Archive for the ‘My views on IT products’ Category

Made for india, Made in india products start arriving – the case of HP Dream Screen 400 – Information Appliance and NOT one more PC

January 1, 2011

In the past decade, product development is slowly and steadily taking off in India. Automobiles, tractors and even commercial vehicles started to be “made for India”, in addition to merely being “made in India”. Tata Nano is perhaps the best example. Core banking software from Infosys and iFlex Solutions (now part of Oracle), Tata Chemical’s drinking water purifier “Swach”, Titan Edge watches, BEL Electronic Voting Machines are typical and well-known examples of this trend. Such innovation is not limited to Indian companies alone. Toyota recently launched Etios car in India. Nokia 1100 mobile handset that was “made for India” was a spectacular success. GE’s low cost ultrasound machine VScan is yet another innovation inspired by India.

HP launched its Dream Screen 400 product in November 2010, specially targeted at the entry level Indian consumer. Attractively priced at Rs 19,999, HP Dream Screen 400 is a great “value for money”; one more in the line of “Made in India, Made for India” products.

A quick look at the specs:

Hardware

  • Powered by Intel Atom microprocessor
  • 18.5” touch screen display with 1366×768 resolution
  • 250 GB Hard disk (with 127GB for users)
  • Optical DVD writer
  • Ethernet and Wi-Fi for high speed wire and wireless connectivity to the Internet
  • Good multimedia capability with two 5W speakers, microphone, H.264 HD video play capability and 1.3 megapixel Web camera
  • Four USB ports, SD card slot

Software

  • Linux-based OS (Fedora distribution) optimized for “touch interface”
  • Mozilla Firefox browser Version 3.5.11
  • Browser-based e-mail with one step, easy to use and intuitive user interface for GMail, Yahoo Mail, Rediff Mail and Windows Live
  • Internet chat using Google Chat, Yahoo Messenger, and Windows Live
  • Open Office Version 3.1.1 for Word processing, spreadsheets and presentation with support to read Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint documents
  • Calendar utility with built-in Holiday list of the Government of India
  • Desktop calculator
  • Simple file manager to copy, paste, move and organize files and file folders with search capability
  • Corel Media Player to play DVD content
  • Simple, user friendly software to watch multimedia content (photos, music, video)
  • Desktop video conferencing capability with other HP Dream Screen 400 devices; any user on the Internet with browser access can get a simple XXXX-YYYY ID free from www.hp-ds.com site and use video conferencing!

Pre-packaged content

A unique strength of HP Dream Screen 400 is the rich (and hopefully growing) content provided by many partners in the ecosystem, that currently include

  • Internet connectivity thru Airtel and Tata Telecom (sold through Airtel Tata Telecom outlets across India from November 25, 2010)
  • BillDesk for Bill payments
  • Hungama for music and video
  • IndiaGames for gaming
  • India Today and Music Today for media, music and Astrology
  • Tata Telecom and Aplaya IPTV for Darshan – Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh, Shirdi temple in Maharashtra, Golden Temple in Punjab, Kasi Viswanath temple in Uttar Pradesh, Govind Devji temple in Jaipur, ISKCON and Siddhivinayak temples in Mumbai
  • Edurite for School education content

First impressions

I got my piece delivered to my home on a weekend. Un-boxing the piece, connecting it to the power and starting the machine was a breeze (less than 15 minutes).  The “Take a tour” videos are excellent; clear voice, clear instructions impressed me. Connecting to the wireless was a struggle (partly because my BSNL Wi-Fi Router is closer to the balcony of my living room and I installed HP Dream Screen 400 in my office room). It worked for 10 minutes in my one-hour experiment! I tried to “install” the Tata Photon USB high-speed modem and failed many times; giving up exasperated, I started working on my Apple Mac; suddenly, I found the “green light” on connectivity; that is when I realized HP Dream Screen is not built to “install” any programs! However it recognizes Tata Photon USB device. From onwards there was no looking back! Tata Photon is permanently connected to HP Dream Screen 400 for the past 10 days and it works very well.

I completed my registration and “subscribed” to Live Darshan. It was nice to watch SVBC (Sri Venkateswara Bhakti Channel) on the machine. I could finish my GMail session really well. Browsing was as effective on HP Dream Screen 400 as on any standard desktop. The “touch” interface is very useful for watching photos and video as well as for quickly selecting the menu options (large icons like Apple iPad or iPhone). Being an avid “touch” user for the past two years, thanks to iPhone & iPad, I particularly value “touch” as an additional interface.

Watching the “stored” movies was real fun. The screen, audio and video rendering is real good that my wife really watched a full movie (3Idiots)! The music collection is really large. India Today News is an interesting channel. Wedding Fashion is an amusing piece (at least for us). I have not tried Travel booking and Bill payment yet (I may never use them); nor did I experiment with Education content, as I am far removed from School education.

Online help thru a toll free number (available on every screen), support for Hindi, option of QUERTY as well as ABCDEF keyboard layout are nice bonus points.

The overall form factor, location of buttons, ports and switches are apt, intuitive and marked for easy identification.

Of course there are pinpricks; video part of video call works well, but not the audio part. The file manager is a bit primitive.

Use case

Targeted at first time, non-techie users and the whole family (with start-up base of five users), HP Dream Screen literally provides “on touch” solution to the

  • Interesting Games for kids
  • Education for School going children
  • E Mail, Web browsing, Chat, Fashion, Movies, Bollywood TV for College students
  • Open Office (Word processing, spreadsheet, presentation), News, Travel and Bill payment for the Head of the family
  • Live Darshan, Astrology and Video call for Senior Citizens
  • Photos, Music, Video, Video call, Movies, News, Email for everyone in the family

In fact many reviews “dismissed” HP Dream Screen 400 as “uninteresting”, “who wants it”, “be ready for disappointment”; viewed as one more “Desktop PC”, the reviews are correct; but HP Dream Screen 400 is not to be “mixed up” as “one more PC”; it is a new “information appliance” targeted at lower and middle income family in an economically under developed country like India, where the family is still is very strong!

In summary, I view HP Dream Screen as an interesting unfolding of the information revolution that entered a defining moment in the year 2010. With smart phones (Apple iPhone, Android phone), tablets (Apple iPad) and e-book Readers (Amazon Kindle) taking off in a big way, computing is entering the “appliance” phase. The electricity industry was very “electric bulb” centric for decades; but with appliances (Refrigerators and Washing machines, generally called white goods) the industry transformed completely. It was no longer a monolithic world of “electrical bulbs”. HP Dream Screen 400 represents a move towards “information appliance” that may not be the right choice for everyone but the best choice for the niche audience for whom it is targeted. It will be interesting to watch the development of HP Dream Screen 400 like devices in the next decade.

 

 

IBM launches zEnterprise servers

July 30, 2010

On July 27, 2010 IBM had a launch event for the newest mainframe computer zEnterprise servers.
They had invited just a select set of people (Yours truly included)

Dr Rao and Ray talked about the product details.

It was exciting to see IBM addressing all the layers

A powerful microprocessor tuning at 5.2 GHz

Very rich instruction set and microcode that allows optimisation of key applications

One of the fastest machine optimised for c, c++ and Java

Legendary mainframe reliability

A very robust security model

And with the right pricing zEnterprise will not be a hot and powerful iron but cost effective as well!

I intend to discover more features in the next couple of weeks

HP acquires Palm

April 28, 2010

On April 28, 2010 HP agreed to acquire Palm Inc for $ 1.2 Billion

Palm is an amazing company; created Palm Pilot that brought “hand-writing” to computers in 1996 (where Apple failed in 1992 with its Apple Newton!)

Palm OS had an amazing simplicity and created “PDA” as a new class of gadgets; they were the best for keeping track of Calendar and Contacts; and a real value for money. They kept innovating by adding communication to PDA’s thru Palm Treo devices (much before the word Smartphone was invented!). Of course, they struggled – acquisition by US Robotics, hardware and software separation, getting sold to a Japanese company and finally revival with a ray of hope with ex Apple iPod designer getting back as CEO; within months an amazing product came out (Palm Centro). Of course with a great vision Palm brought out Palm Pre and WebOS 2 years back, but could not convince the US carriers (I wish they had flooded Asian and European markets where  “free” phones dominate (not tied to a career)! US is the country where practically no one enjoys “free” phone; the Telcos control the market in USA; even Apple could not fight AT&T!) But the struggle of the past 2 years has almost finished Palm much to the disappointment of many of us (long time Palm admirers). I have used practically every model of Palm!

HP‘s foray into “handheld computers” is not new – it is at least 15 years old! I have a nice  PDA running Windows 3.0 of 1996 vintage! They followed it up with Jornada. With Compaq acquisition Jornada got killed and iPaq became HP’s key PDA. For a while, HP talked of manufacturing Apple iPad though it never happened. With Palm acquisition HP has a good chance of making it

Mobile phones are the future; Motorola created mobile phone but it is always in “fits and starts” in the market; Nokia created the market, but unable to master “smart phones”. Apple created “Smart phone”, but cannot get even 3 models in 3 years (unlike Nokia, Samsung or even Motorola with dozens of models). Microsoft Phone appears promising but they might go the Zune way (into nowhere). It would be really interesting if HP can pump money into Palm (they badly need it), get WebOS products out, manufacture & distribute (HP is really good at it) and “mobilize” all applications (the way BlackBerry mobilized one application called “EMail”)

I wish the marriage great progeny (of products!)

It will be interestuing to watch

Apple iPad reaches users hands; Richard Gutjahr is the lucky person to get the first iPad

April 3, 2010

Today (April 3, 2010) is the official launch day for Apple iPad which many of us feel is creating the “third” platform (between PC and a smart phone)

People queued up outside many Apple Stores; the one in New York city were the first to get it as Apple decided to start selling only in USA at 9 AM local time

Mr Richard Gutjahr the German blogger was not the first in the queue; but Apple policy decided to give preference to those who had made reservations (that opened on March 12); Richard Gutjahr was the first in the line who had made reservation; within 10 minutes he was out of the Stores as a proud owner of the “revolutionary” product!

It will be interesting to watch the consumer acceptance / rejection of this product in the next quarter

Apple iPad is reported to have sold nearly 90,000 units on Day 1

March 12, 2010

Apple opened bookings for Apple iPad – Wi-Fi versions for $ 499 to 699 (16 GB to 64 GB) and Wi-Fi + 3 G version for $ 629 to 829 (16 GB to 64 GB) on March 12, 2010

On Day 1 it is reported (Apple is yet to confirm) that 90,000 units  bookings (worth more than $ 50 million worth) happened on Day 1

If true, Apple iPad will be the third “roaring success” for Apple (iPod in 2001, iPhone in 2007 and now iPad in 2010)

Samsung launches Wave phone with “Bada” operating system

February 17, 2010

In the Mobile World Congress 2010 Samsung launched its Wave phone GT S8500.

Powered by “bada” operating system it is an amazing phone. Its 3.3″ AMOLED display is stunning

Will the mobile handset industry accommodate one more operating system – Symbian, Apple Mac OS, Palm Web OS, Android, Windows Phone 7..?

Only time will tell

Converged Infrastructure – HP is ahead with BladeSystem Matrix

February 5, 2010

The two mantras that I used in this talk are

  1. SSN is one (SSN stands for Servers, Storage & Networks)
  2. You need to optimize globally

Over the years server consolidation, virtualization (Storage, desktop, applications…), layered network architecture, storage using SAN.. have dominated the CIO’s toolbox of facing increasing applications demand and decreasing budget. In the process the optimization has often been local – servers, storage or network. What is needed today is to “globally” optimize across servers, storage and networks – the essence of my “SSN is one” mantra.

Servers need storage; networks needs heavy computing and storage; and, storage needs both networking and computing; the three are intrinsically intertwined.

To optimize across the system you need tools – the real strength of HP today

With its BladeMatrix System HP offers a “3-in-1 box” that consists of servers, storage and networks – all configurable with software tools that automate the whole process; the pre-defined templates captures the essence of best scenarios that are “perfected” in the Lab.

In that sense compared to every other vendor HP seems to have a well-orchestrated strategy (announced in October 2009), products (November 2009), consulting practices (January 2010) and marketing communications (Feb 2010)

If well executed this can be a game changer

(Invited talk given the very select CIO’s in Udaipur on Feb 5, 2010)

Apple iPad – will it be a game changer?

January 28, 2010

The legendary Apple CEO Steve Jobs launched the much-awaited consumer electronics item “iPad” in San Francisco, USA, yesterday (January 27, 2010).

Powered by Apple’s “own” processor code-named A4 running at 1 GHz, brilliant 9.7” LED display (Apple calls it IPS technology) with 16 to 64 GB of “flash” memory, 10 hours of battery, Wi-Fi (802.11n), Bluetooth (2.1), GPS and accelerometer, the ½” thin Apple iPad weighs a mere 1.5 pounds.  Filling the gap between a smart phone and a laptop / notebook computer, Apple iPad is designed for a great experience in Net browsing, e-mail, photo / video viewing, music, games and interestingly reading e-books.

Powered by Apple Safari iPad gives the best mobile browsing experience; the form factor is large enough to render full web pages very well. The “touch” keyboard is almost the same size as most laptop keyboards, enabling the user to do mobile e-mail as if one is working on a notebook. The large and brilliant screen allows video, music & photo organizer to be powerful, yet intuitive making iPad a great mobile multimedia device. Apple iPad is a great mobile gaming device. To add to the “wow” factor Apple iPad is an excellent mobile e-Book Reader too!

Will Apple iPad be a game changer? Many of us believe so due to the following reasons

1 Apple consistently creates products that stand out amidst crowd

Launched in 1984 Apple Mac computer was not one more PC; it redefined the “Personal Computer”. Apple followed it up with PowerBook in 1991, Power Mac in 1994 and iMac in 1999. Mac Book Air introduced in 2008 was great design innovation. No wonder Apple sold a record number of 3.4 million Mac computers in the October – December 2009 quarter!

Apple introduced iPod in 2001, It was NOT the first portable digital music player; by combining innovation in design (the dial pad for example) along with iTunes musical stores, iPod today is synonymous with MP3 players! Apple has sold more than 250 million iPod devices in nine years (nearly 21 million in the last quarter (October – December 2009) alone!

In 2007 Apple launched iPhone, a smart phone amidst a market crowded by Nokia (with more than 400 million handset sales globally), Motorola (the company that invented mobile phones), Palm Inc (the smart phone leader), RIM (BlackBerry maker who was the unquestioned leader among mobile e-mail devices), SONY (the consumer electronics giant) and Samsung & LG (Korean majors). Within two years Apple iPhone has become a leader with its revolutionary “multi-touch” interface, a winning combination of smart phone, mobile Internet device and iPod; every manufacturer including Nokia was forced to introduce a “touch” phone, though none could match Apple iPhone in terms of intuitive user interface. Apple sold nearly 9 million iPhones in the last quarter (October – December 2009). App Store an online “application store” has 140,000 applications today with more than 3 billion downloads in less than 2 years.

Apple iPad introduced yesterday combines a mobile computer, smart phone and e-Book Reader and is likely to storm the e-Book Reader market as well as PC market

2 iPad avoids earlier mistakes

Tablet PC is not new. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has been spearheading Tablet PC for the past seven years. Tablet PC attempts to use “touch”, but limited to “stylus based writing”. By incorporating “multi-touch” across all applications, iPad goes far beyond a “Tablet PC”. The media has been talking of Apple Tablet PC (with even a name iSlate) for months; Apple took everyone by surprise through iPad that integrates touch (that too with no stylus). The form factor is correct and the 10-year battery life would be the “killer” feature.

3 iPad leverages existing ecosystem

iPhone leads the smart phone pack primarily due to “applications” that can be easily downloaded from “app Stores”. There is a record 140,000 strong set of applications to choose from. By making EVERY application from iPhone App Stores to run on iPad Apple has decisively made iPad the best Tablet PC! By tweaking great applications (word processing and presentation, for example) Apple iPad will be the best PC. Thanks to 9.7” screen, the “virtual” keyboard on the screen is almost the size of normal keyboard permitting full e-mail functionality. By running iTunes with full functionality iPad is a great multi-media device as well

4      iPad will shake up the e-Book Reader market

With Apple launching iBook Store with MacMillan, Penguin, Simon & Schuster already signed up and opting for ePub “open” format (unlike Amazon’s proprietary format) Apple iPad might change the dynamics of e-Book Readers!

5 Apple iPad is priced right

The media has been projecting a launch price of $ 1,000 to $ 2,000 for Apple Tablet. Surprisingly Apple has priced iPad at $ 499 (Wi-Fi version) and $ 629 (3G version). The data plans are $ 15 per month and $ 30 per month unlike the $ 60 per month that typically telcos charge for data plans today

Steve Jobs summarized the launch as “our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price”; the first impression, if it is any indication, makes one conclude that Apple iPad will be a game changer product. It will be interesting to watch Apple reaching the product to customers and they in turn lapping it up or not over the next 11 months.

Apple launches iPad Three-in-one PC, Smart Phone and e-Book

January 27, 2010


Today (January 27, 2010) the legendary Apple CEO Steve Jobs launched in San Francisco, USA , “IPad” – the “third” device beyond Apple’s hugely successful Mac computer and iPhone smart phone. Millions around the globe watched the launch event over the Net; many in India (including the author) had to burn the midnight oil (1130 PM IST yesterday to 1:07 AM IST today) to get the excitement as it unfolded. The bloggers of Gizmodo, Engadget, Wall Street Journal and New York Times provided “live” coverage with text and pictures that made every Netizen feel as though one was present in San Francisco; it worked well even with a flaky “narrow band” Internet connection that is often sold as “broad band” connection in India!

Steve Jobs summarized the launch as “our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price”; yes, Apple iPad at $ 499 (Wi-Fi model) or $ 629 (3G Model) is a steal; both are “unlocked”; the service provider AT&T may subsidize the device cost; other service providers might extend subsidy too, but as of writing it is not clear if Apple has arrangements with other telcos (other than AT&T).

Powered by Apple’s “own” processor code-named A4 running at 1 GHz, brilliant 9.7” LED display (Apple calls it IPS technology) with 16 to 64 GB of “flash” memory with 10 hours of battery, Wi-Fi (802.11n), Bluetooth (2.1), speech, accelerometer, the ½” thin Apple iPad weighs a mere 1.5 pounds. “Multi-Touch” that Apple introduced two years back in its iPhone product pervades every function of Apple’s iPad. The form factor is that of “Tablet PC”, though Apple avoided the term “Tablet” and consistently called it “iPad”.

–      Powered by Apple Safari iPad gives the best mobile browsing experience; the form factor is large enough to render full web pages very well.

–      The “touch” keyboard is almost the same size as most laptop keyboards, enabling the user to do mobile e-mail as if one is working on a notebook.

–      The large and brilliant screen allows video, music & photo organizer to be powerful, yet intuitive making iPad a great mobile multimedia device; with iTunes fully supported on iPad, it is effortless to use for the 100 million iPad users on the planet.

–      Apple iPad is a great mobile gaming device too.

–      To add to the “wow” factor Apple iPad is an excellent mobile e-Book reader with Apple launching iBookStore with MacMillan, Penguin, Simon & Schuster already signed up and New York Times having an application for iPad; Apple calls Amazon’s Kindle a great device and compliments Amazon by saying “we stand on their shoulders”; by opting for ePub open format (unlike Amazon’s proprietary format) Apple iPad might change the dynamics of e-Book Readers!

The biggest attraction of Apple iPhone (among all smart phones) is the huge set of Applications effortlessly downloadable from Apple App Store (as of this writing there are 140,000 applications and 3 billions “apps” have been downloaded by the users over the past 2 years). Apple iPad can run EVERY iPhone application! In addition there are many iPad applications and Apple launched its SDK (Software Development Kit) for iPad also along with iPad.

Apple did not miss the opportunity to tout its “green” commitment; iPad is arsenic and mercury free and hugely recyclable.

Some of the very successful Mac applications (“Pages” word processor and “Keynote” presentation software) have been launched specially optimized for iPad; more interestingly, they have been priced at $ 9.99 and highly affordable.

Smart phones have been pricey item, particularly the data plans that accompany smart phones. For example, typical Apple iPhone on AT&T used to cost $ 60 a month for a reasonable data plan; by slashing it to $15 a month for 250 MB download and $ 30 a month for unlimited download, Apple has addressed the cost issue as well.

In short, Apple introduced a revolutionary portable digital music player iPod in 2001; the year 2007 saw Apple entering the smart phone market through its highly successful iPhone; yesterday Apple has launched arguably the best Netbook / Tablet / e-Book Reader that combines the best of Netbook and iPhone without compromising features that many Netbook computers do.

Will Apple be lucky three times in a row? The first impressions point so though only time can tell. It will be interesting to watch Apple reaching the product to customers and they in turn lapping it up or not. The year 2010 will be truly interesting to watch.

Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pixi Plus phones arrive; will they save Palm Inc?

January 6, 2010

Palm Inc used to be an amazing company. With innovative products like Palm Pilot it created the PDA market and introduced “touch” (thru stylus and handwriting) at very affordable prices.

It was the leader in “smart phone” category till 2006

Apple announcing iPhone changed the smart phone scene dramatically, All the erstwhile leaders Motorola, Nokia and BlackBerry were running fo cover; Palm was almost written off.

With ex Apple iPod designer at the helm, Palm made a comeback in last year CES (CES 2009) with its amazing product Palm Pre; unfortunately with no service provider tie-up (the way Apple did with AT&T) Palm has been struggling.

Today (Jan 6) Palm announced the extended versions of Palm Pre and Palm Pixi

Many of us would like Palm to succeed; with iPhone growing with its runaway success and Apple planning to announce its iSlate (Tablet PC) we get a sinking feeling Palm may not survive. I would like to be proved wrong!