Friday, August 29, 2008

Google to Bring iPhone-like App Store to Android

The iPhone App Store's success for Apple has changed the way Google is thinking content-distribution for the Android platform. According to an announcement yesterday, Google is ready to have an App Store for the Android platform called the Android Market.

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Google has been working on the Android platform for over an year now and is about to give a final release by the end of the year. Different handset manufacturers have already vouched their support for the platform and Android is seen as the biggest competitor to Apple's iPhone in the smartphone market. With the roaring initial success of the AppStore for Apple, it makes obvious sense for Google to have a similar content-distribution system for their platform.

Google also has an expertise on web infrastructure and it can surely avoid the mistakes that Apple has done with the reliability and availability of its web services. The details on exact model of operation of Android Market are still unknown, but Google surely will make it open and stable!! They are the "do-no-evil" company!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Orkut on Symbian 60 Phone Rocks !!

Orkut is the most popular social networking website in India and it has a really huge market share. But that hasn’t made them sit on their laurels and do nothing. Orkut has been improving each day and the newest improvement to Orkut comes for Symbian 60 users. Today, I happened to use Orkut on a Nokia N81 and it really rocks.

orkut1   orkut2

It’s been a few days that Google launched a new Orkut for the S60 users and I heard the news earlier, but today I really played with it. And I was blown by the simplicity and usability of the interface. Its simple, intuitive and fast. Even with the slow GPRS connections that we have in India, it was as fast as anything you would be using on a desktop. The photo upload obviously very slow, but having an upload interface on a mobile device is pretty cool. You can update your album with the photograph you just clicked and show off your fun-trips to your social network while you are having fun...

The following are some new features:

1.) Photo uploads (Upload photos as soon as you took them from your mobile)

2.) Picture galleries (Look at orkut albums in a more streamlined and cell-like resolution)

3.) Click-to-call (Call friends from Orkut page)

4.) Quick friend searches.

If you have a Symbian 60 phone, what are you waiting for?? Enjoy your social network by going to

Apple iPhone 3G at Rs.31000 ($720) in India

While most of the iPhone lovers in India already own an unlocked 1st generation iPhone, Apple officially launched the iPhone 3G in India at Rs. 31000/- or $720 when you apply the latest conversion rates. The same iPhone 3G costs $199 to a customer in the US with a cell plan from AT&T.

By the way, Airtel and  Vodafone are the two companies that have brought the iPhone 3G to India. If you want to buy the iPhone from Vodafone, then you caniphone-trash choose from a host of plans which have voice + data ranging from Rs.500 – Rs.1000. But along with that monthly rental, you have to buy the iPhone at an insane Rs.31000/-

The pre-launch interest for the iPhone 3G in India was huge. Airtel and Vodafone received over 25000 customers who were interested in the iPhone. How many of those customers are stupid enough to buy at this price is anyone’s guess?? India is the 2nd largest cellphone market in the world. But I’m pretty sure that with this ridiculous pricing the official iPhone 3G will not capture even 0.1% of the Indian market. With all the marketing expenses and Apple revenue sharing, the economics of the iPhone 3G for the cellphone operators doesn’t make any sense to me.

The most funny thing in this whole affair is that 3G services are still not available in India. It will take atleast another year for the services to start in full swing. So anyone who buys the new iPhone 3G will not be able to use the 3G services. With the current sucking GPRS service from these GSM operators, the internet speeds are so slow, that I would prefer my old 56k modem to surf the internet than GPRS.

Apple has played the same game again!! To be part of the Apple cult you have to be filthy rich and stupid. Apple is known to have high margins, but when you know that you have a product that can score on volumes, you obviously can lower your margins and increase your profit. But Apple gives a damn about volumes. It is happy to have a cult status and if that means only milking your stupid customer base, then so be it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Indian Sues Google, Yahoo & Microsoft For Sex-Selection Ads

While India is celebrating its 61st Independence Day today, among other problems, Gender Inequality and Gender Imbalance is a major problem for the future of  India. And somewhere between the lines of the so-called non-intrusive ads that you see on web pages, techniques for sex-selection for an unborn child is being promoted. Or so thinks Sabu Mathew George, the petitioner in a case filed in Supreme Court of India against web advertising and search companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

Gender Imbalance is a major problem that faces India in the next few decades. Although the Indian society at large is still unaware of the problem, from the google-evilstatistics and ground work that I’ve seen while working with Men Against Violence & Abuse, the problem is a severe one and could become adverse in the coming decades. Gender Imbalance is a man-made phenomenon in India where an unborn child’s sex is determined before birth and if the child is a female, the pregnancy is aborted. It is this ruthless murder of unborn females that in some states the sex ratio for males to females is less than 0.7

But that is not what we are here to talk. Sabu Mathew George has filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India that certain ads displayed on search results and web advertise the process of sex-selection. The Supreme Court has sent notices in this regard to Google, Yahoo and Microsoft in this regard and would like to hear their side of the story. The Indian law’s on Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act. states that advertisement of products and techniques to aid in the selection of an unborn child's sex is an offense. Thus, advertisement of such products are not shown in Print-media,  TV and Radio ads.

India’s Health Ministry and Ministry of Communications & IT have also been made respondents in the case because they have been non-responsive in stopping such ads. It should be interesting to see how these tech companies respond. If you look at it from a technical standpoint, such ads could have been easily spotted and not shown by these companies. There is already a procedure by which the content in ads is checked by these companies and can prevent such ads to be shown. Even the search results are moderated according to local laws and standards and it isn’t uncommon that the Chinese government have successfully changed the behavior of these companies.

May be these tech companies haven’t realized the magnitude of the problem or just ignored the law. But we are surely going to find out, if the Supreme Court holds them liable for such instances. Or can web companies just say that they are mediators and not content owners and get away.

Google had earlier stated in its Public Policy Blog that, “Think about the telephone system. We don't hold the telephone company liable when two callers use the phone lines to plan a crime. For the same reasons, it's a fundamental principle of the Internet that you don't blame the neutral intermediaries for the actions of their customers. Rather, the standard recognized worldwide is that Internet intermediaries are responsible to take action when they are put on notice of unlawful content through proper legal channels.”

Now that’s as awful analogy!! Telephone system is a one-to-one or conference system, where you don’t have your comments recorded for the entire world to look at. Neither can it be technically feasible nor morally acceptable to hear every call being made. Whereas content on the Internet, that is displayed as search results can very well be observed and banned, like has been done in China. In India, you have laws to stop it in other forms of media, then why should the Internet be any different?? There are obvious “report abuse” links to results and web displayed content. But the utter slowness in the response of such services is another reason why the system needs to be fixed on both the government side, tech-side and the users-side.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Blog About Windows Vista to Win Vista

Do you have a blog that primarily focuses on Windows Vista?? Do you write tips and tricks to improve Vista?? Do you love Vista and talk about its feature andvista-logo usefulness on your blog?? Then here is an opportunity for you to win some prizes for your blog., in association with Windows Vista Magazine, is organizing a contest to recognize some of the best Windows Vista Blogs and Websites.

The Winner of the WinVistaClub Best Windows Vista Blog Contest 2008 will also get a Windows Vista Ultimate 32/64 bit DVD Box Pack, a Free 1 year license of ESET Smart Security Suite, a License of Magic Utilities, a License of MagicTweak, a one year subscription to the Windows Vista Magazine and a link for 3 months on the WinVistaClub HomePage.

You can find all the information about the contest here. I really haven’t come across many places on the blogosphere where people have talked good about Windows Vista. Obviously there are blogs that mention some tips and others from Vista developers who talk about new features and improvements, but there aren’t many good blogs that continuously blog about Vista. With all the rant about Vista over the interweb, that contest must be an interesting little idea to promote Vista.

Netbeans 6.5 Beta Released

Netbeans, “the only IDE that you need” is undergoing a major overhaul and the new version is called Netbeans 6.5. Today after weeks of development and testing, Netbeans passed a few test criteria and has been decided to be stable enough by the Netbeans team to be called a Beta. Now begins the real stabilizing process and ironing out the bugs that remain.


Since, I’ve been doing the Netbeans Community Acceptance Testing (NETCAT 6.5) Program, I’ve been closely watching how the entire development has gone through. New features were quickly implemented and each development team co-ordinated with all the quality managers and community to get the best features out in this version. Congratulations to the Netbeans development team on the release and I’m sure a lot of other developers are excited to use the new features.

The following are some noteworthy features, and the complete list can be found here:

1.) PHP – Php support has vastly improved and will ship out-of-the-box with Netbeans, unlike previously where a plugin from the plugin center had to be installed.

2.) Database Tools – The new database tools for designing queries, viewing connections, tables, views, procedures is great. It still a work in progress, but I must say its a pretty good job for a first-time release.

3.) Glassfish v3 has been integrated with Netbeans 6.5 and Glasshfish v3 is surely more sleeker, faster and modular than v2.

4.) There are host of other improvements like Groovy and Grails, SQL Editor Improvements (code completion, save/recall queries, and more), RESTful web services from database tables or from JPA entities, JavaScript debugging on Firefox 2 and IE.

You can download the beta from here and please report any errors that prop up in your work. Enjoy the build and happy coding!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

iPhone App Store’s $30 Million May Be Second Best

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in an interview yesterday to Wall Street Journal that the iPhone AppStore made $30 Million in the first month of sales. That is  approximately close to $1 million everyday for July. Its an amazing feat when you think about the problems with the launch of App Store & iPhone 2... And $1 million a day is not a small amount, but will the business scale?? Will it be the winner for online content distribution??

Steve Jobs has already proved his amazing entrepreneurship in the past with the iPod and iTunes Store. Apple has changed the face of online music sales with AppStore-Vs-Steamits iTunes store and is surely building it up everyday by adding more and more content. The iPhone is also one of the most successful smartphone product, which in its first-generation already got a cult status and has been a hit in its second re-incarnation as well. But with all the success coming its way, there aren’t too many people who are looking at Apple’s shortcomings.

Apple’s failure in web services like .mac and MobileMe is probably its biggest recent failure. But then there is also the bad sales of AppleTV and Jobs Cube (oops MacMini) which still isn’t in the living room!! Apple desktop and laptop sales may be growing, but they still aren’t anywhere outside the US. But with those products not working as well, Apple still rocks with the iPhone.

The App Store fetches 30% of total revenue to Apple and the remaining 70% to the application developers/publisher. 30% does sound a lot for just hosting your App, but then with the developers getting rich for their not-as-much efforts, why would anyone have a problem with Apple getting an even bigger share?? For example, Super Monkey Ball is the most successful paid app on the App Store and has sold more than 300,000 copies in 20 days at $10 each. This means Sega (…and OtherOcean Interactive) made $2.1 million in 20 days. This has made OtherOcean create a new iPhone apps division, which obviously shows that they want to make many more such wonderful apps. I expect many more such developers coming up with interesting apps for the iPhone in the future.

But what we need to think is how much will people keep spending on the App Store and what will be the kind of competition that will come up for developers on the app store... If you need comparisons, most people will obviously look at iTunes, but I don’t think music and games/apps can be considered to be similar content. Obviously music can be downloaded and used whenever, where-ever you want. You could be playing your favorite tunes all through the day, but is it the same with games/apps on a mobile device?? How many hours can you game on the iPhone ?? How many apps do you need on the iPhone?? How much more will you really spend on the iPhone after that purchase??

On the PC side of things, there’s another company getting big on the online content distribution front. And its Valve Software, with its Steam Content Delivery System, which I think has more “steam” in the long run. Desktops/wired networks have lot more bandwidth to download and gaming hardware is lot more capable on PCs. Also we may be moving to specialized gaming consoles from desktop computers, but then Steam could very well be moved to consoles in the future. Steam already has 15million users, who use Steam servers for multiplayer gaming, buying new content, social networking and the like. Steam also has the support of many game developers and studios. And new studios are getting interested everyday to share their content on the Steam system. With all that and improving PC gaming numbers from other countries than the US, it feels that Steam could very well be the leading content delivery system of the future.

How Apple scales its App Store and how developers come up with new and interesting applications/games on the App Store will determine its future success. But the start is surely on track!! Probably, App Store is the constant stream of revenue for Apple, since someone somewhere is going to need an app, but then $1 billion revenue which Steve Jobs is expecting from the App Store is way... way too much!! Atleast not until every kid on the block owns an iPhone!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Google Employee Uses Street View for Marriage Proposal

What’s a grand way of proposing when you are a geek and work for Google?? Michael Weiss-Malik, a Google employee just showed us that if you are a Google employee you can use Google’s Street View to propose to your girlfriend. You can look below at the Street View where Google employees have all stood in line and co-ordinated their timings with the Street View car that takes pictures around the streets.

Drag and double-click to zoom in the image above, or view it on Google Maps

The Street View team actually decided to co-ordinate a pre-announced Street View run outside Google's Mountain View offices, with the idea that Googlers could line up along the street and appear in the imagery. There are also other interesting things that you can view from within this view or you can go ahead and download Google Earth and check out the Street View layer. Some nice fingers, some interesting characters, some photogenic cops await you in the full view!!

If you have been following the “Street View story”, yeah the privacy infringing one!, then you will realize that there are really do diametrically opposite views to that story... When Street View was first launched and then integrated inside Google maps, you had to stand up and notice that some people would get crazy to get in the frame. And like we have seen in the recent past, all kinds of pictures have been popping up in street view. Some of them have been funny, some nudist, some have been advertising and some have been for a social cause. But what really needs to be asked is whether there is anything like privacy on the streets ??

Obviously if you wanted privacy, you have your home... and if someone stills peeps in, you surely have those window panes and curtains to help you. But the entire point of Street View is that you can follow the street and find your places more accurately than anything a top-view map would tell you. Also it feels like you are actually in the place!!

Steve Jobs says Apple Still Has to Learn the Web

Google is the king of the web and everyone realizes web is the place to be. But has anyone wondered why other giants like Microsoft, IBM and HP don’t have mobileme hold over the internet market as much as Google. Steve Jobs, the Apple’s messiah today revealed to its company employees through an email that Apple still has to learn ways to improve its web services and was referring to the recent debacle with MobileMe.

Apple is the leader in portable audio market with iPod and also holds a cult figure on the desktop front. But like Microsoft, Apple still hasn’t figured out a way to provide efficient web services. The MobileMe is a one-stop solution for web services delivered for the iPhone and includes features like over-the-air syncing, linking web applications like Mail and Calender.  Basically MobileMe is a subscription-based cloud application where all the Apple devices including iPod, iMac, PC, iPhone and the rest can collaborate together. But lately the services have been failing all too often. Sometime the services don’t work or work with constant interruptions. Forums all over the web have been filled with discussions on failure of MobileMe. And its not just MobileMe which is failing for Apple. The .mac which is another web service for Apple desktops is also having problems lately.

In an email sent to Apple employees, Steve Jobs mentions that MobileMe is not up to Apple's standards. “It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store. We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.” Jobs adds that, “The MobileMe launch clearly demonstrates that we have more to learn about Internet services... And learn we will. The vision of MobileMe is both exciting and ambitious, and we will press on to make it a service we are all proud of by the end of this year.”

All this just proves that the online world of business and technology is lot different compared to the desktop world. Heroes become zeroes in a second’s flash and being agile is the name of the game. When we criticize Google of being too fast to release new technologies under the “BETA” label, we ought to remember that this is the key to their success. They often release services that aren’t fully feature-rich, but they work stable-enough to be accepted by the internet audience... And then slowly they keep adding more features!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Microsoft’s New Clubhouse and Windows Live

Microsoft has just launched a revamped website for Windows Live in hopes to make navigation simpler and easier access to all its services. Along with the windows_live_logo revamped Windows Live website, Microsoft has also launched a new community website called Windows Live Clubhouse, a community for the most avid users of Windows Live products.

Windows Live Clubhouse is a place where users can share their experience of using Windows Live products. Users also share the best tricks and tips for using the Windows Live products and provide help in using Windows Live products. Currently Live Clubhouse is an invite-only service which Microsoft plans to open for all Windows Live users by the end of this year, if the first set of users are satisfied.

Microsoft off-late has been trying to improve its web services and has hopes that Windows Live will help catch up with Google. In the wake of Google’s success, Microsoft has been trying different things to compete. With the new Wave 3 of Live Services under development and testing, Microsoft is hoping to turn a new leaf in web services market... Surely the Yahoo fiasco has pumped up Microsoft to build better web services.

Intel Larrabee to Support Both DirectX and OpenGL

Intel has been showing presentations on Larrabee for sometime now, but hasn’t openly talked about what instructions it will understand, clock speeds or even intel_logo a hard launch date. For people who do not know, Larrabee is Intel’s attempt to integrate GPU with CPU and create GPGPU (General Purpose GPU) or computing through the use of graphics processing units. Intel today made it clear at Siggraph 2008 that Larrabee will support both DirectX and OpenGL for graphics processing.

Intel already has the highest market share in the GPU world, thanks to integrated graphics processors (IGP) in its chipset's sold with motherboards. But due to the dismal performance over the years of these IGP chipsets, no one ever considers these capable enough for mainstream gaming. Benchmarks have shown time and again that even the most basic discrete graphic cards can perform better than IGPs. With Larrabee, Intel has intentions to bring more computing/graphics power with lesser power requirements.

Larry Seiler, senior engineer in Intel's Visual Computing Group said that, Larrabee's consists of cores derived from Pentium processors and have added multithreading and 64-bit instructions. Each core consists of 256kb L2 cache and the first release of Larrabee will have 8 to 48 cores depending on the market segment. Larrabee also has advanced multi-core capabilities and uses a 1024 bits-wide, bi-directional ring network for fast, low latency communication between the cores.

The programming paradigm doesn’t change with Larrabee because it uses the same x86 instructions used by Intel’s current generation microprocessors. Also with DirectX and OpenGL support inside Larrabee it confirms that current generation games will also work fine. But without any mention of the performance improvement in graphics capabilities over current generation IGPs, I still have doubts whether Intel is actually competing with its own processors or with the GPU vendors like ATI (now AMD) and  NVidia. Larrabee does look solid on paper, but as we know papers do create a lot more hype than they can perform and Intel marketing does know how to play that game.

AMD also has been working on Fusion processor which will integrate AMD CPUs and ATI GPUs into one chip. NVidia on the other hand has create a new programming paradigm with CuDA, which tries to enable normal computer processing to NVidia’s GPU. Whichever company wins this GPGPU battle, we would like to see all of them fight on the same grounds and support existing standards. Today’s Larrabee announcement confirms that both the DirectX and OpenGL standards are followed and will allow current breed of games to run on the Larrabee.