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Care about technology? Watch this very energizing video of Chamath Palihapitiya, VC, Silicon Valley

13 Sep

I had never heard of Chamath before I came across this video and now I wonder why. His world view as being in the technology sector as a VC is so refreshingly different than other VCs who only talk about money and the next big exit. Chamath is all about making meaningful impact in people’s lives with the help of technology and specially in the health-care sector.

Chamath I really hope whatever you do, you succeed, because then many more people will succeed and benefit too.

Weekend Reading (25.08.13) – Week 4

24 Aug

read-books

Interesting read from around the web on a multitude of topics!

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to retire in the next 12 months (BBC, #microsoft #ceo)

A long but must read article on Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (Business Insider, #yahoo #ceo)

Why most brainstorming sessions fail (Fortune, #brainstorming #behavior #careers #innovation)

India as a Product Nation is in good hands (ProductNation, #productmanagement #sales #marketing)

9 Ways Generous people see the world Differently (BecomingMinimalist, #life #positive #optimism)

Apple iPhone now in Gold Color? (AppleInsider, #apple #iphone #gold #color)

Mobile : Which platform to go for? As a developer.

24 Aug

xcodegraniteincon

P.S. – This post was inspired by this post on Mashable which made me think on this topic.  Since iOS and Android are the dominant platforms I am only bringing these two into the discussion for now. 

In my earlier post I had covered about which platform to go for as a consumer. But from a business perspective, stakes are more high when you are a developer and thinking of extending your existing software or creating a new one for the mobile devices. Making mobile apps and a good one at that takes a lot of time, energy and money(tangible, intangible) so its important to figure out the canvas before you start building.

Choosing that canvas is what I would delve into.

Just to share, I am not a mobile developer, at-least not yet, but I am interested in technology, the mobile space and being a very heavy user of apps on a everyday basis I am very inquisitive of the business side and the scope of innovation it has to offer.

The world of software is rapidly getting replaced by Apps be it on Mobile or on the Browser as extensions.  And more and more people are moving away from Computing on their desktops/laptops and using their mobiles/tablets for all their computing needs.

So its imperative for software developers to also think of having presence on mobile or else their relevance in today’s fast evolving technology will rapidly fade. And it’s no mystery that all things be equal among software providers, it the value addition, its who gives you more value for the buck, which ultimately decides which software provider will be in business and thrive, or even survive to begin with.

The question is fairly simple – iOS or Android?

Sub-question even more simpler – Mobile or Tablet or Both.

I think once you have answered the main question, the sub-question shouldn’t be very difficult.

From my point of view, I would require the following to even begin contemplating to answer the first one,  iOS vs Android, should I choose –

  1. Target market region – continent, country, state : This will help you get some idea of which platform your customers or potential customers are on or will be. For example, if majority of your customers are already using iOS on at-least one device, building an Android app will exclude them right from their start and vice-versa.
  2. User Personas of your existing customers  : These will give you some idea of what devices they are on and whether they own multiples devices such as tablets and if yes then which one.
  3. Your plans of the extent of presence on mobile/tablet : You need to be reasonably clear as to how much are willing to invest in building your app and to what level. If all you want is basic functionality to extend the existing PC software, then there is a chance that you can build on multiple platforms right from the start. If something deeper then you should have as much clarity as possible in choosing a platform.
  4. Your team as it stands or are you willing to outsource the development work(part or in full) : If you plan to build your app in-house then you must assess which platform your developers are comfortable on and why. Since they are ones who will be slogging it out, having their consensus is critical. Even if they are not well versed with the platform being chosen from a business perspective, you may want to have some kind of training sessions to get them going. If you plan to outsource a part or a chunk of it then you need to do some homework on existing developers and shortlist a few to start a conversation. Their history of building apps, coding capabilities, support capabilities need to be looked into before bringing them on-board.
  5. The latest trend as far as usage on mobiles go :
    • Dominant mobile platform region wise along with version statistics – This is to further breakdown which version is in use. Whether majority in iOS are on the latest version or not. If Android then there are multiple versions still running. Why is this important is because, if you are building on the latest version of any platform but if your customers are using old versions then chances are some functionality which you spent so much time on may not even usable on their versions. This needs to be correlated with the regions as per your customer profile.
    • Paid vs free app usage stats on each platform – Which platform is able to sell more paid apps than free ones. You can also have a category wise breakdown, say your category is Arcade Games, then whether more people are ready to pay on iOS or Android for a particular game. It may also help to have usage statistics, for example, whats the % of people who have downloaded the app, but have not come back in terms of using it. How many % of them are on old app versions even when you have updated your app. Whether people update paid apps more frequently than free ones.
    • Developers statistics – Are developers earning more on a particular platform, compared to other platform, is there any particular category where earnings is more even though overall earnings may be less. Like for example, in Games category Android developers are earning more, but within Games, Arcade games developers are earning more on iOS.
    • Commerce statistics on the platform  : Reflects spending habits. A lot of transactions are taking place on mobiles. Whether it is buying movie tickets, shopping, buying travel tickets packages etc. This gives an indication of the user persona of the platform customers. If more transactions happen on iOS, then this info can be useful in certain decision makings viz-a-viz your app. For example if you want to have in-app purchase or your app is a paid one, this info can be very useful.

These are fairly comprehensive data to help you in your decision making.

Some other decisions you will have to make at some point or pivot as need be –

  • Start with Phone or designed not scaled for Tablet or both at the same time.
  • Free or paid ?
  • If paid, should we start with promotions.
  • When to have promotions if at all?
  • App road-map, how often to release updates, release notes.
  • Ads or without ads
  • Marketing the app(a whole new subject of discussion all-together and may be a blog post)
  • Other topics like UX, UI which is more of going into the blueprint, design etc.

Hope the above info gives helps you in some way to start your app journey to the mobile/tablet. Let me know if I have missed something or if something needs to be fixed/updated in terms of content.

Anirudh

5 questions for Microsoft

1 Aug

Do a Google search with the string “Microsoft surface sales” and you will see that the Surface has drowned and continues to drown! Need more facts? How about this –

  1. Microsoft has sold just 1.7 million Surface, whereas in the same period Apple sold 57 million iPads! iPad sold 33X times Surface.
  2. Microsoft earned $853 million and has written-off $900 million due to unsold inventory!

The figures reveal everything. For a tablet which came out as the next iPad competitor, its anything but that.

Since Apple created this category, dominated and continues to do so, many manufacturers have entered, many have exited. This is innovation at best and some may also say first-mover advantage. Though Microsoft had experimented with Surface few years prior to release of iPad, just that Apple innovated and rest is history. Apart from iPad, its the like of Samsung and Google with its range of Nexus which is actually selling quantifiable amount of Tablets. Rest like Blackberry, Asus, Lenovo to name a few just have a presence but haven’t been able to reach a mass scale. Their lack of success or that of abundance of failure can be attributed to many factors. Except Apple and Blackberry who had their own OS, rest all were based on Android.

Then a year back, Microsoft entered the fray with its “Surface” range of Tablets based on their flagship Windows 8 platform. I saw the launch event video and I felt this had promise. The hardware design and specs were quiet good, the keyboard in the cover was a neat value add and their OS being Windows which was used by millions of computers both personal and enterprise, their existed a certain level of familiarity. One small glitch, during the launch event itself, one of the tablets on which Steven Sinfosky was giving a demo on, stopped working and he calmly(kudos) replaced with another one. When you are Microsoft, launching a product and that too as an iPad competitor, these types of glitches is unacceptable. Shows callousness in preparing for the event. Steve Ballmer the face of Microsoft as its CEO was unimpressive.

Anyways…overall it was a well received event.

And then…few days after Steven Sinofsky the brain behind Windows 8 quit! Questions/speculations/rumors started floating. Then news came that one variant of Surface wont have this, one wont have that. Delays in shipping, delays in production.Then there were rumors that on old mobile phones(2011, 2012), there wont be updates and so on. These kind of news are not the best way to get or build trust or to sustain an already depleting trust bank.

So here are my 5 questions for Microsoft –

Why Steve Ballmer still?

Microsoft, you were a legend in computing for almost two decades. Things have changed dramatically in the last 5 years. Ballmer is unable to accept and acknowledge this change. You need to change him with some one else to continue being the legend, however remote that may sound. He is not only out of sync, but he comes across as an arrogant and a rigid person too! You deserve a better face of your brand!

Why not a good app-ecosystem? 

Lets face it, I have more apps on my phone (iPhone incidentally) than software on my laptop running Windows 7! And if you want to be in the tablet/mobile OS space, you need to have a solid app-catalog! Like what Apple and Google have. That’s the reason why these two are doing well and that’s the reason why Apple is still more favored due to its awesome solid App store! And considering your clout in the industry, why is it so difficult to reach out to say top-100 apps developers and get them to your app-store! You are good with business and earning money. Build a good economic model for the developers.

Why so blind?

In a developing country like India, desktop/laptop sales grew meager 1% whereas sales of Tablets grew 400%. This is the golden age of Tablets! This is the age of mobile devices. This is the age of devices other than desktops/laptops. If you are unable to gain traction with your Windows platform why not bite the bullet and join hands with Android and offer a choice on your Surface! Or build a kick-ass mobile device yourself! Do something, stop wearing shades which are showing a world which doesn’t exist anymore.

Why not rethink the hardware business?

There was a time when Microsoft hardware was looked as a premium device. All my mouse be at work or home are all Microsoft ones! My keyboard is Microsoft! Surface showed what you are capable of it! Capitalize on it, go beyond. Why not build a really cool phone, why not build variations of Surface with different screen sizes! Why not a Microsoft Smart Watch or a device like a JawBone Up. I am saying use the powerhouse of talent you have at your disposable, not to forget deep pockets!

Why forgetting your past?

For whatever reason, almost everyone I know is using Windows on their desktops/laptops. They may have second devices running Mac, tablets on Android/iOS, but they do interact with Windows on a daily basis. Microsoft, you have brought computing to the world. You have been instrumental in putting computers on everyone’s desk. You have a glorious legacy. Yes your present is gloomy and the future even more so, but if you can thrive for the last 20 years I am sure you can thrive for many more. Windows is by far the most complex application ever developed on this planet. Who doesn’t know of MS Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint! I recall there was an interview of Steve Jobs in 2010 when he was asked how does he feel when Apple took over Microsoft in market cap and he said it feels surreal! This is what you are made of. Reclaim your past and build a future like you did many years back!

 

Anirudh

Another Executive Churn at Apple : Bob Mansfield

31 Jul

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So in the past 5 days, one rumor from MACRUMOUR apparently proved true and shook the tech world –  and in particular in context of Apple – again. This time its the sudden disappearance of Bob Mansfield(SVP, Technology) Bio from Apple’s website.

As this started to spread, it became more and more true and very soon the following was reported by AllThingsD :

“Bob is no longer going to be on Apple’s executive team, but will remain at Apple working on special projects reporting to Tim,” company spokesman Steve Dowling told AllThingsD.

He declined any further explanation, refusing to comment on the reasons behind Mansfield’s abrupt demotion or whether Apple plans to appoint a new SVP of technologies.

One may ask whats the big deal if some changes happened at a company’s website. Well for a public listed company like Apple, whose market cap at one point was about to hit Trillion $$$, which is by far the most high profile tech company on this planet and whose every move is closely followed, scrutinized and ripped away of thousands of journalists, web-sites, blogs etc this is no small development.

Everything Apple does there is a very strong reason or logic behind it, doesn’t matter if that reasoning or logic doesn’t make sense to the world at large. In-fact one may argue that this works good for Apple. People may think that they don’t understand why Apple is doing it, but if Apple is doing it so there should be something about it! Yeah this is RDF at work of which the foundation was laid by Steve Jobs!

What makes the news even more significant is that just last year it was reported that Bob is leaving Apple and after exactly 2 months it was again reported that he is staying back.  Well that staying back cost Apple $85 million as that was the price Tim Cook paid to make Bob stay! Even that time it was told that he would be working on “future products” and this time its “special projects”.

Apple..always surrounded in mysteries and clouded with secrets.

But there is definitely more than meets the eye. After Jobs left earth to enlighten the other world in 2011, Apple has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Stock price getting hammered (in the last one year Apple’s stock has dipped by more than 50%), lack of new innovation and new products. iPhone 5 which was expected to be a game-changer again, didn’t even rattle anyone besides being more slimmer, more lighter and slightly bigger. iPad is more or less the same. Besides the new mini iPad, there is actually nothing new at Apple besides prosaic updates of its existing hardware line and to an extent to its software (iOS).

At the same time its biggest rival for software – Android and Hardware – Samsung is blazing on all fronts. Android subscriptions is growing exponentially(900 million +), and Samsung thanks to its S3/S4/Note series is doing exceedingly well.

This makes Apple all the more in the news in the context of lack of innovation being its biggest lacuna at the moment among others. Between the very first iOS and iOS 6 at present, there is no sea-change. Yes iOS has evolved significantly but still its more of the same. Or may be because Apple is so hell bent(good for customers!) on providing the best User Experience its very measured in the changes it brings to its users. And due to its flawless execution of changes, very soon it becomes part of our everyday mobile computing and ceases to be something new! When iPhone 5 event was announced, everyone was expecting a major change in terms of hardware, but all Apple did was made the iPhone taller thereby increasing the screen size to 4″ from the existing 3.5″ and of-course making it more slimmer and lighter, which needless to say is incredible hardware engineering at work. Combining design and technology has always been Apple’s forte though technology wise its lacking.

It is no doubt that Steve Jobs was the thread which tied Apple magically and brought the best out of people. After his demise, changes were expected, but the way its been unfolding, Jobs would be sad, very sad. First came Scott Forestall’s exit who used to head iOS development since inception and played a major role in all the Keynotes. Since then Jony Ive has taken over his role in addition to adding breath-taking value in terms of hardware design. Then came the hammering of the stock price and doubts over Tim Cook’s ability. Then Bob Mansfield exit(re-enter soon enough), no new products. Even the recent iOS-7 didn’t get as much as a positive response as expected.

Long story short, Steve Jobs is being missed like never before. Tim Cook is clearly unable to do though I am sure he is trying what is best. Of-course we have to realize and acknowledge whom he has taken over was a genius, a visionary, a game-changer in technology and his persona, his intelligence is what legends are made of! And its no easy feat to replace legends!

Problem with Apple is that it has too few people with whom the public can relate to. Barring the extremely high-profile Keynote events which happens 2-3 times a year there is not much of what we hear from Apple. Its like only during the events, 3-4 people come out of their hibernation for a few hours, then again go back till the next event and the cycle goes on. At present for me its only Tim Cook, Eddy Cue, Jonathon Ive, Philip Schiller and a recent new face in the name of Craig Federighi. Bob Mansfield was but is not part of the Leadership team.  So for a company of Apple size, just 5 people who are the face of the brand. And if any one leaves your spectrum of connect becomes even smaller. Just imagine hypothetically if all these 5 people and new faces come. Apple for me will become an alien in an instant. Steve Jobs was a marvelous brand ambassador for Apple for close to 13 years and was the best marketing/sales-person ever on this planet. Period. I remember after watching all his Keynotes from 2009, it was my dream to own its products and I just HAD to have them! One dream got fulfilled last year with the iPhone 4S…few more to go! 🙂 And just to add, every-time I use my iPhone, which is all the time I am awake, I just keep falling in love all over again! Yes it is that awesome! The reason I am NOT switching to iPhone 5 is that I am yet to get bored by 4S! So why upgrade when I haven’t had enough with 4S!

Which is why it worries me when I hear such news of executive churn. I want Apple to keep doing the magic its been doing, so that I can keep falling in love with their products!

Internally no one know what this development means, no one knows what the “special project” is, but as the saying goes, people are not great because of the great company they work in, its great people which makes the company great!

Lets hope Apple starts getting in the news more, but for all the right reasons!

 

Anirudh

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