Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Device for revolution

The search for next killer app is a product of two important components, the device and the service. However, real world economics drives each one independently though over a feedback loop. Consequently, we have mobile device manufacturers trying to add functionalities of popular services (like internet connectivity for email) and services are being designed taking into consideration the new devices (like m‑blogs).
I have mentioned about the components of device in my earlier post an year ago. Between that time and now we have significant developments along the lines of what I had written about. I am just going to summarize some of these developments.

Processors have gotten better
Mobile Processors are now a lot better with certain mobile devices now calling themselves computers, particularly Nokia N-Series Mobiles. These are not special processors but standard processors with stable OS with an ability to deal with text, different installable applications and their file types, streaming media etc. So now our mobile devices can identify different profiles of data like documents(Word, pdf, etc), html (xml) files, contact information files, text files, calendar entries, pictures, music files etc.

Devices have more memory
After a lot of development involving IPods and Mp3 players, we now have about 4GB of memory being stacked in a Sony Ericsson phone. The developments mini SD and micro SD cards, packing up to 2 GB in a micro SD, bring more good news.

Devices have better Human Interfaces
Human interaction with the devices has improved with touch screens, bigger screens, video conferencing cameras and full-function key boards being available on mobile phones. We also have mini USB to interface them with other devices.

Battery life is better
In spite of the famous Sony battery recall, we now have better and longer lasting batteries and devices that use power more efficiently. Put together we have more juice in our hand-held than few years back.

Network Interface
Devices are now ready to access the network in more efficient manner. Nokia phones now come with the capability of accessing 3G network and Wi-Fi networks.

Summary
All these developments have in fact set the stage for a string of developments. We should now see set of applications that can revolutionize the use of mobile devices in years to come. These applications will trigger a realization of importance of security identification that will influence further development of applications.

Next let us try and understand what killer applications can make our hand-held devices even more important to us.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The next Killer App from Microsoft!

Long after the post-dotcom era dust has settled, the search for the next killer app continues. People are looking everywhere for the application that will have as big an impact as the internet. Everything from “Web 2.0” to “ubiquitous computing” and everyone from Google to SUN is being scanned and groped for a hint of “killer app” potential. Well, not exactly everyone, no one is searching Microsoft!
Yet, Microsoft has under its hood assembled technologies that, if assembled intelligently, can deliver the next killer app! I have been loosing sleep over the next killer app till it all occurred to me. My confidence in Microsoft emanates from the fact that under all the inertia, Bill and his boys have assembled quite a bit of stuff.

Microsoft understands things others understand
Three key areas which are most definitely going to be part of the next revolution are also areas where Microsoft has established expertise. They are:
  1. Devices: Microsoft understands variety of devices from servers, personal computers, Pocket computers, mobile phones, game stations, music players, clocks and what not! Microsoft knows how to make these things work, connect and share data.
  2. Search: Window’s Live is Microsoft’s biggest bet in web search business. It might not be successful as a business but it is good enough to demonstrate Microsoft’s technical capabilities. Further the tight integration of search with Vista and Microsoft’s inherent strengths at desktop search are well known.
  3. Security: I realize that I am treading soft ground but I trust Bill’s team to know and understand a lot about security. After all they created too numerous security holes than the entire programming world put together.

Beyond this, Microsoft also understands key skills operationally required for delivering the next revolution. Tons of cash, enviable marketing and sales engine, global reach are key enablers that can multiply Microsoft’s capability.

But the most important thing Microsoft understands…
That has to be “context”! Have you noticed a pop-up that irritates us when we start typing a letter in MS Word? Microsoft knows that you are typing a letter. Microsoft also knows who it is being addressed to and the location, email address of the person. This through a feature called “smart tags”.
Google on the other hand does not understand context. Nor can others.

Put together…
Microsoft can deliver the next revolution. This revolution will be created through a two level approach:

  1. At one level will be a device connected to world through a spate of technologies including WLAN, 3G.
  2. At Second level there will be services that will through software, social networking site technologies and other sharing enabled technologies will create unparalleled utility.

In my next posts I will detail more on each of these. Meanwhile, I just hope people at Microsoft, particularly one who is in India currently, take notice and start working on getting us into the next technology revolution!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Social Structure

Our social environment almost always defines our beliefs, our sense of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, good and bad. It shapes our aims and aspirations and hence defines our personality. Consequently it shapes the future of mankind.

After trying to expound the details of Organisation structure, I wonder what could be the structure of social environment. How can we classify and categorise the various disciplines varying from calculus to glass painting, from news reporting to nuclear physics, from astronomy to gastronomy? How do these disciplines fit into the society’s development scheme?

If you examine the different roles played by various disciplines, you will realise that each forms an important cog in the wheel of life. Each performs a key role that is not only important but also essential and critical for the development of society of tomorrow. These roles are not exclusive traits of individual’s personality rather a categorisation of traits present in each individual. When these individual traits are aggregated at social level they form the social fabric.

Typically, you can classify these roles into three main categories namely those of the reporter, the detective and the inventor.

The Reporter
The reporter role is that of an observer. Like a news reporter, we convey, broadcast or propagate a picture or assessment, true or otherwise, of the reality. Typically a salesman selling a product dons this role to convey the existence and benefits of his product. An artist “reports” his view of a landscape, people and objects through his paintings or photos. A model propagates a designer’s view of style. An accountant reports the performance of his company.

The Detective
Detectives are often souls in search of reason for an occurrence “reported” to them. Like a detective, they try to understand, comprehend, question or demystify, correctly or otherwise, the believed reality. These are scientists in search of explanation of big bang. Doctors and researchers try to “understand” reasons for obesity. Scholars “question” roles of auditors in scams like Enron. Experts “demystify” the effects of globalisation.

The Inventor
Inventors are people who design or develop products, systems, using the “understanding”. Entrepreneurs develop products to take advantage of unsatisfied needs. Christianity was “invented” to address the wrong-doings of the Romans. Democracy was “invented” to challenge the whimsical tyrants who oppressed the people they ruled.


In Sum
At a social level, it is possible that during a certain period there is a dominance of a particular role. This might explain the social behaviour, positive and negative, in that period. At a personal level, these roles seem to be like a tool that is used in everyday life. It is imperative that we not only master these roles but also understand when to use which roles. For example, in a period dominated by inventors, being a reporter or detective may be more rewarding.

I would venture a guess that past two centuries have seen dominance of inventors. Inventors from Henry Ford to Jack Welch, Steve Jobs to Versace, spiritual gurus to Communist Party of China, are so far astoundingly numerous. The dominance has been so complete that entrepreneurs have nearly run out of ideas that can be translated into inventions. These inventions have led to economic stability and enrichment fertile enough to breed a new breed of reporters.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A new Responsibility!

One of the best ways to silence an outspoken person is to give him responsibility for public relations! This is my learning and reason of my silence for the past few months. In my new job responsibility, I am supposed to be an Industry Analyst! My views will form the views of my company for the industries I track! Hence according to business conduct guidelines I rather not state my views out in the open.
That suddenly leaves a lot less to be written as I am tracking the currently hot sector "Real Estate"! But life is life and so it will be that my comments from now on will be rather less related to housing, cities, real estate and more about other issues in life.
So starts a new chapter in life!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A new ID

Recently, there was a regulation stating it was required of the telecom companies to verify the details of their subscribers. There will be a cost for verification of contact details of each subscriber. Ideally government should be the agency which should enable this activity as a part of this business infrastructure. US has the Social Security Number, in India we have the Voter ID, Passport Number, PAN, MAPIN and God knows what not. Each time the same details get verified.


Is there a need?
There is a similar requirement for identification from one set of companies like banks, credit card companies. Other set of companies would give their right arm for getting the "verified" details of individual customers so that they can engage them better. The individual on the other hand, would like to have a convenience of having updated voter records, ration-cards, automatically updated subscription addresses, a single point control on all his/her details. This single source identity is, in a latent form, one of the biggest business infrastructure need that will emerge in coming years. More so as globalization actually permeates to working population making it mobile. Thus a need for a single ubiquitous universally accessible identification.

Can we do it?
Today we have almost all the technologies needed to put together such an id. We have computing power that can manage database of 6 billion people. We have electronic cards that can be interact with various kinds of readers magnetic, optical in variety of ways (bar code reading, credit card like swipe, access control like etc).One simple idea would be to use the telephone number as the id. But it will still not sort the problem of having verified details of the person being universally acceptable. Ther reverse can be a valid suggestion though. Individual should be able to use his id as his address, telephone number, blog address, website address, credit card number, etc. This number (sort of public key) can be used by anyone who wishes to contact the person provided person's private key details will decide what he wants to receive.

What needs to be done?
A co-ordinated effort at a global level is what is necessary for tackling this issue. Why global? Because even in US there are people who do not have a social security number. These people are currently out of the purview of the governmental system though they form an important part of the economic ecosystem. There can be global level effort to ensure that each telphone number (once appended by country and city code) is unique in the world. So there can definitely be an effort to have a unique identifier globally for each person!


How will government benefit?
Taxation will be become more effective and efficient. Benefits of subsidies can be more targetted and hence effective. Such mechanisms will be great tool for countering terrorism. Population migration, data on consumption, earnings, economic activity etc on which government spends millions of dollars will be easily accessible.


In sum
A universal identification clearly is the need of the century. Just like in pre-globalisation era each country needed an identity, in the post globalisation era each individual will need an identity. Can we hasten the process is the question?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

An Organisation Structure for a new-age Political Party!

I have been a keen observer of the Indian Political System. To put popular opinion in perspective, the system sucks! However, if we examine the system in context of our history and the assumptions made by the designers of the system, a whole new truth emerges. Under the stinky surface one finds how miscreants have taken advantage of good intentions and naïve assumptions of our elders. No doubt the system needs a complete overhaul!
In this context I believe we need not re-invent the wheel. We can learn from the organisation structure / functioning of corporates. While I agree that government/political party should not / need not function like a corporate, I believe that our new age political party can borrow good workable ideas from corporates and deploy them for its gains. Some of the ideas from corporate approach could be:
  • Managing Efforts: Political Parties tend to take volunteer efforts for granted. How many times have we seen grass-root level worker sacrificed for son-of-incumbent in partisan politics. I often wondered why people join political parties at grass-root level when a certain Mr. Gandhi or Ms. Gandhi is heir-apparent. This concept is keeping good people away from politics. To have a workable, unbiased, “secular”, political party we need to reward all efforts “secularly”. Current system does not measure the efforts and time spent by volunteers. A strong system needs to be implemented to document through a process effort expended by each person working for our party.
  • MIS (frequent – complete reporting): A CFO gets details of every effort spent across the company. Corporate managers often seek inputs from their teams about activities and projects/assignments they are working on. These inputs form critical part of plan-do-check-improve routine that corporate follows. We need to imbibe this improvement process for our political party.
  • Managing Finances: One word that is common to all corporates (maybe to a varying degree) is Financial Prudence. Current political system works on un-identified, un-documented sources of funds hence this implementing this for current political parties is not feasible. They are caught in an “un-accounted funds yielding unaccounted benefits” spiral. Our political party needs to establish credibly a system to manage and audit its account in a transparent manner. I would go a step further to disclose the accounts publicly and be open to scrutiny. (One can look at open-source model for tax and financial reporting).
  • Marketing and Sales (to prospective voters): My boss says at the end its all sales! And he is right; this new-age political party’s first success will finally depend on how effectively it can sell to Indian voters. Corporates have a sales plan in place wherein the sales team regularly meets, interacts and sells to the clients. A worth emulating thought I must say. Drawing parallels, can we not expect our party to have a contact plan for each of the customer?
  • Recruitment: Corporates have a well defined process for recruitment. We tend to believe that Political Parties should be volunteer driven. But when we need skills we need skills and skills we will have to recruit. Recruiting for political parties can have a two pronged approach of volunteering and recruitments. This is again similar to fresh-hires and lateral placements concept in corporates. For each person it is important to know what is expected of him/her when he is recruited. Obviously when the recruit brings some skills (like event management) to the table the expectation can align to his skill for maximum advantage.
  • Career Plan – Leadership program: Also one other thing we can learn from corporates is career planning and leadership development. When you have people, they come with aspiration. Aspirations can be positively channelled if performance is measured. Hence, it is essential to put in place a performance measurement and reward system that is reasonably objective and acceptable to everyone in the team. Existence of such a system drastically enhances talent retention and helps manage expectations of the new members. It makes comparing between two good performing individuals easy and avoids conflict.

These things are more must-haves rather than esoteric requirements. Don't you think a political party along these lines will actually renew India! I know of a party which is finding its feet and curiously examining these very issues. Click here to know more!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Looking for Performance?

Getting people to perform is the single biggest challenge for organizations. Of course, people in organizations work. But do they perform to their potential? Generally I don’t think so! There is huge untapped potential within people and it simply never comes out. However great leaders are somehow able to ignite a passion for performance that makes people put in that extra little bit for them. What magic potion do these leaders have that makes performers out of ordinary people? Is it a rocket science? Can I have it?

Of course you can!
Like everyone else I am too searching for that potion, but in the course of my search I have found some tidbits that I believe will be helpful. I have found that

  • Everyone has a performer within them. Often the performer is sleeping. Awaken that performer in your team.
  • Performers are wary of politics! But given that organizational politics is a reality, Performers see a performer who is good in organizational politics as more worthy adversary than a non-performer! If you can discourage organizational politics, at least shield your team from the pan-organisational politicking.
  • Performers are not wary of other performers. In fact they love performers. Promote the performers in your team to get together, act as a team, take on bigger challenges!
  • Performers are not hugely motivated by money alone. Along with money, performers need recognition. As a leader, it is your responsibility to advertise the performers in your team! Performers will love you for it! Yet remember performance love genuine appreciation and can see through fakes!
  • Performers want preferential treatment over non-performers. Any indication of socialism in reward allocation is a big put-off for performers. After all there has to be enough motivation to perform. A healthy bias towards performance is a good performance initiator! Remember show the bias to performance and not to performers!

What has been your experience? Have you experience this as a leader, or as part of a team? Let me know.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Web 2.0 and New Yahoo!

Internet has revolutionised everything! How many times have you heard that phrase? By now surely a million times and you will hear more of it as we enter Web 2.0 era. Because it is true!

What is Web 2.0?
Simply put Web 2.0 is the next generation Web applications. You can look at the links (del.icio.us and Yahoo! mail) and flip through the pages in detail to know more about Web 2.0. So now with the new version Yahoo! gives me an option to right click in browser window and search through Yahoo! Search engine. Google does one bit better through Google Desktop by searching within my computer, out in the web and maintaining a record through personal search. Yet one person is still not seen. Believe me, he has aces up his sleeve. And that would be Mr. Bill Gates!

Microsoft Advantage
One wonders what he is upto these days? Where are his best programmers? What products is he thinking of through his .Net platform? How do they compare with Web 2.0? Believe me if that person is worth the operating system I am using, he is making MS Office on Web 2.0! Also I believe he will surely come up with the new innovations for browser, search engine, OS that will tightly integrate web and computer!

Web 2.0 changes the way we communicate
With the advent of the internet the modes of communication has changed considerably. We now no longer believe in snail mail, we look at computer screens more than we look at A4 sized papers, we spend as much time looking at websites as we do looking at newspapers or TV, our first stop for information is almost always the web. Yet all this has not been incorporated in our habits. One needs to question why I have to read reams and reams of paper electronically published. The website interfaces need overhauling to suit the new lifestyle. Web 2.0 will make that easier. Yahoo Mail looks like Outlook, soon word processors and other programs will be available in similar formats and then we will be totally integrated.

To conclude
I remember looking at a stand-alone computer with wonder and amazement, with even more wonder and amazement I looked at LAN in my college lab, still amazing wonder was when I signed up for email and chat program and made friends across the globe. Today I am looking at Web 2.0 with even more wonder and amazement! Now I am going to buy Microsoft shares! I welcome myself to the next tech boom!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Between Dam and Development

The Narmada Bacho Andolan (Save Narmada) has been on for a very long time. The foundation stone of the dam was laid by Nehru! The protests are from two sides, one side calls themselves pro-development and the other pro-rehabilitation.
Debate with one side!
Now the ridiculous part is that the reality is with both. Any development means that few citizens will be affected. However, it is definately the responsibility of the government to make sure each of these citizens are adequately compensated. Any person who demands adequate compensation cannot be wrong. What I feel is the point of debate is if the compensation is adequate or not.
How are the people compensated?
The Land Acquisition Act mentions about the compensation having two elements. First is the market price of the land and second is an allowance for compulsary nature of acquisition. There are also provision to allocate land in proportional terms. Typically what happens is governments try to suppress the "market price of acquired land" and inflate the "market price of allocated land". Thus for a 100 unit land before acquisition roughly equates to 20~40 units of new allocated land. Further this new land is taken from some other people and a lower amount is allocated to them. Please note that this is compulsory in nature and the farmer or land owner does not have any option to reject the offer.
Imagine tomorrow someone compulsarily takes up your 4 Bedroom penthouse and allocates you a 1 bedroom apartment across the street with a note that the price of new house is same as your penthouse because the development (like new road, electricity and water etc) that they hope to undertake in your land!
Further try and get the compensation through the courts and you will end up spending more than 30 years trying to get a reasonable deal for your land. Even at the end of 30 years all they get is a "simple interest" on their asset prices. They are not even given a standard recurring deposit interest rate! Generations after generations are forced into poverty despite their lands being very valuable! Is it fair is my question?
What is adequate compensation?
Beyond the amounts, it is the timing of the compensation that is critical. In this sense the NBA is critical. First compensation then development must be the mantra. It is only because of the stopping of the dam that the rehabilitation work is in focus. Had the dam been completed the matter would have gone out of public interest.
Medha Patkar is wrong in fasting!
Medha Patkar leads the protest through non-violent means by Fasting like Gandhi. Someone should let her know that no amount of fasting will help the NBA cause. This war has to be waged on basis of information. In information world information is the weapon.
Now I am wondering what would be possible tactics Medha Patkar can use in this war. Any suggestions?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Dis-incentivising Prostitution

From a brief scan across all the proposals and demands from the industry one gets a feeling that government is out to dis-incentivise their particular industry and government is doing a damn good job of this. But look at prostitution, the world's oldest business. Many a government has tried to ban prostitution (dis-incentivising of course) to no avail. The worst affected by the ban were the prostitutes. They were exploited by various people starting from pimps to law enforcement agencies. And still there is no end to prostitution. Hence many governments have taken steps to legalise the system. Can then the government learn from its exceptional good job in other industries and use it where it matters most?
The Horns of the Devil!
If we observe this business we understand that there are three core players, prostitutes, pimps and customers. Prostitutes are the exploited ones, they are there (in most cases) because they do not have alternatives, they are helpless. The pimps are middlemen. But most critical element are the customers! At least in India they always try and catch and prosecute the "prostitutes" but customers are often let free. It the customers you have to catch if you want to eliminate prostitution!!
How do you do it?
The first way government can di-incentivise this trade is by taxing it! Simply take the details of the customers and put an additional 10% tax liability on these people. Or if I were Finance Minister I would call it a cess and channel the money into health care for these sections.
Second deals with the way British enforced law in India during their occupation. They used two major weapons. No it wasn't the baton or gun, it was information and social pressure. Lets say, if government were to take a photo and details of every person who is caught with a prostitute and publish the same on some website. Or track connected near ones like office, friends, home and supply this information across these places. Will social stigma not cause the customers' to vanish?
The Dance Bar Phenomeon
Mumbai now has another issues and its Dance Bars which government was trying to ban. The Mumbai High Court recent allowed these dance bars to operate. Using our earlier logic we can work on an effective solution to the Dance Bar problem.
First way is to simply get details of people who come to dance bars, the amounts they spend and share this information with income tax. Or simply make entry in the bar subject to swiping / scanning of PAN card! (India's equi-valent of social security number for tax purposes)
Second again will be to share the details with the friends and near ones along with details being publicly posted on some common website. Regulars should be tracked and traced across dance bars.
In sum...
Basic economic sense can be used to contain a lot of industries, often these techniques are used on legitimate industries in era of control. Same techniques may be deployed where it actually matters. What Say??

Monday, April 10, 2006

Inorganic Growth and Organisations' Risk taking ability

As students of business we understand that organisations can be classified into three types based on their growth strategy. Primarily organisations follow, Organic Growth, Inorganic growth and some use both. In many industries there are examples of players resorting to organic growth whereas some resorting to inorganic growth. I always wondered why is it that some companies cannot grow rapidly in organic way?
Growth Risk and Organisational culture
Risks associated with inorganic growth are well-understood and documented. In fact, it is easier to take "inorganic growth" risk rather than "organic growth" risk. Also the risk is taken by top management. Logically Inorganic growth requires risk taking ability at the top of the corporate hierarchy whereas Organic growth requires risk taking ability that is distributed across the hierarchy.
This leads us to a reasonable hypotheses about the organisation culture. Organisations that emphasise more on inorganic growth may be risk averse, explaining the association of risk with the top management. Conversely an organisation with high organic growth is almost always flamboyant, empowered down to the line functions.
Inherent disadvantages of Inorganically growing organisation
When you extend the logic a little further you realize the implications of both these strategies.
For One, a flamboyant organsiation has its ranks full with "risk-taking" experience across the hierarchy. Hence succession planning is not much difficult. Such orgaisations can find within its ranks potential leaders, CEOs etc. On the other hand in a risk averse organisation the ranks have no experience in taking risks. So effectively any modifications in the current top management shakes the very foundations of such a company.
Secondly, it is difficult for such an organisations to take-up new take-over/ merger options because it cannot find within its ranks leaders who can take up the integration work post the merger. A flamboyant organisation can effectively take up inorganic growth and thus be even more successful.
Finally, even in the middle of merger, a flamboyant organisation is more likely to energize the other organsiation, with its people taking up most of the challanging positions in the merged entity. The risk-averse organisation has to either find leaders capable of taking up this challange or resign to domination from the other organisation. (This is not a generally seen conditions because "risk averse" organisations do not take-over flamboyant organisations because of cultural issues)
Is your organisation risk averse?
How can one deduce if his/her organisation is "risk averse" or "flamboyant". Well, even though there is no track-record of inorganic or organic growth it is possible to decide where your organisation belongs. Of all people employees can definately decipher the actual behaviour from stated slogans. I believe these are some hypothese that will expose the true behaviour of your organisation. There are more and I havent thought of all of them so let me know if you think of any other.
Lets look at following hypotheses:
  • Hypothesis 1: "If it aint broke dont fix it!" A performing function in a "risk averse" organisation is almost never challanged. Top management just lets them be. On the contrary, in a flamboyant organisation, a new wave of strategic initiatives is undertaken to improve the best performing function. Check in the best performing department, is it subject to improvement initiative? Are the processes in place?
  • Hypothesis 2: New initiatives are always led by top management or identified leaders. A "risk averse" organisation never risks a new initiatives with unknown leaders. And this means new initiatives are all big initiatives. On the contrary, flamboyant organisations have smaller new initiatives manned across the ranks. Such organisations do not wait for "proven" "sizable" opportunity rather they explore every possible opportunity with the resources they have. List out the major opportunities your organisation has gone after? Do you see familliar faces manning them? Do you see enough grass-root level opportunity exploitation?
  • Hypothesis 3: Flamboyant Organisations have a Fast-track program for employees. Typically, a team that takes higher risks needs higher rewards and this shows in the flamboyant organisation. A typical fallout of this is high person in-dependance in such organisation. The top performers are often moved across departments across functions to man the new initiatives. A fast track program may be a structured program or un-structured program but the key point is every employee knows how he can be selected for this program.
  • Hypothesis 4: Meritocracy must for Risk taking organisation! Most of the Risk taking organisations have a mechanism to reward the best employees. GE consistently separates the extra-ordinary from the ordinary!
  • Hypothesis 5: In flamboyant organisations, new Ideas get heard, financed and manned at first level where decision can be taken on them. If you have pitched for a new idea and your boss has referred it to his senior and you have not heard anything about it from then on, most likely you are in a "risk averse" organisation. In flamboyant organisations if someone is responsible he/she takes the decision and gets it implemented.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

My new Samsung D600!

Finally I migrated from my year-and-half old Sony Ericsson K700 to Samsung D600!! Its been a well thought out decision after a lot of deliberations. I also found a website wherein you get amazing reviews of mobile phones(www.mobile-review.com)!

Yet, even after careful selection I found some drawbacks and its just the second day of using it! I guess every good thing also has a little scope for improvement!!

Migrating to D600
I found it extremely difficult to migrate my contacts from Sony Ericsson K700 to D600. I did not have the data cable for K700 did not help the matter. However, I used the Send all option from contact menu of K700 and selected via bluetooth. The D600 received the whole transmission yet only showed one contact in the address book. I eventually had to transfer all my contacts one-by-one! (I know using a computer things would have been simpler but the fact is sending entire address book did not work in D600)

Short service "SMS"
In D600, I cannot choose the default storage for SMS messages. It directly comes into SIM. There is also no option to backup the SMS into the memory card. Also try saving the number from whom you receive an SMS into one of the existing contacts. You cant do it!!! ( I usually get SMS from people saying "This is my new number" rather than getting a vcard!) Life is going to be hell!!

Where are the "Text Notes"
Thirdly, there should have been option for text notes (not those included in the calender but simple stand-alone text notes).

"Menu"s in context
The menus do not change according to context. For example, if I am typing an SMS, the left soft key shows "options" where I click to reach send. However, ideally send should have appeared as the soft key option and options should have come at the right soft key. The right soft key shows "back" which deletes the message if you are not careful.

Samsung does not believe in taking the "Short Cut"
You cannot assign all menu options to the shortcuts. The options are restricted and rest of the menu are out of bounds!!

Cannot fly without a "Flight mode"
Lastly, an executive phone that does not have a "airplane mode" or "flight mode" is hard to believe. They should have included it on D600. Of course Mobile-review team has mentioned this in their review but this is something what I call a must have!
MP3 Player, No radio!!
Where is the radio? With a phone equipped with good quality sound the lack of radio is a disappointment.

In sum...
So there it is the list of some of the drawbacks of what basically is a "potentially" great phone. There are loads of features like TV out and great camera and a lot more. I am hoping they have sorted these things out in the next edition D800 slim slider phone! For more on D600 / D800 and other mobile phones visit www.mobile-review.com!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Mobile Devices - The New Business Model

Currently almost all the "valuable" functionality of the mobile phone is derived from connecting with the network. Almost all business models are based around this central theme and already there is a lot of clutter in this space. However there is a lot of space for innovative business models to exploit inter-device interactions. The next stage of development of mobile devices will be in exploitation of the inter-device interaction.
The "Close-By" opportunity
One serious impediment for exploitation of mobile services is the lack of location tracking at close range. At the most a phone can be tracked to the nearest tower. Lets imagine if it were possible to track a phone right down to within 5-10 meters. We all know Bluetooth can enable this very effectively.
The stumbling block
First constraint is that people switch off their bluetooth communications. Can one overcome this constraint? Of course, if offers are flashed only on bluetooth then people will switch on their bluetooth.
Second is privacy. People will not welcome spam on their mobile devices. Frankly the messages one gets while roaming are extremely irritating.
Third is security. Why will I enable my bluetooth connections for others to send messages to me? Will it mean I will be exposed to Viruses or any other threats?
The Bright Idea
To avoid this advertisers need to place constraints on themselves. These could be enforced technologically too. Like for example imagine a program, a bluetooth message trasmitter server and a receiver client, that makes sure the messages are customised and welcome. How?
Imagine the "client program" has options that let me choose the products for which I want offers. The "server program" knows and only sends me those offers that I have asked for!! This "client program" can be freely distributable with mobile phones (just like our dear Adobe Acrobat). The "server program" will be bought by local advertisers (shops, malls, bus service providers etc) and telecom companies will run them. We all know that the "client Program" can be configured to be independant accepting only from "known" "server programs" thus eliminating security threats.
In sum...
I think this means my mobile experience will be much more valuable, there will be additional revenue for Telecom service providers, and local advertisers will have lower advertising cost enabling highly targetted advertising. Wont it make a better world? What Say?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Engineering Diamonds

While I am on the subject of Jewellery, let me also say a few words about diamonds. The biggest question that faces a layman like me is about the authenticity of the diamond, its material (is it really a diamond or is it polished glass!!), the cuts (apparantly more of them are better), weight in carats, flaws ( diamonds always have some of them). Not many people can look a diamond in the eye or pass light through it and tell if its a great piece or not. We all go by experts view. Is there any other way?
Optics and Diamonds
At the core of diamonds value is light or better optics. A diamond appears bright and sparkles. Also when light is passed through a diamond it forms patterns. When the diamond is manufactured they should establish what pattern it forms and share it with the consumer.
So long as the light is consistent (same frequency) and the way it is passed is consistent ( angle of incidence etc) it should produce the same pattern throughout the life of the diamond. This can be used as a metric to measure the genuine-ness of the diamond. For example, it should be possible to design or designate one particular frequency of light that shall be used for the purpose of reading patterns. Using this it is possible to create a testing equipment which can observably indicate if the diamond is of high quality or if its quality has deteriorated.
Artistic Inclinations and Observable Quality
Turning the idea around, theoritically, it is possible to design a diamond's cuts given a light pattern. Lets say a hexagon of certain dimension with bright vertices is a pattern. Now can we work back from this pattern and arrive at what design will form such a pattern? I think we can. Just that not much "engineering" thought has gone into designing of diamond patterns.
The general artisty in diamonds is currently confined to ability to design the cuts that creates the best value. Another form of artisty can be applied to diamonds and that will be pattern creation. The more complicated the pattern (and more recognisable) the more value can be derived from the diamond.
Imagine...
People can be offered diamonds that emit a pattern (under certain conditions) that says "I love you" or "Ferrari" or "Intel Inside" and even customized names like "Rahul" and the value of these diamond can appreciate far more. I am sure once this happens it wont be long when real pictures can be encoded into these diamonds so that the pattern that they form is actually a photo. And that will be the first step in making diamonds more valuable. All it needs is a few engineers putting their heads into the design departments in this industry. Dont you think so?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Engineering Jewellery

Long ago I had a look at various kinds of Jewellery designs. The designs I saw were uninspiring and dated. Considering that India is one of the biggest consumer of Gold and that too in jewellery form with a history dating thousands of years in jewellery design, this was totally unexpected. Through each of the designs I found there are only x number of patterns out there in the market. The forms of jewellery is also the same. I kept looking for innovation as the industry became more and more organised. But alas! No innovation in a product of such a high value!!! I believe the main problem is that currently the industry is dominated by artists rather than engineers.


Base of Jewellery Design
At the base of jewellery design are three basic items:
  1. Designing patterns (these form the elements): This aspect is more of the artist type of work where differnet designs are created through use of symmetry, forms and look. These we will call "elements".
  2. Designing links (that hold various elements together): If you observe different jewellery pieces (except the ring) you will find that various elements are meant to position themselves on the wearer's body. The links help positioning these elements and holding them together.
  3. Designing Clamps or holders for gems: The element comprises of gems or diamonds(sometimes it doesn't). These gems (and diamonds) are required to be held by clamps. These are of different types crab-like or ring-like and many more.

Two paths for innovation from Engineers!
First would be bringing CAD (Computer Aided Design) to this field. I think using CAD far more imaginatively designed links can be used. In fact engineers can effectively use their design skills to make the links the focus of attention (thus morphing them into elements) or submerge them totally so that they stay invisible to the observer.
Second would have (I believe) far reaching consequences. For example, imagine a necklace that can morph from a simple necklace into an elaborate bracelet or a watch! Or imagine a necklace that you can customize with a set of jewels! This will lead to buy once and use as many!! Girls can wear one configuation each day and never will people know its just the same necklace reconfigured!

The Future of Jewellery!
Of course human infatuation with jewellery will continue! (Ok, its female infatuation for jewellery and male infatuation for females!) However, in no way has the industry even scratched the surface of innovation. The answer to me seems to lie in increasing involvement of engineers in this field.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A new way to advertise online!

Long time ago email was a big thing and to get it free I did not mind my information being shared. I also agreed to look at some ads in the bargain! Not so today! Today I have a keen sense of screen map of my favourite email programs Gmail and Yahoo! Today my eyes conveniently ignore what is flashed across the screen that is not relevant to my email!! So can you make ads better? I thought of one way!

Do you know Yahoo! gives you an option of Avtars where you design a web personality for yourself. Now can you put that in the ad? Along with flowers and Avtars of my buddies (from my contact database of course) and can you not create an on-the-fly ad that makes sense for me? Like can you not describe a flash presentation of my Avatar giving a watch (Omega, Esprit, Casio etc) to my friend's Avatar with an option of buy a gift click here!!

I think thats a good way of inducing me to click on the watch site and I might actually buy something relevant. The key will be to identify the relationship between me and my friend correctly!!! Can Yahoo! or Google do that? Sure they can scan the emails through a web-crawler-like program and figure out what ads suit best. In fact Google can call it Relationship Rank algorithm!! (Hey if you are from Google and reading this post and planning to implement this please name it Rahul Rank!!) The Ranking can be based on frequency of emails, content in emails, key word search in emails and many more parameters.

Now let me hope that they make better ads to help me enhance my relationships!!! Fine trade-off for viewing ads!!!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year!!!

2005, by all means, was a very tough year. But nestled in the tough twigs of challanges, there were tender eggs of promises. I managed some unbelievable things in 2005:

  • Lost everything in the Mumbai Floods but put it back together very soon. Rented a new place near Office cutting commuting time by solid 3 hours!!!
  • Got married to my sweetheart!! Had a dream honeymoon in the hills of Sikkim!
  • Won more deals than I could recollect till March! Lost more deals that I recollect but managed enough to achieve my targets till December!
  • Went on a Cruise and tried to imagine myself with Captain Cook!

What an eventful year!!!! And now to top it all 2006 is here!! Here is wishing everyone a warm prosperous and cracking 2006!!!