Sunday, November 4, 2007

Google Microsoft and OpenSocial

Finally it was Google. Since the initial days of internet social networking, people, specially developers, had been waiting for someone to do this. Although Facebook has already opened up its interface for the developers to develop applications, the interface was pretty much confined in the Facebook domain. Todays people use multiple social networking sites and want single, uniform interface to all of them. This idea was also a part of the foregoing Web 2.0 potboiler.

I closely follow the blogs of Alexander van Elsas, a very good analyzer and critic of Web 2.0 user requirements. According to his latest blogs, just before Google announced the launch of OpenSocial (Read the Kamla Bhatt blog and the links there, for details on OpenSocial), Google was the only one who could have done this. Google, with all its weaponry, was perfectly placed to make their interfaces open and still make some sense out of it. But the million dollar question here will be - Why?

From a bird's eye view it appears that Google is trying to push Facebook down. Or say trying to capture the social networking market base before Facebook throws its final arrow. But a little look into the size and potential of the two companies current state will tell that Google will never even consider Facebook as a rival. Although Facebook is rating himself in billions of dollars, their self pricing is heavily criticized as overpricing. Facebook rival is MySpace, who has already joined the Google camp by participating in OpenSocial (The other partners are Hi5, Friendster, iLike, LinkedIn etc..).

I believe Google is aiming on the market potential of Microsoft. Recently there was news that Google is approaching a number of big service providers, including Verizon, for pushing their mobile phone software package, gPhone, on their mobile handsets. This is in direct conflict with Microsoft's interest, who also has a huge business in the same domain.

The launch on OpenSocial is also a somewhat direct attack on Microsoft's business. Lately Microsoft has invested heavily on Facebook. It paid $240 million for a stake that values Facebook at an astounding 150 times of it's revenue - $15 billion dollars. Now, with the launch of OpenSocial, Microsoft will definitely reevaluate their Facebook costs and I don't think they will feel very complacent.

Microsoft also struck a deal to provide advertising to Facebook, through adCenter. But this was after loosing to Google for the ad deal with MySpace.

So far it has been cat-n-mouse game for both the companies and the launch of OpenSocial was just a little Google bite on Microsoft's back. Lets wait and see how Microsoft and Facebook respond to it.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mobile broadband : War of the worlds

It looks like a battle field where the battle has just began. Mobile Broadband is the field and no one wants to be left behind. All the big brothers in the telecom world are getting ready for it. No one wants to be left behind. More interestingly, no one wants to follow the other.

Sprint-Clearwire: In my previous blogs I have already covered the Sprint-Clearwire story. Both of them together holds the largest chunk of 2.5 GHz bandwidth on which they will deploy WiMAX, countrywide. If things go fine, by the end of 2008 they will hold around 100 million subscriber base in US. They have shown tremendous tenacity, so far, to go with WiMAX deployment. Specially after the resignation of the main power house behind the deal, Gary Forsee, the ex Sprint CEO. Sprint is also having plans of enhancing it to mobile WiMAX.

AT&T: While AT&T also wants to catch the train, it is not taking the same path. AT&T bought Aloha Partners on this October 9. Aloha Partners was the owner of largest 700 MHz licenses in US. This 700 MHz, also termed as "Beachfront property" for its high propagation and penetration properties, is a interesting spectrum. In a metropolitan area, a transmission site using 700 MHz can replace many 2.5 GHz transmitting sites. Thus, by acquiring Aloha, AT&T assured that it is not going to scratch its head on WiMAX.

Verizon: Qualcomm always has been one of the major infrastructure providers of Verizon Wireless. Qualcomm has its own answer to cheap-cost, high-bandwidth, mobile broadband technologies. Its called Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB). But in today's businessweek I saw "Verizon Wireless is considering switching its technology allegiance." for broadband. Bad luck Qualcomm. Looks like Verizon is interested in the LTE (Long Term Evolution). This is the 4G technology of the European GSM operators.

So that is the story of the ongoing technology battle of the service providers in US.
Who wins it, will also decide which of these technologies proliferates more in years to come.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Padmashree Warrior Blog

This is by far my best find this month (Thanks to my friend Raju who pointed me to this). The blog of Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Motorola. Meet one of the most admirable and charismatic woman of current time. If you already don't know her, read her biography here (Motorola) and here (Wikipedia).

I was amazed to find that this lady manages time to write blogs out of her understandably busy schedule! (I mean, imagine how busy a day-to-day schedule the Motorola CTO is supposed to have!) And such wonderful ones.

As I went through her blogs, my admiration for her only grew higher. Her characteristic sharpness and sense of humor was clearly evident in the crisply narrated articles. Apart from this, I loved her blogs because of two reasons:
  1. Her blogs don't cover only technologies. Although the technology coverage, I found, is very exhaustive and matured (Of course!).
  2. It has a very subtle personal touch. And when it comes to blogs, I love this quality.
I recommend this to all the technology fans and of course, to the fans of miss Warrior.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

MoMo : My first visit

Yesterday I visited this wonderful event. My friend Rajiv, who is also a budding entrepreneur, was insisting me for quite some time to visit the MoMo meetings. He is one of the organizers of this monthly event. Thanks to some pre-planning of my works, yesterday I could manage enough time to attend that. It was conducted in the cafeteria of the Aztecsoft Ltd building on inner ring road. Me, Rajiv and Bhav reached there around 6:15. It was raining outside, and we entered the beautiful building like three walking swimming pools.

The event started little late since people were delayed because of the downpour. But quite surprisingly, in spite of the rain, by 6:30, a convincing 30 to 35 people crowd was gathered. I found three of my friends (Nikhil, Anand and Hone) from Envio (My company) as well.

The ambiance got interesting as Pradeep Malhotra (MD of Vanu, India) started the talk on Software Defined Radio. He explained the technology and also what exactly Vanu, as a company, is doing in this field. His slides explained various components of a radio device and how they are replacing the entire DSP module from rigid hardware platforms to flexible, configurable software cores. However, he openly accepted its current drawbacks and explained why its not yet a big success in the commercial telecom networks. Of course it is being used by US defense for last few years. He also expressed his optimism in future commercial success of Vanu products in the domain of hybrid heterogeneous and shared networks. Throughout his presentation he was kept busy by the audience with lots of quality questions. Most of the questions were on the possibility of commercial success, optimization, efficiency of the product. There were couple of core technical questions like, how they do buffer management for real-time response and what are the OS optimizations they have done. Couple of questions were from his slides on the platform requirements for the product. According to him a BSC using their technology can run on any general purpose sun/solaris machine. There were couple of doubts from the audience on the scalability of such a software based product, to which he admitted that these are certain limitations still existing.

The session was very informative for me since I didn't have much knowledge of the technology before. It was followed by a demonstration session by Ram Prakash from Tachyon Technologies. His demo was about their product which enables fast, predictive and intuitive typing in local languages using normal computer keyboards and as well as using mobile phone keypads. Their demonstration was using a mobile phone which the presenter brought with him. I myself used it to get a hands-on and was really impressed by the smoothness and accuracy of it. I used it in Hindi language. Currently supported languages include Kanada, Tamil, Bengali and some more Indian languages. They are working on increasing the language support.

The event ended with a networking session with snacks. I liked both. I talked with Pradeep and came to know that he also worked in C-DOT, but before my joining. He was also a colleague of Chinay (My colleague in Envio) in Trillium. Met some people from Motorola, my previous company. And of course the interesting organizers.

I simply loved the event. It was informative, it was fun. To all those who are interested in discussions on wireless, telecommunication, mobile technologies, I recommend you regularly attend the MoMo events. For more information you can visit their site or you can contact Rajiv.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Resignation of an Idea

In recent times, the telecom world saw a series of high-profile resignations. AT&T chief Ed Whitacre resigned last June. Then there were Sony Ericson's CEO Miles Flint, HTC's USA head, AT&T CEO Stan Stigman. But probably the most talked about of those was the resignation of Gary Forsee from the post of CEO of Sprint. Its not only because it has left Sprint with "finding the CEO" as one of their major activities, but it has left the future mass deployment of WiMAX in US doubtful.

This resignation came at a time when Spring and Clearwire jointly took up a project of mass deployment of WiMAX broadband solution across the US, on a spectrum sharing basis. It is a 7 billion dollar highly ambitious project. Both of them together projected a plan of having a subscriber base of 100 million by the end of 2008. I have explained the details of the deal in my one previous blog. Forsee was the major driving force behind the planned project from Sprint side.

From 2003, since his taking over as the CEO of Sprint, Forsee had razor sharp vision of taking Sprint on the wireless line. This visionary and hardworking leader finally took up WiMAX as his tool and made the deal with Clearwire after Clearwire and Spring won most of the spectrum in the 2.5 GHz domain in the last bidding. Forsee also wanted to promote this WiMAX broadband solution to revolutionary mobile WiMAX solution.

Just when the deal was in nascent state, his resignation came as a big surprise. But from Forsee or Sprint point of view, its not a sudden decision taken. In spite of all his leadership qualities that this man is known for, Sprint was going through a tough time under him. Sprint subscriber base reduced considerably. Share prices dropped. Plus it was paying high prices to the AT&T and Verizon for using their fiber-optic networks. Sprint was also struggling in melding Nextel into its working framework since its merger in 2005. So there was no surprise that Sprint's board was searching for a new CEO already, to replace Forsee.

  1. We will soon see a new permanent CEO of Sprint who may or may not revive Sprint from its current troubles. But what will happen to its WiMAX plan?
    • The situation is not very promising for the project. Its an ambitious project, costly project and very very risky project. It needs a passionate leader to take it to success, which it may not find in the new CEO. Even if the new CEO is interested, Sprint board may no longer be interested. Slowly, the project may get an immature death.
  2. How is it going to affect Clearwire?
    • I don't think Clearwire will back-off. They will definitely continue their broadband deployment overcoming the indirect damage they received by Forsee's resignation.
So the ball is now on the hands of Sprint board. Next few months is going to decisive in the WiMAX future of US and no one is going to watch it more eagerly and closely than Clearwire.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Open Source IMS : Is it a myth?

It has been several years since the term IMS has become more than familiar in the Telecom domain. By now it has its own critics and fans in the world. I was curious to know whether there are any open source efforts and investments going on in this technology. The result was bit surprising. I could figure out only one prominent open source project for IMS core. The project is from Fraunhofer Institute and called FOCUS.

But unfortunately they don't claim this can be used for direct commercial deployment. Their IMS, as they say, is for IMS oriented research and also for testing conformance of existing IMS systems.

So there is still this void in the space of open source IMS systems. Lets see what happened to other technological domains which were successful as open source projects. Lets take SIP(Session Initiation Protocol) for example. In march 17, 1999, the first RFC of SIP (RFC 2543) came into existence. By the year 2004, there were already a number of open source SIP stack implementations in the market. That also included SIP call simulators, SIP testing tools (SIPP), SoftPhone implementations using these SIP stacks. For IMS, The concept was originally defined by 3G.IP forum back in 1999. Even then, now in 2007, we are still lacking in availability of open source IMS implementations.

Its actually tough to expect a company to build an entire commercial IMS solution as an open source project. Because its enormous and complex, unlike SIP. But I would have certainly liked to see some open source HSS, open source I-CSCF/P-CSCF solutions. If not, at least I expected to see a huge number of open source IMS Application Servers.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Motorola : Spotted dying by hyenas?

In yesterday's news I read that Carl Icahn thinks Motorola, the American multinational communications company, should be split up. He also mentioned, in that interview given to CNBC, that the company's mobile devision worth $10 billion. Which, according to him, is next to nothing.
"Motorola has great value. If you really split Motorola up, which I still think should happen ... you're buying that handheld business for only $10 billion, which is next to nothing."

Who is this Carl Icahn? A little research gave me this results about him.. "A great Corporate Raider famous for hostile takeovers.". This is a man who takes over very large stakes in major companies, changes their management to gain short term profits.. which, as some people say, comes at the cost of long term good of the company. His infamous deal of TWA (Trans World Airlines) made him famous as an "Imperial Shareholder" to the wold. The legendary airlines company got sold to its competitors after Icahn bought it in 1985. Nevertheless, Icahn made huge profit out of it.

So now when he talks of splitting Motorola into two parts, one can easily see his intentions. But when an hyena's eye falls on you, does that mean you are dying? The lately troubled mobile company has to answer it himself.

Links to Read:

My phone is not iPhone

Its funny! You see some one in the market using a fascinating multi-touch screen, floating his fingers over the surface of the phone to move from one colorful page to other, effortlessly. You ask him if his phone is the legendary iPhone and feel that you already know the answer. But he answers you "No".

Well! don't be surprised. Since a number of iPhone clones are already on the go. Take the case of M8, designed by the Chinese firm Meizu. Its rumored to hit the market in January 2008. Looks astonishingly similar to the Apple eye-candy and it has a smaller screen but a resolution(720x480) which is much higher than that of iPhone(320x480). M8 flaunts two cameras, one in back (3.0-megapixel) and one in the from (0.3-megapixel). The current price set is $788.50, which is actually the pre-order price. Its a WIN CE6.0 based phone.

Lets take the other culprit. CECT P168. Again from China. Specially for this one, "Clone" is not a good word. Its a blatant copy. Even the wallpapers!. It has two slots for SIM cards.. but wait, only one can be used at a time.

HTC Touch is another touch screen based iPhone clone. I am sure there are/will be more such around and I wish I could put my bet on which country most of them will come from. But no. International players like Samsung, Nokia, LG are also in the process of producing their own iPhone clones. Probably by the end of 2008 consumers will have iPhone and its numerous clones to choose from.

So here is one question I put in front of the reader..

"Cloning of technologies and designs - is it good or bad for the consumers? Considering some of them will be superior clones and some of them will be inferior clones."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Sprint Clearwire Wi-MAX deployment plan

The recent announcements by Sprint and Clearwire to go on a Wi-MAX deployment spree, by 2008, has several interesting aspects to look after. These two firms are going on an spectrum sharing agreement based on the spectrum they have received on the latest US bid.

Sprint is having the bigger share of the agreement, roughly 65%. They plan for an deployment for about 180 million subscribers. Clearwire takes about 35% share of the deployment. It is going to have a deployment of about 150 million subscribers. By 2008 both together aims a subscriber base of 100 million. While Sprint is mostly going for deployment in the big metros Clearwire is going to exploit its broadband experience in the urban areas.

From business point of view this looks to be a very promising deal as both compensate each other in various forms. The agreement is expected to reduce the cost of deployment for Sprint by about $3 billion. Clearwire too gets benefited by the existing 3G infrastructure from Sprint.

Their convergence also makes the path of any other provider to take the Wi-MAX path much harder. As much of the broadband spectrum suitable for Wi-MAx is now hold by these two operators. On the negative side, these may lead to a monopolistic market on the Wi-MAX domain. Although the Wi-MAX, as a technology, will continue to compete with its broadband and 3-G counter parts in fixed and mobile domain.

Sprint's plan for the widespread Wi-MAX deployment is also pregnant with idea of convergence of Wi-MAX with its existing 3-G cellular network. I am sure we don't have to wait for long to see Sprint is bringing dual mode handsets to provide converged services between these two networks. They also plan to flood voice-data convergence and related applications to their network. Currently there are two popularly known ways of doing the convergence between fixed(Wi-MAX) and mobile(Cellular) networks. Using IMS(IP Multimedia Subsystem) or UMA(Unlicensed Mobile Access). At that point, Sprint's selection of one of these approaches for the convergence of Wi-MAX and 3-G, may also affect the fate of the humble, highly controversial, IMS standards.

Another reason I am particularly interested in this collaboration is because of my previous company Motorola is also hidden behind the curtains of this agreement. Motorola, who is doing quite bad since last few quarters, is the trusted vendor of both the two participating firms. Motorola had been doing considerable research and development in the Wi-MAX domain in last few years. The Sprint Clearwire deal might be a big boom for their solutions and probably a chance of survival of at least their network devision.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

DuaLLine Mobile Phones

While the term Dual Mode Handset (DMH) is becoming popular nowadays with large number of WiFI (And rather optimistically, WiMAX) deployments worldwide, I came across the term Dual Lime Mobile phones. What impressed me about the concept of Dual Line Mobile phones is the very fact that there is nothing new, nothing unknown, but it yet makes so much business sense.

Unlike DMHs, conceptually, Dual Mode Mobile phone is not a break through idea, nor a break through technology. Its just about having two different phone numbers in a single mobile handset. In GSM domain, its having two different SIM cards in one GSM handset.But yet, in certain cases, its so useful.

In present day, almost every business man carries two different numbers. One is a private number for family members and other is a public number for business purposes. Along, they need to carry two different mobile phones. How easy it would become if both the numbers can be fitted into one single phone!

In the enterprise domain, a company can give the employees a single phone and one number which is to be used, say, only for official purposes. If that is a Dual Line Mobile phone, the employee can put his personal number into it and use the single phone for both personal and official purposes.

While these are few examples, this actually opens a door for a whole new kind of mobile applications. For example, an application which will automatically switch off one number in a particular time of the day based on some user configuration. Although a Dual Line Handset does not necessarily mean a Dual Mode Handset, it can be. Leading to more interesting applications where you are not only sharing two different numbers but two heterogeneous networks.

This will also open door for new kind of services in the switches. For example, if a line is blocked, and the switch knows that this is the number of a Dual Line Mobile phone whose other line is unblocked, it can deliver SMSs to the unblocked line. So, even if you have blocked your office line at night, you will continue getting SMSs from office on your home line.

All said, it actually throws some technical and business challenges as well. For a GSM phone, fitting two SIM cards may increase the size of the phone. It may consume more battery power. It may be much costlier. None of them are really desirable. One may not ignore the security related issues as well. Compromise of one number may result in compromising the other number as well.

Recently, arrival of a set of dual line dual mode mobile phones was announced by Spice Mobile, for the Indian market. D-80 and D-88. They also promised very low cost of the phones, to capture the market of the masses.

It will be interesting to wait and see if in near future the number of people carrying two mobile phones reduces to zero.