Archive for the 'Tech' Category

Shedding some more weight

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009 September 16th, 2009 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi

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Thin is the current aesthetic that is obsessed on by majority of the world’s population, and the makers of consumer electronics do their selling to that population. Hence, logically speaking it was inevitable that computer manufacturers would follow suit and make thin a rage in the computer world too.

It all started with Apple Air — the craze to have an ultra thin notebook, and today every vendor is chasing that dream to have one in its consumer portfolio. Just imagine laptops an inch thick that multitask and edit multimedia content, and cost only Rs 25,000 - Rs 45,000? Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are betting they aren’t too good to be true. The world’s thinnest laptops, usually the province of executives and the well-heeled, are set to go mainstream this year — thanks to cheaper but still-powerful processors from AMD and Intel. This new category, tagged ultrathins, floats somewhere between the high-end suave looking professional laptops and the affordable lot of netbooks.

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So, now we have Hewlett-Packard’s Pavilion dv2, Acer’s Timeline series and most recently, Dell too has added its Inspiron Z series in the ultrathin market. Dozens of other ultrathin offerings from just about every computer maker are expected to hit retailers this festive season.

Analysts assert that post the success of netbooks that have screens under 11 inches along with smaller keyboards, there has been a surge in demand for an intermediate computer that blends attributes from both ends of the spectrum. The new ultrathins have screens ranging from 12 to 15 inches, with a standard-size keyboard. And yes, they all ape Apple Air in design. There was a time when I stood outside Apple Store in Mumbai, along with a crowd of people, staring at the display Macbook Air model through the glass with a look of longing, and sorrow in their eyes. So there is no denying that an ultrathin devices can strike a cord of lust into the hearts of even the most cynical and battle-hardened of geeks.
What is interesting to note is that Acer, one of the first companies to introduce a cheap Intel-powered ultrthin laptop, expects revenue from that segment to account for 15 per cent of its total sales by the end of 2009. So, could ultrathins be the growth driver for the struggling PC industry, trying to recover from one of its worst downturns? Perhaps.

Chrome coloured Windows, anyone?

Thursday, July 9th, 2009 July 9th, 2009 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi

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The New York Times wrote in its editorial - There is a kind of bloodthirsty thrill in learning that Google plans to develop a personal computer operating system to compete with Microsoft Windows.

That’s what it is, a bloodthirsty thrill. With Google announcing its intent to launch Chrome OS — an open source, lightweight operating system — for the netbooks by 2H10, we wonder whether Google can actually live in direct competition with Microsoft.

Google’s case

Think of it this way, Chrome OS comes with the promise to expand the usage of web-based apps and services, stimulating search and page view volumes, which are critical to Google’s ad-based monetisation strategy. Second, this move exerts a price and margin pressure on Microsoft’s netbooks business plan unerringly when Win7 launch is just around the corner. Lastly, Chrome OS will ensure a continued availability of its search, apps and services even if Microsoft insists on a tighter coupling of Win7 and Bing.

Already, over 30 million people are using Google’s Chrome browser, says Sundar Pichai, VP Product Management, Engineering Director on Google’s official blog.

You might have noticed that Google has also done away with the “Beta” label from its Google Apps such as Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Talk. This move, we believe, sends out a signal to enterprise buyers that Google apps has reached a degree of maturity and that it should be considered as a viable option to Microsoft Exchange and Office. Enterprises could find Google’s cloud-based app strategy compelling if the total cost of ownership of software, infrastructure and support services remain attractive.

Microsoft’s case

The strongest segments of the PC market have been the netbooks followed closely by consumption in the emerging markets. The lower-priced version of Windows XP is the only operating system that currently runs on netbooks. However, Windows 7 OS, when it is released, will also run on netbooks and allows Microsoft the ability to re-evaluate product and pricing for netbooks.

It is widely expected that a version of Windows 7 will have a price in line with the current XP version, to help Microsoft get an easy entry in the netbook space. Win7 is also said to fix many of Vista’s problems, including better ease of navigation, start-up time, general performance, and compatibility.

Microsoft too believes that as economy improves, the new Win7 could help spur PC and thereby the company revenues.

The verdict

Google’s new Chrome OS has grown directly out of its browser, also called Chrome, which was introduced last year. Google could see lasting benefits by bringing together incremental traffic through its OS and applications. The technical drawback that stares Google in the eye is that 70 per cent of enterprise applications cannot run in a browser (Google’s Chrome is essentially a browser-based OS) and there are major limitations to the amount of computing that can be done within a browser today. Experts also allege that while the Linux kernel underneath Chrome OS could be packaged up with a suite of peripheral driver controllers, it is not clear who, if anyone, would provide on-going patches, critical bug fixes and other updates for Chrome OS on Linux.

Seems like Microsoft will not let the Google Chrome OS steal away the thunder.

Will we finally get a cheaper Apple?

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 June 9th, 2009 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi


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Apple has just made my life a bit more difficult. I love my Apple iPhone 3G (even with all the drawbacks that I have pointed out here). But Apple’s latest upgrade is so beguiling that I want to make the switch to the new iPhone 3Gs (where S stands for speed).

But I am happy to note that iPhone OS 3.0 software will be available on June 17 as a free software update via iTunes 8.2 or later for all iPhone customers. And that includes me! The iPod Touch customers will be able to purchase a software update for £5.99 (inclusive of VAT).

When do we get the new iPhone 3Gs in India?

Take a guess – the UK customers are getting the new iPhone on June 19, it’s anyone’s guess as to when India gets its iPhone 3Gs and more importantly at what cost (the basic iPhone 3G model has been down priced to $99 from $199).

Even if we are a less than lakh Apple iPhone 3G users in India, the company has sold more than 20 million iPhones in the past few years. And if the prices come down further (present pricing starts at Rs 29,000), then new users are bound to join the Apple family. Even the analysts conceded that price cut in iPhone 3G tag would make the market more challenging for rivals. A price cut on the original iPhone device to $199 from $399 in June 2008 doubled the demand. Why should that not happen now?

Why wait for iPhone 3Gs?

Having reviewed almost every phone (smartphone and PDA), I do take the liberty to attribute myself with some knowledge about smartphones and the processing speed they deliver. By far, Apple iPhone 3G has been the smoothest touchscreen I have operated and even at dodgy GPRS signals, it loads a web page comfortably. BlackBerry models, too have similar speeds but there’s a certain novelty (and also ease to scroll through pages) in browsing the web on a touchscreen.

And what’s new in 3Gs?

There’s the faster processor at the heart of the new iPhone and that’s half the battle won. It also includes new 3D graphics support in hardware – that translates to faster and more complicated 3D games on iPhone.

On the software side, the new iPhone OS 3.0 software will bring in features including — Cut, Copy and Paste; MMS; Spotlight Search to search across iPhone or within Mail, Contacts, Calendar and iPod; landscape keyboard for Mail, Messages, Notes and Safari (Apple’s browser) and the ability to capture and send audio recordings on the go with the new Voice Memo app. iPhone 3.0 software also includes a new Find My iPhone feature that works together with Apple’s MobileMe application so that you can locate your lost iPhone on a map, send a message that will appear on the screen or play a sound to help you find it even if your phone is set to silent. If you cannot find your iPhone, you can erase all data and content on your iPhone with the new Remote Wipe feature.

The iPhone 3Gs has a new 3 megapixel autofocus camera and it also allows sending photos and videos by email, MMS or you can directly post to YouTube.

It remains to be seen how Nokia, BlackBerry and off late Samsung too, will battle it out with Apple’s latest warhead.

Will we ever use GPS to find our way?

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 May 27th, 2009 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi

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Frankly, how many of us actually use personal navigation devices (PNDs) to find our way around? Perhaps, a handful of technology-crazy users and yet companies continue to put their faith (and money!) on global positioning systems (GPS), maps and services around GPS. The numbers tell a positive story. We are soon going to be a 400 million strong mobile phone market, of which smartphones (with GPS features) would be roughly 15-20 per cent. We have over 1.8-2 million still/digital cameras. IDC numbers tell us that the total installed base of PCs in India has surged past the 36 million units mark, and now India has one personal computer for every 30 people. (more…)

They know what you did online

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 May 6th, 2009 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi

Twidontclick.jpgtter (a popular microblogging site) has been trying to fend it off, after it went under attack twice. Clickjacking is the latest hazard doing round on the web.

Twitter users first noticed the clickjacking prank in February and soon Twitter had shut it down. The site had tweets that carried a tag ‘Don’t Click’ followed by a link. Clicking the link took the user to a page that included a button that said ‘Don’t Click.’ Clicking the button automatically distributed the identical tweet. As imagined, this did spread pretty quickly.

Simply put clickjacking is an attack where some bad guy slips a malicious link invisibly onto a webpage or under a commonly used button on a website. When the user clicks on the link or rolls his mouse over the link, he becomes infected, explained security experts.

Although Twitter’s original fix wiped a page clean if it detected a malicious frame on its pages, but then hackers circumvented that and Twitter was forced to come up with another fix.

It is concealed spying, say security experts. “Web pages know what web sites you’ve been to …, where you’re logged in, what you watch on YouTube, and now they can literally ’see’ and ‘hear’ you,” wrote Jeremiah Grossman, founder and CTO of WhiteHat Security, in his blog post.

The threat has only grown with every passing day. Now, every big company that values its brand name is working to fend off clickjacking attacks. For instance, Microsoft has included a new clickjacking protection feature in Internet Explorer 8 that lets websites safeguard their sites and visitors without browser add-ons.  Adobe Systems too updated its popular Flash Player to fix vulnerabilities over clickjacking. Clickjacking is both a web and a browser problem, but the fixes are likely to come from the browser vendors.

To make matters worse, using JavaScript, an attacker could make the invisible target constantly follow the user’s mouse pointer, thereby intercepting his first click no matter where it happens on the current page. The latest version of NoScript, a Firefox browser plugin that blocks Flash, Java, and JavaScript, includes a new anti-clickjacking feature called ClearClick. It reveals transparent or concealed windows so the user can see attempts to co-opt clicks for malicious purposes.

Quite clearly clickjacking can turn into the worst sort of security risk. Why? Because it is transparent to the unwitting user, simple to implement and difficult to stop.

Microsoft adds muscle to its mobile apps

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 April 1st, 2009 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi

Software major Microsomicrosoft-windows-mobile-65.jpgft expects its Windows Mobile operating system (OS) available in over 35 mobile phone models, to capture an 8 per cent market share with 3.5 lakh OS (es) in India by the end of this financial year. With the new mobile OS, Microsoft will also unveil its Windows mobile application store that will compete with Apple’s App Store. (more…)

Nokia to make netbooks!

Thursday, March 5th, 2009 March 5th, 2009 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi

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Nokia has dropped broad hints of its intentions to enter the netbook market. Nokia’s big boss, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo in an interview with a Finnish TV admitted “we are looking very actively at this opportunity.”

What began as rumours last year has fuelled itself into a full-blown opportunity for Nokia.  The company executives do not want to miss out on a product category that is thriving and which could be a good platform for boosting uptake of its web services (that are to be launched in May-June this year). This backs up Kallasvuo’s statements made at Barcelona last month that Nokia would expand the definition of the smartphone “into categories and form factors that have not yet been explored”. But the use of an ARM-based chip will hugely disappoint Intel.

Intel’s Atom processors gave birth to the idea of netbooks by leveraging its powerful position in the PC industry. Today, the chip giant has ensured that its mobile processors remain dominant in netbooks category, even as it got tougher to break into the conventional smartphone world. Intel is investing through recession – which executives insisted would be the pattern for 2009 too– in order to emerge from the downturn with the most advanced products in key growth areas. With operators relying on mobile data for their own survival plans, netbooks with embedded 3G, Wi-Fi and/or WiMAX should certainly represent one of those growth areas, and Atom is already driving volumes at Intel, even if it is squeezing margins.

Nokia, the Finnish giant, is reportedly working on a cut-down, mobile web-optimized PC, based on the recently announced ARM multicore Sparrow processor and incorporating elements of the existing N800 internet tablet, including its Maemo-based Linux software platform.

We won’t see a Nokia netbook until early 2011, and most probably missing the first boat for netbooks. But trust Nokia to try to outdo the traditional PC makers in terms of form factor and mobility, playing to its strengths and building on the N800 experience to create a new approach, as well as capitalizing on its vast scale and logistical excellence.

According to various leaked features (found easily on the internet) of the supposed prototype, nicknamed Nokia Sparrow, include a multi-slide keyboard with different layouts, automatically revealed as the device is moved in different directions; and a multidirectional display, similar to the tilting display of the N97 smartphone.

Dip dip dip…

Saturday, February 21st, 2009 February 21st, 2009 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi


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We cannot imagine a day without our phones, right? We have observed that there is whole lot of mayhem when you drop your mobile (or better termed as your life line) into water. (Guess, it’s no big secret that we all take our phones to wash rooms, during work hours at least).  So, here are some useful tricks to help you bring back a ‘wet’ mobile phone to normalcy.

It works…I dropped a Nokia N81 in a water tub to prove my point (I know I’m mad). And it is in working condition as I write this post.

Disclaimer: Please don’t perform these stunts by your own unless you have a spare phone or a genuine wet phone. (more…)

Unified in 2009

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 February 4th, 2009 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi

unified_communications1.jpgImagine — no travel delays, no business class costs, no lost equipment, no harried, sleep-deprived employees. Just log in and go. What am I talking about? Web conferencing. Since cost-cutting is undoubtedly keeping IT decision-makers busy (and rightfully too), web conferencing can singularly improve business’s response time and effectiveness in 2009, opine the IT consultants.

According to one consultant, “As with most tech trends, some corporates/businesses went in blindly, without really analyzing what the costs and benefits of UCC could be — or whether the latter outweighs the former. After all, if everyone’s talking about it, it must be a good thing, right?” For chief technology officers (CTOs), chief information officers (CIOs) and IT directors globally, 2009 has brought dramatically smaller budgets in many areas. web conferencing has the potential to save big money and improve response time of businesses. Also, the minuscule percentage of stay-at-home employees can also benefit from it.

Unified communications and collaboration (UCC) software is an integration of communication tools such as e-mail, VoIP, audio and web conferencing, and instant messaging. Most corporates have at least one or two of these toys, but few are truly integrating them to their full advantage. For example, many people still don’t think to forward e-mail to their mobile phones (when possible) or use headsets to take conference calls when they’re away from the office. UCC has the potential to replace a lot of business travel. Think about it — most users have been invited to attend a web conference, but many of them aren’t being proactive by managing their own meetings. (Of course, some of us choose not to let technology suck up all of our energy, but that’s another discussion.) Web conferencing can definitely be a big help in 2009.

Google launches Google Video for businesses

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 January 6th, 2009 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi

Google is launching Google Video for business, a customized video platform aimed at businesses for internal use. Google is targeting Heads of training and HR and anyone that uses internal videos at the company. The product will be included in Google Apps Premier Edition for free, with 3 GB of storage per user account.

This is a “Zero billion dollar market today” said the director of product management Matthew Glotzbach in a briefing about the product. “But we will change this and Google video for business will be easy to use.” See Google Video Overview here.

These videos will basically have the same features and limitations as YouTube, including upload size and file type limits. Videos have access control, even if they are embedded outside of the intranet or Google Apps, and can be tagged and commented on just like YouTube. These videos are quick and easy to create and can be uploaded and shared in a number of ways: for training, to communicate end of quarter results, to showcase employee achievements and finally just for some laughs and fun during a stressful overworked the day.

So, what do you think as head of training or Human Resources at your firm? How will you use this? Will this replace your in-house video production crew? Will you use video more in video sharing sites to describe a new service or for quick updates?