Thursday, December 17, 2009

Google goggles - Eye with a brain

Unlike the standard goggles, the Google goggles serve a different purpose. Rather than providing a nice soothing feeling to eyes, it attaches more information to what you see, in other words intelligence vision.

This new innovation from Google lets you take a picture from your mobile phone and then connects to the server to fetch information on the subject of the picture. Internally it of course finds the right match for the digital photo performs a search and provides you the information in the order of relevance.

So next time you are visiting a new place, you perhaps won't need the local guide to explain the history, statistics etc. All you do is wear Google goggles and keep clicking. Imagine you buying a book and want a quick review or you are outside the movie theatre all confused which movie to watch.

As of now this feature is available only for Android phones but there are plans to extend it further. Also there are few interesting ideas which are yet to be implemented e.g. image of a leaf will provide details about the plant, ability to get advice on a chess game simply by snapping an image of a board.
So it is rightly said "A picture is worth thousand words".

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Surrogacy with NOOP

NOOP fundamentally refers to NO OPeration or NO Operation Performed in assembly language world. So why the new language from Google is termed the same?

Google is currently developing a language, the binaries for which can run inside Java Virtual Machine (JVM) i.e. the program will look different than a java program but after compilation it will result in java byte code. This is interesting since the purpose of this project is to eradicate the programming challenges without impacting the final executables.

Though we have seen significant evolutions in programming languages (all intended to improve the readability or ease with which it can be understood) but still maintenance of applications continues to be a challenge. Primary objective of high level language was to have programs in human readable form. But quite often we encounter situations when we find it hard to interpret (individual source code line may be making sense but the overall output of the program may not be clear). In today's world when sharing of components or applications are increasing e.g. open source software, it important to keep the source code clean so that it is readable and modifiable.

So it is not enough to produce code which works but it is equally important to have low maintenance. Infact there are tools or procedures to measure the quality of code e.g. Cyclometric Complexity Number (CCN) which measures the complexity of the source code.

Having said that, NOOP is indented to solve the programming challenges without impacting the end product. Surrogacy in some form or overall NO OPeration.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Equality in sports

Other day I was watching golf (not that I am a great admirer of the sport but I did not have any other English speaking channel in Paris hotel). Interestingly it turned out to be some kind of women's championship. Nothing wrong with it but it made me think, why we need to discriminate between men and women in golf. After all the sport does not make you sweat much physically.

Further I kept pondering about the sports which should not have gender bias e.g. chess, poker (if you consider this as sport) etc. As a matter of fact, in chess men and women are allowed to participate together for the world championship, but there is also a separate women's championship.

From Olympics point of view, Equestrian is the only sport where men and women can compete equally. But personally I feel there can be many more opportunities where this equality can be established. Classification should be primarily on the basis of whether the involvement demands physical strength or intellectual power. To name a few, we should definitely experiment the thought for archery, shooting, diving (perhaps).

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Economics of hardcover versus paperback

I always thought paperback is economical and it's a no brainer. But this also made me wonder why the hardcover is available in the first place. There has to be someone buying it consistently.

Obviously the content is no different in either version so it effectively boils down to the price you are ready to pay. So fundamentally it is question of your personal choice. I go for paperback because it is cheaper. But have you been in a situation where you are buying a book which you have already read but just want it for your own little collection. Well, that's when your choices swing towards the hardcover option. Psychologically we tend to get a nice and expensive feeling looking at the hardcover, which means you are not just paying for the content of the book but for the feel-good factor as well.

This perception and the reactivity have lot of do with the geography. There are specific areas or countries where it's considered elite to own a library. Infact at times it goes to level where certain authors or book series are expected to be released only on hardcover, otherwise it may withdraw some of the fans. It is like a 5 star hotel cannot charge the same price as 3 star hotel for tea even if the cost of production is pretty much the same. Value is partly because it gives the elite feeling to the customer.

Considering the profit margin - hardcover has a higher cost but they can really be priced much higher than paperback, thereby increasing the profit per unit sold. So the question is - whether to go for low volume / high profit or high volume / low profit or combination of both.

I feel most idealistic scenario would be to have it mixed nicely. If the market reaction cannot be predicted (typically for new authors) then it is best to launch with higher number of paperbacks and minimal hardcover. And in case the book does well in the stands, just reverse the volume ratio. However for more popular authors you can venture out directly with hardcover but you know your customer better.

So end of the day, it is not just the question of which one looks good or which is better for me, but really it is the strategy to maximize the margin.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Monopoly - Good or Evil

As per wikipedia, Monopoly is

In economics, a monopoly exists when a specific individual or an enterprise has sufficient control over a particular product or service to determine significantly the terms on which other individuals shall have access to it. Monopolies are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition for the good or service that they provide and a lack of viable substitute goods. The verb "monopolize" refers to the process by which a firm gains persistently greater market share than what is expected under perfect competition.

Interesting question is, do we end up in a monopolistic situation on our own or does someone really work towards that situation? Typically we have monopoly either because the product or service has deliberately killed the competitors or product or service is far superior compared to the competition.

In another unique situation government actually creates monopolies in order to regulate the market e.g. in earlier days telephone communication was state owned so that private parties can not be in competition. Common reaction to monopoly is negative and it is perceived to be detrimental for the economy but if you actually look at different situations then it can be harmful only when there are malpractices followed to kill the competition. And in case monopoly is due to the superiority reason then rather than penalizing the company we should spend more energy in creating competition so that we have perfect market condition.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Insecurity of security cheques

Lately the lovely puchlines like "apna sapna ghar ho apna" and "home sweet home" is making me uncomfortable. Reason is simple but the situation is complex i.e. still high interest rates and burden of loan which keeps haunting me.

So after doing lot of math and complex simulations I decided to find better alternative. Two options I could find. Firstly demand, request, beg, plead (transition of the behavior happens in the same order) any public sector bank since they are the cheapest. Secondly renegociate with your existing bank since the process is expected to be simpler. Being a lazy person selecting from the options was not that difficult. I thank myself for not including a third option of continuing with the current loan.

So finally when I thought I found the right bargain (it's all in the mind), I decided to get going with the paper work. That's when I found out that for some strange reason they discontinued the practise of post date cheques. Though initially I laughed at it, but later it made sense (economically).

Here is their story. For post dated cheques, bank has to go through lot of hassle - firstly track and maintain the cheques, secondly when the cheques are all used up then chase the customer to get the fresh set (quite often the customer is not traceable since this great event happens once in 2 - 3 years) and thirdly you are not contributing to the environment (too much of paper is being used). So the innovative cost cutting measure is to cut down on post dated cheques and go only for electronic transfer.

Nevertheless I agreed with electronic transfer (or you can say there were no alternatives anyway). Here comes the next surprise. The so called PROCESS states that customer opting for electronic transfer has to provide 3 security cheques, each one of one third the value of the outstanding amount. Are you kidding - was my response. And why is that?

Apparently electronic transfer is not a legal instrument which means if customer defaults then bank can not go to court. So someone thought brilliantly of introducing security cheques. That gives bank the power to encash the cheques moment you default on electronic transfer. But obviously it will bounce (who in the world will have a bank balance equal to loan amount  and still take loan). Now that bank has a bounced cheque, they can go to court. Bravo!!!. It was explained to me that all this complex process is in place so that bank can recover the outstanding amount.

Interestingly all this blah blah was explained to me by the sales manager but when I requested for the exact legal terms and conditions, they were at loss of words (imagine a sales man in that situation). They could not provide details about their policy - I wonder who provided all these details to them in the first place. Truely word of mouth business.

Continuing with the saga, I further found out that court has given a verdict that bouncing of the security cheque can not be treated a normal case of cheque bounce since as customer you don't even mention the date on the cheque.

So I wonder how much secured the bank is with the security cheques. Anyway it's a sellers market so anything is fair.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Support system of Open Source Software

While the open source software is available either at no cost or very minimal price tag but over all it may not be such a super saver.

Few negatives about open source software are non-availability to support, reactivity to security threats, regular upgrades etc. And companies which have used open source to create commercial models have exactly cashed on these cons. Typically the software is made available cheap but the support or maintenance will cost hefty. Classic example is redhat model.

From business perspective nothing wrong in this model but I personally feel it may have bad influence on the philosophy of open source. Secondly if the overall math turns out to be same as proprietary software then customer will have second thoughts.

Friday, February 13, 2009

EMail in your PostBox

Utility of postbox in the e-World has been reduced to nothing. Gone are the days when mails were dropped in your PostBox, rather we have now e-mail getting delivered in your InBox.

But recently the old concept has been wrapped differently with the launch of a new email client named PostBox. Apparently it looks like yet another user interface which facilitates email reading but this one has got some distinctive features.

Fundamental purpose remains integration of commonly used tools which helps us in organizing ourselves under one roof i.e. email, calendar, TO-DO lists, contacts etc. But in addition this tool stresses more on the "Search" aspect. With volume of communication over emails increasing, we tend to lose track, more so because we rely on technology more than our mind. So i guess it is more meaningful to have the ability to find stuff faster. Otherwise we end up with the feeling of Deja vu.
This product has been built on Mozilla platform integrated with a strong indexing algorithm for efficient search. Apart from the usual search based on "From", "To", 'Subject" it also have provisions to have complex & customized search. On top of it, concept of "Search Tabs" and "Compose Sidebar" has been added to improve search efficiency

Another feature which I found very interesting. Use the Annotate function to change the subject message, edit its content, or even add notes. You can create a copy of your changes if you want to keep the original message, and everything will be grouped and displayed together in one conversation.

Concept sounds interesting but we need to wait and watch the reaction of the users. Firstly most of the corporates have moved away from POP / IMAP and secondly when there are so many options already available in the market e.g. Outlook Express, Thunderbird etc it will not be so easy to drag people out to something new.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SKY(pe) is the limit

"Skype" - What started as simple concept of PC-to-PC call has matured itself to next generation of communication. Initially the excitement was more pertaining to the 'FREE' part but once people got addicted to it, more commercial models are evolving.

As skype celebrated its fifth birthday recently, IP based alternatives are slowly getting momentum in the industry and poised to be the future communication channel. Today VoIP is being used more for internal use by corporates or as a cost cutting measure but gradually it is becoming more affordable to extend such services to fixed line or mobile network.

Recenly, there was a moment, there were 15 million simultaneous users of Skype out of which around one third were purely using it for business purpose. Also the industry reports states that around 380,000 users are getting added per day. We are also seeing growing number of mobile Skype users which means it is not longer restricted to PC. According to the data released by TeleGeography Research, Skype accounted for eight per cent of the world's international calling minutes in 2008.

Now with version 4.0 being out, which is supposed to be have better audio quality and manage bandwidth efficiently, skype is more suitably placed to enter the enterprise market. Model was already cost effective and scalability but now reliability also getting added.

Integrating with the existing telephony network not only breaks the dependency on PC but also on the need of internet for completing the network. With broadband penetration being low on developing nations, it will beneficial to leverage the existing communication link. Of course, legal aspects needs to be sorted out.

So I feel, in days to come we will see more involvement from enterprise, more so because of the current economic conditions.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Opening up of M & A in Open Source space

It is interesting to analyze M & A activity for open source products. Conventional approach of business valuation will not work. Why? Even for the most popular open source products do we know the customer individually. Well it is very limited view. How do we evaluate the brand value? How to measure the worth of the intellectual property? Many such aspects can not be adequately answered.

One solution to the problem is to treat it like stock market. You do not know where the stock price will head tomorrow. You can only speculate. So we fix the margin we want to make and then evaluate if the stock is worth it or not. Apply the same principle. Rather that trying to find the worth of the product it is easier to fix the target. So question which should be asked is how much money we want to make from the acquisition and does the intrinsic value of the product matches that.

But irrespective of how you define the rules of game, lot of traction may be seen this year.