Archive for November, 2009

Moser Baer to enter handset busineds

November 21, 2009

Moser Baer did India proud by focsing on optical media manufacture ( CD DVD). Then they entered music business and brought high quality music and movies available for Rs 15 to Rs 45. It will be interesting if they can bring a mass market Indian brand handset (dominated by Nokia today)

Google Chrome OS for PCs on its way

November 21, 2009

After months of announcing its intent, Google announced the arrival of Netbook computers (with solid state drives) entering the market for the holiday season 2010 (around Sep – Oct 2010) with OEMs Acer and HP.

Sundar Pichai the Engineering manager for Chrome OS talked of 7 seconds boot time and 3 seconds login time, giving these PCS an experience that is more like TV viewing.

Targeted at “always on” users (with extensive browsing, social networking (Mail, IM, Facebook, Orkut) who primarily need only a browser Chrome OS can be a big hit though not for all segments of users.

The year 2010 PC market will be interesting to watch; hopefully cloud computing will be real by then

Motorola sees traction for Droid phone

November 21, 2009

Motorola invented mobile phone but it was Nokia that made it big with 400+ million handsets sold every year! Motorola had some succees with its Razr phone but could not hold it for long. With Android-based Droid Motorola seems to get traction again. One hopes to see the once mighty mobile company scale greater heights.

500 million phone subscribers in India today

November 20, 2009

As of this writing (October 5, 2009) Indian phone subscriber population must have crossed the magical 500 million. TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) puts out the official count of phone connections every month (typically on 23rd of every month). As per TRAI Press Release No 67/2009 of September 23, 2009 Indian telecom subscriber base stood at 494.07 million (with 456.74 million of wireless subscribers and 37.33 million of wire-line subscribers). With monthly addition of about 15 million every month over the past several months, the Indian telephone subscriber base must have crossed 500 million by the middle of September 2009, though the official announcement will happen on October 23, 2009 when TRAI will announce the count as on September 30, 2009.

It is truly a celebration time for “aam admi” (common man) in India. For four decades telephones were inaccessible to the common man due to the mistaken notion of the policy planners to view telephone as a luxury item until Sam Pitroda and C-DOT changed the scene in late eighties. The mobile phone that started ringing widely in Europe from 1991-92 started operations on August 23, 1995 (interestingly from the unexpected “city of joy” Kolkata); initially, mobile phones were only for the “super rich” as the tariff was Rs 35+ per minute! With the shift from “License Fee” regime to “revenue sharing” mode and the presence of competition in the marketplace, the tariff dropped to Rs 10 Paise per minute today!

The telecom revolution is truly spearheaded by the mobile telephony. While India is adding more than 15 million mobile subscribers every month, the landline population is steadily falling (though by miniscule numbers). For example, in August 2009 India added 15.08 million mobile subscribers, but the landlines contracted by 0.09 million. Mobile phone population had a crossover with landlines on October 18, 2004 at 44 million; ever since the landline population is either growing much slower or dwindling (it reached a maximum of 46 million)

It is good to see the numbers in perspective.

  • India had 80,000 landline subscribers at the time of Independence (1947); it grew to 5 million by 1991 and to 46 million in 2004 and down to 37 million today.
  • India had 300,000 mobile phones in 1997 that increased to 1 million in 1998, 5 million in 2001 and 10 million by December 2002; it increased ten-fold in four years! By June 2006 Indian mobile phone subscriber base touched 100 million; the next 100 million got added in just a year (by August 2007); India added another 100 million in the next one year (by August 2008) to touch 300 million; it touched 150 million in the past 12 months!
  • Globally the world saw the billionth mobile phone subscriber (to be precise GSM subscriber) on October 15, 2004. Today it has crossed 4 billion.
  • India is only next to China (at 600 million); interestingly, the Indian mobile user base is higher that of USA!

More than numbers, what is satisfying is the “building up of digital divide” that mobile phones are able to achieve in India. Today mobile phones are used by carpenters and plumbers, bus / taxi / auto drivers, servant maids and peons and push cart vendors! It reaches the nook and corner of the country including Jammu & Kashmir and the Northeastern States (though they had to wait several years on the pretext of national security).

There are several unique features of the Indian telecom story

  • Indian subscribers enjoy the lowest telephone tariff in the world
  • DoCoMo introduced charging per second recently; it is likely to be followed by other telecom operators
  • The largest telecom operators are NOT the government operators who enjoyed monopoly for decades (BSNL and MTNL have 57 milion and 5 million subscribers); more interesting, the Tatas and Birlas too are not the largest (Tata Tele and Idea have 43 million and 50 million subscribers); still more interesting it is NOT Ambanis who do not mind justifying the means by the goals (Reliance has 84 million subscribers); it is not even the world’s largest telecom operator (Vodafone has 81 million subscribers); it is Bharti Airtel (with 108 million subscribers) that has the highest subscriber base; it was started by first-time entrepreneur Sunil Bharti Mittal who had modest beginning!

Of course there are caveats; while the bulk of Indian urban population is well served by telecom operators, the same is not true of rural India; however, the situation is fast improving. As per TRAI September Press Release, Circle C wireless subscriber base is growing at 4.2% per month while the growth in Metro is only 2.7%! One has to find a way to leverage the mobile growth to increase education, healthcare, banking and employment in India. Rural BPO and home-based BPO can increase rural employment. With Telecom likely to be the largest contributor to GDP and the creator of largest number of jobs in rural India soon, imaginative exploitation of the phenomenon can change the face of India. Mobile services, broadband, mobile e-mail and Internet are the next set of challenges. One hopes that government quickly clears the policy muddle that has been holding up 3G license; once again Government should not get greedy and look for huge “License fee”.

At this rate, by December 31, 2009, mobile phone subscriber base alone would cross 500 million, yet another record. It is time the powers that be look at many other challenges. India still does not have a widely recognized India-brand handset (though Spice brand exists); we need to create Nokias and Samsungs from India. Similarly, we do not have Ericsson or Siemens at the backend, while China has created Huawei. May be our own Tejas Networks and the likes must be encouraged to grow. At a deeper level Japan, Korea and China have their own technologies; should not India think of having one? Or, better still create a technology that becomes a world standard. That alone will do proud to India and that is the challenge for our telecom engineers and telecom policy planners


Postscript: On Nov 19,2009 DoT formally announced this landmark in a function presided over by Telecom Minister Mr Raja

Palm starts shipping Pixi for the holiday season

November 20, 2009

Palm Inc pioneered handhelds (Palm Pilot) and smart phones (Palm Treo) but got into serious trouble during 2005 – 2008. It made a comeback with Palm Pre (launched in June 2009) that was perceived as a serious competitor to Apple iPhone. Palm Pre was NOT a major success; with Palm Pixi (priced very attractively at $ 99) Palm MAY see survival. However with retail major Wal Mart selling it at $ 29 (with 2-year contract) will Palm ever turn profitable?

Let us keep our fingers crossed.

I am a Palm fac (I still use their low end organizer and their Contact / Calendar desktop software that is so intuitive to use). I wish they succeed. in its 12th year – re-discovers itself as BangaloreIT.Biz

November 14, 2009

Nov 11-13 saw the 12th Edition of what started as IT.Com (it led to State level events in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kerala and Hyderabad). In one location (Lalit Ashok Hotel) it was focused event and great speakers (including Akamai Founder Tom Leighton). STPI co-hosted the event. ISA had Technovation Awards Ceremony in the event.

Felicitations to Professor V Rajaraman

November 1, 2009

Indian Institute of Science had organized a Felicitation Ceremony on October 31, 2009 to honor Professor V Rajaraman who served IISc as Professor (and Chair of SERC) from 1982 onwards. Professor Rajaraman turned 75 some time back.

It was nice to see Prof Rajaraman and Mrs Dharma Rajaraman seated in the dais along with IISc Director P Balaram and Associate Director N Balakrishnan

There were a number of his former students (Prof Somnath Biswas and Rajat Moona of IIT Kanpur, Prof Govindarajulu of IIIT Hyderabad, Dr Om Vikas of DoE, for example), colleagues (Prof H Krishnamoorthy, Prof Govindarajan of IISc (SERC) and Prof HN Mahabala of IIIT-B, for example)

I had interacted with Prof Rajaraman briefly during the 3 years we were together at IIT Kanpur. He was of immense help in the early days of IIIT-Bangalore; he was also the first External Member of IIIT-B Senate.

I wish Prof Rajaraman & Dharma many long happy days ahead

IIT-The Road Ahead

November 1, 2009

Education Times Division of Times of India is starting a new feature “Interaction”

As part of the new initiative they had organized a Panel Discussion on IIT-The Road Ahead on October 31, 2009 (3 to 5 PM)

I was asked to modetate a panel consisting of distinguidhed individuals –

  1. Prof R Natarajan,   Former Chairman, AICTE (Former Director, IIT Madras)
  2. Mr Ananth Koppar, Founder Kshema Tech & KTwo Tech (IIT Kharagpur Alum)
  3. Mr Ashok Kamath Chair Akshara Foundation & Former CEO Analog Devices India (IIT Bombay Alum)

I was invited thanks to my 16 years at IIT Kanpur (and a year at IIT Madras too)

We deliberated on five issues

  1. The recent controversy on cut-offs for JEE aspirants moving from 60% to 80%
  2. The percieved brand dilution due to hurriedly starting seven IITs in just a year
  3. The recent stand-off between IIT faculty and the Government and the resultant strike by IIT faculty
  4. Are  IIT’s contributing enough  on research front?
  5. Do students join IITs only for lucrative managerial careers by joining IIMs?

It was interesting to listen to the esteemed Panelists and the interaction between them and the 50+ audience consisting mostly of IIT aspirants in Schools and their parents