Rohit Mishra

Thoughts which don’t fit in 140 characters.

Is Nokia Capable of Fighting Back?

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[caption id=“attachment_65” align=“alignright” width=“280” caption=“Nokia N8”]Nokia N8[/caption]

Nokia appointed Anssi Vanjoki to lead its fightback against IPhone and Android and regain its place at the top of smartphones market. Anssi fired out a passionate blog post , where he outlines his strategy on mobiles. I was an ardent supporter in Nokia and believed that N97 will be a killer product in my Jan 2009 post. To be considerate to Nokia, N97 was a disaster. The specs were only on sheet and everything from lack of RAM to an out of place Symbian brought the phone down. I went on to buy a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic phone last year, but that was only because there was no affordable Android mobile in that range. I will NOT let anyone buy a Symbian touchphone now over Android.

As Anssi acknowledged in his post, the greatest of Symbian fans like Ricky Cadden have quitted Symbian.

[blackbirdpie id=“17517236532”]

Anssi made it clear that they are not interested in making an Android handset. He further confused people about its Meego strategy. Nokia tries to differentiate between smartphones and mobile computers. As far as most of us are concerned, both are the same thing.  He says

The Nokia N8 will be our only Nseries device on Symbian3. Of course, we ‘never comment on future products’, but a Symbian4 Nseries device is a strong possibility. A very strong possibility ;-)

That means NSeries - Nokia’s flagship will move to Meego but can also be on Symbian. Developers - start work on Meego, but also be on Symbian. WTF!!

There is another major problem. When the N97 came, it generated a lot of buzz due to its significantly better hardware specs than IPhone. Anssi says

I have been testing the N8 and I believe it is going to surprise a lot of people with its power and speed. The camera and HD quality video and deep integration with Ovi services will make this an entertainment powerhouse.

The new N8 has got nothing special in terms of hardware. IPhone 4’s Retina Display has set the display standard, Facetime has the simplest video calling whereas Motorola’s Droid, HTC’s EVO  and Samsung’s Galaxy have created new standards in screen size and processor speed. The 680 Mhz processor won’t match the speeds of 1GHz processor that every major manufacturer has on its phone. HD Video recording has also become common. That leaves the 12 MP camera, but as we know from the camera wars, megapixel is not everything.

Nokia makes its phones now with Ovi Services in the background. Ovi Maps are horrible and there are few takers for Ovi Files, Ovi Calendar etc The Ovi tie up that Nokia is talking about, is actually a weakpoint. They are much better off getting their devices to sync perfectly with Google’s cloud apps like GMail and Google Calendar.

One more thing:

Nokia has not been able to tie up with major operators in USA who will subsidize its phones. The high price means few buyers in USA, less developer attention and that in turn makes the Nokia ecosystem pretty deficient.

Nokia can give a good phone again, but that will only happen if they laser-focus on making a good phone and let go all the unnecessary traps that a company of their size often gets into.

Photo courtesy Flickr/abulhussain

Guardian’s Open API Shows Way Forward for Newspapers

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There is a huge debate going on the future of newspapers. A lot of people have stopped buying newspapers in print (that includes me) and are satisfied with reading it online. Apart from a few newspapers like the Wall Street Journal which have a paywall, others offer unlimited access. These papers support their operations with advertising, but that revenue is not enough to maintain the vast number of bureaus and the quality of content that they offer. Some like the New York Times have finally succumbed and are implementing a paywall for heavy users. I doubt the success of paywalls, because paying for content on web will break the link culture of the web. You can no longer be sure that your reader has access to New York Times and that will encourage people to link to free sites rather than New York Times. This will result in drastic reduction of non-regular visitors to these sites and will also reduce the exposure of the website.

This is the reason why I think Guardian’s approach is much better. They have made an Open API which allows people to :

  • Pull Headlines and excerpts for free.

  • Allow people to pull in Guardian Content along with Guardian advertising and share revenue

  • Guardian along with preferred partners will build ‘rich experiences’ inside Guardian and on other websites.

I am interested in the first two. The first happens right now - with people linking to content.

The 2nd method is innovative. It gives Guardian a much better reach and a wider base to monetize their content. I hope more media organizations try this approach rather than following the easy but restrictive approach of having paywalls.

I do believe that we can have a successful model of purchasing newspapers on tablets. Apple did this with music, and they with Amazon and Google will try to replicate the ITunes business model on tablets and smartphones.

Guardian’s Developer Advocate Chris Thorpe explains the reasoning behind Guardian’s approach in the following video.

Is Warren Anderson Really Responsible?

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The Bhopal Gas tragedy has been yet another hallmark of the dumbness of the Indian legal system. For a loss of 25,000 lives, ailments to millions of others and an environmental travesty - 8 people were convicted this week - 25 years after the tragedy. These 8 people, of which one has already died, got 2 years imprisonment. Union Carbide, the company behind the accident had settled a $470 million settlement with the Govt. of India in the early 1990s. A sum of $500 per victim, not even enough to account for their medical expenses. For a contrast, BP has already paid over $ 1 billion for the 2010 Oil Spill in the American Gulf.

What is hogging the headlines is how Warren Anderson - then CEO of Union Carbide - came to India 2-3 days after the incident, was arrested and then let off by a connivance of ministers at state and central level. A CBI officer investigating the case said that Ministry of External Affairs wanted not to pursue Anderson’s extradition to India. Anderson should have been punished, but a lot of others are escaping from punishment as the public’s ire focuses on an American.

My points:

  • Arjun Singh, the idiot behind reservations in IITs, and the CM of Madhya Pradesh when Bhopal Gas Tragedy occurred should be hanged for giving a false assurance that the Union Carbide plant is safe. He then allowed Warren Anderson to go free in the aircraft meant for his use.

  • The investigation agencies and all the bureaucrats ranting on TV now should be punished. It was their responsibility to ensure that this plant followed safety standards.

  • Digvijay Singh, Congress CM of Madhya Pradesh in 1990s who accepted the Union Carbide plant with tons of hazardous industrial waste back from this company.

  • All the geniuses who arrived at the number of $470 million as compensation.

  • Union Carbide should have been shut down. Its assets liquidated and distributed among the victims,

  • Dow Chemicals, who bought Union Carbide in 1997, and USA government think the matter should be brought to closure. They will be successful. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the spokesperson for India’s ruling Congress party is the lawyer for Dow. Singhvi says there is no conflict of interest. Its all his personal interest.

  • **_CBI’s ineffectiveness and the need for a sharp unbiased, fear-inducing investigator on lines of FBI.

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_** NDTV reached Anderson’s home today.**_

The report says Anderson is deaf and senile now. Thats good, Otherwise, he would have been laughing at all of us stupid and insensitive Indians.

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AT&T’s New Data Plans Will Choke Mobile Innovation

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[caption id=“attachment_58” align=“aligncenter” width=“500” caption=“Queue of IPhone customers at AT&T store”]Queue of IPhone customers at AT&T store[/caption]

AT&T - the only American network to offer the IPhone has announced new data plans) on June 2.  The new plans replace the current unlimited data plan for $30/month. In its place, AT&T now offers 2 separate plans with usage limits of 200 MB and 2 GB respectively. It is true that the flat unlimited plan congested the AT&T network, and earned a lot of negative publicity for the company, especially at technology gatherings like SXSW. But for all the flak AT&T has received, it can claim to be the carrier that ushered in the mobile revolution with IPhone. The breakneck speed of innovation that mobiles have witnessed since the launch of IPhone in June 2008 has few parallels in other sectors. Mobiles have had  a complete transformation of role from being a voice-centric device to a data-centric device.  After reaping the benefits of this app economy, where the brilliance of IPhone prevented people from migrating to other networks, AT&T has made a huge barrier to innovation by having this usage limit. As someone, who has usage limits all the time - even on his laptop [ I get 8 GB usage at 512 kbps for $18/month] , I know that once you have a background process running figuring how much bandwidth you are consuming, you can never use net freely.

AT&T has 2 data plans now. The first called DataPlus - 200 MB for $15 with $15 for every additional 200 MB. AT&T says 98% of users use less than 2 GB of data per month and 65% users use less than 2 GB/month. With Location Based services, Full Navigation with color maps, video calling, mobile video etc set to have a huge increase in usage, I don’t know how AT&T convinced itself that 200 MB is enough for anyone. You can probably have text emails and a twitter client run in 200 MB, that too without images. Don’t even dare to click on all those links in tweets. The DataPlus plan works out at $75/GB - Rs. 3750/GB. Someone needs to charge AT&T with misusing their market share.

The 2nd plan is called DataPro - 2 GB for $ 25 with $10 for every additional GB. This is AT&T’s flagship plan. The per GB cost of DataPro is $12.50 - Rs 625/GB  - 6x cheaper than DataPlus. AT&T’s business sense is clear. It wants majority of its users to opt for DataPro - even those whose usage won’t have gone beyond 500 MB today. I am not in favor of companies having unprofitable business models, but by setting the threshold usage at 2 GB/month, the entire mobile revolution faces a big stagnation. These estimates have been seen earlier too, But, they all assume a high degree of Wifi usage. Does AT&T offer free Wifi or will wifi usage be billed together with 3G usage. Wifi cannot be a permanent solution for lack of 3G infrastructure. By heavily depending on fixed Wifi infrastructure, AT&T is taking away from ‘mobility’ of a mobile device.

What have been the most talked about mobile apps today? Google Maps, Skype, YouTube, Layar, Spotify. Directly streaming content to a mobile device was one of the biggest advances cited in the newest flavor of Android 2.2 Froyo. With data usage being capped, can mobile streaming services work? You will probably wait to get to your office/home and free Wifi before you can use these apps. But people need navigation on the road, not in their homes. We want to listen to music while traveling, not only when we have wifi around. AT&T says that they know the physics that wireline data will be cheaper than wireless. Agreed, but I hope AT&T has not forgotten that wireless is the future. With their profits flush with all the expensive contracts that these ‘data’ - based devices like IPhone get them, they should work on making wireless data cheaper - not give diktats on how much usage is bound to be enough for everyone.

I will put an anecdote here. I have a slow EDGE data connection at my university. 3G is not available in India beyond few cities, and spectrum bidding has just been concluded. My university has a private paid limited usage wifi service :( who have ‘blocked’ mobile devices from accessing the network. It is insane, I know. When I see a link on Gravity, the twitter client on my Nokia 5800, I use a service called ReadItLater which is nicely integrated with Gravity and then wait to return to my laptop where I can see these links. As much as I will like to have a podcast of TED videos or MIT OpenCourseWare on my phone, I can’t have it. My problems are acute because my laptop data usage is also capped at 8 GB/month . People in USA won’t have the same problem with their home broadband, but I fear that their experience will be pretty similar on mobile devices.

AT&T also has a $20 convenience charge for tethering [for the unstarted, its using cellphone to get net on your laptop] . In conversation with GigaOm about the new plans, AT&T’s Senior VP of data products Mark Collins said:

GigaOM: What about the $20 tethering fee? It looks like a convenience charge.

Collins: That capability is enabling something you can’t do today. You can use one device and get multiple connections so it’s more useful to you. You’re going to use more data so the price is based on the value that will be delivered.

This is the prefect art of speaking with finesse without any meaning. I hope Collins read Seth Godin’s post yesterday . Because he meant nothing. Use more data - how? you have it capped at 2 GB!!

With LTE and more apps, the demand for mobile data will grow exponentially. Sadly, these new tiers will pull consumers in opposing directions. - Something which weak mobile batteries have done till now. It will have been better if the data usage base would have been set at 5 GB instead of 2 GB.

Sitting here in India, I am worried about AT&T’s move because USA has been the biggest market for mobile apps. I don’t want to see it stagnating. For the amount of anger this move generated in USA, see this MobileCrunch post.

Photo from Jennifer Woodard on Flickr

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Head First HTML With CSS and XHTML - Review

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Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML was my second book in Head First series after Head First HTMLHead First Java, 2nd Edition. Like the 1st book, this book continues the method of simple, redundant explanations that make the content stick.

The book doesn’t cover all the topics but really makes sure that the reader has completely understood the topics being taught. The conversational tone of the book is great if you are learning XHTML and CSS on your own.

If you are getting started with web-designing, this book is highly recommended.

You can buy the book from Flipkart for Rs. 440.

Hello World!

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So, finally I made the shift from a Blogspot-hosted blogger blog to a self-hosted Wordpress one. I have waited a long time to make this shift. The main reason preventing me was that I didn’t want to spend money on hosting.

But things have changed. I got a Dreamhost account which gave me one-click install feature. Amit Sharma’s description of shifting from Blogger to Wordpress helped.

Looking forward to good blogging on Wordpress.

Chetan Bhagat - Right and Wrong

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My long-time Twitter acquaintance Ankur has joined the #chetanblocks gang. His review of Bhagat’s new book “Two States” suffers from a syndrome “if something is liked by masses, cane it”. Everyone is free to like or dislike Bhagat’s style of writing but to justify book piracy is hypocritical. The same crowd then speaks against the crap that happens in Indian politics. Isn’t it ironical? Our politicians do the same thing - justify anything that suits them without logic.
And yah Chetan Bhagat was wrong about blocking people.

My comment on Ankur’s blog post :

First I am not a big fan of Chetan Bhagat and I share your irritation of people still clinging to Orkut. But, I think a lot of people have got affected by the fact that if something is liked by masses, it must be condemned as the worst thing. Bhagat does write novels which are anecdotal in nature and has an attitude problem — blocking people straightaway. But Dude, you can’t say that his objection to piracy was wrong. #chetanblocks beat our politicians in the race of hypocrisy. No author in the world will smile at his work being pirated.
As for Two States, it is much better than One Night and 3 Mistakes. Living in Tamil Nadu, I agree with his depiction of Tamils. Whether one likes the book or not, it doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t become Macheads who keep blasting Windows writing on a Windows machine.

Making a Bandwidth Measurer Extension for Chrome and Firefox

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Satish ( ) suggested that all of us should actively start doing projects as that is what will help us in differentiating ourselves. I have been thinking of an idea for a while, but have zero clue on the way to approach it and the knowledge needed to do it.

I propose building a Chrome and Firefox extension that can record and display the bandwidth consumed by every tab and give a graph/table for bandwidth consumed in one session. It should show how much bandwidth a particular site consumed in a session, a day, a week etc. I haven’t looked for such an extension, but even if one is there, I want to build it.

Anyone who wants to work on this/guide me - please contact.

De Dana Dan Review

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De Dana Dan is a pathetic movie with no story and little comedy. Very boring. Don’t watch it.
It is the most stereotype comedy and before interval , all that happens is the preparation for a comedy background. All Priyadarshan wants us to do is keep track of mistaken identities and the room numbers that they have to put up in a hotel in the movie. There are very few scenes of the trio of Akshay, Sunil and Paresh Rawal together. Akshay is locked out of action for one hour in the movie.
It is a complete waste of time and money. Sit somewhere with friends and chat. That will have much more humor.

Terminator Salvation Review

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Terminator 2: Judgement Day is my favorite movie. The third part – Rise of the Machines was a bad sequel which an ardent follower like me also didn’t like. Arnold had become old and it was sad to know that Judgement Day did come. That is why Terminator Salvation was important. Christian Bale carries the legacy of John Connor ahead. I would have loved to see what happens after Judgement Day to Connor. What we get is a Connor who is hailed as the Prophet of the Resistance against Skynet. How the young teen changed into the fighting machine is not shown at all?

The lack of detail is appalling in other places too. Sam Worthington’s character Marcus – a test robot made by Cybernet is great. But I must concede that Transformers had better visual effects. That is not the movie’s strength. Its core lies in the human vs. machines dialogues – the ones by Kyle Reece and Connor are strong.

Salvation gives you the feeling that it was made with the intention that there is more to come. The story has to move ahead. I am waiting for the next installment.