Archive for January, 2009

Acer to enter mobile phone business

January 29, 2009

The upcoming GSM World Congress in mid-February (12-16) will see a new entrant; Acer (the manufacturer of the largest number of Laptop computers for every leading PC manufacturer, though it also sells some laptops under its own brand name) has quietly announced its intention to show case its smart phones in GSM World Congress.

Invented by Motorola mobile phones for long were dominated by the Finnish company Nokia; LG & Samsung along with Nokia pushed Motorola to a distant fourth position. Siemens pulled out after some success; Ericsson that used to have some presence, joined with Sony; BlackBerry used to be a niche player, but entering the main stream market; Apple has been having unusual success within a short time.

Even Microsoft was talking of a “Zune Phone” during CES 2009 show early this month, but proved to be just a rumor. It will be interesting to watch this market unfolding in the years to come

The “gentleman” President Venkataraman is no more

January 28, 2009

Former President Mr. R Venkataraman passed away on January 27, 2009 at the ripe age of 98.

He will be long remembered as the “gentleman President” for his affable nature, quite rare amongst leaders in the India politics particularly these days.

Not many youngsters knew that in the post Independent India, industrialization started in a big way in Tamil Nadu (and later in many other States) and Mr. Venkataraman was responsible for putting Tamil Nadu in the forefront. The Industrial Training Institutes and the concept of industrial townships / industrial areas are also credited to him. Along with Mr C Subramaniam who changed the agricultural landscape of Tamil Nadu (and later India), Mr Vekataraman has contributed a lot under the able Congress leader Mr K Kamaraj – something the current generation has ben forced to forget by the powers that be.


Mr. Venkataraman had a very distinguished career as Finance Minister and Defence Minister before becoming the Vice President, and later the President of India.

Many of us in IIT Kanpur in 80s and 90s had direct interaction with the former President. His daughter Mrs Vijaya Ramachandran used to live in IIT Kanpur campus (her husband Prof R Ramachandran was our distinguished colleagues in the Physics department); we had the former President as the Convocation Chief Guest once. The President along with the First Lady had visited IIT Kanpur campus more than once.

The grateful Nation will remember him long for his contribution much after he is gone in physical form from this world.

HP Netbook Mini 1000 holds promise

January 26, 2009

Netbooks are clearly emerging as winners.

In December 2007, Asus Eee PC was making waves; the original model was Linux version; later, Asus introduced Windows XP version that was a huge success.

Consumers are looking at “affordable” products in the year 2008, with the economic difficulties affecting the whole world; as one report pointed out, Netbooks are the real hot cakes; selling more in numbers than Apple iPhones!

With this background HP Mini Netbook launched on October 29, 2008 (just in time to catch up with Christmas shopping spirit) appears to a step in the right direction. Intel Atom processor is computationally powerful (unlike Via processors that HP used earlier) though consuming very low electrical power (leading to better battery life). With 10″ and 8.5″ version available, there is choice; LED display is good (though the resolution is not very high). 

I do suspect that college students and mobile professionals looking for a second laptop (when in transit) will find this $ 399 a great buy.

It will be interesting to watch the product sales over the next 2 quarters

Padma Awards 2009 announced

January 25, 2009

On the eve of the Republic Day Padma Awards (the civilan awards of the Government of India) were officially announced (PIB Note of 530 PM)
Of the scientific community,

  • ISRO Chairman Dr Madhavan Nair,
  • Atomic Energy Chairman Anil Kakodkar and
  • the veteran Dr AS Ganguly

get Padma Vibhushan (the highest Padma award); the activist Sunderlal Bhauguna too gets Padma Vibhushan.


  • CK Prahald of UMich
  • Tom Kailath of Stanford
  • CS Seshadri of Chennai, and,
  • SS Katiyar of IITK

get Padma Bhushan Award.

The famous historian (and writer) Ramachandra Guha, telecom guru Sam Pitroda and the Sportman who made India proud at Beijing Olympics Anhinav Bindra too get Padma Bhushan Award.

  • Professor Kiran Seth (of IITD of SPICMACAY fame),
  • Mathoor Krishnamoorthy of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and,
  • Dr Utpal Banerjee (Computer Education in Schools)



Sam Pitroda, Ramachandra Guha
Prof CK Prahalad of UMich, Tom Kailath of Stanford and IITD Kiran Seth

President Obama’s weekly address stresses on the correct priorities

January 24, 2009

The new web-site of Whitehouse has a  very  simple and elegant design. It has a place for President’s weekly message too.

The weekly address of Jan 24, 2009 has a simple, yet powerful message; the new Government’s resolve to “invest” not “just throw money around” (which India is very good at, going by what happened in the past 4 years of UPA Government; it was no different with earlier Governments too)

It talks of 

  • Investing in roads and ports (for a country with excellent infrastructure)
  • Investing in 10,000 Schools (for a country that has universal access to education)
  • Tripling University fellowship (for a country that offers the largest number of University Fellowships in the world)

On the top of it, the President talked of a Web-site that will give account of the way money is being spent!

The best way to keep democracy alive is to improve transparency; if technology can help, it is a bonus. That is REAL IT

I cannot but wish that Indian Government takes some lessons; particularly when we as a country are way behind in physical infrastructure, social infrastructure (education & healthcare)!

Apple quarterly revenue crosses $ 10 billion!

January 23, 2009

Apple announced the results for the 4th quarter on January 21, 2009; it did bring the much-needed cheer to the markets.

IBM, HP are the other two companies who cheered the market with good results (with so much of bad news from GE, Intel, SONY, Sun and many others).

Apple results were spectacular; quarterly sales of $ 10.7 billion and profit of $ 1.6 billion arising out of sales of

  1. 22,727,000 iPods,
  2. 4,363,000 iPhones, and,
  3. 2,524,000 Macs

coming as it does amidst market melt-down it is definitely special. It is also the first time that Apple quarterly sales exceeded $ 10 billion ever.

For decades (until early 80’s) IBM was the only company with annual sales exceeding $ 10 billion; every one else used to trail way behind IBM, till DEC (now part of HP) crossed $ 10 billion; in the past two decades Compaq, Dell grew fast enough to cross annual sales of $ 40 billion. In the meantime IBM and HP grew to $ 100+ billion companies thanks to the booming IT.

Apple had been an admired company but relatively small in size. By their presence (that too in a leading way) across

  • computing (Macs),
  • communications (iPhone), and,
  • consumer electronics (iPod)

Apple is benefiting from the convergence of these three key industries. No other leader has been able to benefit from all these three.

HP & IBM are great computer companies but they have no presence in consumer electronics; Sony is a tall leader in consumer electronics but struggles in communications and computer markets; Nokia is a leader in communications, but has little presence in computing or consumer electronics; Samsung is another company to watch.

One hopes that one day an Indian company gets inspired by Apple

President Obama’s inclusive philosophy

January 20, 2009

Of the many strking features of President Obama’s speech during the swearing-in ceremony today (January 20, 2009) the one that appealed to me most was the mention

“Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hundus and the non-believers”

Perhaps Hindus and non-believers were used for the first time ever in a Presidential speech.

It is indeed gratifying to see the “super power” changing its attitude (from one of “big brother” under President Bush regime)

Infosys manages to post some good news

January 13, 2009

Announcing 33% profit growth for 3rd quarter (October – December 2008), Infosys, the “iconic” Indian IT company, could generate some confidence in the IT and investor community that had been battered for days with financial irregularities admittedly done by Satyam Computers Founder Ramalinga Raju.  Amidst such negative background, Infosys results were definitely a positive development.

In terms of numbers, Infosys posted 35% increase in revenue of Rs 5,790 Crores ($ 1.2 billion) and 33% increase in profit of Rs 1,640 Crores ($ 336 million). Part of the gain is due to the weakening of Indian Rupees against US Dollar.

What was specially gratifying was the Infosys decision to adhere to the original plan of hiring 25,000+ professionals in 2008-09 and 20,000 professionals in the year 2009-10.

Of course, Infosys has revised its annual guidance to $ 4.67 – 4.71 billion from an earlier estimate of $ 4.72 to 4.81 billion.

That was IT in the Year 2008

January 5, 2009


·       Barack Obama getting elected as the first African-American President on November 4, 2008 and his first speech cheered the whole world.

·       Chinese demonstrated their extra-ordinary skills in project execution by hosting Summer Olympics 2008 in Beijing and by winning the largest number of medals in the Games; India created a record of winning the first-ever Gold for individual sport, thanks to Abhinav Bindra

·       ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) made India proud by putting Chadrayaan (lunar vehicle) into space on October 22, 2008 and successfully putting MIP (Moon Impact Probe) on to the Moon soil (with Indian tri-color painting on it) on November 14, 2008; they also put ten satellites into orbit in quick succession within tem minutes using an India-made launch vehicle PSLV on August 25, 2008.

·       Tate Nano (the $ 2,500 people’s car) that was showcased to the world on January 10, 2008 grabbed global headlines. Singur in West Bengal unfortunately could not house the plant that was set to roll out Tate Nano in 2008, thanks to petty politics; Tate Nano will roll out of Sanand in Gujarat.

·       Terror strike takes a heavy toll on India in the year 2008; Bombay terror attack on the “iconic” Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay on November 26, 2008 (India’s 9/11) and its scar will take years to disappear. This year saw terror attacks in Jaipur (13th May), Bangalore (25th July), Hyderabad (26th July), Delhi (13th September).

·       Major tragedies strike India in 2008; Kosi flood in Bihar (13th to 27th September) affects millions; Himachal Naina Devi temple tragedy (2nd August), Jodhpur temple tragedy (30th September)

·       Chinese earthquake in May, Myanmar cyclone in October, and blasts in Pakistan in October impacted many in the world


·       Tripura, Meghalaya & Nagaland in March, Karnataka in May, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram & Jammu-Kashmir get newly elected State Governments in 2008.

·       Left parties withdrawing support to Manmohan Singh-led Government, and the support extended by Samajwadi Party made the Government very weak

·       Inflation going past 12% in June 2008 hurts the common man most; luckily, it started climbing down by the end of the year.

·       Rupee that was at Rs 47 / USD appreciated to Rs 38 /USD in before crashing to Rs 50 / USD by the year-end.

·       Tatas did India proud by acquiring Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford in May

·       Reliance starts pumping oil from Godavari basin and expect to get about 16% of India’s oil needs

·       NASA Phoenix lands on Mars surface on June 1, 2008

·      Private sector built green-field airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad started operations on 23rd March and 23rd May respectively.


·       123 Agreement (Nuclear Agreement) was signed by USA and India on October 10, 2008


·       Central Government notifies the Sixth Pay Commission; the salary differentials between private sector and the government to reduce substantially; salaries for academic staff to increase dramatically.


·       The “Sub-prime” crisis in the housing sector in the United States causes a global financial tsunami in November 2008 that is set to impact all the countries (including India); US Government nationalizes Freddie and Fannie, bails out AIG and Meryl Lynch; Lehman Brothers declares bankruptcy; the three US auto majors get bailout; Toyota set to declare losses the first time ever in 71 years. USA talks of 750,000 job losses in the year. Indian IT industry too will be affected, though it is too early to assess the impact


·       Oil prices that started at $ 60 per barrel in January shoot up to $ 143 in November before crashing to $ 37 in December



·       Apple launching iPhone 3G on July 11, 2008 in USA (and August 22, 2008 in India) brought 3G and “Touch” to mart phones in a big way. Blackberry launches “Bold” in September and “Storm” in November; Nokia launches N96 in August, 5800 in October, N97 in November; Samsung launches Innov8 in November and Omnia in December; Sony Ericsson launches Experia in November; Palm launches Centro & Treo 800W; Apple and Blackberry push Palm way down – 8% by year end from 36% earlier) in smart phone sales.

·       Ultra-thin notebook computers saw action along with low-cost “Netbooks” (small footprint, low power consumption and less expensive notebooks). Apple launched MacBook Air in January; Lenovo launched x300 in May


·       Netbooks enter mainstream; sell more numbers than Apple iPhone; Asus Eee PC and Acer Aspire dominate


·       Firefox 3 browser was launched on June 17, 2008; creates history with record downloads within a week


·       Intel “Atom” processor (that consumes very low power) enters “Netbook” market and targets mobile users (including smart phones)


·       Intel also announces next generation Core i7 processors; Intel engineers do India proud by designing an energy efficient processor for Xeon server


·       Google enters mobile phone space by announcing G1 on October 22, 2008 (based on Android operating system); it also launches “Chrome” browser in September


·       NVidia launches “Telsa” personal super computer in India


·       Titan launches Braille watches for blind at Rs 995 along with National Association for Blind in November


·       Microsoft launches Windows 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 in May; also beta versions of Windows 7, Internet Explorer 8 and Azure (cloud computing product); their  “Silverlight” platform to counter Adobe Flash during Chinese Olympics gains traction


·       DTH (Direct To Home) started gaining momentum with Reliance and Airtel announcing their products during Dasara and Deepavali season respectively (October and November)




·       Japanese Daiichi Sankyo acquiring Indian pharma major Ranbaxy for $ 4.6 billion was indeed a big ticket acquisition; Infosys bid to acquire UK-based SAP practice company Axon was nullified by HCL Tech putting a bid for a higher price and winning it for $ 753 million; other acquisitions include Mindtree acquiring Aztec Software, Birla-owned IDEA acquiring the first Indian mobile service provider Spice for Rs 2,720 Crores and Times acquiring job portal “DICE” from Cyber Media. Swan Telecom and Unitech selling off within months of taking GSM license smacks of corruption.

·       Globally, IT leader HP acquired EDS for $ 13.9 billion; Oracle acquired BEA for $ 8.5 billion. Verizon acquired Alltel for a whopping $ 28.1 billion; Microsoft bid to acquire Yahoo fails; JDA acquired Supply Chain software vendor i2 for $ 346 million; McAfee acquired Secure Computing for $ 465 million.

·       HP annual turnover crosses $118.4 billion as of October 31, 2008 a record by any IT company (including IBM)




·       HP researchers discover the 4th circuit element (after Resistor, Conductor and Capacitor)

·       MIT researchers demonstrate “wireless” electricity (may change power charging for mobile devices), “raw solar” (will help wider adoption of solar energy) and thermoelectric cooling (might help data centers)

·       HP and QualComm announce “Gobi” chip for mobile phones

·       Blue-ray wins the standard war in DVD storage format

·       Lenovo and Apple launch super slim laptop products using advanced technology

·       Sony announces “TransferJet” with speeds of up to 375 Mbps

·       Zephyr solar plane clocks more than 83 hours of unmanned flying


Indian IT companies


Indian IT companies top the IAOP (International Association of Outsourcing Professionals) list of Top 10 global outsourcing companies with Infosys (3rd), TCS (6th), Wipro (7th), Genpact (9th) and Tech Mahindra (10th) in the fray


Indian IT services revenue touches $ 52 billion by March 2008 (NASSCOM); IT services (including ITES) generate 1.6 million jobs; Karnataka benefits with IT /ITES jobs exceeding 500,000 (STPI November 2008)


Infosys headcount touches 100,000; gets included in “Global Dow” – 150 most innovative global companies


Wipro enters African markets by starting office in Morocco and Ethiopia


HCL acquires Axon for $ 753 million


 Airtel (India;s largest mobile service provider) reaches subscriber base of 83 million by November


 WNS gets $ 1 billion (over 10 years) contract from Aviva


Reputation Institute in USA puts Tatas in the 6th position (out of Top 200) globally


TCS starts 1,000 seat facility in Ohio, USA


3i-Infotech turnover crosses Rs 1,000 Crores in 2008


MNC companies in India


·     Nokia rolls out its 200 millionth handset out of Sriperumbudur plant (near Chennai) in India


·     Motorola plant commences production in April in Sriperumbudur (near Chennai)


·     Dell laptops roll out of Chennai factory


·     CSC talks of doubling India count from 16,000 to 32,000 (before meltdown)


·     Chicago-based Agile software major “Thought Works”, expands in India


·      Virtualization major VmWare expands India operations


·      Fab-less semiconductor major ARM expand India operations


·     Yahoo Labs start in Bangalore


·     Juniper Networks increases headcount in India significantly


·     Sutherland talks of 10,000 seat BPO in Chennai


·     Semiconductor major (earlier part of Motorola) FreeScale

 expands India operations


·     French IT services major Steria has big plans for India


·     Citix to invest $ 200 million,


·     Intel 6-core energy efficient Xeon processor for servers is designed in India


·     Hyundai starts second car plant in Chennai




·                Policy muddle in 3G and WiMax licenses, controversy surrounding the sale of Swan & Unitech Telecom stall India’s telecom growth story

·                Mobile phone subscriber base to cross 380 million by Dec 31, 2008 (it stood at 374.13 million as of Nov 30, 2008 with monthly additions exceeding 10 million as per TRAI)


·                IP telephony becomes legal from August 2008


·                Japanese telecom giant DoCoMo enters India thru Tate Telecom


·                India’s first 3G phone rings on December 13, 2008 thru MTNL


Education & Research


·                Six new IIT’s start at Jaipur, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Chandigarh and Ahmedabad


·      Indian Institute of Science celebrates the century year starting May 27, 2008


·                Supreme Court upholds OBC reservation excluding “creamy layer”


·                ACM Infosys Foundation Award for computer science takes off – Prof Daphne Koller is the first recipient


·                Indian Science & Engineering research Council (on the lines of NSF in USA) gets Parliamentary approval in December

·                Government starts 100,000 scholarships for outstanding high school graduates; SBI launches 100,000 merit-cum-means scholarships




·       Reserve Bank of India announces “mobile banking” guidelines


·       Airlines shift to 100% e-ticketing from June 1, 2008


·       Hughes to provide Internet connectivity across trains using their satellite network


·       Electricity Exchange take off in 2008




·       Airtel laying US Japan cable




·       Barack Obama is the next US President


·       Bill Gates steps down from full time Chairman position in Microsoft; Yahoo Founder Chairman Jerry Yang retires


·      Nepal monarchy is gone; get its first President, Parliament and a new Prime Minister


·       Pakistan gets a new President and a Prime Minister; democracy returns


·       IIT Kanpur educated Dr Subba Rao is the new Governor of Reserve Bank of India


·       Chandu Bhave is the new SEBI Chairman


·       India-born Lakshmi Mittal-controlled Arcelor Mittel has annual revenue exceeding $ 100 billion in 2008


·       Bharti Mittal of Airtel joins ITU Board (the first for any Indian)


·       Kiran Karnick gives charge of NASSCOM President-ship to Som Mittal


·       Former Prime Minister VP Singh, spiritual guru Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and social worker Baba Amte pass away


Visitors to India in 2008 include


·       Prime Ministers of UK, Turkey, Nepal, French President, Syrian President and Prince Andrew


·      CEOs of IT companies (ARM, FreeScale, Microsoft and RIM), FMCG majors (Coca-Cola, Pepsico, and Unilever), automation major Schneider and defence electronics major Thales

·      Rupert Murdoch


·      Presidents of Cambridge University, Oxford University, UC Berkeley and Purdue University


·      Nobel Laureate Mohammed Yunus


·      Presidents of Royal Society, UK and IEEE Computer Society, USA



Interesting numbers


·       India’s student population in USA in 2008-09 (94,000)


·       Anil Ambani Power IPO subscribed 173 times (Rs 11,760 Crores)


·       Foreign Exchange reserves start at $ 240 billion, surge to $ 343 billion, crash to $ 240 billion and rise to $ 250 billion)


·       World lost $ 10 trillion in year 2008 stock market crash (the biggest ever)


·       SWITCH (Satyam, Wipro, Infosys, TCSm Cognizant and HCL) holds 2.4% of global IT outsourcing ($ 667 billion)


·       India’s GSM mobile subscriber base crossed 200 million; overall mobile subscribers crossed 300 million in March and 385 million in December

(Appeared in the Education Times Column of Times of India (Bangalore Edition) on January 5, 2008)

IT in December 2008

January 4, 2009


  • Bad news continues to pour on the economic front with US economy shrinking by 0.3% in 3Q08 (July – September 2008); even SONY talks of axing 16,000 jobs; 3M to phase out 1,800; Dow chemicals to cut 500 jobs; IIP (Index of Industrial Production) in India has the steepest fall in 15 years; advanced tax collection (Dec 15) down by 22%


  • Government announces excise duty cuts; PC prices are down by 4%; interest rates slacken; with a move to boost affordable housing, house interest loans become much cheaper for ‘low cost’ housing;


  • Oil price drops to $ 37/barrel (from a record high $146 in mid 2008); petrol, diesel prices in India are cut


  • Delhi, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh elect new governments


  • Sheik Hasina becomes Prime Minister of Bangladesh


  • Reliance Oil Refinery goes on stream (Dec 25)


  • Reliance Communication launches national GSM service (Dec 28)


  • Indian Institute of   Science Centenary celebrations see many Nobel Laureates in Bangalore


  • Pan IIT meet in Chennai


  • The controversial decision of Satyam to acquire Maytas and a quick retreat opened up issues of Corporate Governance in IT industry that had held a high moral ground  for years


  • Maruti 800 celebrates 25 years; in a way it is India’s Model T


  • HP-UX completes 25 years (unusual for a tech product)



  • PC Magazine stops “Print” edition (goes ‘online only’)





  • Douglas Engelbart (Stanford Research Institute) designed “Computer Mouse” completes 40 years on December 9, 2008




  • HP-UX (HP implementation of Unix across workstations, servers and data center) operating system survives 25 years, and HP has plans to grow it for several years more!


  • Intel Wi-Max products proliferate


  • NVIDIA launches its Personal Super Computer in India (demonstrated in London in November)




  • Wipro buys Citi’s Tech arm for $127 million


  • Satyam announces its plan to acquire infrastructure company “Maytas” for $ 1.2 billion on December 15, 2008; retreats on the same night (within 10 hours) due to violent stock-holder reaction; there was general feeling of over valuation, nepotism (Mayas is promoted by chairman Ramalinga Raju’s sons) showing Satyam in poor light in terms of corporate governance; four independent directors quit; Satyam stock prices tumble; quite unprecedented in the Indian IT industry that has set high record of corporate governance


  • posts best ever online sales of 6.3 million items on December 15, 2008 (the day with highest sales every year) compared to 5.6 million in 2007 and 3.9 million in 2006


  • Panasonic to buy Sanyo for $ 2 billion


  • Madoff fraud in US causes further damage to market sentiment


Indian IT companies


  • Trivandrum-based Nest expands Europe operations by starting an office in Munich


  • Tata Elxsi starts “Design Studio” in London


  • Blackstone buys majority stake in CMS computers


  • Infosys gets 5-year outsourcing contract from Aztra-Zeneca


  • Infosys starts 2nd centre in Hangzhou China


MNC Companies in India


  • GE buys Bombay–based transformer company “Indo Tech”


  • AT & T starts first data center in India


  • Altos Origin to double headcount at 6,500




  • STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialing) is 60 years old; on December 5, 1958 British Queen dialed Edinburgh from Bristol without an operator


  • First 3G call rings on December 11, 2008


Education & Research


  • Parliament approves Science & Engineering Research council


  • INSPIRE Scholarship (nearly 100,000) for top 1% in 10th class and 12th class (nationally) announced


  • IISc centenary year and Pan IIT meet gets many distinguished researchers to India in December 2008




  • Former Yahoo employee Qu Li to head ‘search division” of Microsoft



Interesting Numbers


  • Foreign exchange reserves after going down to $ 243 billion from a high of $ 340 billion over the year move up marginally to $ 248 billion in December


  • US job loss estimated to be 533,000 in the year 2008


  • Job-seekers registered with Indian employment exchange reduces to 3.99 million in December 2007 from the earlier 4.14 million in December 2006


  • Commercial built-up space in India in the year 2008 continues to keep Bangalore (10.4 million) at No 1; Delhi (8.6 million), Mumbai (8.5 million), Chennai (4.1 million) and Hyderabad (4 million) follow

(Monthly Column of forthcoming issue of “IT Magazine” pp 12 to 13)