Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Defining the Enterprise Mobility Roadmap

The initial skepticism that the iPhone was a good plaything but was hardly a competitor in the enterprise mobility space boomeranged, as it often happens in the technology world.

The corporates have various hardware options available when it comes to implementing mobile solutions in today's scenario.

The corporates have various hardware options available when it comes to implementing mobile solutions in today's scenario; but as they look to implement or scale up their mobile installations, they feel stuck as certain decisions need to be made.

The choice boils down to have some quick wins with showcase mobile applications to ensure initial momentum with maximum number of users within their organization. During the process they have to keep in mind the changing mobile landscape, so that the applications they develop for today do not get outdated or become redundant as the new devices enter the market.

It is therefore important to understand the dynamics of current Device Market Space.

Evaluating the Current Market Space Nielsen Mobile, formerly Telephia, does most of the service quality monitoring for the operators, so it has much more direct access to mobile usage information than people like IDC and Canalys, the ones usually quoted for smartphone share.

Though they have not covered the Windows Mobile market Share their data illustrate that Palm is constantly heading downward, which is quite noteworthy (but not a news in fact). It's important to note the increasing traction for Apple iPhone in the corporate marketplace even as RIM maintains a big market share lead.

The data is further reinforced from the latest survey results published by ChangeWave Research which measures the market based on the IT purchases of the corporates for the current quarter so far and for the next 90 days going forward. Though Blackberry has been able to retain the interest of corporate smartphone buying, the interest in it has subsided a bit in the last quarter whereas Apple iPhone has been showing a consistent growth in interest for the last two quarters.

This might be an impact of the recent 3G iPhone launch, but what I would like to highlight is the bigger picture of iPhone beginning to gain real traction in the corporate market as well.

The first surprise is that Nielsen shows Apple in fourth place in smartphone share. That’s wildly different from what Canalys, the source usually reported, has been saying. Here’s how they compare for Q4 2007:

The results from Canalys on fourth quarter smartphone sales put the Apple iPhone, which has only been in the market for less than half a year, in the second place behind Research In Motion (RIM) and its BlackBerry for U.S. market share. Given the short time frame, this is pretty amazing, but the iPhone also beat out all of the Microsoft-Windows-Mobile-equipped phones, which came in third place with a 21 percent share of the market.

Please note that the reports from all these sources are quite varied but this is perhaps due to the different approaches they take while measuring the smartphone market share.

Canalys doesn't directly measure market share, it receives self-reported shipment reports from the manufacturers and then adds them up. That means Canalys measures shipments into the channel rather than sales, and it depends on the reliability of the reports from hardware companies.

Nielsen Mobile, on the other hand, is apparently using a mix of survey results and the usage data it gathers from the operators. So its numbers should reflect the actual current usage of phones rather than shipments. If Nielsen is measuring installed base share, rather than share of current sales, that might explain the difference.

The crux of the results is that even today Blackberry leads the preference list followed by Windows Mobile. Palm is declining whereas iPhone is quickly getting the mind share of most of the enterprises.

Ever since the iPhone was released, RIM has been increasing its share even though we had predicted that the iPhone was going to take the smartphone market away from RIM. Instead, at least in the first round of competition, we see what was expected from a segmented market - RIM appeals to a group of customers, Apple appeals to a different group, and both companies do well.

Technology Strategy
Realistically, the enterprises have the following enterprise mobile platform choices available to them:

Near term
*RIM Blackberry
*Microsoft Windows Mobile

Long term
*Apple iPhone

While there are these options as the enterprises look to implement or scale up their mobile installations, some obvious choices have to be made. One of them, particularly for those in larger enterprise environments, very often boils down to deciding between the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), the dominant player in this space, and the rapidly evolving native capability of Microsoft Exchange, typically coupled with Windows Mobile devices.

Let me therefore compare here the two most likely platforms that vie for attention.

RIM vs Microsoft The RIM solution has the twin advantages of maturity and security - it's been around for a long time now and the feedback suggests that compared to lots of other components in the average corporate IT infrastructure, the BES is pretty solid , secure, and robust.

As a natural price to pay for its ubiquity, the BlackBerry solution has suffered from a bit of an image problem in that many regard it as proprietary, closed, limited to just email, and perhaps, representing an unnecessary layer in the messaging architecture when the general view is that mobile access should ideally be a native part of the core email server environment.

That considered, the native Microsoft Exchange proposition looks very attractive - it simplifies the architecture (no third party middleware), reduces the software license burden, and of course as an integral part of something already in place, there is less to worry about in terms of skill sets, coordinating systems administration, and so on.

Device vs Device: There is also the argument that Windows Mobile devices themselves are inherently more capable and more attractive and natural to end users as the interface has some similarities with the Windows desktop, and includes bells and whistles to aid productivity. Of course as others quickly point out, the counter punch to this is that Windows Mobile devices are too cluttered, complex, and distracting, and that the tools and infrastructure required to manage and support them, as well as to administer the mobile messaging relay functionality itself, are relatively immature.

Overall : At 30,000 feet, the picture we see is one of a solution from RIM that is clearly very mature, secure, and robust, having been designed from the outset to meet the needs of large scale deployments, competing against a rapidly evolving solution from Microsoft.

iPhone's Disruptive Influence Around the end of 2007 the market research firms had begun singing the obvious note of how while the iPhone was a good plaything it was hardly a competitor in the enterprise mobility space. The chief reasons cited were lack of enterprise connectivity (read Microsoft Exchange) and remote device management (security issues).

So much so that Gartner's Ken Dulaney went on record to state, "This is basically a cellular iPod with some other capabilities and it's important that it be recognized as such." Further, Gartner advised enterprises to stay away from the iPhone.

As often happens in the technology world, particularly in mobility, views like these do not take too long to boomerang.

Watch out: March 2008. The iPhone SDK 2.0 was released and many of the initial arguments against iPhone began to fade away. New arguments were being voiced, most notably the lack of multi-threaded application support and application distribution.

It is worth noting that in its first year offering the iPhone, Apple took the number three slot in worldwide smartphone sales. And recent surveys also have found that corporate iPhone users are more satisfied with their devices than BlackBerry folks. But it should also be pointed out that the same survey also suggests RIM has nearly 75 percent of enterprise smartphone users, compared to Apple's 5-10 percent range.

Enterprises should watch the trajectory that Apple is creating for iPhone and not be swayed by the reactionary comments of the market. We believe that iPhone holds important lessons for us to predict the nature of things to come. We also predict that by 2010 iPhone (or a similar family of devices) adoption in the industry will begin to match the incumbent mobile platforms.

I also recommend the enterprises to closely watch the delicate balance between BES, king of mobile enterprise market, and Exchange, the king of the enterprise market. Though we concede it is more a possibility than probability, Microsoft may not choose to play ball with BES in an attempt to give Windows mobile a lift. In such a scenario organizations will have little choice other than to go the Windows Mobile way. Even if that didn't happen Microsoft could always up the ante by providing closer integration between Exchange and Windows Mobile. So from this perspective as well we would choose to advise the enterprises to keep an eye on Windows Mobile in 2009.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Over 40% of US, European firms cutting IT budgets: Forrester

The global economic slowdown has pushed more than 40% of large businesses in North America and Europe to cut their IT budgets this year, a survey by Forrester Research said.

Of the respondents considered in the survey, only 28% said that there had been no impact of the economy on their IT budgets. Asked how the economy will affect IT services spending, some 70% of respondents said they would be negotiating lower rates with suppliers, while 16% said they had already cut their IT services spending.

The report surveyed nearly 950 senior IT managers across North America and Europe regarding their IT services spending and overall services strategies and priorities.

The survey showed that 49% of North American firms have cut their IT budgets compared with 31% in Europe. But Forrester noted its survey was fielded in Q2 2008, "prior to the deteriorating economic conditions in Europe".

As per the report, IT departments in the financial services industry were hit hardest - 49% of IT shops in the financial services sector have cut their budgets. At the other end of the spectrum is the media, entertainment, and leisure industry, where only 39% of respondents said they have had to reduce spending. In the services sector, the slowdown has firms renegotiating rates, being more selective in choosing vendors and examining, but still expecting to pay more for services.

On the other hand, the demand for enterprise IT services has not dropped significantly. Infrastructure outsourcing is expected to grow - convergent telecommunications and network management wsa identified as a hot area of growth, as 20% of firms will outsource this service in 2008, the report noted.

As a major trend the survey suggested that satisfaction with outsourcing still remained low.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Google planning to introduce App Store

Google has also started talking about their plans for Android Market, which is similar to the App store used for the iPhone. Ars Technica's coverage points out a blog post by Google's Eric Chu which notes that early handsets running Android will have a beta version of Android Market enabled. Initially, users will at least be able to find free applications there. After that, Google expects to update the market to allow users to buy and download paid content.

Though Android Market is similar in concept to Apple Inc.'s App Store, but it differs in some ways. For instance, because all iPhones run on the same software, developers don't have to create different versions for different phones. Android is open, and handset makers may decide to include different hardware capabilities or opt not to support all Android features, which has an effect on the way applications work. Perhaps there will be features for the Developers to upload different versions of their applications for different mobile handsets that might work better on different devices but we will have to wait and watch.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Palm Story - An Ending Dream

Just two years ago, Palm was the leader in the U.S. smartphone market, but since then the company has fallen behind its major competitors HTC and Research In Motion (RIM). And Apple is hot on Palm's heels.

But to understand the issues within Palm one needs to look at the history.

Palm seized the mobile world from Apple in 1996. They made a populous device that DID organization that people needed affordably. Did it quickly and simply and soon allowed users to add application functionality. It was an instant hit. The Pilot was in the top 10 of all tech inventions of the past 50 years. The Treo hybrid phone / PDA made the list too. Jeff Hawkins, the (Steve Jobs / tech guru of Palm) visionary behind both devices struck gold twice.

Now, Palm has always had an Achilles heel. Financing! Because of this, they have always had to depend on “others” outside the “vision” to provide the capital for the next step.

This lead to the fall out of Hawkins, Dubinsky, Colligen which were the original core of Palm. Palm took on a corporate America approach from the Palm III until Tungsten T3 period. Hawkins, Dubinsky, and Colligen started Handspring (loose VC in the tech bubble) and licensed the Palm OS from Palm. They created devices in parallel from the Visor thru Treo 300. This all took place from about 98' thru 03'. Palm Inc also began licensing the Palm OS to Sony, Samsung, and several others. They nearly landed Compaq who at the time was a PC hardware kingpin. Microsoft was hard at work (successfully) in direct competition for this mobile OS sector during the period.

Then in 03' came the disaster that still haunts the Palm platform to this very moment. Palm & Handspring merged. Palm PDAs had successfully transitioned to OS5 and high speed ARM architecture (like Win Mobile) and cash strapped Handspring was ready to release it's crown jewel, the Treo 600. This was a tremendous merger that would bring Hawkins and company back into leadership with both strong PDAs and cutting edge smartphones ready to soar. But herein lies the poison pill of the deal. The Palm OS was popular and the mobile market leader, but MS was more robust and the scary “Goliath” competitor. Palm saw success in licensing the OS platform. The disastrous decision was made within the group to spin the Palm OS off to be under it's own freestanding company.… “Is it really smart to break up into smaller parts when trying to defeat a Goliath”?

The new Palm PDAs / phones (Palm Solutions Group + Handspring = Hardware) would be renamed PalmOne, while the name 'Palm' would be owned by Palmsource Inc, the newly spun-off software / platform company. When the updated 650 model was released a year later, it got the PalmOne label. Palmsource meanwhile was off to fight the dark side by bringing forth Palm OS 6 (Cobalt), the platform that would bring the Palm OS into the multitasking and multifunctional wireless standard world. Because they were not affiliated with PalmOne hardware anymore the hope was that Sony would stay the Palm OS course. Not having the OS supplier as a direct competitor would allow a host of others like Motorola etc to feel free to come into the platform. LG actually signed a license and announced over a dozen new devices on the way based on the new platform. It NEVER happened. Sony (in the midst of company wide profit woes) not only abandoned Cobalt, but PDAs altogether. PalmOne dropped it's devices based on Cobalt and so did everyone else. Apparently the OS in v6.0 was a disaster.

Old OS5 (Garnet) received basically no attention after the Palm breakup. It was on the way out. With Cobalt’s flat lined pulse clear to see, PalmOne felt forced to do it's own major update to the Garnet OS. Everyday users of WM and other cell phones had replaceable batteries and flash memory. Palm OS lost all data if the battery went dead. In response, Palm changed Palm OS from its crisp and quick 'direct memory access' architecture roots. In parallel, what would have certainly been strong upgrades of the Tungsten, Zire, & Treo lines to OS6, were now scrambled for survival on this extended life OS5.

Thus we received the somewhat anemic 650 upgrade/sidegrade and the pathetic excuse for an upgrade to the Tungsten T5 from the T3. This OS rewrite from v5.2x (Zire 72, Tungsten T3, Treo 600) to OS5.4x (Treo 650, Tungsten T5) is the OS on every current Palm device of PDAs, Treos, and Centros today. This “FrankenGarnet”, as it has been called, now has NVFS, or a Non Volatile File System. Cobalt would have offered this, but Palm was forced to hack it onto old OS 5 on it’s own. NVFS allows your battery to go dead and the memory contents to be retained. This is a good thing, but a much more complicated architecture than the simple and quick DMA architecture of OS5.2x and earlier.
Remember how super quick and snappy your old Palm Vx was with a little 33mhz processor? Now, your Treo 650, 700p, Tungsten T5 with 300-400mhz+ mhz spits, sputters, stumbles, and lags it's way around while you get angry. Remember how lightening fast a Zire 72 or Tungsten T3 was? Those days are gone with NVFS based Palm OS. That is the miracle (curse) of a totally different architecture underneath Palm OS. It’s memory architecture is more like a PCs.

Palmsource did basically nothing to update Palm OS 5 and literally disintegrated in the wake of the OS6 disaster. They tried to switch to a Linux based OS and basically bit off more than their mismanaged company could chew. They were soon purchased by Access Corp in a shady looking outbid of Motorola (and probably PalmOne). PalmOne probably helped orchestrate the deal to keep a hardware arch rival from owning its platform. The Access (Palmsource) OS called ALP is today being rejected en masse again as they make another ridiculous attempt to re-invent it as a UMPC type OS. Between the death of Cobalt OS and PalmOne's decision to rewrite to NVFS, the “zen of Palm” totally died. It's over forever. Some remnants remain, but buy and large those glory days of quick, stable, and simple are gone forever. “Palm”. Its now the orange blob Palm instead of the early years blue blob Palm, which preceded the Orange/maroon PalmOne. Whew?!? Now they are once again just Palm. Nevertheless, the fatal damage has been done and PalmOne really had no choice but to grovel at Steve Ballmer's kneecaps for a Windows Media license. Old FrankenGarnet is simply not up to the modern multitasking / multi-wireless task required to produce cutting edge phones. It's a PDA OS that was pre-hacked to handle legacy Palm apps and then hacked again by PalmOne for NVFS. We should be amazed that it does what it does today in a semi-stable manner.

During this ma lay, PalmOne had to completely trash it's future device plans and set a course for survival while the smartphone space crowded. FrankenGarnet has been relegated to entry level Centros where it's done well. But everything with modernity in the spec department has begun to depend on Windows Media. MS makes an uninspiring product as usual, but it is very robust and up to date from a constantly changing wireless standards (and other) point of view.

Palm President Colligen stated that they actually began work on their new OS way back at the Palmsource spin-off in 04'. Probably very lightly, if at all, but they could see the handwriting on the wall. Little PalmOne could never swim among the Nokia, HP, HTC, Moto, Samsung, LG giants w/o control of a unique platform. So Palm announced last year, the world changing Foleo running on Palm's own Linux OS. Foleo never came to market and probably good for Palm that it did not. But during that fiasco, Palm revealed the 2009 release of devices based on a totally modern Palm OS over Linux. Later Colligen stated these devices would be revolutionary from a software AND hardware perspective. That’s basically all that’s public

Code named Nova, this OS platform is Palm's only hope. They know that they can't afford the engineering horses to compete in the me-too WM world forever. FrankenGarnet is approaching full obsolescence in the wireless world.

The Treo Pro is not the greatest smartphone, but it is good and compelling and telling of several possible things. This is appears to be the first device to get the Rubenstein effect. (Hawkins is apparently no longer involved in smartphones. He is either on another Foleo run or not really involved at all in Palm products. His focus seems to now be in a totally different venture called Numenta) The Pro is finally thin. It finally is sleek and sexy. It finally has acceptable specs (so does the 800w). It has a relatively decent battery in that thin package. And it finally has a standard 3.5mm audio jack that folks have been screaming for since the first Treo played MP3s. That's been four years and the boring looking 800w still is without one! There appears to be a new sheriff in Sunnyvale!

That leaves Palm with an Apple-esque dream of controlling it's hardware and software to create unique and compelling devices again. It's precisely the dream that absolute fools led Palm away from in 2003 when the platform was spun off. Conventional wisdom (pre-Apple juggernaut) said licensing the platform was where the $ was. Conventional wisdom and a host of corporate leeches in those days nearly brought the Palm economy to disaster today.

Nova in 2009 is THE watershed moment for Palm. If Rubenstein and company deliver compelling solutions then the revolution can survive. If Nova fails to wow, and I do mean WOW, then the party is over.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First Android Phone to be launched soon

T-Mobile's upcoming phone will try to combine the best elements of many of the new smart phones, and will be using Google's Android software.

"The HTC phone, which many gadget sites are calling the 'dream,' will have a touch screen, like the iPhone. But the screen also slides out to expose a full five-row keyboard. A video of the phone has been posted recently on YouTube. A person who has seen the HTC device said it matched the one in the video. The phone's release date depends on how soon the Federal Communications Commission certifies that the Google software and the HTC phone meet network standards. Executives at all three companies are hoping to announce the phone in September because they would benefit from holiday season sales."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Winds of change: The effect of BB, Android and iPhone on Symbian’s approach

On June 5th, 2008 Nokia, the world's biggest maker of mobile phones, announced the acquisition of Trolltech, a recognized software provider with world-class software development platforms and frameworks.

The story however was incomplete without Nokia having a controlling stake in one of the key platforms it uses on most of it's advanced devices.

On June 24th, 2008 Nokia, offered to buy the 52 percent of Symbian Ltd. that it doesn't own for about 264 million euros ($410 million) to gain control in the maker of operating systems for handsets. Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, the mobile-phone joint venture of Ericsson AB and Sony Corp., has 13.1 percent of Symbian, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.'s Panasonic holds 10.5 percent, Siemens AG 8.4 percent and Samsung Electronics Co. has 4.5 percent.

Symbian faces competition from Microsoft Corp., Research In Motion Ltd. and Apple Inc. in sales of operating systems for advanced wireless devices such as handheld computers and so- called smartphones, which allow users to access wireless Internet, check e-mail, play music and transmit video clips. Symbian's system was installed on about 7 percent of all mobile phones sold at the end of last year.

"Ten years ago, Symbian was established by far-sighted players to offer an advanced, open operating system and software skills to the whole mobile industry", said Symbian chief executive Nigel Clifford on Tuesday. "Our vision is to become the most widely used software platform on the planet, and indeed, today, Symbian OS leads its market by any measure."

With this acqusition Nokia also announced to use this platform to form open-source Android killer.

Companies including Nokia, Motorola, NTT DoCoMo, LG Electronics, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, AT&T, Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics and Vodafone announced that they will work together to make the Symbian OS open source. They will offer it under a royalty-free license to members of a new nonprofit group called the Symbian Foundation.

Symbian's decision to make its source code freely available tips the scales in favor of open-source software in smartphones and could make it harder for Microsoft, and even other open-source platforms like Google's Android and Linux, to compete.

“The platform will be free and open to develop on from the start whether you are enthusiast, web designer, professional developer or service provider. To develop on the platform you will not need to be a member of the foundation. The Symbian Foundation’s developer program will provide a single point of access for developer support; providing a wide offering of tools and resources.”

What will this all lead to??
--Symbian OS will become free. Nokia's Symbian-related assets, including both Symbian OS and the S60 interface, will be contributed to the new Symbian Foundation, a nonprofit that will control the Symbian platform. So Nokia writes the code and then gives it to the foundation for free.

The foundation will open source the new Symbian platform over a two year period. So eventually Symbian will be available for free.

The new Symbian Platform will have a broader scope than the current Symbian OS which would include:

-An application suite (previously controlled by licensees)
-Runtimes (including Webkit, Flash, Silverlight, and Java; previously licensee-controlled)
-UI framework (formerly controlled by licensees)
-Tools, SDK, and application signing (previously shared between Symbian and licensees)

--UIQ will be dead. SonyEricsson's UIQ technology, and NTT DoCoMo's MOAP, both of which are user interface layers written on top of Symbian, will also be contributed to the foundation, which will incorporate pieces of them into S60. The new Symbian foundation partners said at the press conference, "We will reposition UIQ in the new ecosystem." That's seems to be a face-saving way of saying, "UIQ is dead." Confirming that, UIQ announced immediate plans to lay off more than half its employees.

These are huge changes, even though they'll take a couple of years to implement. We won't get the first release of the new merged platform until 2010, although the partners say S60 and native Symbian apps will continue to run in the future, so they hope many more developers will create Symbian apps today in anticipation of future growth.

--Nokia will continue to control Symbian development. This is my interpretation, not something they announced. Technically, control over Symbian and S60 passes to the new Symbian Foundation, with product plans controlled by a managing board and councils made up of foundation members. This makes Symbian sound independent.

--It would help Apple? I think it's probably good news. Although the Symbian partners could theoretically bleed Apple by sharing investments that Apple has to fund for itself, Apple competes on speed and elegance, not cost control. Nokia and Symbian will now spend the next six months sorting out how they'll integrate and rationalize their organizations. No matter how much they try to avoid it, this will slip schedules and force people to revisit plans. And the other Symbian licensees have to wait two years for the new OS. That gives Apple a long, long time to build up its iPhone business.

--Google should be happy and worried? My first reaction is to say that Google should be worried because there's now another very credible operating system being given away for free in competition with Android (or there will be in two years). What's more, the leading mobile handset companies all participated in the Symbian Foundation announcement. That makes it harder for Android to get licensees. But the new open Symbian OS is two years away from shipment, giving Google lots of runway to get established (that's what I meant about execution determining the real impact of the announcement). Also, the governance system for Android is a lot simpler than Symbian's. While the Symbian committees must debate and agree on product plans, Google can just decide whatever features it wants to add, and toss them out there. In theory, Google should be able to move much faster, though they seem to be doing that at the moment.

Besides, there is the question of why Google really created Android. One school of thought says that Android was just a tool to bleed Microsoft and force openness in the mobile ecosystem. If that's the goal, then the opening up of Symbian is a kind of a triumph for Google. Nokia is, in many ways, doing Google's work for it. Which brings us to...

--What happens to Microsoft? Here's the weird thought for the day: Microsoft is the last major company charging money for a mobile operating system. How many companies are going to want to pay for Windows Mobile when they can get Linux, Android, or Symbian for free? This is Microsoft's ultimate open source nightmare, becoming real.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Entrepreneurship: The new 20's Syndrome

It's no longer about fat salaries and foreign trips. Today's young guns get their adrenalin rush from entrepreneurship

With a great job at Infosys that offered a long-term relocation to the UK, life couldn't have gotten rosier for my colleague Manish Garg. But Manish (29) gave it all for the startup - to offer mobility and banking solutions to clients in US and UK. He quit infosys in January 2005 to join the fellow batchmate Avinash Misra and myself. Today we have a 3 floor office in Bangalore with over 100 employees and offering nitch services in mobile and banking consulting and application development.

"This doesn't seem like work to me anymore. This is what we enjoy doing," says the IIT grad.

Like Manish there are an increasing number of young professionals - mostly in their 20s - who're quitting cushy jobs for the challenge of entrepreneurship. "There is no official record of the number of entrepreneurs in the country, so there is no way one can get exact figures on the increase of entrepreneurs. However, there are many indicators that one can look at to see the increase in entrepreneurs," says Laura Parkin, executive director of National Entrepreneurship Network, a body that seeks to promote entrepreneurship by bringing together students and entrepreneurs. "For one, there has been a heightened participation of students in NEN - from 500 five years ago to 55,000 today. Another is the number of entrepreneurship societies that have been formed."

Clubs like Kickstart, Mobile Mondays, and Open Coffee Club have opened in the past five years across the country and the membership numbers in each city run into hundreds.

Venture capital companies too have noticed a marked increase in projects that flow in. "From about 10 projects a month, we now look at around 50 every month. And although there has been a marked interest in entrepreneurship across board, there is certainly much more buzz across board, there is certainly much more buzz from the age group of people in their early 30s," says Kanwaljit Singh, MD of Helion Venture Partners.

Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore are leading the entrepreneur brat pack, with Pune and Hyderabad catching up. In Bangalore, most of the entrepreneurs are in the technology, internet, mobile and telecom space, while Chennai sees more action in the service and software product segment. Mumbai's entrepreneurs gravitate towards internet companies and non-technology ventures like retail, particularly F&B retail.

"At least 40% of today's entrepreneurs in the mobile and internet space is dominated by people in their late 20s and early 30s. Mobile related applications se huge interest in India because of the enormous market size," says TC Meenakshisundaram, MD of venture capital firm IDG Ventures India. "The quality of deals have gone up. We now see more organized projects, greater products and better business models."

Yet to Mature
However, entrepreneurship and the venture capital (VC) community in India is not mature segment. "Most start ups lack organizational and managerial skills. They want to start their business but lack professional management. When a VC comes in, the young guns find it hard to share their space with someone senior from the industry," says Harish Gandhi, executive director of Canaan Partners. "Along with our funding we bring in professional management, which the startups can't always handle."

VCs feel that most startup teams are either an all-techie bunch without much business acumen or are a marketing team without much knowledge or understanding of technology.

I would like to quote the observations my colleague, Manish Garg here. "Most of the venture capital firms are US-based. Their mindset is different so while funding they think in terms of the US business environment. They need to understand that the way business functions here is totally different. Entrepreneurs who have only lived in India and not in the US, display cultural differences in their estimation of money required for a venture and utilisation of funds. Getting angle funding is not difficult in the US but in India it's not easy at all."

At the end, nothing succeeds like success. The concept of entrepreneurship has been romantised a lot. A lot of people jump in thinking it's 'cool'. But it's lot of hard work and it takes a strong team to stick to it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Predicting where you'll go and what you'll like

We're in the midst of a boom in devices that show where people are at any point in time. Global positioning systems are among the hottest consumer electronics devices ever, says Clinet Wheelock, chief research officer at ABI Research, a technology market follower. And cellphones increasingly come with G.P.S. chips. All of these devices churn out data that says something about how people live.

Such data could redefine what we know about consumer behaviour, giving businesses early insight into economic trends, better ways to determine sites for offices and retain stores, and more effective ways to advertise.

'New research that makes creative use of sensitive location-tracking data from 100,000 cellphones in Europe suggests that most people can be found in one of just a few locations at any time, and that they do not generally go far from home.' Knowing those routines means that you can set probabilities to them, and track how they change.

It's hard to make sense of such data, but Sense Networks, a software analytics company in New York, earlier this month released Macrosense, a tool that aims to do just that. Macrosense applied complex statistical algorithms to sift through the growing heaps of data about location and to make predictions or recommendations on various questions where a company should put its next store, for example.

Sense is not the only company engaged in reality mining. Inrix, a Microsoft spin-off, uses traffic data to predict traffic patterns. Path Intelligence of Britain monitors traffic flow in shopping centers by tracking cell-phones. Reality mining raises instant questions about privacy, especially when cellphone data is involved. In United States, it is illegal in many cases for cellphone companies to share customers' location data without their prior consent.

Though is needed is only the aggregate data and not the specific behaviour of individuals and there is little doubt that products we use everyday, like our cellphones or cars, will increasingly allow mapping the activities of people in general.

Gartner reports that the market which includes various navigation and search devices and subscriptions and services will nearly triple in revenue this year, to $ 1.3 billion from $485 million in 2007, and will reach $8 billion in 2011.

Enterprise users: Blackberry vs iPhone

The first generation iPhone is admittedly a beautiful object but it is rare to find one in a business traveller’s pocket.

I'd love an iPhone, but there are two simple reasons why it won't squash my BlackBerry: the BlackBerry keyboard enables me to type long emails efficiently; and I can copy/cut and paste between applications, which I can't do on the iPhone.

The iPhone's screen is gorgeous, its interface and ability to access the web in all its glory is second to none but few road warriors have chosen it as their device of choice. Even though Apple would have forged a tieup with it's earstwhile competitor Microsoft and if you take a look at the website for the new iPhone, it is the huge Microsoft Exchange logo that jumps out at you. Microsoft Exchange is the engine behind the email, contacts and calendar applications of a vast number of companies.

By adding support for this to the iPhone, which will allow easy access to your corporate as well as your personal email, Apple is aiming the second generation iPhone directly at the BlackBerry.

But as long as the iPhone lacks a physical keyboard it will never "squash" BlackBerry let's get real. People with BlackBerry's have them because they need to respond to emails and they're not always short. A real keybaord is why BB is on top.

Also BlackBerry has a huge following - 14 million people worldwide had one at the end of last year - the iPhone’s desirability coupled with industrial-strength push email will still find it tough to end this dominance.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Analysis on 3G iPhone Announcement

Apple announced on Monday a much faster iPhone that's half the price of the current model.

The news is expected to address one of the biggest complaints about the hugely popular iPhone: That its Internet browsing is too slow. CEO Steve Jobs said the new iPhone, which is based on 3G technology, is 36% faster than top rival Nokia's N95 smartphone.

The things however which were also anticipated and did not get a reference were:
--No tablet device.
--No major changes to the form factor of the iPhone
--No other major product announcements

This reflects from the fact that Apple shares fell 4% after the iPhone announcement, as some investors were left wanting more from the gadget maker. The stock had been up 55% in the past three months on heightened expectations for a radically improved iPhone and the possibility of other product launches.

Apple discussed some other interesting things in the keynote. Here's what we can decipher from the same, with some comments:

The "lower" pricing. As first reported, the new 8-gigabyte iPhone will cost $199 and a 16-gigabyte version will cost $299. However, since AT&T continues to share 24% of monthly revenue from original iPhone so it's revenues are set to get a hit which they announced to offset by raising the price of its unlimited iPhone data plan by $10 a month (as part of its new business model). Also, as part of its new business model, Apple will no longer pocket a share of customer fees.

Background processing of applications on iPhone? One of the critiques of the iPhone is that it doesn't allow third party applications to run in the background, without being visible to the user.

Apple now says that it has solved the background problem by setting up a notification server that can wake up applications on your iPhone and pass incoming messages to them. Since Apple won't run apps in the background, does that mean they'll suddenly launch on screen and start operating on their own? And although notification does some of the things you'd want from the background, it doesn't do them all. For example, some developers want to write background applications that would perform tasks automatically, whether they are pinged by an outside server or not. But still it is a move in the right direction for sure !!!

Apple Development Center. Where is it heading? Apple bragged in the keynote that there were 25,000 applicants to the iPhone developer program, but the company admitted only 4,000. In other words, they seriously pissed off 21,000 developers.

The question is, when (if ever) do the other 21,000 developers get into the program?

Application demo's and what to expect. During the show, Jobs also introduced a slew of new applications for the iPhone, including a wireless system that automatically forwards e-mail to other devices, a friend-finding service called Loopt and mobile blogging software from TypePad.

Other new applications include a service from that provides a live scoreboard of major league games, and music-making software, called Cow Terry, for creating songs on the phone.

The new iPhone applications are aimed at boosting revenue from data services. Apple, for instance, will charge $99 a year for its new MobileMe service, which sends e-mail, contact and calendar updates to users' devices.

Four of the applications demonstrated during the keynote were games, one was a consumer news applications, one was a social network product (Loopt), one was consumer shopping (eBay), one was consumer blogging (TypePad), one was sports information, and two were vertical medical.

Infact, Jobs kicked off the conference by talking about the iPhone for business users. He said that the iPhone now works with Microsoft's Exchange office server systems - a key feature if the iPhone hopes to seize market share from the BlackBerry. Jobs said that 35% of the Fortune 500 has participated in a beta program for business applications for the iPhone. But the demos were all related to consumer app.

What happens to iPod pricing? It's surprising that the price of the iPod Touch didn't change. It now looks more expensive than the iPhone, and it lacks GPS. I would not be shocked if the Touch ends up getting a price action this fall.

Since the original iPhone was introduced nearly a year ago, Apple has sold 6 million handsets, Jobs said Monday. The company has set a goal of selling 10 million handsets worldwide this year.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Single Consistent Platform for Mobile Application Development

In the mobile development community there has been a constant uproar to find a platform which is supported by many, if not all, mobile manufacturers.

Recently Adobe announced a series of changes. The changes include:

--The next version of the mobile Flash runtime will be free of license fees. Adobe also confirmed that the mobile version of the Air runtime will be free.

--Adobe changed its licensing terms and released additional technical information that will make it easier for companies to create their own Flash-compatible products.

--The company announced a new consortium called Open Screen supporting the more open versions of Flash and Air. Members of the new group include the five leading handset companies, three mobile operators (including NTT, DoCoMo and Verizon), technology vendors (including Intel, Cisco, and Qualcomm), and content companies (BBC, MTV, and NBC Universal). Google, Apple, and Microsoft are not members.

Adobe said that the idea behind the announcements is to create a single consistent platform that lets developers create an application or piece of content once and run it across various types of devices and operating systems. That idea is very appealing to developers and content companies today. It was equally appealing two years ago, when then-CEO of Adobe Bruce Chizen made the exact same promise:
If we execute appropriately we will be the engagement platform, or the layer, on top of anything that has an LCD display, any computing device -- everything from a refrigerator to an automobile to a video game to a computer to a mobile phone.

Microsoft had tried to do the same by the launch of Microsoft Silverlight and in that sense Adobe has still to do a lot of follow up with Microsoft.

Also, the most important changes appear to apply to the next version of mobile Flash and the upcoming mobile version of Air -- meaning this was in part a vaporware announcement. Even when the new runtime software ships, it will take a long time to get it integrated into mobile phones. So once again, Microsoft has a long runway to maneuver on.

Still, the changes Adobe made are very useful. There's no way Flash could have become ubiquitous in the mobile world while Adobe was still charging fees for it. The changes to the Flash license terms remove one of the biggest objections I've seen to Flash from open source advocates. The Flash community seems excited and the list of supporters is impressive. Looking through the obligatory quotes attached to the Adobe release, two things stand out:

--Adobe got direct mentions of Air from ARM, Intel, SonyEricsson, Verizon, and Nokia (although Nokia promised only to explore Air, while it's on the record promising to bundle Silverlight mobile).

--The inclusion of NBC Universal in the announcement will have Adobe people chuckling because Microsoft signed up NBC to stream the Olympics online using Silverlight. So NBC is warning Microsoft not to take it for granted, and Adobe gets to stick its tongue out.

What does it all mean?
Nothing much in the short term. As I mentioned earlier, this is mostly a vaporware announcement (other than the license changes). Some people are speculating that this will put pressure on Apple to make Flash available on the iPhone. That's possible, if Apple's real concern was that they didn't like Flash Lite. Now they can port full Flash, or someone else can do it. But if Apple is in reality unwilling to let anyone else's platform run on the iPhone then we'll see other objections to Flash emerge.

The marketing competition to control the future of mobile apps is continuing to heat up. Microsoft is trying to take the whole thing proprietary by creating a comprehensive architecture, Adobe is trying to drive its own platform, Sun is trying to re-energize J2ME, Google is making its own moves with Android, and so on. Plus, of course, most mobile app developers today are happy with what they're using now and have little economic interest in switching to any unified development platform.

It's an enormously complex situation, and it's going to take months, if not years, before we can start to see who's winning and who is losing.

Consumer is the king

In the coming years, the majority of new technologies that enterprises adopt for their information systems will have roots in consumer applications.

If technology trends previously began in enterprises and the defence sector and would then spread out to the consumer market, increasingly now the move is in the opposite direction: people adopting technologies and applications which enterprises are then compelled to adopt. These consumers, who are also employees, are getting used to comforts, easy access and a certain way of living in their homes. And they expect the same environment when they are in their workplace.

Creating critical mass
Email began as a means for internal communication in organisation and then found its way into people's daily lives. But today, newer technologies and solutions are being introduced among consumers to generate a critical mass and usage. Adoption by consumers then makes enterprises to recognize the need for those technologies and implement them into their operations. Analysts point out that attempts by enterprises to void such technologies are doomed to fail.

"Initially companies did not consider using the BlackBerry which has now become a common mobile device among organizations," says Jayakrishnan S, VP, e-business service, Wipro Technologies.

Google has become the one and only search tool for a majority of Internet users. But a lot of the search results are redundant. This provides opportunities for IT companies to devise customized search options. "IT companies can leverage on the huge customer base that uses search."

They can build on the search by Google to give the user exact results that he/she asked for and reduce redundancy," Jayakrishnan says. Enterprises can also customize Google search for themselves to obtain search results, he adds. According to research firm Gartner, going forward, enterprises will have to identify a consumer trend and see how they can package their solutions as a business proposition to their solutions as business proposition to their potential clients. More and more innovation in the IT sector will be driven by the consumer market and not by enterprise customers along, says Gartner.

"With the access to SmartPhones the employees have started leveraging the features like Mobile Office to review documents while they are on the move using their mobile devices. The concept which initially took off as a backup solution for the consumers, is fast kicking in with consumer, driving a change that enterprises need to consider. Nowadays it is becoming common for companies to provide access to confidential documents/data on to their mobile phones," says Avinash Misra, CEO, Endeavour Software India.

Towards openness
Enterprises had their own solutons for employee to virtually share ideas such as the knowledge management portals. But these did not get employee acceptance as they had their own preferred modes of communication for bonding with friends and family. Organizations thus started modifying the available technologies and implement them with proper overall protection for data and information.

"A new species of workers are entering the workplace that makes use of platforms like Second Life for social interactions or just hanging out. The digital existence is on the rise with web 2.0 tools and high frequency of electronic communication. Organizations will have to look at deploying communication applications and devices that help retain this new generation of workers," says Deepak Kumar, GM, communications research in analyst firm IDC India. But the acceptance of these technologies will be slow among enterprises as they pose security challenge too, Kumar says.

A Microsoft official says enterprises are adopting the new technologies as they want to portray more openness. "Instant messengers are now part of an organization's way to communicate minimizing issues such as voice call costs and email delays. But they are modified and are behind a protected environment," he says.
Gartner believes that for the next ten years, the growing practice of introducing new technologies into consumer markets prior to industrial markets will be the most significant trend affecting IT. As a result, the majority of new technologies that enterprises adopt for their information systems between 2007 and 2012 is expected to have roots in consumer applications.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

BlackBerry OS Roadmap (and 0S 4.5 features!)

It looks like BlackBerry is set to launch new features and functionality for BlackBerrys this summer! OS 4.5 is set to hit this summer for all BlackBerrys except the 8707. Another interesting note is that OS 4.6 (i.e. the BlackBerry Bold’s OS) is set for the second half of this year.

Blackberry Cool has made a post with the OS Road Map. The only thing is that Blackberry Releases the OS to the carriers for them to distribute to their customers. So depending on your Wireless Carrier is when you would actually get the newer Blackberry OS.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Google Domination

There is no doubt that Google is the center of the Search Engine universe. The web is “Googlecentric” so to speak. But with little market share left to claim, Google has set it’s crosshairs on emerging markets in which it can similarly dominate.

Two of the tech industries biggest buzzwords are currently “mobile” and “social networking”. We already know how Google is altering the gravitational pull of the mobile industry with one such launch of Andriod, putting themselves in the center of that universe, but what about Social Networking? Are they doing anything in that space as well??

Android Developers Challenge

Google did a good thing by launching the Android Challenge much before the device hits the market. This has motivated lot of SV's to start developing applications and it's almost certain that most of them would be available on the device from the day of it's launch thereby giving a headstart for Android vis a vis the so popular iPhone.

It is almost certain that with launch of Android, some of the key mobile software vendors such as ours ( who have initiated and developed applications on this platform are set to leverage their position in this market.

Listed below are the results from the first round and some of the ideas are worth pursuing:
  1. AndroidScan - Use your phone to scan a barcode, get pricing information from dozens of stores, product reviews and more. Never make a bad purchase again! (by Jeffrey Sharkey)
  2. Beetaun - Social network around geographical content created by people and for people (from your neighborhood, from your city, from your country, from all over the world). By Sergey Gritsyuk and Dmitri Shipilov
  3. BioWallet - A biometric authentication system for Android. This application features iris recognition and can act as a password safe and provide single sign-on for other Android apps. Jose Luis Huertas Fernandez
  4. BreadCrumbz -Navigate your route using pictures instead of a map (there’s also a map, if you like). Easily record routes using your smartphone. Share them with your friends, share them with the world. By Amos Yoffe
  5. CallACab - Konrad Huebner and Henning Boeger
  6. City Slikkers - a Pervasive Game (alternatively Location Based Game) which takes place in the real-existing city. It is designed to connect a large number of players through-out the world and change the way the surroundings are seen. The central idea behind the concept is to give people the opportunity to symbolically interfere with the everyday urban environment and come into contact with previously unknown people. By PoroCity Media and Virtual Logic Systems.
  7. Commandro - Commandro shows where are your friends REALLY are and what they’re doing at the moment. Using GPS location information, it will display 100% true real-life event and location information with regards to you and your friends. By Alex Pisarev, Andrey Tapekha.
  8. Cooking Capsules -Simply “watch” a very short cooking show, “shop” with the grocery list, and “make” using the handy step-by-step recipe directions. If you are out of your usual neighborhood you can use the ‘find nearest market’ gps feature. If your friend is stopping at the market, simply hit the ’send to friend’ button to text your list to them. By Mary Ann Cotter and Muthuselvam Ramadoss
  9. Diggin - Daniel Johansson, Aramis Waernbaum, Andreas Hedin
  10. Dyno - Virachat Boondharigaputra
  11. e-ventr - The domain is password protected, but a Whois Lookup shows it is owned by the developer named by Google. By Michael Zitzelsberger.
  12. Eco2go - Reduce your carbon footprint. Eco2go finds and suggests public transit alternatives for your trips - right on your phone. By Taneem Talukdar, Gary Pong, Jeff Kao and Robert Lam
  13. Em-Radar - Em-Radar is a revolutionary mobile product that alerts you about emergencies and severe weather anywhere, any time. By Jack Kwok.
  14. fingerprint - Robert Mickle
  15. FreeFamilyWatch - Navee Technologies LLC
  16. goCart - Rylan Barnes
  17. GolfPlay - give support to all the real time necessities of a golf player during a game, using GPS location and an online querying site where it is possible to access to their game statistics, tournament creation and a social network to exchange impressions with other users about the sport that links them: golf. By Inizziativa Networks
  18. gWalk - Prof. Dr.-Ing. Klaus ten Hagen, Christian Klinger, Marko Modsching, Rene Scholze
  19. HandWx - Delivers 7-Day weather forecasts to your phone. By Weathertop Consulting LLC.
  20. IMEasy - Yan Shi
  21. Jigsaw - Mikhail Ksenzov
  22. JOYity - Coming soon. By Zelfi AG.
  23. LifeAware - Mobile Tracking Service formed to help people be aware of where their friends and family are. A quick search on the Internet shows that approximately 700,000 children are classified as missing annually. The intent of Life Aware is to help you be aware of where you family and friends are. Gregory Moore, Aaron L. Obrien, Jawad Akhtar
  24. Locale - Locale is one of 7 Android applications submitted by MIT students. It enables you to set up location- and time-based profiles for your phone, so you can make it shut up when you’re at work, forward calls to your landline when you’re at home. Clare Bayley, Christina Wright, Jasper Lin, Carter Jernigan.
  25. LReady Emergency Manager - A quick Whois Lookup shows the domain is owned by Chris Hulls, named by Google as a developer of LReady. By Chris Hulls, Dilpreet Singh, Luis Carvalho, Phuong Nguyen.
  26. Marvin - Marvin allows you to publish and browse geo-localized objects around you. Objects can be static or move by themselves and follow you. You publish and browse where you are, based on your current location or where you virtually are on the map. By Pontier Laurent.
  27. Mobeedo - Mobile Search. By Sengaro GmbH.
  28. Multiple Facets Instant Messenger - A Whois Lookup shows the website is owned by Virgil Dobjanschi who is named by Google as the creator of this application. By Virgil Dobjanschi.
    MyCloset - Mamoru Tokashiki
  29. PedNav - an application that helps you plan your activities efficiently when moving around and interacting with an urban environment. Like a good personal assistant, PedNav first inquires about your general plans for the day. By RouteMe2 Technologies Inc.
  30. Phonebook 2.0 - Coming soon. By Voxmobili.
  31. PicSay - Eric Wijngaard
  32. PiggyBack - Christophe Petit and Sebastien Petit
  33. Pocket Journey - connects your location to the voices of a global community of artists, historians, architects, musician, comedians, and others so you can quickly know everything about anywhere. By Anthony Stevens and Rosie Pongracz.
  34. Rayfarla - Rayfarla turns your phone into a musical instrument as well as providing a variety of mini games that are music related. I’m not saying too much about Rayfarla at the moment as I’m now in competition with 49 other semifinalists but suffice to say there will be some interesting twists when it is finally released on hardware. By Stephen Oldmeadow.
  35. Safety Net - Michael DeJadon
  36. SocialMonster - Ben Siu-Lung Hui and Tommy Ng
  37. SplashPlay - SplashPlay offers the next generation in musical tuition and learning to play the guitar just got a whole lot easier. Simply attach the pod and light panel to your guitar and start strumming to your favourite songs in minutes. Songs are sent to the pod from a mobile phone or computer using a USB or Bluetooth connection, giving total portability. Other features include a guitar tuner, guitar metronome and a hands free, Bluetooth foot pedal. The product will provide an easy, portable and fun method of learning music.
  38. Sustain- Keeping Your Social Network Alive - Niraj Swami
  39. SynchroSpot - Shaun Terry
  40. Talkplay - Sung Suh Park
  41. Teradesk - José Augusto Athayde Ferrarini
  42. The Weather Channel for Android - The Weather Channel Interactive Inc.
  43. TuneWiki - Our goal is to have the lyrics always on, always available, always synchronized to music - on any device that can play music back and connect to the internet. By TuneWiki Inc.
  44. Wikitude-the Mobile Travel Guide - Find points of interest based on your current location. By Philipp Breuss.
  45. Writing Pad - ShapeWriter is an innovative, original, fun, and highly efficient method of entering text into touch screen mobile phones. ShapeWriter lets the user to simply draw a continuous stroke from letter to letter on a soft keyboard and lift to complete the word. The resulting trace is recognized as the intended word. For example: to write the word “fun”, land the pen (or mouse cursor) on the F key, drag to the U key, continue to the N key and lift up the pen. ShapeWriter recognizes the curso trace F-U-N as the word “fun”.By ShapeWriter Inc.

[List via Google's ADC Blog]