Monday, November 21, 2011

Quote Blast

For one human being to love another; 
That is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks..
The work for which all other work is but preparation.
                                                                               - Rainer Maria Rilke

-> SJ

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why Facebook will become the center of the Cyber Universe

What Zuckerberg intended when he established Facebook was totally different from what he intends to do now. At that time Google's Orkut was the social networking provider leader and social network sites used to go in and out of style like fads. (Remember Hi5, Yahoo 360??). Zuckerberg just saw an unsaturated market and decided to play his hand and earn a quick buck. He never knew that Facebook would actually become so big and spawn such a big industry and his site would actually become on of the hottest things in cyberspace.

So Zuckerberg became a multi-billionaire overnight and Facebook beat other sites so bad that it now has a monopoly in the social networking space. The design of the site has undergone many changes since the 1st avatar. So many and so fast that the users actually became frustrated by unlearning and re-learning their profiles and the website.

Facebook also has a slew of security issues with security breaches occuring often and people's accounts getting hacked into. Apart from that, Facebook also has a problem with its apps. Due to a lesser degree of control there are a lot of fake apps and phishing apps which use your account to send messages etc.

But apart from its problems, why Facebook has succeeded is because it gives the user a great amount of control over what he/she can do on the site. Also the whole concept of apps has made this the ultimate place for passing time. So much so that companies like MindJolt.Com, Zynga etc have ballooned up. These companies make apps and other games which run over Facebook. Zynga has taken the world by a storm with its FarmVille and CityVille games. They allow interaction with yout friends and peers and provide quite an experience. Many of my friends are addicted to it. My brother too has become an addict which is saying something about the game as he normally never plays games, yes not even the ones we can install like Call of Duty!

It has also spawned many groups and places of interaction, for example there are groups which hole photography contests online, spiritual groups which interact over Facebook, companies now have a good place to set up their online presence by setting up pages. These pages now form a more personal bond with their consumers, right from the most loyal to the ones who hate the brands.

Facebook has given the users a user-friendly environment and lots of tools to share and interact. Users can put up photos, videos, notes/blogs, even their calendar or links from other sites from across the web and choose to or not to share or share only privately.

Another revolution that Facebook brought about was the "like" button. So a person can see what his friends like and comment on that or discover something he/she likes too. It just made sharing things easy. The old styled "Groups" were now dissolved unless its a private moderated one! and made into pages, which one can join just by liking it and discuss that particular topic/interest/brand/thing or whatever it is with known as well as unknown people.

It also provided an easy to see "newsfeed". All your friends' recent activities came up on the newsfeed and you can see what everyone has been up to and join in the fun if you want. With notifications, easy sharing, user friendly site and lots of places to interact, Facebook became the ideal site to spend your time. Thus its users started to spend most of their free time on Facebook and the rest was history.

But all this doesn't yet answer the question of why Facebook will become the centre of the Cyber-Universe. Well its all pretty simple. From the way things are moving the world is getting smaller and smaller and people are connecting more using social networking sites, sharing everything over the net with their friends and family. And everyday hundreds of people join Facebook. As the world connects to the web more and more people will join Facebook just because their family and friends are on it and Facebook will grow more.

It already has a chatting feature and recently converted its messaging system into an email system, which is quite cool really (but nowhere near a real email provider). SO I can now surf Facebook to get the news through pages of news publishers which i "like" (follow/subscribe) check out what my friends are up to, stream tv through Facebook (many people at the hostel streamed the world cup matches live through Facebook), and chat with friends, check out companies and products, read stories etc just on Facebook.

Along with this comes shopping!... Shopping on Facebook?!? ... YES! I kid you not!.. Facebook has shopping on its site. For example you can pay and watch The Dark Knight || LINK || through Facebook! Pampers was one of the first to open up shop on Facebook with Amazon.Com's help. Since then more and more shops have opened up and the concept is getting popular. This has amazing real life applications and can be used very innovatively to increase business. It can be so well harnessed that consumers wouldn't want to go to any other e-retail site than Facebook, but that’s a whole new blog post, which incidentally you can read here || LINK ||

Along with the shops, Facebook has started something called questions, which allows people to ask each other questions. Now this tool can be used very effectively by companies to conduct surveys. The problem is that it does not allow for specific targeting but I'm sure that with a few tweaks that can also be enabled.

So now we have a Facebook which does so much, but soft, with the latest Microsoft purchase of Skype once can be sure that Facebook will get ready access to that [Microsoft is an investor in Facebook] and son we'll see video chat enabled through Facebook much as Gmail has it in its inbox. But a lot depends on the quality of Skype now that Microsoft has it.

Facebook integration is also something which is important to note. There are phone concepts which are working at Facebook integration and will be called Facebook phones. All new models which use GPRS or Mobile internet have apps which allow easy access to Facebook. Facebook itself has started free access to its mobile website "" through multiple carriers and thereby increasing accessibility manifold. A browser called Rockmelt has launched, based on the Chromium platform, has deep Facebook integration. The user has to log on to even launch the browser, and ready-made feeds for Facebook news, notifications as well as twitter. Rockmelt will be a different blog post but I must say it was the 1st browser in the past decade that made me shift from Firefox.

So now we have a Facebook which is a whole lot more than just social networking. It effectively integrates peoples’ lives and lifestyles with each others. Its user-friendly "sharing" options is what has made this site grow so much. As Zuckerberg realizes the application of such a site, it will grow even more and integrate more and more of peoples' lives. There might even come a time when people search the web using "Facebook Search" right from inside the website.

So one possibility of the future, if Zuckerberg plays his cards right, is that Facebook instead of Google becomes the centre and the whole of the cyber world revolves around it with deep Facebook integration. All companies will have to integrate Facebook, like Rockmelt has, and they will use Facebook to conduct surveys, to generate business, to sell online, to interact with consumers. As it is Facebook beat Google in 2010 to be the most visited site on Earth and it also has the capabilities to become exactly like Google and maybe even bigger.

-> SJ

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Biggest problem for a tech product company

Today, we live in an age dominated by technology. Our lives are getting more and more integrated with technology. Many of us check our email and twitter feeds even before we get out of bed in the morning. We have started e-banking, replaced post with email, shops with e-shops, telephone with VoIP and introduced new things such as video calling etc.

The computer and the laptop has played a big part in this progress and today slowly these products are being replaced with smart phones and tablets as the world is introduced to mobile computing. But as each advancement takes place, with it comes an increased problem of keeping up with these advancements. The world is now taking a larger and keener interest in technology. 6 years ago this was not the case. Technology companies used to take their own time in R&D and release new tech in their own time. But in recent years this has changed. With the advent of the iPhone and Apple publicly refurbishing its products every year. The speed of development of new tech has increased. The competition in the tech industry has increased and tech companies are now under greater pressure to do better. Not only are they competing with other manufacturers but they now compete with themselves. Apple changes and upgrades it products each year, and to keep pace with Apple other companies have to follow suit. Microsoft on the other hand, apart from trying to catch up is also taking the lead at a few places. For example, with the Kinect. MS terribly underestimated its power and lost out hugely as it saw hackers hack the Kinect and turn it from a gaming console to gesture computing.

Now MS has new ideas and is transforming itself into a new age company, one which is fast paced and is open to new types of ideas and products. IE 9 was a revolutionary improvement over its previous releases and Win 7 was the best MS OS released after Win XP. But after being branded as a bully, the consumers are still sceptical about MS. I believe this will change in the next few years as MS turns a leaf and takes on a new avatar, one that is consumer friendly, open to suggestions and can make good quality products (but thats yet to be seen).

With the development of products and keeping up with advancements, tech companies, have the problem of planning out their product strategies 3 years in advance, and on top of things these strategies will need to be dynamic in nature. I mean, today they are planning, strategising and designing (upgrading) a product and while they do this they will have to think 3 years in advance and plan out how that product is going to develop and how it will advance through its life cycle. And this will have to be done every year. As a result the previous year's planning and preparation might just turn out to be an effort in vain as the competition might have changed or over taken, or new tech was invented or innovated that needs to be introduced or planned for, or consumers' taste or preferences or needs might turn out to be something other than what was predicted in the previous year.

So product companies like Apple, MS, Samsung, Sony, LG etc seem to be in a pickle. Every year they have to take a gamble on product design for their present plans and their future plans. Until now Apple seems to be the only one with a plan and everyone else played follow the leader, but that's fast changing, Samsung and MS seem to have developed (ing) their own plans and products designs. While 2 big behemoths (Sony and LG) are being left behind.

In the past 4 years of Apple being the limelight, things are taking a turn. Apple is now running out of ideas. This year's iPad 2 release says it all. The upgrades are far reaching but nothing spectacular. Apple's momentum of product redesign and innovation seems to be slowing down (the WWDC will comfirm this). When Android was released, I doubt Google had thought out the product life cycle plan thoroughly, but it seems to have developed a plan while developing Honeycomb. What these product plans are are a whole different blog post.

But, whatever said and done, the whole dynamic planning is a big problem for companies. Apart from keeping its products upto date, the companies' culture will also need to be a dynamic one. Tall hierarchies and a closed door type of culture will not succeed in this new type of industry. Flat organisations with open cultures and transparent thought processes will be required and a more democratic approach with a strong knowledge of consumer behaviour is required. Developers being the end users themselves can select those options which they would use a lot, but the average consumer also needs options that developers don't normally use, need or like. So the design of the products have to a harmony of knowledge and preferences of the developers and employees who know the product and the product plan best,  with a thorough knowledge of what the consumers want and will accept.

We seem to have a perfect solution for the same, a concept called crowd sourcing, but its a difficult task to achieve considering the type of security and secrecy needed while developing a product. So as you can see the tech product companies are in a pickle. While analysts' and consumers' expectations increase, matching those expectations while keeping in line and developing a product plan can be a herculean task.

-> SJ

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A tale of 1 country: Brothers in arms!

I stand at my balcony and watch the unfortunate (no not unfortunate) events unfold 2 floors down. Dadi (grandmother) has fallen to the ground and is crying, my mother has a face of steel, its frozen into a blank stare; I know this state, I have seen it before, she is controlling herself showing a brave and proud wife to the world. She is helping dadi. Uncle keeps pointing past the gate and is shouting something at dada (grandfather). Dada has just locked the gate and is walking back to the house.

Past the gate I can see a group of people all clad in white, surrounding something lying on the ground covered with a white cloth. My governess Shobhadi stands next to me holding me, afraid that I'll run downstairs into the scene unfolding. She and and the servants have been given strict orders that I can not be allowed downstairs. Dada thinks I do not understand what is happening, he thinks I cannot comprehend what is going on, but I do.

The year is 1940, my name is Sandip, I'm 10 years old. I think My father just died.

Yes, I'm sure of whats happening. I know enough of the alphabets, I read and understood the headlines in the New India Post today morning, I also saw my father's name mentioned. I do not know my father. Dada said he died 6 years ago in an accident, but from what I've understood from overhearing my mother's and dadi's discussions, my father is.. no, was..  a patriot and joined the independence movement. He strictly instructed my mother not to leave the house or go against my dada, he couldn't force the 2 of us to live like refugees nor could he bear to take me away from my dada. Father loved and respected his family, and most of all my english loving dada.

I look down at the unfolding scene trying to understand what I feel. Am I sad or am I indifferent?? I don't know what to feel.

I look down and see the huge crowd shouting and screaming angry slogans ready to kill and be killed. Bapu, standing a few paces away from me, he raises his hand and the crowd falls silent as they listen to his voice, hear what he says and they calm down. In those last few days, Calcutta was the only peaceful city in the country.

The date is 14th August 1947, I'm at my best friend Ornob's place where Bapu is staying. Ornob's sister and my love interest Deepa stands next to me hugging my hand. I feel the tension and uncertainty radiate from her. Ornob, standing inbetween me and Bapu, looks at me and says "Sandip, do you see what's happening here? The English have broken our India into 2 so that we and now our brothers the Pakistanis can never unite against the west. They have divided us such that we can never outdo the west". I nod as I see the sadness in Ornob's eyes, we are all sad to witness this unfortunate event. Brothers have been separated and pitted against each other. I'm afraid the results of the day's events will reverberate across generations.

The date is 29th March 2011, all I hear about is the upcoming cricket match between India and Pakistan. My grandson Abhiroop, keeps on about how "India will win and destroy the Pakis!". I look at him and try to tell him that we are brothers, one nation divided artificially into 2 by the west who till today plan and scheme and foster the hatred such that we can't unite. There is a photo of Pakistani tourists in the newspaper today. They have come to see the match. Standing beside Indians, they look like us and we look like them. We all dress the same way, look the same way, talk the same way. Yet, we hate each other's guts and keep fighting and bickering over trivial matters. Kashmir, a sensitive issue for the countries, but will the issue exist if Pakistan and India united and became 1 country? Pakistan wants Kashmir and India wants Kashmir. If we are 1 country we both get Kashmir!

I look forward to the day when we can unite as brothers, India and Pakistan should take the step forward, dissolve both the countries and make it into one big nation of peaceful people who work towards each other's betterment, Hindus mixing and matching with Muslims and Muslims with Hindus; like it was before the partitions, like it was before the English came to this land, like it was in ancient times, like it should be.

But instead these children they fight and bicker and waste their energies. People want to split up states, like India was split up. My question is what will you get by doing that? Independence? Like India and Pakistan? We have been fighting each other ever since. If we had solved our problems and become one we would not have wasted so many resources fighting each other but would have developed our economies and homes, eradicated poverty, illiteracy, infanticide and so many deseases! Isn't that better than fighting?

Imagine the Pakistani and Indian cricket team as one. SO much talent! We can easily become the best team / nation in the world. A beacon, a bright and shining light, a model for the world to follow.

WHERE the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

-> SJ

*Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Quote Blast

Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose.

- Agent Smith, Matrix Revolutions

-> SJ

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Do NOT purchase a Hewlett-Packard (HP) laptop.

"The laptop is personal again"

This was the jingle which was very effective. The ad impressed me a lot when they ran it 3 years back. Also my brother had been using an HP laptop for quite sometime and I enjoyed its feel and the HP proprietory software was excellent and made using the laptop and its features very easy. So when I researched laptops before purchasing one for myself I was already biased ever so slightly towards an HP laptop.

At that time HP was being praised about its quality. Many reviews said good things about HP laptops and plus its proprietory software was way better than other laptop manufacturers'. What I overlooked and did not see was the hardware problems that HP laptops had.

1) The lightscribe optical disc drive (CD/DVD Roms) manufactured by Matsushita and used by HP in its laptops is probably one of the worst parts. Mine got spoilt in 11 months from purchase. This had occured in my brother's laptop also, but at that time I had simply waved it off as a one time occurance which normally doesn't happen, giving HP the benefit of the doubt and HP decently called for the part and replaced it. 

But this happened again with my laptop and I couldn't go personally, as I had exams, so my brother took it to the service centre for me to get it replaced (before the warranty period ran out). The HP service centre conveniently said that I would have to leave my laptop for 2 weeks. Can you imagine their audacity? How can a person part with their laptop for such a long time? A laptop is a very important possession and specially so for me as all my work was on it and i used it extensively to prepare for my studies.

My brother asked them to call for the part and he'd get the laptop when the part arrived but the service centre conveniently refused to do that stressing on the fact that the laptop would have to lie in their office for 2 weeks till the part arrived. Does that make any sense to you? For god's sake its a CD/DVD drive. All one has to do it unscrew a few bolts slide out the old one and put in the new one. So for that the laptop has to be in the office for 2 weeks?!!? .. doesn't make any sense. IS HP TRYING TO GET OUT OF ITS CONTRACT?? Bunch of thieves!

As a result I couldn't use DVDs and CDs for months. I found an HP employee on Linked In and emailed him but he replied about 10 months late by that time I had purchased an external DVD drive for INR. 5000/-.

2) The battery on the HP Laptop is also probably the worst in the industry. My laptop's battery gave out soon after 1 year got over. I spoke to some HP sellers who told me that the battery got spoilt as the laptop was plugged in all the time. I accepted the fact and before joining my MBA institute I purchased a new battery for INR. 5000/- which worked very well giving me a 2.5hr battery backup. By about the time 1 year got completed it gave me a backup of approximately 2hrs which was very good and I was happy. But about 1 year 2-3 weeks after the purchase of the new battery the battery backup dropped suddenly from 2 hrs to 20 mins.

I was stymied.. how can any company so blatantly produce or supply such bad quality products and parts.

This was not the only thing. All my friends in my mba institute who have purchased HP laptops have had similar problems with their batteries. The batteries get spoilt very very fast. Faster than other manufacturers. Dell's last a little longer, while Acer and Lenovo batteries have had the longest life span.

Now I was sure that HP was a crooked company. It produced inferior quality products. All my friends here who own HP laptops have already vowed not to purchase HP again. so HP has already lost about 200 customers out of 300-400 and more as they advice their friends and relatives to not purchase HP.

3) This is not all, along with these all HP laptops on campus (including mine) have a heating problem. When playing a game or after long continuous usage the laptops become extremely hot. For example, as I write this post, i have the OS running with some small softwares like messenger, dictionary, firewall access, synaptics, winamp, anti-virus minimized to system tray and a Rockmelt browser sporting one gmail tab open, the bottom of my laptop has become hot. If I play a game like NFS or Command and Conquer or call of duty, I can be sure that my laptop will become so hot that I would not be able to keep it on my lap at all. And to note this is a problem with all HP laptops (atleast on campus).

How is that Dell laptops or apple macbook (pros) can have such tiny vents and not heat up so much while HP laptops get so hot that they singe your legs?!?!?

4) HP doens't give a windows dvd when you buy their laptop, instead they have a recovery manager software and drive. The recovery drive is today present on all laptops, but i do not understand why they do not give dvds. I have legally purchased the OS with my laptop and I am entitled to get the DVD or CD or whatever it is but HP instead charges about INR. 2500 to send "Recovery Discs" instead.

Dell gives the dvd, then why can't HP? What are they hiding?

This is another problem, because the Recovery Manager does not really reformat the hard disc. All it does is remove programs installed externally after a certain date and deletes other files and folders. It does not format or clean the hard disc/partition and re-install windows.

5) HP proprietory softwares and games take up a hell of a lot of space. After using recovery manager and resetting my c-drive I have about 15GB of free-space out of 40GB on my c-drive.

6) My laptop is coming apart and I mean literally. 4 screws have fallen out and disappeared. The body has come loose near the bottom edges of the screen and the speakers. The USB ports have become loose and the USBs keep getting loose and disconnected if they even shake a little. If my screen moves an inch, the laptop stops recognising the in-built mic and camera and then re-recognises them.

Let me explain the last part a little better. So whenever you insert a pen drive or a peripheral Windows makes a sound to acknowledge that something has been inserted and when you remove the said pen-drive or perpheral windows makes a sound to achnowledge that the said device has been removed. So if my screen moves a litte windows makes the said sounds as if something which was plugged in was removed and then put back in. Funny thing is that the USB ports are empty and the only thing that could get affected are the in-built camera and mics.

7) A friend had a 1 year and a couple of months old HP DV4 laptop. Her laptop's screen got spoilt. When she took it to HP they wanted to charge her INR. 14000/- to change the screen! WOW! i can buy a whole new laptop in that amount and these thieves want to charge that for a screen. She later got it repaired from a local repairman for just INR. 4000/-

I have now used my laptop for 3.5 years. To keep it functioning properly I have had to reformat my c-drive atleast once a year and I still like the HP proprietory softwares. But software does not a laptop make. Hardware plays as much of a role in making a good laptop as software does and HP hardware sucks to the core.

I know my laptop is old and as any machine it will have problems, if my battery and cd/dvd drive had given out after 2-3 yrs of usage I would have perfectly understood that wear and tear got to them and thus got spoilt. But 2 batteries gave out nearly exactly after a year or purchase?!!? bolts fell out after a few months of purchase?? oh and btw when I asked HP service centre to put in new bolts where they were missing they said that I'd have to purchase a set of bolts for about INR. 1100/- ... ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  1100 BUCKS FOR BOLTS!! what would normally cost them about 100 bucks to acquire and should give free of cost, they charge 10x the amount!! GOOD GOD what a BUNCH OF THIEVES!

Whatever said and done, i'm terribly unhappy about my laptop and am sure not gonna buy or recommend anyone to buy an HP laptop. HP is good for printers and thats it! Period!

Everyone I know is suffering after purchasing an HP laptop, no matter what the reviews say, HP is a company of thieves. They use inferior quality products which get spoilt immidiately after the completion of the warranty period and then they charge a bomb to repair the product and that too depends on whether you can leave your laptop behind for extended periods of time!!

If anyone is even thinking of purchasing a new HP laptop then please DO NOT. You will end up suffering. It'll be better if you go for a Sony, Dell, or Levnovo. Their proprietory software might be different but they are better and more hardy products.

-> SJ