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Apple launches iPod touch and new fatty Nano September 6, 2007

Posted by sk in Apple, Computers & Internet, iPhone, Microsoft.
1 comment so far

 

Another year, another iPod redesign. In my opinion, the iPod Touch is pretty cool and actually redeemed the keynote because the rest of the products were nothing to write home about. iPod Classic may be thin, but it’s also ugly. Same with the new redesigned Nano. With the iPhone, His Holiness, Jobs actually screwed early adopters. Of course, he gave them $100 back but that was a gift voucher. What can you get for $100 in an Apple store? A Shuffle or a keyboard. What can a Windows user get? A Shuffle. Obviously, this forces people to spend more money to buy a Nano or even a Mac. Smart marketing move. Of course, no other company would have got away this easy. Maybe the Reality Distortion Field hasn’t dampened yet.

Yup, the Zune is probably doomed. I’m not ashamed to admit that I actually liked it, even though I never bought one. I guess its days are numbered unless Microsoft can come up with something revolutionary when the v2 Zunes come out this fall. However, I think Microsoft should forget about the Zune and concentrate on the phone platform. The iPhone is a blessing in disguise for Microsoft. They’re obviously working on their own version of a touchscreen consumer phone OS. Thanks to the iPhone, more hardware vendors will be interested in partnering with MS now. Also, unlike the mp3 market, which was really in a nascent stage when Apple entered, the phone market has some huge OEMs and networks. If Microsoft plays its cards right, we could have a PC vs Mac type scenario once again. After all, Apple has a five year contract with At&T.

BTW, I was reading some comments about leaked Nano photos a few days ago (I think it was on Gizmodo). Most commenters felt the product was too ugly to have been designed by Apple. Yesterday, when it was confirmed that the leaked photos were indeed real, the general consensus changed. Suddenly the new Nano was HOT! Funny. 🙂

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The i Word August 19, 2007

Posted by sk in Apple, Computers & Internet, iPhone, Microsoft.
16 comments

The word being iPhone (well, not a word but…). It’s been nothing short of a success so far for Apple and AT&T. Apple has probably sold a million of them already or at least close to a million. The lack of applications (that’s a feature rather than a weakness), the initial bug reports (hey, bugs are for Microsoft; with Apple, they’re called eccentricities), lack of GPS support (it has Google Maps, that’s more than enough), 3G,… hasn’t stopped people from buying it in hordes. Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve checked out the device a couple of times at the local Apple store and it really is impressive – not something that I would personally pay $600 for but that’s another issue.

Frankly, I think this is a device that is capable of revolutionizing the cell phone industry. Microsoft, Nokia, Sony Ericsson all have something to learn from this. Don’t throw in hundreds of applications into the phone if you don’t provide users with an easy way to get to them. With the iPhone, the applications that you see in the main menu are all that you get and it looks . Like every other device designed by them, the first iteration is simple and lacks features. With subsequent iterations of the device, Apple will add more and more complexity without losing focus on their main goal – keeping the UI as simple and uncluttered as possible. I’m pretty sure the iPhone will cause Microsoft to either come up with a better design for Windows 7 or a new OS for casual users.

By the way, it looks like AT&T too is milking the device for all its worth. Blackberry Cool reports that AT&T has locked down “the GPS functionality in their upcoming BlackBerry 8820 so that the only functioning 3rd party software will be TeleNav.” Blorge also talks about a rumor that “the device’s WiFi will only be usable if you purchase an EDGE data plan to go along with it that was reported on Engadget.” Wow!

I’ve been enjoying playing around with my new Media Center PC. It features XP Media Center 2005. I will probably upgrade it to Vista Ultimate in a few months   – after SP1 comes out. I wonder why Microsoft never really advertised Media Center. Their stupid Vista ads focused on Flip3d. Who the fuck cares about an application switcher? Media Center has an amazing UI and has tons of features. It’s not only the Tivo like functionality where you can record, pause, and rewind live TV. You can also listen to FM radio and play songs, videos, photo slideshows on your hard drive. It also has an online spotlight which features material from MTV, NPR, Yahoo!, MSN, etc. Everything accessed with one remote control. Microsoft should change its marketing agency – really. They’re idiots.

Tell me more April 18, 2007

Posted by sk in 411, Computers & Internet, Google, Microsoft, search, Technology and Software, tellme.
2 comments

tellme.jpg

Want information about local businesses on the go? Tellme is perfect for you. You can dial 1-800-555-tell (free) or 411 on Verizon and Cingular phones (paid) and get information about local businesses, sports scores, entertainment, etc.  For example, you can ask for an Indian restaurant in Tucson, AZ and then say, “Text me the query” to get a text message with detailed information. You can also text 83556 (“tellm”) with the search query. Tellme was recently acquired by Microsoft and the acquisition goes into effect on April 30th.

I’ve been accused in the past for not giving information about rival services, so here it is. Google has launched a 411 service too. It’s not as good as Tellme, but it’s good for those who prefer Google’s services or want to have nothing to do with “dying companies”. 😉 (notice the wink). Dial 1-800-Goog-411 for information about local businesses. 

Blogs gain favor worldwide December 30, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Just Posts, Technology and Software.
3 comments

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while but forgot all about it. A comScore survey found that blogs are becoming more and more popular across the world. Eight countries in North America and Europe were examined and it was found that 58.2% of the online population in Canada had visited blogs during the given month. The following are the conclusions of the study:

  • Among the eight countries examined in the study, Canada saw the highest penetration of visitors to blogs, with 58 percent of all internet users visiting the category in October 2006. Half (51 percent) of all internet users in Spain also visited blogs.
  • Of the selected countries, only Germany (26 percent) and Italy (31 percent) had a lower penetration of internet visitors to the blogs category than the United States (36 percent).
  • Windows Live Spaces is the favorite blog site among the majority of countries studied, with 37 percent of all Canadians visiting the site in October 2006. Blogger.com had the highest penetration in the United States (12.4 percent) and Germany (9.7 percent), while the same was true for Skyblog in France (27.4 percent).

I’m sure Ruhi and Parmanu will be happy that Blogger.com had the highest penetration in the US. No?

In related news, analysts at Gartner believe that the blogging phenomenon will peak in 2007:

The analysts said that during the middle of next year the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million.

The firm has said that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs.


Last month blog tracking firm Technorati reported that 100,000 new blogs were being created every day, and 1.3 million blog posts were written.

Interestingly, Gartner also predicted that Vista would be the last major Windows release. They also suggested some time back that Apple should quit the hardware business.

Evil Google makes some good products December 29, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Google, Technology and Software.
9 comments

When several people tell you something is good, it must be good, right? Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about how good Google Reader is. So I finally decided to try it out myself yesterday. And my verdict? It rocks. It truly does. I spent a couple of hours transferring my feeds from live.com and arranging them properly. I liked Live.com but it’s good for a few rss feeds. It took me a while to figure out, though, that the key ‘j’ is for next feed and ‘k’ is for the previou

s feed. I would have preferred ‘pg up’ and ‘pg dn’ but it’s a minor annoyance. Another minor annoyance I have is that sometimes my feeds are not marked as read even after I’ve read them. Overall, I think it’s a very easy to use rss aggregator with a clean interface. So, now I’m officially using Windows Live Writer for writing posts and Google Reader for reading them.

Anyway, one of the first feeds that I added was that of Mike Torres, who works in the Live Spaces team. He wrote a post about how Google may be compromising its ethics. The gist of his argument is this: when you search the keyword “blog” on Google, Google Blogger doesn’t figure among the top results (and not even in the first 5 pages). However, right below the sponsored links, there’s an orange blogger icon with the text, “Tip: Want to share your life online with your blog? Try Blogger.” Mike has this to say about it:

For a company that prides itself in its integrity (or at least used to) this is a pretty messed up thing to do. I can’t even find Blogger in the organic search results; I stopped looking on page 5. Which means that instead of earning its spot on page 1 (or any other page for that matter) they decided to promote their own service in a way that no one else can do at the top of the organic search results. This makes it look like Blogger is actually more popular than TypePad, Windows Live Spaces, Yahoo 360, and WordPress.com when in reality, according to Google’s own algorithms, it isn’t.

Ultimately, the folks who end up suffering the most are the Six Apart guys who are paying Google to run ads against the word “blog”. Now, if you were in charge of Six Apart’s advertising strategy, would you continue to pay for this ad when your competition has an unfair advantage? Which one would you click on? The one that looks like an ad or the one that looks like a friendly tip from your friends at Google HQ?

Come on guys. You can’t have it both ways – you’re either biased or you’re unbiased. But don’t say you’re unbiased and then sneak little orange B icons above your competition. Especially after saying you don’t ‘smooth the way’ for your own ads.

I initially didn’t pay much attention to it. After all, Mike is ultimately a Microsoftie. 🙂 but Mike provides a link to Blake Ross’s blog (a Firefox developer). Blake has this to say:

Google lost me today.
Google is now displaying “tips” that point searchers to Google Calendar, Blogger and Picasa for any search phrase that includes “calendar” (e.g. Yahoo calendar), “blog” and “photo sharing,” respectively. This is clearly bad for competitors, and it’s also a bad sign for Google. But I generally support anything that benefits users, including monopolistic packaging. I believe, for instance, that shipping Internet Explorer with Windows was a good move.
Google is predicated on the idea that the democratic structure of the Web will push the cream to the top. Search for “photo sharing” and you should already get the highest quality services. According to Google, Picasa is not one of them. These “tips,” then, can only be a tacit admission of failure: either the company does not believe in its own search technology, or it does not believe its products are good enough to rise to the top organically. I’d guess the latter.

Paul Thurrott linked to this article on Blake Ross’s blog and added his own comments at the end:

This is just the tip of the iceberg. From Google’s sad IE 7 toolbar that actually prevents users from changing the browser’s search preferences to the EULA in Google’s phishing filter that admits it makes no attempt at all to perserve your privacy, Google is pure evil. That makes their corporate motto both ironic and hypocritical, but mostly it makes us all chumps for using their services. And yes, I use GMail. I’m an idiot.

Interesting.

My take on this: I think Google should simply abandon its “Don’t Be Evil” motto. I don’t know if it’s possible for any company to survive in corporate America without being evil to a certain extent. Yes, Google is evil, just like Microsoft or Yahoo!, but they make some great products, so, big deal.

Google Spreadsheets – Now better than Excel December 7, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Google, Microsoft, Technology and Software.
10 comments

Yesterday a friend of mine suddenly pinged me and asked me if I had taken a look at Google Spreadsheets lately. I said I had looked at it once earlier but wasn’t really impressed. So this friend asked me to take a look at it again. She said it had everything that is present in Excel. I grudgingly decided to take a look at it. Grudgingly because I’m not the biggest fan of Google’s products. Yes, the search engine is awesome and I use it exclusively. No, I don’t like GMail. I use it for these useless websites that ask you to give out your e-mail address to register and then send you spam mails everyday. GTalk? It’s okay. Not a big fan of that either. Anyway, you already knew this, right?

I checked out Google Spreadsheets again last night and I must say I was very very impressed. It features the Excel type user interface with some added functionality. It has all the functions that one would normally use – math, statistical, financial, etc. So what if it doesn’t do charts (this could be because I used IE instead of FF? Maybe Microsoft intentionally kills some of the features?)? That’s so 19th century? So what if it doesn’t have the equivalent of VBA? Who uses that anyway? An interesting feature that’s absent in Excel is collaboration. You can collaborate with others while working on the spreadsheet. There’s also a chat window for sending love notes. I collaborated with my friend and created a new spreadsheet with three columns . Yaaaay!! I was able to save it to my computer as a pdf file. This too is something that’s missing in Excel 2003 without third party addons. This person suggested an easy method to convert Excel files to pdf format – create your file in  Excel, copy and paste the data to Google Spreadsheets, and save as pdf – simple, see? So, on the whole, it was a great experience using Google Spreadsheets and as an Engineer I definitely found it to be more useful than Microsoft Excel. But that got me thinking – why do people within Google use Microsoft Excel? Anyone?

 

Google – overpriced? November 29, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Google, Microsoft, Technology and Software.
4 comments

Dave Winer says Web Bubble Burst 2.0 will come about when Google’s stock crashes and that we’re safe as long as Google is doing well. Scoble believes there’s nothing that can stop Google. Even if the domestic market stops growing, he says there is a lot of scope for growth in international markets and as long as that potential exists, Google will continue to grow at alarming rates. He further goes on to say that Google is in the same position that Microsoft was in 18 years ago and we all know how far Microsoft has come.  I guess he’s right too. For a long time Microsoft had just one source of revenues – Windows. Even now, about 90% of their revenues come from Office and Windows. Most of Google’s revenue comes from advertisements.

Speculators are having a field time predicting their next move. I don’t want to go down Will-Google-Get-Bigger-than-Microsoft lane here. There are many other bloggers who are devoting ample time, energy and resources in putting together those arguments… oops… posts!!! With due respect to their endeavors, let me proceed to my main point here. With Google’s shares trading at $489.50 currently, I have been obviously intrigued. Is it overpriced? Of course, yes! Duhh… stupid question??? So how overpriced is it? Is it overpriced enough to bring the entire market crashing down? If the prices were to climb up to $1000/share, then yes. Speculators would try to sell their shares in lots and cause rapid fall in share prices. Obviously, for this to happen, the volume of the stock controlled by these traders need to be substantial enough to cause any change in the price. But at what price will this happen? I don’t know! My guess is as good as yours. But I do feel that Google has the potential of bringing about a bubble, if not another crash.

I tried to calculate the Intrinsic Value of Google’s stock. This would tell me how much the stock may be worth depending upon the current earnings of the company. Even though this is not a definite yardstick for quantifying whether the present market price is good for investment purposes or not, it will definitely give you a good idea regarding your position. Of course, all these calculations require a great deal of discretion on the part of the investor to make a rational and educated judgment.

So how do I achieve this task? Simple! I followed the time and tested rule of using the Earnings Per Share (EPS) and the annual returns of stocks. For the annual return of stocks, I used the Geometric Average of Stock Returns from 1929-2005. This was around 9.69%. I know that this is not a precise figure, but this is the closest to what I want to measure.

Okay, so here is the actual calculation. PRECAUTION: Read the next few lines at your own risk and PLEASE PLEASE do not use swear words when you see the actual figure!

Intrinsic Value= EPS (2006)/Annual Return

= $7.68/.0969

=$79.25!!!!!!

I got the EPS value from Reuters Website. Yes, $79.25 only!!!!

Hmmm….do you want to invest now? I still would… only if I had the money!

(with inputs from cotton)

Gartner says Apple should quit hardware business October 18, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Microsoft, Technology and Software.
3 comments

From Yahoo:

Increasing component costs and pressure to cut its prices mean Apple’s best bet for long-term success is to quit the hardware business and license the Mac to Dell, analyst firm Gartner claimed on Tuesday.
In a surprisingly ambitious report, called Apple Should License the Mac to Dell, Gartner says Apple should concentrate on what it does best–create software–and make use of Dell’s production and distribution infrastructure.
Gartner claims that with the right partners, distribution channels and a more affordable price, computers running the Mac OS could eventually account for 20 percent of the total PC market.

Hah! That’s pretty funny. You know what, I think Gartner should quit the market analysis business. Apple’s business model has been extremely successful and I see absolutely no reason why they should change it.

Source: Paul Thurrott’s Internet Nexus

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Windows Live Product Suite October 14, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Microsoft, Technology and Software, Windows Live.
20 comments

Over the last few months, I’ve beta tested several Windows Live Applications. While some of them have managed to stay on my system after they passed the beta phase, I’ve uninstalled a few others because I didn’t find the need for them (or they were just too buggy). I’m listing some of the applications that I have used and the things that I like and dislike about each of them.

  1. Windows Live Messenger: I love this application, especially the concept of sharing folders. I’ve also used the live calling feature to call India and the voice quality is pretty good. This messenger allows one to chat with Y! Messenger users, but it’s at a pretty basic level now. I look forward to seeing more functionality with respect to that. The look and performance is decent too. I have had a few issues with connectivity though. In addition, The “turn on what I’m listening to” feature doesn’t seem to work for me. Overall, I would have been happier had this still retained the “beta” tag. More info at: messengersays.spaces.live.com
  2. Windows Live Mail: Overall, I think this is the best product among the Live Suite so far and the most fun to use mail client that I’ve used so far. It has a very simple, yet cool UI and the latest release, M8 has only taken it a step higher. I love the “Send E-mail from” feature where you can send an e-mail using any other e-mail address. I hate the ads, though. They’re extremely intrusive. Also, it’s still a little slow. Moreover, while all features work with IE6, IE7, and FF1.5, in Opera only the basic functionality (classic view) is available. More info at: mailcall.spaces.live.com
  3. Windows Live Mail Desktop: The UI is awesome. There’s not much more, though. While the latest release does seem to have tackled some performance issues and have cleaned up the UI, I’m still not happy with the fact that one can’t group two or e-mail accounts together into one folder. The feed reader is neat and the new version has an “Update Feeds” button. More info at: morethanmail.spaces.live.com
  4. Windows Live Spaces: Much better than MSN Spaces, but the header ads are annoying.  Also, why can’t one customize the header??? The statistics provided are not sufficient either. One more thing I’ve seen is that blogs on Live Spaces are not very visible on Google. Correct me if I’m wrong!
  5. Windows Live Local: Great quality maps, amazing satellite views and the bird’s eye view is breathtaking. I hate the directions though. I wish they’d provide images. Also, when they ask you to bear right onto the ramp for I-805, do they mean 805 South or 805 North?? This is especially confusing when the ramp to both directions is on the same side of the road. Way to go!! Available at:local.live.com
  6. Windows Live: Looks good and all that but this is just not ready for prime-time. I’ve decided to switch to bloglines for now. Maybe I’ll get back when things improve.
  7. Windows Live Safety Scanner: A very good free online safety scanner. It scans for viruses, removes temporary files, cleans the registry, etc. Pretty decent. It’s available at safety.live.com
  8. Windows Live One Care: Similar to Live Safety Scanner, but this one rests on your desktop. Moreover it’s not free. I think three licenses cost $49.95 for a year (or less on Amazon). Of course, you can try the product for free for three months at onecare.live.com
  9. Windows Live Search: Finally Microsoft has released a search client that matches Google. But why would one want to switch now? I haven’t. Try it out at: search.live.com
  10. Live toolbar: Very useful if you use any other Live products like Windows Live Writer, which I haven’t talked about in this post (but Tismar takes care of that). Available at: toolbar.live.com

More information about these products is available at liveside, in case any of you is interested. Also, a list of beta and released Live products is available at Windows Live Ideas.

P.S. I hate to add images to my posts and I know that makes it even more boring. In case anyone on the Sparks team wants to add images, feel free to do so. Just make sure they’re relevant. So… no Nagma! 🙂

Launchy for Windows September 28, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Microsoft, Technology and Software, windows.
11 comments

 From Launchy.net

Launchy is a free windows utility designed to help you forget about your start menu, the icons on your desktop, and even your file manager.

Launchy indexes the programs in your start menu and can launch your documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes!

More screenshots are available here. It’s a very useful tool. Simply press the key combination: Alt + Space to bring up the launcher and in a few keystrokes, you can run your favorite program. Furthermore, you can also index your documents, music, etc. The best part about the software is that it’s not made by Microsoft!! Of course, if you [still] think this software is worthless or you’ve found a better alternative, please feel free to leave comments.