitions and we will see things get more clear and better as wel go along.

Android’s patent quagmire (Part II)

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

Continued from an earlier post

Patents: How it could help (Protect) and injure (the not so ready)

The theory of protection because of Collateral damage
A lot of times just the sheer volume of patents [is] sufficient to deter someone from filing suit against you. When you have the potential to get a court order that will exclude a competitor’s product from the marketplace, that is a very powerful thing. Apple and Microsoft both had lots of patents that could potentially do that with respect to the Android products. And unless and until Google is in a position where they have patents to raise those same threats, there’s no reason for Apple and Microsoft to back off. They’re either going to get the products excluded or they’re going to get damages and/or royalties going forward.

Patent as an instrument of Doom
Even more threatening, perhaps, is the specter of rulings preventing Android phones and tablets from either being sold or using certain types of functionality. Apple and Samsung and then Apple and HIC have been at war on Patents with Apple insisting import ban on Samsung on Samsung smartphones and Tablet in certain states.

Making Android uncompetitive
Also what could hurt Google is the fact that the patent holders may choose to impose unreasonable fees for the patents in which case the open source zero cost Android could become uncompetitive in the markets. As long as Android lacks proper patent protection, Microsoft can demand licensing fees from hardware vendors. With a stronger patent portfolio, Google and partners could negotiate cross-licensing deals that don’t require payments. However, the point of these lawsuits is to raise the price of Android so that it is no longer able to compete. If Google and partners have to pay licensing fees, or change functionality due to infringement findings, “then all of a sudden Android is not as strong a competitor.”

Google/Android left its ranks uncovered in its charge for marketshares

Google’s rush into the smartphone market as an outsider “seeking to get to the front ranks” very quickly afforded it little time to build a defensive portfolio or negotiate cross-licensing deals to head off lawsuits. The key for Android will likely be in Motorola’s patent portfolio, when and if Google officially takes ownership of the company. None of this will be positive for Android. If enough of these lawsuits get through in which Android is found to infringe some of these patents, the question is what could Android do. If they could not design around the patents that could be a problem. Analysts bet that Google is hoping that they can design around all these patents, but certainly the infringement cases are a concern.

Apple and Microsoft share a similar approach in patenting technology quickly and frequently, a more common strategy for commercial software than for open source software such as Android.But the use of open source software and a smart, defensive patent strategy are not mutually exclusive. Red Hat, in the enterprise server market, has shown that an open source company can publicly oppose the software patent system while building up a portfolio of its own, offering customers indemnification against lawsuits, settling with patent trolls when a fight wouldn’t be worthwhile, and battling aggressively in other lawsuits when core issues are at stake.

Infographic: The state of Tablets in Enterprise

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Computing, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 23, 2011

Source: Socialcast


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12 Reasons HP`s WebOS Strategy Won`t Work

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 20, 2011

After a long delay that left WebOS in limbo, HP has finally decided what to do with the operating system. According to CEO Meg Whitman, HP will make the operating system open source, effectively giving it a life line and hoping that, with some help from outside developers, it can finally achieve the lofty goals Palm set out for it years ago. But whether or not HP’s decision to make WebOS an open source option for developers is a good one is up for debate. On one hand, it allows the operating system to stay in place, and it keeps people employed, which is fantastic. But on the other hand, HP had several other options available to it to make the best move possible with WebOS. And by the look of things, the company didn’t necessarily follow the right path with its decision. Here’s a look at why HP’s WebOS strategy won’t work, and why making the operating system open source could finally be the last nail in the platform’s coffin.

1. Android has the market wrapped up
Why would HP want to go up against Google’s Android platform? That operating system is open source and available to any handset maker. To add another company to the mix against the dominant force in the industry makes, well, absolutely no sense.
Perhaps the most viable recent open-source challenger to Android, MeeGo, managed to find its way onto one phone (the Nokia N9) and one netbook (the ASUS X101) from major manufacturers before being folded up, dusted out and held out to dry.

2. Consumers are just starting to use Touchpads
Why would HP want to go up against Google’s Android platform? That operating system is open source and available to any handset maker. To add another company to the mix against the dominant force in the industry makes, well, absolutely no sense.

3. Many Mobile Vendors are competitors
A key component in HP’s open-source strategy is making sure WebOS runs on devices made by other companies. The only trouble is, many of those other firms, including Dell, Acer, Asus, and others, are HP competitors in the PC market. It’s doubtful those firms will want to help HP.

4.Microsoft and Patent Lawsuits
At the same time, Microsoft has been trying dismantle other operating systems in mobile. On the Android front, it’s bringing patent-infringement claims against vendors. Now that WebOS is open source, HP could get caught up in the costly patent-infringement lawsuits impacting the mobile market right now. And that simply isn’t worth it.

5.It is viewed as a looser
The issue for HP is that even if the operating system lives on and other device makers offer it in their products, consumers still view the platform as a loser. So, when future devices hit store shelves, the chances of them succeeding seem awfully slim.

6. Apple has the best model, when it works
Admittedly, HP’s initial decision to sell its own products running an operating system that only it controlled was a good one. Apple has proven that controlling all aspects of a mobile device — software and hardware — is best for those who want a worthwhile user experience. And yet, HP has turned its back on that.

7. HP is confusing consumers
HP CEO Meg Whitman says that there is still a possibility that her company will launch new tablets in the coming years. Huh? Didn’t HP just get out of the mobile hardware business altogether? (That did sound Like McDonalds wanting to shunt out the Burger business!) The company doesn’t seem to have its entire strategy in place just yet. So, to make the decision now to turn WebOS open source might not have been the best idea.

8. Investors Hate the Idea
Shareholders like certainty. They also like to know that management understands the nature of the markets the company operates in and can make solid decisions based off that. But by making WebOS open source and basically swallowing the $1.2 billion HP bought Palm for, shareholders have seen hardly any return on that investment. And they’re not happy about it. For the record, HP has knocked of 50% of its m-cap owing to Lee Apothekar’s monkey act with WebOS.

9. It could have been a Windows alternative
Before HP made the decision to make WebOS open source, the company said that it would consider bringing the operating system to PCs and servers. The move seemed like a good one, since it could potentially move HP away from reliance on Windows at some point in the future. That plan has been tossed out, and the company no longer has an operating system it can use to differentiate its products.

10.Is it really necessary?
When it’s all said and done, HP must ask itself if another mobile operating system is really needed. Android and iOS own four-fifths of the market, and there is a good chance that could only grow next year. WebOS, meanwhile, is left to pick up the scraps. Is that really what HP wants? Furthermore, does HP really think making WebOS open source can change that? WebOS is little more than an also-ran. And it’s about time HP realizes that.

11. The Platform is missing all action till 2013. Guess what by that kind of time, it would be dead
HP itself says that it may not enter the webOS device market again until 2013 and we’ve seen no public statements from other major device makers champing at the bit to build devices based on the software, at least not in its current state.

12. HP- an ecosystem manager? Nah!
One of the challenges that HP faced with webOS was that it had never been at the center of an ecosystem trying to build a developer base for a consumer operating system. Likewise, though, it has never been at the center of a major open source project, which involves managing not only internal development constituencies but external ones as well.

Perhaps the biggest question, though, lies not in whether HP and the open source community can execute on making webOS a stronger competitor, but whether anything can carve out turf between the iOS monolith and the Android skyline. So far, such ground has not proven fertile in the mobile OS turnaround attempts of Microsoft and RIM. However, as mobile devices, particularly tablets, take on more PC-like tasks, there is the highly successful example of Windows on the PC to pursue, the very offering that HP — and many other companies — won’t hesitate to embrace in future tablet generations before revisiting webOS..

Reproduced from an article by Don Reisinger

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Q3, 2011 State of Indian Mobile Phone and Smartphone markets: IDC

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on December 19, 2011

1. Indian Mobile markets on a growth curve. Year-on-year, shipment growth of 13.8%.
2. Q3, 2011 Indian mobile phone market grew by 12% in units shipped, over the previous quarter (Q2,2011), to clock 47.07 million units.
3. Nokia had 31.8% of the mobile phones shipment share in the Q3, 2011 followed by Samsung at 17.5%
4. Dual-SIM handset shipments notably with a sequential growth of 25.2% over the previous quarter
5. India Smartphones shipments for Q3, 2011 show an impressive growth of 21.4% over previous quarter Q2,2011 & 51.5% year-on-year
6. Android on a roll in India: Android saw a growth of 90% over the previous quarter
7. Android overtook Symbian to emerge as the top Smartphone platform in India for the first time.Garners 42.4% of the Smartphone market
8. In the Smartphone segment, #Nokia led with ODM shipment share with 35.3%, but Samsung came closer at 26%.
9. Apple iOS consolidates in Indian markets, with a 3.09% share of the Smartphone market, compared to 2.6% in Q2 2011
10. Smartphone contribution to the mobile phone shipment in India increases to 6.5% in Q3, 2011 from 5.6% in Q2, 2010

Android’s patent quagmire (Part I)

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 18, 2011

RELENTLESS ASSAULT! Android faces the spectre of being under seige under continuous patent lawsuits filed in by rivals from Oracle to Apple , Microsoft and BT. After taking the smartphone sphere by a storm and garnering 50% and more market share , Android mobile OS is stumbling through a legal minefield. It does appear that in a tearing hurry to address markets, Google didnot read through the legal fine print.

About 40 different lawsuits have been filed against Google and its partners for various intellectual property issues relating to the Android. Many of these lawsuits stem from non-practicing entities (aka patent trolls), but several of these lawsuits come from large competitors. There is basically no way to build a smartphone that doesn’t infringe on someone else’s patents, either knowingly or unknowingly, because there are simply too many of them, intellectual property experts say. What a company must do is prevent any obvious infringements in areas that are essential to the platform’s functionality, and amass a patent portfolio so large that lawsuits can be met with something more than empty words. Basically it’s all-out war and you come to the war with your stacks of patents, and Google didn’t have as much as the other companies. That’s why it’s being hurt today.

With Android becoming mainstream before Google amassed enough patents to protect it, the company tried to solve the problem by waving money at it. Google’s attempts to buy the patent portfolio from bankrupt Nortel failed, with a consortium including Apple, Microsoft, and RIM putting together the winning package of $4.5 billion. Stymied, Google decided to buy Motorola Mobility and its portfolio of 17,000 patents worldwide, for a premium price of $12.5 billion.

Plain and simple, Google didnot see the patents storm coming and was grossly underprepared for the legal minefield. Desperate times call for desperate moves and Google tried acquiring the Nortel portfolio of patents for $4.5bln and ultimately ended up acquiring Motorola Mobility’s patent set for $12.5 bln. Many believe the price was a stretch.Pending the regulatory approval, the Motorola portfolio has at least 18 key patents for Google, covering location services, antenna designs, e-mail transmission, touchscreen motions, application management, and 3G wireless.

To be concluded

Has Microsoft lost out on its Tablet opportunity? (Part II)

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Computing, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 16, 2011

Continued from an earlier post

In the earlier post i have examined 2 reasons why Microsoft’s bet on its legacy enterprise solutions is not a surefire formula to success in next generation computing devices. In this post, we examine the other 2 reasons: Applications and Pricing as two other deterents to the success of Microsft in Tablet space.

The mastery in Apps…
Windows 8 is the Microsoft’s most important bet ever. However, Windows 8 is only a tablet on the surface — there’s no guarantee that app makers will jump on board to create great touch-enabled apps as they have for the iPad.
Microsoft has pushed its own proprietary developer platforms like .NET and Silverlight. The main programming environment for the Tablet UI — is going to be HTML5 and JavaScript. This is a conflict situation around Windows 8 which Microsoft needs to clarify for the developers to think, plan and work with the platform.

Android and Apple have moved in on application development, and even enterprise use, areas where Microsoft with its cadre of developers should have been reigning supreme.

The Pricing Conundrum
The upcoming tablets running Windows 8 are being squeezed between low-cost tablets from Amazon and the $500 iPad with its well-established ecosystem.

On the low end, Amazon and Barnes & Noble can sell tablets as a loss-leader that get users to buy more digital content. Microsoft can’t compete there because it simply sells the operating system and its hardware partners won’t be willing to match Amazon’s price because they have no services on which to make money.

Microsoft’s fee for Windows 8 tablet version will be $30+. If that is true, right off the bat, the bill of materials costs of Windows 8 tablets will most likely force prices much higher than today’s low-end iPad. If Apple starts lowering its prices in 2013, as I suspect it will, Windows 8 tablets would be at premium pricing. Microsoft’s PC partners simply might not be able to make the kind of tablet hardware that captures users’ attentions and wallets as the iPad has done.

Summarizing the scenario… slow development and delivery schedule isn’t Microsoft’s only problem- iPad’s move into office productivity, consumer interest in Android tablets, pricing of the tablets (at least versus Android) and the level of OEM support for Windows tablets may be affecting consumer interest.

Has Microsoft lost out on its Tablet opportunity? (Part I)

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Computing, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 14, 2011

In Q1 of this year, when Forrester asked consumers considering buying a tablet which operating system they would prefer on the device, 46 percent said Microsoft/Windows. Now that number has now dropped to 25% — a decline Forrester said should be “alarming to Microsoft.”

Windows 8 tablets are expected to come to market starting in the fall of 2012.However, I would believe that Microsoft is taking too long to bring its Windows8 tablet, a true iPad competitor to market. While it is widely believed that technology, interface and devices would be a three horse race, Forrester believes that Microsoft may have missed the peak of consumer desire for a product they haven’t yet released. Microsoft hasnot quite been a fast follower. It is at best the 5th mover after iPad, Android, HP WebOS and Blackberry Playbook. While Windows’ product strategists can learn from these products, other players have come a long way in executing and refining their products — Apple, Samsung, and others have already launched second-generation products and will likely be into their third generation by the time Windows 8 launches.

At the high end, by the time Windows 8 tablets come out in late 2012, the iPad will have been on the market for more than 2 years, and will have an enormous head start in terms of apps and hardware peripherals. Also, in air are rumours that Apple iPad is readying a 7” tablet at significantly lower proces which would be instrumental in taking the battle to low end Amazon tablets of the world.

The ace that is not to be…
I had blogged sometime back about how Microsoft could move in through a differentiation perspective from iPads and Android tablets by focusing more on office productivity and gaming. However, Microsoft might be overestimating that business users would prefer the ability to run legacy apps (especially Microsoft Office) and that would in turn would provide traction. Condequently, Microsoft tried to get their sales force to emphasize the enterprise shortcomings (like lack of security) of the iPad when selling against it. Windows 7 wasn’t a touch-centric operating system and Windows tablets to date have been pricey, heavy and lacking good battery life.

..And Why the Office wont work
Microsoft had tablets for many, many years. And Microsoft Office had always run on them. Office has been available on Microsoft tablets for almost a decade, and it didn’t help those tablets sell .That was not a selling case for tablets (The experience factor). Plus, it’s not even clear that the next version of Office will be fully revamped for touch. Thus, Microsoft and its partners won’t have time to redesign Office for a superlative touch based experience and other applications to work with the new Windows 8 interface. So customers will see tablets with a great touch interface on top and garbage underneath.

As Robert Scobble puts it, “It (Windows) (would) really look beautiful on top, but you (user) start touching it and go deeper and it looks crap inside.”

to be concluded

Carrier IQ and the Surveillance state

Posted in Uncategorized by Manas Ganguly on December 12, 2011

During a recent speech to delivered at the City University in London, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said that most smartphones can be hacked remotely with ease. “Who here has an iPhone? Who here has a BlackBerry? Who here uses Gmail? Well, you’re all screwed,” Assange said during his talk, which followed the release of 287 documents related to mass surveillance. Assange explained to the crowd that more than 150 private organizations in 25 countries can easily track phones and intercept messages, browsing history, email accounts, phone calls and more remotely.

Carrier IQ refers to a suite of what can seemingly be described as spyware pre-installed on a wide range of devices by both carriers and vendors. Carrier IQ was conceptualized by Telecom carriers to understand what problems customers were having with networks or devices for action to improve service quality. It is used to collect information to understand the customer experience with devices on networks and to devise solutions to use and connection problems. The IQ tool was not allowed to look at the contents of messages, photos, videos, etc (as a moral responsibility). Carrier IQ is marketed as an analytics tool for mobile telcos, this software claims to exist to ensure good network performance.

However, a recent research published by security expert Trevor Eckhart pulled back the veil on Carrier IQ. Carrier IQ (CIQ) sells rootkit software included on many US handsets sold on Sprint, Verizon and more. Devices supported include Apple iOS devices, Androids, Blackberries, Nokias, Tablet devices and more. Rootkit is defined as software that enables access to a device unbeknown to the device’s owner. Carrier IQ defines its own solutions as “Mobile Service Intelligence solutions that have revolutionized the way mobile operators and device vendors gather and manage information from end users.” Eckhart estimates that Carrier IQ’s software is currently installed on more than 141 million handsets, and that was before references were found in Apple’s iOS software

Shortly after, Wikipedia in its report “the reality of the international surveillance industry” elaborated CIQ technology to spy mobile users across US, Canada, UK, Australia and several of the regimes in North Africa and the Middle East. The Carrier IQ technology has been used in Bahrain to track human rights activists. The malware reportedly can “record every use, movement and even sights and sounds of the room [a phone] is in.” The Wikileaks documents are particularly compelling given the recent revelation that millions of smartphones have spyware called Carrier IQ installed, an application that is capable of allowing wireless carriers to spy on their customers.

It is likely still too early to panic, however. Despite the extensive coverage this story has garnered across tech blogs and in the media, it remains unclear exactly what Carrier IQ and its clients are doing with this data. It isn’t even clear what data carriers have access to. Carrier IQ software on Android devices can log anything from usage data and location to key strokes and usage habits, but it has not been determined that this data is sent to carriers regularly or at all. Carrier IQ’s software can theoretically be used as a window through which carriers can spy on users in real-time if they so choose, but whether or not the software is used in this manner is also unclear.

But, as Assange rightly points out, the interception of this data will lead society to a “totalitarian surveillance state”, if the spying racket is really what it is about.

Presenting a snapshot of CIQ related statements issued by different handset makers and carriers.

Web 3.0 is here! (And we don’t see it yet!)

Posted in Uncategorized by Manas Ganguly on December 11, 2011

Web 3.0 is here in earnest except that many understand it yet much less seeing it. The equation is akin to the discovery of Web 2.0 which happened in 2006-2008 although it had started earlier in 2002-04 era. Many people did not realize what Web 2.0 was until they were at the height of it. However in all earnestness, capabilities of the Social Web had already been set out years before the peak.

In a very similar manner, Web 3.0 powered by semantic and meta-data is establishing its roots thick and fast and the current businesses are oblivious to its disruptive capabilities. As Internet outgrows search, Semantic is the new key for information search, personalization and delivery all rolled up into a contextual format. A few are investing into understanding and preparation for the onslaught of Web3.0 (Schema.Org by Yahoo, Google and Facebook for instance) and the technologies there-of (HTML5). Also known as Semantic web, the technology promises to transform the web into an ultimately connected experience in which a machine has as much awareness of the content as a human.This is equally if not more significant to the social revolution of web 2.0.

The evolution of Web3.0 is contingent on the technology pervasiveness on three fronts: Use Case, Technology and User Experience.Here is how Semantic Web/Web 3.0 is impacting the three fronts:

Use Cases, Technology evolution and a better user experience- These are the three cornerstones for technology impact and reach. Web 3.0 already qualifies overwhelmingly on this count and its only a case of crossing the chasm sooner or later on Geoffrey Moore’s Timing to market entry paradigm.

Putting it all together, the potential is there for a much larger wave of technological and cultural innovation now, than at the beginning of Web 2.0. Not only is this significant enough to be compared to Web 2.0; its bigger!

Also read
Semantic Web: Internet beyond Search and Social
Semantic Media: Future Happening
Defining the Semantic Web

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