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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

Real Estate and Startups

Monday, January 29, 2007

How are they related you ask? They are. Consider this. Early stage startups need money. In the Silicon Valley, Angels provide this money along with their expertise and help the startup in making a profitable business. Its no secret that the Silicon Valley model does not work in India. First of all you dont have any creditable Angels in India and for those who are there, its very difficult to find an exit. The closest thing you can get in India are the returned NRI's. Those who have worked for startups in the valley and made their money and returned back for various personal or professional reasons.

But getting them to don the role of an Angel is again a difficult proposition. The reason being, real estate. Buying and selling houses is such a profitable business nowadays that everyone is happy just hoarding their cash into a upcoming property, sitting back and enjoying the fruits. The NRI's also prefer to put their extra cash into the real estate. Even the big corporate IT players are doing the same. Ever wondered why no companies in India have a Venture Capital arm? Investing in Real Estate gives them much more returns without the risk.

But things might change. Going by this article in FT, people have started talking about a correction. A correction driven by the high real estate prices in India. I really hope the real estate market crashes. We might then see some more money being put into startups like ours!

Via: Kamla Bhatt's post on the same topic.

Tags: , , , , ,
posted by Rajiv, 2:12 AM | link | 4 comments |

iPhone: A Niche Product

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The hype created by the launch of iPhone has been amazing. Almost everyone has written about it and going by the gushing, it is already a hit in the market. Without being launched yet or a dollar being spent on the marketing! A testimonial to the brand called Apple (read Steve Jobs). The Apple brand is strong and in very good health.

But whats being missing in all what I have read till now is the reason why Apple was forced to cannibalize it most successful product: the iPod. There must have been a very good reason. The tipping point, it seems, has been recent success of music phones. Music phones have been doing very good business lately. I myself bought a music phone, with a FM so that could listen to music and have to carry only a single device. And the iPod has been suffering. Yes it been selling, but the sales growth has reached a plateau. For a very nice and detailed analysis go here. Makes a lot of sense.

The success of iPod and iTunes had started to threaten the mobile phone industry. For them the world is and should be converged on a single device: the phone. The iPod was about divergence. They had to make their move and music phones were launched. Just like iTunes, they also started building content delivery backends. Nokia acquired LoudEye just to force Apple's hand. And finally the MEN's (Motorola, Ericsson, Nokia) of this world have got Apple on their own turf.

But as with Mac and iPod the iPhone will never be a mass market product. It will be niche product for people who have the buying power and brand loyalty. The music phones will always outsell it. If ever Apple does go the mass market route, the battle will be something to watch out for. It would be difficult to beat the incumbents. But then, they are Apple.

The wheel finally has turned a full circle. It was Sony which had introduced the concept of music on the go. Apple took the concept to the digital age. Now with its Walkman phones, Sony Ericsson has reclaimed its glory.

Bonus Link: Dont miss this ad of the Sony Ericsson walkman phone. I absolutely love it. Note how the world "love" is never used in it. And how in the end the guy says hello, to emphasize that it is a phone. Wonderful.

Tags: iPhone, iPod, Apple, Musicphone, Mobile, Music, Sony, Walkman.
posted by Rajiv, 9:25 AM | link | 1 comments |

Cameraphones and Privacy

An interesting article on how camera phones have affected the us all. As it puts succinctly, it has launched a thousand jackasses! That is true if you think about its impact in India. Every now and then you hear the news of an MMS scandal which generally involves someone filming his partner and boasting about it to his friends and in the end it finally it lands up on a website. Having said that, some of them are really funny.

The troubling aspect of it all is the loss of privacy. We naturally have this urge to capture a pretty face or an important moment (the Kodak moment as it is called). With all the photo sharing and video sharing sites on the net, its trivial to share it with our network as well. I guess its okay as long as its a public moment. Things start getting bad when we do it without consent or for our own private moments. That in turn depends on our own perceptions.

The concept of privacy needs a urgent makeover I guess!

Tags: Cameraphone, MMS, Photo Sharing, Video Sharing
posted by Rajiv, 6:21 AM | link | 1 comments |

Open Source == Innovation?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

As per this report sponsored by European Union, switching to open source software increases the short term costs but leads to significant savings in the long term. The Total Cost of Ownership therefore is lower compared to Proprietary software. Followers and believers have always claimed this. They stand vindicated at least. Its great to see Open Source Software getting backing from government organizations. It is a proof how it has fundamentally changed the dynamics of the software business.

But if you read the report carefully (beware, its a huge one), you'll find a recurrent theme in it. Open Source software has become a hub for innovation. Technologically they are better, if not equal, to most of the proprietary software out there. And it is not difficult to see why. The philosophy behind it encourages people to solve a problem if they find it and share the improved product with the rest. Most of the stuff out there is pretty much cutting edge. Some are even bleeding edge! If you want a specific example, go here. And here. They solve real world problems and I dont think there are any proprietary equivalents.

This has had a domino effect on innovation itself. To create a product or service which solves a pain point has become relatively easy these days. Its basically a combination of lots of LGPL'ed libraries with your application on top. The barrier to entry is considerably lower. I bet all the startups these days are using open source software in one form or the other. If they are not, then they are missing out. We at Sedna Wireless are in fact leveraging a lot of them. And if we succeed, we will be the first one's to contribute back to the community. I hope we live to see that day.

So if you have a startup idea, I would recommend doing some research in the open source software world first. Its likely that someone has done it already.

Links: Slashdot's disucssion thread. BBC's coverage.

Tags: Open Source, FOSS, FLOSS, Innovation, Startups, Entrepreneurship.
posted by Rajiv, 1:12 AM | link | 0 comments |

MoMo Bangalore January Event

The announcement for the January Event is up here. The topic is the over "Killer" Apps, Trends etc. It promises to be lot of fun. To think about it, there is only one Killer App which drives the internet. Pr0n. It was and is the biggest industry on the Internet and is THE reason why it is viable commercially. But that is not the case with Mobiles. Mostly due to regulation, I guess. IMHO, on mobiles the killer app is, surprise surprise, voice.

The registrations are filling up pretty quickly. So sign up fast for it.

Tags: Mobile Monday Bangalore, MoMoBa, India.
posted by Rajiv, 12:33 AM | link | 0 comments |

Sprint's Open Network

Saturday, January 13, 2007

It is said that contrarians always end up changing the world. They are the one's who bring in new ideas, some of them which go on to have a lasting impact. In the operator world, there are breakaway one's too. T-Mobile and Three are done it before with UMA and X-Series. And now its Sprint.

Michael Mace tells us about something unimaginable coming from an operator. Open Network, Open Devices, no contracts and embracing the open culture. Sprint is a desperate operator. It has been in tough times recently. With their back to their walls they are thinking about doing things which an Verizon or Cingular will never ever dream about. The plan as it sounds now is a winner. If they dont give in to greed, stick to just being a bit-pipe and allow users to use it at reasonable rates, there is no reason why they will not end up changing landscape. Users will flock to them in droves.

But a plan which cannot be executed is worthless. They need a strong visionary leader to execute it. Still kudos to them to at least thinking about it.

Update: GigaOm says that the debate is still on and the signs are not looking good.

Tags: Sprint, WiMAX, Open Network, Mobile Boradband.
posted by Rajiv, 7:58 AM | link | 0 comments |

The GX Linux Scam

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We recently purchased a CSB535 Development board from Cogent. Its a low cost ARM 9 based development platform which can be used for rapid prototyping. It came along with a Embedded ARM distribution called GX-Linux supplied by Microcross which included a package for Windows and Linux hosts. The solution looked pretty promising on the face of it but we were in for a big surprise.

The problem was the Build environment. The build environment on Windows, which was based on Cygwin was severely restricted. And on Linux, the crucial files were missing. It was basically an incomplete package. After a few mails I discovered that that Microcross sells several flavors of their software. The basic one which is provided free as is and comes with the board. The premium one's have the complete build environment and it costs around $2000 including support.

Which begs the question: isn't withholding the sources a violation of GPL in the first place? My question to the support was left unanswered. To add to my suspicions, there was not much information available on the web about GX-Linux. From whatever I could fathom, it seems that, GX-Linux is a private build controlled by a company whose business model is to profit from the work done by the free software community.

This is one business model that I dont recommend. Its a shame!

posted by Rajiv, 3:53 PM | link | 4 comments |

Mobile VAS Numbers

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Here are some India specific Mobile VAS numbers: Market Size is around $ 600 Million, expected to grow at around 60 % and reach $ 1 Billion in 2007. The revenue share stands at 60:25:15 for the operator, provider, copyright owner. On the face it looks very promising. But lets get a bit deeper into it.

Assuming that you are a startup operating in this market, and assuming that you have a great product which will outsell others, you'll probably still have around 25 % share of the pie. So you're on target to make $ 60 Million. Thinking realistically, given the number of players in this industry, and the maturity of the consumer base, you'll struggle to reach the 5% mark. That works out to around 10 Million USD. (Also note that the data is from secondary sources!)

Is that enough to play with? Methinks someone has to be big hit in this segment to make a ton of money. Still Mobile VAS startups did attract some attention from the VC's this year. But a closer inspection reveals something else. OnMobile is a Mobile VAS platform provider; so you can count them out. JiGrahak and Paymate happened around the same time and that was largely due to the KPCB factor. That leaves IMIMobile and Mauj. They are hardly startups anymore! On the other hand the Web Startups had a sterling year. Notice that there are no other companies but the Consumer Internet and Mobile VAS one's.

So maybe its time for you give a second thought to that Web 2.0 concept again. Or just forget the numbers and figure out a way get to revenues without help from our VC friends!

Bonus Link: BW's series on Startups. (Hat tip: Puneeth)

Update: Here's Sidhartha's take on the report.

posted by Rajiv, 12:38 AM | link | 3 comments |

OLPC Launches

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

In spite of all the all the odds, the OLPC XO has been launched. It has reached production and the first batch is going to reach the countries signed up in few months. No mention of the cost though. It will take decades for the impact to be visible. But my hunch is that it will change the approach a lot of people have towards computers. Debatable yes, but its my hunch.

Let the flamewars begin!
posted by Rajiv, 3:42 PM | link | 0 comments |