What woes Samsung?


Samsung announced a rather lackluster quarter (compared to last year). What woes it? I am willing to hazard it is software. I was recently in the market for a cheap Android phone. Even though Samsung had an impressive lineup of hardware, none had Android 4.4 (KitKat) on it.

Low-end hardware requires Android KitKat due to improvements in how it supports low memory. The only phones that were touting Android 4.4 were from LG and Motorola. Motorola was still slightly costlier and Moto E hand’t arrived yet. Guess which I bought?

Monthly news review


This post reviews news in the month that has passed.

Everything Google announced at Google I/O 2014 in one handy list

Google announced a lot in one long keynote at I/O. Android One, Android Auto, Android Wear, and Android TV, are probably the big announcements this year. Looks like Google is prefixing all mobile-oriented hardware with Android, web-oriented hardware with Chrome, and services with Google. Unless it is something coming out of Nest, who’ve just launched a developer program for the programmable home.

Aereo Lost. What Now?

TV broadcasters are celebrating while the tech industry is up in arms. Are customers the real losers? Why should we need airwaves to transmit TV in the era of mobile internet? Why hasn’t the TV business adopted on-demand programming more actively? It isn’t as if their business isn’t being slowly driven to the ground.

This is Microsoft’s first Android smartphone, the Nokia X2

Nokia could have hedged its bets with Android a long while back. So why now? It is a cheap but attractive Android Smartphone full of Microsoft software and services.

Amazon’s Fire phone launch: Hits, misses, and takeaways

From inexpensive tablets to a fairly expensive phone, Amazon as come a long way. Lack of Bluetooth 4.0 (especially Smart) is annoying. It does seem to sport universal LTE, like the Moto G 4G. Will the Fire Phone truly delight users?

Google Donates Mod_Spdy To The Apache Foundation

HTTP 2.0 is around the corner and changes one crucial aspect of HTTP 1.x. It will no longer be a text-based protocol. An important feature is that data will be multiplexed over a single connection a browser maintains with a server.

Docker hopes its container platform will ease the lives of developers

Will an open container help big companies and other providers overcome the dependency on and momentum of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft?

Turing Test breakthrough as super-computer becomes first to convince us it’s human

Not everybody is convinced though, but the implications are important nevertheless. How do you know an e-mail message wasn’t sent by a real person? Are we at the cusp of having to deal with endless amount of believable spam? Looking at the positive aspects, customer support, distance education, and other areas that depend on personal interaction, may benefit.

Skype Translator Will Change the World

Real-time voice translation is a hard problem. You have to translate speech to text. The text then needs to be translated to the target language. The translated text then needs to be converted to speech. Imagine doing all of that in real time. Imagine doing that wrong in a UN session discussing climate change.

Google’s secretive 3D-mapping project now has a tablet

Google is keen to map the indoors. I see huge potential for indoor mapping. Imagine your interior designer mapping your house so that she can show you exactly how your renovated indoors will look? A robot that can go about your house tidying it? Are we heading towards becoming Wall-E lazy?

Apple announces iOS 8 at WWDC 2014

Easily one of Apple’s best WWDC considering all the news. A new programming language called Swift, Mac OS X Yosemite, Metal, HomeKit, CloudKit, and extensions in iOS 8. For those eager to learn Swift, Apple has provided an iBook for it already. A good news for all Netflix viewers, Safari on Mac OS X Yosemite now allows streaming using HTML5, no Silverlight required.

Free with subscription bought over the internet model


Apps that naturally depend on the Internet can use a model I term as “free with subscription” or freesub. In this model, the app itself is free to download with some features available from the outset. Other features are enabled based on subscriptions or credits purchased over the Internet. An example that comes to mind is the Skype app. The landline calling feature is only available when you are a subscriber, or purchase additional credit using the desktop app or the Internet browser.

This may be one means of circumventing the App/Play/Windows Store cut. I wonder if the stores have specific terms that prohibit this. I am aware that the apps themselves cannot accept payments directly.

Thoughts?

Apple vs Samsung


Apple has won. Now what?

Both Apple and Samsung tried their best to show that the other’s products were based (/ inspired) by past innovations. Apple was better at doing it. The Jury bought that. Samsung needs to do better homework the next time. That said, the newer breed of Galaxy smartphones are way distinct from their first predecessors, the market is rewarding them handsomely. So, I think Samsung can just settle and go on.

In the end, the market decides the winners, not the courts. Look at Java, Sun won. Java is everywhere. But where is Sun really? Apple is protecting its turf. It’s all about market and survival. Bickering on patents and techniques is one way the system allows you to protect your interests.

Peace.

Instant Carpool


Instant Carpool (aka instapool) is my stealth startup. Oops, not so stealth any more. I am revealing it so that the idea catches, and before long, all cities have such a service. Its aim is to let everyone carpool, whether they are first-time, occasional or every-day travelers in a city.

Source: Wikipedia

Carpool Stops

The service provides stops along the roads, just like bus stops, only better maintained. Legislation permitting, stops show ads at prominent locations, and provide services for busy people to buy stuff over the internet. They also provide cheap Wi-Fi access. They are maintained using earnings from services and ads, and donations from philanthropists.

Signs

Hitchers can borrow signs at the stops to show their destination to passing cars. The signs themselves are ad-enabled.

IOU Card/Token

The hitcher can buy an IOU card/token, over the internet, using a PC or Smartphone. Hitcher gives car owner a token written on a piece of paper, by bumping Smartphone, or using plastic. Car owner can cash the tokens for real money, or use them for rides.

Instant Carpool keeps 30% of the face value, and the tokens are priced at around bus fare rates. They are also sold at resellers in plastic, and resellers keep 10%.

I don’t want this idea to go beyond half a printed page, so I’ll stop at this point. If you like the startup, share this post like hell. May God bless your over-crowded city.

Businesses disrupted by smartphones


Here’s my list of some businesses that a smartphone has disrupted or is disrupting, in no particular order.  The potential to disrupt several other businesses is huge, so is the opportunity for incumbents to adopt the smartphone before more agile startups disrupt their business. Leave a comment and add to it.

Portable gaming devices

Most smartphones have sufficiently high-end graphics performance. Game developers have flocked in droves to build dedicated titles for them. The financial woes of the likes of Nintendo and Sony in the gaming department attest to this fact. I see the innovation in 3D gaming devices such as Nintendo 3DS but the cost and lack of titles is a dampener.

E-book readers

I do most of my casual reading on my smartphone. I am slowly adopting my smartphone for serious reading. As a developer, I am well served. Most technical publishers now provide titles in the EPUB format which adapts fairly well to small screens. I have bought books from Apress, O’Reilly and others in the recent past, they provide e-books in multiple formats – PDF, EPUB and MOBI in particular. I store these e-books in a cloud storage service like Dropbox and open them in the appropriate reading app when needed.

Digital cameras

I don’t carry one when I travel. My smartphone has become an apt substitute. Instagram, Google+ and Facebook have photos as their main target for social sharing, digital cameras just cannot keep up. Most smartphones also capture decent HD video.

Document scanning

With high-resolution auto-focus lenses and intelligent graphics processing, apps are able to scan documents really well. I just scan and keep my documents in an app such as the TurboScan and view, e-mail or share it from there.

Desktop printing

Why print if you can take the document everywhere? Commercial airlines now allow you to board flights using on-screen boarding passes.

Personal Computers

I need one as a developer or for sites that are not mobile ready, otherwise I would abandon my PC in a second. Most of my daily activities like reading or sending e-mail, time tracking, personal finance, banking etc are realized on my smartphone.

Digital calculators

You can get all kinds of scientific and financial calculator apps for your smartphone. The arrival of cheap laptops and netbooks began this disruption, the smartphone with its portability is completing it.

Dedicated media players

Most smartphones can play offline or streaming music. Living in Brazil does make taking a high-end smartphone for a walk or jog risky business, hence I do have use for a cheaper music player. If you are streaming your media using apps from Amazon, Google, Netflix, Vevo and the like, a dedicated player is next to useless. You can also get your streaming media onto a bigger screen using HDMI adapters. This may disrupt broadcast TV some day. I don’t remember the last time I watched TV.

GPS devices

Dedicated GPS devices are slowly becoming niche devices. Most smartphones have built-in GPS and apps for turn-by-turn navigation. They can also record your route so that you can retrace you steps during biking and hiking trips.

Electronic payment

This is one disruption that has just begun. Sellers can buy simple credit card readers and attach them to a smartphone and charge their customers anywhere in their establishment. No more going to a PoS terminal. The smartphone could one day make credit cards obsolete.

Consumer data storage devices

There was a time when I upgraded my computer hard-disk every two years or so. I haven’t done that in five years. With most of my media creation happening on the smartphone I can upload that media to a number of cloud storage options. I still don’t rely on them a hundred percent and they have features that are sometimes a bother, but we are steadily getting there.

The radio

Most broadcast radio now also streams over the internet. I don’t have a FM radio player at home. I do have one in the car but I do my listening on the smartphone using dedicated apps. Smartphones did not disrupt the radio obviously, but smartphones are disrupting whatever dedicated radio hardware still sells.

E-books need to be cheaper


I think that e-book pricing needs to change somehow to accommodate for the following facts:

  • An e-book requires proofreading and editing, no doubt. Here the costs are similar to physical books. There are however models in which the readers can help. The author can far easily update an e-book based on reader feedback and subsequent readers will be spared the mistakes. This can drive down the cost of preparing an e-book.
  • An e-book is much cheaper to distribute and requires no middlemen along the way.  This does mean that some middlemen will be without jobs. They’ll probably find a job that is more creative, like writing a book. We can hopefully dismiss that as a temporary phenomenon.
  • An e-book is hard to lend, a physical book is easier, which means that a physical book will be read by several people during its lifetime. Some physical books are hoarded by their owners but let’s assume that several are shared. This means more e-books will be sold than physical books. That should make them cheaper. A widely read author or publisher will have more buyers, which means each can pay lesser. Physical, school or college text books are particularly widely shared, and should see higher price reductions in their e-book avatar.