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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

Mobile Music Wars

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Another interesting battle is shaping up: Nokia vs. Apple. The turf is the music distribution business. It all started with Nokia's acquisition of Loudeye, a music content provider. Today Nokia has released plans of its own music distribution business. Users can sign up to a serivce in which David Bowie recommends his favorite tracks with a 30 second clip embedded. The users in UK and Australia can even buy the track if the want to. The Loudeye's system provides the backend.

Om informs us that Nokia's N91 will additionally have around 8 GB of memory. They are also introducing N95 and N75 as musicphones. Apple has some serious competition to its iPods' now. With 8GB of memory N91 will be a direct competitor to iPod apart from being a 3G phone as well. It had been speculated earlier that Nokia might want a piece of Apple's iTunes business. It was by far the biggest producer or mp3 enabled devices. In response Apple was rumored to be working on the iPhone.

The ball is now in Apple's court. Watch out for the next move.

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posted by Rajiv, 9:23 AM | link | 0 comments |

Of Rain and MoMo's

Monday, September 25, 2006

Yesterday was MoMo night. We all converged at Indiranagar Club around the evening despite the rain to disucss about Mobile VAS 2.0. Its funny, every time we have a MoMo, the rain gods want to join in. At the first one we had a huge deluge and we were all stranded. This time it was a light drizzle though (I still had to leave my cycle at the venue; hope its still there).

We continued the discussion around mobile VAS and Sanjay Swamy, CEO of mChek was our speaker this time. His talk was very interactive and we all tried to our best to give him a hard time. He showed us a demo of the mChek's two tier payment method and it captured everyone's imagination. A sneak peak into our future lives I guess. Still he didnt reveal how he managed to convince the VC's without any clear cut revenue model.

It was also nice to see some new faces yesterday. The regulars including Rajan, Sujai, Harish, Sid were there. And thankfully we had some ladies as well, including a reporter from Business Line! We are hoping to get Krishna Dhurba next time to speak and if that happens, watch out for a cracker of an event. Sadly I'm gonna miss it since I'm home in Diwali.

Do have a look at the pics.

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posted by Rajiv, 11:00 PM | link | 0 comments |


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Not to be missed.
posted by Rajiv, 9:01 AM | link | 0 comments |

Open Source and Charity

Warning: A personal rant.

Charity is a dirty word in business circles. Free Open Source Software is considered charity. Therefore FOSS == Dirty. Free Software Business == stupid idea. FOSS Entrepreneur == BIG LOSER.

This is a reality. I face it every time I step out of my own protected land of CVS and Linux and try to socialize with the top notch entrepreneurial talent in Bangalore. I have tried to be preachy and show them the vision behind but all I take back home from such encounters is a big hole in my heart and a bitter aftertaste. After some period of time the doubts start creeping into your mind and you start questioning your beliefs.

Is FOSS really charity? Let's go to the root cause. What is the duty of an entrepreneur? There are two schools of thought here. The first one says that it is to make money. The second one says that it is to create value. Depending upon which where your loyalties lie, FOSS will be dirty or wonderful for you. Obviously I am in the latter camp. Note that value and wealth are not equals. They differ in several ways. But thats a seperate discussion.

According to me the primary duty of an entrepreneur is to chase his own dream. I know that my dream will both bring value and wealth the long run. How? I dont have a freaking idea. With time maybe I'll figure that out. Maybe not! So does that make me an entrepreneur? In the books of majority it will not. But I will still pursue my dream to its end. If it works out, well and good. If it does not, I'll be contended with the fact that I had a shot at it.

I have always done things differently in my life. And I am proud of that. I still hold my head high.

For the lost souls who wandered till here, a bonus article. Draw your own conclusions.

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posted by Rajiv, 7:59 AM | link | 3 comments |

A Flood Is Coming

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mike at Mobile opportunity warns of an impending disaster. It is the clash of civilisations. It will be a long drawn out war in which each battle will be fought with blood. The loyalties will be cheap and sides will be exchanged frequently. Call it the last stand of the Telcos.

Its time to sharpen your swords.

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posted by Rajiv, 5:06 AM | link | 0 comments |

Internet Dating RoI

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I am a veteran of Internet Dating and Social Networkinng sites. I have tried almost all the services out there. Starting from v-india, match.com, fropper, eHarmony, etc. to the more recent web 2.0 ones: myspace, bebo, orkut, zorpia etc. There were many forgettable ones in between (lovehappens, friendster, ringo etc.). I have also tried out some of the Indian online marriage classified sites: Rediff Matchmaker, JeevanSathi etc. Given this background, I consider myself as a seasoned campaigner (maybe I should start a wiki about how to make these services work for you; there lies a profession in there!).

But IMHO none of them address the basic issue Return on Investment (RoI). Males are meant to pursue females. Thats the way we are built and the way our society works. Given a 50:50 ratio of both sexes, each girl will get requests from at least 10 to 25 % of the guys on the site. Which creates 1) a problem of choice for the girl (if she is indeed looking for a date) 2) spam (if she is not eg. on SocNet sites). This phenomenon is most visible on Orkut (at least amongst Indians). All the girls on Orkut get hundreds of friend requests from guys looking for a date. The more attractive looking female gets more requests. Some girls refuse flatly, some check out the profile once before refusing and sometimes, once in a while, she accepts! As usual the odds are stacked against the males here as well. The hit rate is around 1 % and the chances of some action is even lower; around 0.01%.

That is simply too low. It results in too much hard work without a guaranteed RoI. The traditional methods have much better hit rates. Ask your friends, join a salsa class or just randomly approach girls on the street (yup, i have done that too). To make these SocNet sites work, they have to increase the odds against the guys. The service has to assume that there will be more guys on the site and each guy would preferably want to try out all the attractive looking girls out there (why not!). Its job should be ensure that he has a fair chance of accomplishing that.

And the best way to do that is to offer incentive to the girls. A rewards based system in which the girls would want to interact with the guys since its in their interest. Feed their greed (gifts, shopping vouchers, talk time on mobiles etc.) and make them more responsive. Leave the rest up to the guy. Its up to him to get a date after that! Given a large and diverse userbase, such a system would end up being much more effective. After some hits and misses, you might just bump into your soul mate and she will at least reply back once (trust me, that is a big step). Its a win-win situation either ways: the guys get to romance a bit, and the girl gets some real meat out of it.

AFAIK there are no incentive based Internet dating services yet. There are numerous methods of implementing such a service. Make the guys pay during registration, distribute it to the girls when they actually respond to guys and keep a commission for yourself. Have a concept of virtual money which can be encashed with real money. Have a phone based system where the guys actually pay twice the amount to talk to the girl. Create implementations which caters to niche user groups. The underlying concept remains the same. The females are rewarded and the males pay for that.

It would be an interesting experiment to try out at least. Maybe I should talk to a VC. And get this patented as well. In case I don't get the funding, I'll at least become rich if someone else does! That would also automatically ensure me a date :).

Update: Some assumptions validated in this study.

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posted by Rajiv, 3:22 AM | link | 14 comments |

The NGMN Initiative

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The heavyweights of the Telco. world have united to form a new lobby, called the Next Generation Mobile Network or NGMN. The idea being that the operators can provide a coherent view of their requirements for 4G networks. The term coherent here is the keyword here. The industry standard bodies are responsible for the formation of standards. In the telecom world ETSI, 3GPP and 3GPP2 were responsibile for laying out the current crop of standards. The technology bodies like GSM Association and CDG were fromed to prmote these standards.

But with the advent of WiMAX and all IP networks, IETF has has established itself as another influential standard body. And IETF is notorious for squabling and has been marred by turf wars between the rival factions being backed by leading OEM's. The UWB group was finally disbanded and the MANET working group is considered a joke. With billions of dollars of revenues at stake, the telcos. dont really want to take a chance.Since the Telcos. are the eventual customers for the OEM's, thier voices will be heard.

So maybe the next round of meetings and conferences will be a bit more amicable. The entertainment will be sorely missed though.

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posted by Rajiv, 1:04 AM | link | 2 comments |

A Pointless Debate

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Slashdot points us to a paper by Harvard professors attempting to answer whether Linux will ever be able to beat Windows. A formal mathematical model is followed in which the mixed duopoly of for profit software vs free software is examined. The result is rather predictable: Linux cannot win over Microsoft. The reason being that Microsoft has an first mover advantage in terms of installed base and market share. The paper (pdf) and the interview both provide very solid reasoning.

But there is one critical flaw in the model. It assumes that Microsoft as a company will be there forever. The basic theories of economics teaches us otherwise. There are always four phases of a company: embryonic, growth, consolidation and decline. This has been the case with each company and will be the case with Microsoft as well. And the spectre of this happening sooner is looming large with the impending rollout of Windows Vista. There is a genuine concern that Vista might fail in the marketplace.

By the same reasoning, even Linux will not be the predominant Open Source OS in the long run. Although its not driven by any company as such, it will be gradually replace with newer OS's as hardware becomes more and more complex and desktops receede from prominence. Whem pervasive mobile computing devices become commonplace, the embedded OS's would rule. On the servers asl well new OS technologies will come up and replace the existing ones. Afterall nothing is really permatnent.

Given all these factors, I wonder how important is the question itself. Both Linux and Windows have their own place right now. And Linux is rightly gaining in the desktop market. Does it really matter if it never becomes the numero uno? I dont think so.

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posted by Rajiv, 8:43 AM | link | 0 comments |

TI Joins the Race

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Here is something unique. As per IHT, TI is launching a chipset solution (named Hollywood!) with Picture-in-Picture (PiP) support which allows users to channel surf using the cellphone! How many people actually channel surf with PiP on their TV's in the first place? PiP never really took off in the Television world and most of the manufacturers have discontinued this feature. Its difficult to see people using it on their cellphones which have an even smaller display! But still TI's chipset is being marketed that way.

The article also gives a background of the Mobile TV chipset market. Qualcomm is the other major player there with a unified chipset solution which support at least three standards, DVB-H, MediaFLO and ISDB-T. The TI chipset supports only DVB-H. But then it does not incur any licensing costs as the QC chipset does. MeidaFLO is a propreitary technology owned by QC and being launched by Verizon. Intriguingly QC does not expect any major revenues from MediaFLO in 2007!

On DVB-H vs MediaFLO, it points out the advantages of the latter. Channel Switching is faster, picture quality is better and more channels can be accomodated in the same bandwidth. But still TI could generate upto $500 million as per one estimate with DVB-H expected to dominate in Europe and other parts of the world (the GSM world). Provided Mobile TV proves a big success as the market researchers predict. As per IDC, the number works out to around 24 Million users by 2010 in the US alone.

And if that happens TI would want to be a major player (as it is in the mobile handset chipset market) and have a significant market share. All that with built in PiP support!

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posted by Rajiv, 3:01 AM | link | 2 comments |

Cool T-Shirts

Monday, September 04, 2006

Baishampayan Ghose at the Ubuntu India community has generously offered to do the hard work to get us cool Ubuntu T-Shirts. All sizes except small are available (so you cannot gift it to your wife and/or girlfriend yet!) and right now each one costs around Rs. 270 a piece. And he promises that with more orders the prices will go down. Check out the annoucement here and some sample views here.

So if you are an Ubuntu user in India and love it, and want to brag about it, drop him a line.

Technorati Tags: Ubuntu, GNU/Linux, Bangalore, India.
posted by Rajiv, 10:24 AM | link | 2 comments |

Nortel's UMTS Sellout

Friday, September 01, 2006

Finally the UMTS deal between Nortel and Alcatel (or Alcatel Lucent as the official name seems to be) is being confirmed. Alcatel is buying out Nortel's UMTS business for a cool $320 Million. Nortel had around 10 percent share of the UMTS network infrastructure market. With this acquisition the combined market share of Lucatel's would be around 16 %. And it would give Lucatel access to the vast European market. The leader would still be Ericsson with a 30 % market share.

The rumors regarding this deal had been going around for some time. Nortel's CEO, Mike Zofirovski had earlier indicated that Nortel would move out of businesses in which they dont have 20 % market share. And the 3G business was one of them. This deal would go a long way in leading Nortel out of the woods. Since the telecom downturn, Nortel has been struggling with losses and falling revenues.

This deal would seem to the last major one in the consolidation wave kicked off by the Lucent Alcatel merger. After that Nokia and Seimens got together and spun off a seperate joint venuture for Network Equipments and Motorola aligned with Huawei for the UMTS business. The battle lines are now fully drawn and everyone has chosen their sides.

Its on to the main action now; the battle for UMTS gear marketshare.

Update: The official press release is up. The intriguing part is that Nortel still keeps GSM, GPRS, EDGE and GSM-R. Is GSM family still earning profits? If it does, how did Nortel get upstaged in the evolution process in the first place? Its still hoping to have a 4G portofolio (read WiMAX and the likes). Maybe it will acquire some WiMAX startups then!

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posted by Rajiv, 3:51 AM | link | 2 comments |