The Year Twenty Ten: A Review


It’s that time again when we reflect upon the world and aim to do better with our resolutions. This has been an eventful year. I guess we were expecting it to be when Google announced with a bang in January that its corporate network had been attacked. With the follow up being the attack on the Iranian Nuclear Facilities through the Stuxnet worm, the Gulf leak that occurred from BP’s Oil Spill, Pakistan’s Floods to the finale this month with the US Cable Spill, 2010 will be remembered as the year of struggles and crisis. In the midst of so much flooding of stress, tension, five distinct trends stood out which could well summarize the year that was 2010 and possibly tell us a bit of what 2011 will hold.

The Rise of Leaks and The End of Privacy

it was a very busy year on the privacy front and nothing showcased the power of the social web than the way technology was used this year in multiple forms. From the news of Tony Hayward, CEO of BP’s Yacht trip during the worst of the Gulf oil spill to the recent US cable leaks which have had consequences for the political fiefdom in our country and have given rise to new meanings to the terms ‘Open government’, ‘Public Interest’ (do we really care about the hot Ukrainian blonde) and ‘Radical Transparency’. With Google also in the hot water over it roaming street view vehicles, to Facebook’s new Privacy settings which basically sold your profile to advertisers expect the Web community at large and the government to become even more concerned about what to do with all of our personal data in 2011.

Recession Proof: Mobile Rules 2010

Without a doubt, the explosion of the smartphone landscape this past year and the allure of earning income from the new data services and surrounding industries in Pakistan have made the mobile and telco industry a behemoth to contend with.

Apple’s iPhone 4 was launched  early this year followed up by the equally drool worthy iPad and the world has never been the same again. Angry Birds was the number one application in the Apple’s Pakistani App store whilst locally ‘Gully Cricket’ became the first locally developed mobile game to be made available from a local carrier.

2010 can also be said to be the year of the Android phone – Worldwide HTC dominated the market with their Android assault especially HTC Desire. However the new Motorola Droid (Milestone) is getting the best reviews since their old Razr went blunt and reports of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 are very positive whilst Android has also made its presence felt in Pakistan, being launched by a Chinese Telecom company along with equally economical internet packages on the mobile phone which is expected to double the number of internet surfers within a year or two.

All these trends are expected to accelerate well into 2011.

Social Networks Come of Age

It can be said that Social Networks came of age in this country when users on Facebook crossed the 3 Million mark this year (3,075,480 at the time of writing this article) and politicians in this country took to twittering their thoughts and whereabouts to anyone who cares to follow them.

Marketers know that tough times also spur innovation and thus they are experimenting with mediums such as social marketing. Social marketing promises lower costs and bigger returns. In fact, word-of-mouth campaigns encourage consumers to do the marketing on behalf of the brand themselves. There are many brands which are getting on the social media band-wagon amongst them hair care, cooking oils, personal care are the most famous categories. Telecom industries are using the media as a form of customer service centers.

In 2011, expect social media to get even more popular, more mobile, and more inclusive as even the lowly Chinese phone starts supporting the different networks natively. It will also toughen the job of IT departments as people feed their social media needs through the mobile medium.

Pakistan IT Industry Becomes a Source Of Pride For The Nation

The Asia Pacific ICT Awards (APICTA) is an international awards program which provides networking and product benchmarking opportunities to ICT innovators and entrepreneurs from 16 countries in the region including Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka among others. Out of 16 APICTA categories, the P@SHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES) delegation picked up 7 Merit Awards (the APICTA Silver equivalent).  These included Merit Awards in Security Applications, E-Inclusion and E-Community, Financial Applications, Communications, E-Government and E-Health categories. It was our best performance ever.

The Rise of Online Movies & TV watching

Perhaps it’s a by-product of the ever declining broadband internet prices in the country and the ever faster speeds (10 mbps launched on 10/10/10) because of which online movies and episodes of the latest Indian or English sitcoms have become the trend to watch whilst free online. Indian movies are the most watched feature on internet with 3 Idiots being the top-most watched movie this year online. This trend is expected to continue even further this year.

The upcoming year appears poised to build on the strength of trends already in place: greater mobility, greener technologies, mobile technologies, more powerful hardware and web-enabled products and applications that focus on collaboration and interoperability. The marching advent of technology and telecom is shaking up the old and ensuring that Pakistan is coming of age in one of the fastest of the new growth industries. With that we bid farewell to 2010 and bring in 2011 with prayers for the prosperity of this great nation for one and for all.

Google Wave – First Look


Published Dawn Scitech, November 22nd, 2009

What Is Google Wave?

Google WaveAnnounced by Google at the Google I/O conference in May, 2009, Google Wave is a web application and computing platform designed to bring together e-mail, instant messaging, wiki, and social networking. It was designed with a strong real-time collaboration focus in mind and that mixed with real time spellchecker and translator extensions makes it a next-gen platform. But will the wave leave us gasping for breath as we surf cyber-space better than before or will it crash and burn. As one of the lucky 100,000 global users who were given the invites, we decided to take a closer look?

The Need For The Wave

Everyone uses email and instant messaging on the web now, but imagine if you could tie those two forms of communication together and add a load of functionality on top of it. At its most fundamental form, that’s essentially what the Wave is. Google calls it a cross between conversation and document that allows users to do with one tool what they currently do with many people discussing and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more. It works in a Web browser on the desktop or on mobile phones, like Apple’s iPhone or Google Android devices.

Google Wave is powerful because it is a product, a platform, and a protocol simultaneously. Just as Ajax technology blurred the identity of Web sites by allowing content to be embedded on any Web site, Wave blurs the distinctions between communications modes and between content creation applications.

A New Web

The Wave has been centered around the key fundamentals Google is focusing on with HTML 5: The canvas element, the video element, geo-location, App Cache and Database and Web Workers. Integrating Web Workers capability especially is a great move because it allows a developer to run background processes outside of the browser so it doesn’t slow to a crawl whilst running very rich apps. Web Workers will help turn the browser into a more full-fledged launch pad for the next generation of web apps and wave is leading the way.

The Wave Experience

Writing a wave is a lot like typing text into Gmail, Google Docs, blog posting. To the left of the right-hand column featuring the discussion, there’s an in-box with other Waves and to the left of that, there’s a navigation pane atop a list of contacts that looks very similar to Gmail’s layout.

Instead of a typical “I send you a message, you receive it and you reply” type of exchange, however Wave encapsulates conversations between people and shows real-time responses in line, more like threaded comments than individual messages. If you and I are having a conversation in Wave, you see me type out my responses, Google Wavetypos and all, as I pound out a reply. To respond to my note, just click below the last message and extend the thread. This is taking the functionality of editing in groups on Google Docs, one step further, but as anyone who has ever tried it knows that this group-edit can be tricky. The wave however offers a nice UI and real-time edit updates to ensure that even a few people editing something in a wave don’t step all over each other. When someone is editing something, you see their name outlined by a brightly colored box next to the edits they are making in real-time. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos and Google maps. Other example of things you can share in Wave include games, event invitations and more. If you get confused, you can just use the Playback feature to jump around and see the edits. You also have the ability to ping somebody and have a 1-1 conversation in the middle of any wave or in a dedicated side exchange.

Wave As A Web Communication Tool

Google isn’t just thinking of Wave as another web app that it creates and you use on one site — it wants you to be able to use it across all sites on the web. If e.g. you have a blog, than as a post, you could share a wave with the public and allow others to see what you and the other people in your wave are doing. These visitors to your blog could even join in directly right from your blog and all the information would be placed right into the original wave. This functionality can be extended to any kind of site.

The Crash Report

With such powerful integrated features, you can imagine the Achilles heel of Google Wave is that it’s very very noisy. New waves can pop into your in boxes from anywhere, anyone and anytime. So while you may initiate one conversation, you could be dragged into another one that already has 60 entries and then Twave (Twitter Entries) can follow suit just as you’re getting accustomed. If you are in enough active threads, even the playback button doesn’t help and the act of watching each one can be time consuming and an enormous task. Also staying on top of all active waves can be a tremendous challenge. It’s like having multiple chat windows open. You cannot reply to all people simultaneously.

Meanwhile, until Google Wave is integrated into GMail or other Google services, checking your Wave becomes yet another place to go so you’re not missing conversations directed your way. So for somebody like me, who has a personal e-mail address, a work e-mail address, a GMail address, and e-mail addresses for company clients, Wave is yet another inbox and place to go to check in.

Our conclusion…

Wave has the makings of a killer app, like e-mail before it but it will take time and patience to learn the technology and get the noise in control. Small teams will definitely use the Wave for real-time collaboration as its very nature offers an opportunity to further eliminate distance and improve information exchanges. If you’re diving into this new technology, expect to exert a lot of energy to stay on top of it, because messaging just got accelerated and when at work, it will take incredible discipline to control the power of the wave.

A Quick Review Of Telenor’s Internet Data Connectivity on Persona Package


Telenor PersonaI recently shifted my phone connection to Telenor’s Post-paid Persona Package with Unlimited Data Connectivity. The reason for choosing Telenor was that it offers the widest EDGE connectivity when compared to other operators in Pakistan, supposedly in more than 2000 cities & towns of Pakistan, which is very useful for someone like me who travels a lot.

Secondly, being a heavy user of the prepay version, paying @Rs. 15 per MB was burning a hole in my pocket, the size of  a small Earth.

Here’s a quick recap for those who don’t know about the features of the Persona’s Unlimited Connectivity Package.

  • You Get 2GB of data bandwith (which is calculated as Upload + Download) for only Rs. 500 + tax per month.
  • Additional data usage will be charged at Rs. 5 per MB w/0 tax = Rs. 6 with Tax.
  • Refundable Security is Rs. 1,000.

I have been a very satisfied user of Pre-Paid internet and have always encountered fast speeds, thus I expected the same on the post-paid package, so after buying it, i put it to the test.

My Testing Equipment:

1. Nokia 5730 Phone Connected To My Core 2 Duo Laptop via Nokia Ovi Suite 2.0.

2. Multiple Online Tests Such As http://www.speedtest.net and download from http://www.download.com.

3. Areas Tested: Korangi, Clifton, PECHS.

Testing Telenor Persona Connectivity

Results:

On the Post-paid package the average speed i’ve encountered is 56 kbps (7 KB per second) to a maximum of 104 kbps (12 KB per second) during bursts.

telenor persona connectivity test

Maximum Burst Copyright@iStrategem

Most of the time however the speed stays within the 6 KB – 8KB per second limit.

Telenor Persona Connectivity

Average Rate Copyright@iStrategem

The Ping & Latency rate on the connection is very high and most times the packets time out. As you can see below, testing with the Sprint servers, the average speed (up and down) is 82 kbps/84 kbps (9.5 KB per second) with a latency of 462 ms. In the real world, this means that services such as streaming music (internet radio) don’t work at all on the connection, whilst watching YouTube videos through the connection  will ensure that the video will constantly buffer.

Mobile Broadband On Telenor Persona

Conclusion

Coverage:

Generally coverage is quite reasonable. The network offers above average reliability (it always connected fast) and as far as EDGE coverage in Karachi is concerned, it was very good.

General Usability:

Telenor is offering a GPRS level of service at most places. It’s good enough for email or basic surfing but don’t expect to open content rich pages or watch videos on your phone anytime soon.

Conclusion: At most places you will only be able to get a GPRS level of service (48 Kbps) and not the speeds promised by EDGE (384 kbps) and in that manner you are paying a very high price.

Due the comparatively slow and unstable speeds, it is recommended only if you only intend to use it for general/basic Internet activity.

On the whole it certainly makes for an effective remote working or land-line backup connection. which still makes it a useful, if not quite yet a true mass market land-line broadband alternative.

Update: 1st December, 2009

Since the publication of this post, Telenor seems to have updated its service levels. The average speed now regularly hits 18-20 KB per second.

Telenor Persona Speed Check

Updated: 22nd December, 2009

It was too much to expect for the service levels to continue. The speeds didn’t last. Whatever it was, it was fun whilst it lasted. Speeds are back to the pre-updated levels hovering between 5-6 KB per second.

Is Nokia The Next Motorola?


Nokia LogoNokia recently posted its Q3 2009 results and to say they’re disturbing would be a gross understatement. While net sales and operating profit didn’t fare well being down 1% and 4.4% from the previous quarter, the real startling figure is how Nokia is doing now compared to the same time last year. With a net loss of some 559€mm ($833.9mm USD) and sales tallying 9.8€bb ($14.62bb USD), YoY net sales were down 19.8% while operating profit plummeted a jaw dropping 57.8%.

Last year too in the smartphone category,in Q4 2008, Nokia’s smartphone sales had dipped a whopping 17 percent to 15.6 million units. As always, one company’s loss is another’s gain and no two companies highlighted this fact more than more than RIM and Apple. Both more or less doubled their smartphone market share, which than stood at 19.5 percent and 10.7 percent respectively. Apart from the big three, sales of HTC devices were then up 20 percent while Samsung saw its sales increase by an amazing 138 percent to 1.6 million units. Still, they each only commanded modest stake in the smartphone market at 4.3 percent and 1.8 percent respectively at the time.

This year, In terms of market share, Nokia neither lost nor gained ground having managed to hang on to its estimated 38% market share despite pushing approximately 108.5 million devices. Still, this does not change the fact that Nokia’s handset sales are down 8% as the world’s consumers focused their attention on devices made by other manufacturers.

The biggest gainer overall this year…Apple. Its financial results for the fourth quarter 2009, have beat out the predictions. This quarter has seen Apple hit its best results in the history of the company, boasting a rather hefty $1.67 billion profit. The results, found here, show that Apple managed just short of $10 billion in revenue, at a total of $9.87 billion. Apple sold 3.05 million computers during the quarter, giving it a 17 percent unit increase over the previous Q4 results. Additionally, the company sold 10.2 million iPods and 7.4 million iPhones, representing an eight percent unit decline and a seven percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter, respectively. Even LG’s managed better. Now with Palm’s amazing Pre and Android taking over almost all manufacturers, will Nokia will go the same way as Motorola especially since their initiative to make Symbian OpenSource has thus far proven ineffective?

This was the reverie I was in whilst at the launch of the new Nokia E72 Handset at Karachi, Sheraton today. Anyway, first the formalities:

nokia e72

Summary

Built on S60 3rd Edition FP2, the Nokia E72 is optimized for messaging and e-mail with a full messaging keyboard and support for EGPRS, WCDMA, HSDPA/HSUPA (3.5G) and WLAN. The device features two customizable Home Screen modes, active noice cancellation and a 5 Mpix autofocus camera. You can write messages with intelligent text input, enjoy videos, music, and graphics on the 2.36” QVGA display. Additional features include GPS and Nokia Maps 3.0, UPnP, Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR, and USB 2.0 High-Speed.

About Nokia E72
The E72 builds on the formula from the hugely successful Nokia E71, Nokia’s best selling QWERTY device to date. This latest arrival in Nokia’s Eseries family maintains essential elements of its predecessor, whilst still improving its capabilities in a number of areas.
“Despite the outstanding market performance of the Nokia E71, we still continually look for ways to enhance the device,” said Trude Gajland, Category Head Nokia Eseries, MEA. “So we included the desktop like email experience from the Nokia E75 and gave it a new optical navigation key for more intuitive scrolling through menus, emails and fast panning of images. We also upgraded the camera to 5 megapixels and added a standard 3.5 mm audio jack.”
On top of these developments, for the first time, owners will be able to set up instant messaging (IM) accounts provided by Nokia Messaging direct from the homescreen. In just a few steps, device owners will be able to connect to their favorite IM accounts such as Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk and Ovi, amongst many others.
These new IM features are complimented by Nokia’s range of email solutions with a lifetime license for Nokia’s mobile email and IM service, Nokia Messaging, as well as onboard clients for Mail for Exchange and IBM Lotus Notes Traveler. Accessing popular accounts such as Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail, Ovi Mail and thousands of other email service providers is simple through improved on-device email setup, with the same easy to use UI integrating all of the owner’s corporate email accounts as well.

Other notable features which have been included in the Nokia E72  include A-GPS and compass with integrated Maps, including lifetime walk and 10 days of turn-by-turn navigation if activated within the first three months. Conversations are also clearer with active noise cancellation, and a torch can be activated with a single press of the spacebar key. The office capabilities have been updated with a new version of Quickoffice, which delivers Microsoft Office 2007 compatibility as well as free version upgrades when new features become available.

For further information, the RAM is 256 MB and the processor is clocked up to 600mhz but it is still an arm 11. Finally Nokia arrives to the 600 Mhz category and even then half-heartedly. Whew! Now let’s review what I think of the launch.

According to the Imran Khaild, GM Nokia, Nokia is not trying to displace the 25000 or so Blackberry users in Pakistan. Instead Nokia wants to use a 40,000 PKR phone to cater to the ‘Consumer Market’ as well as the ‘Corporate’……

Correct me if i’m wrong here. It’s one thing that Nokia’s having trouble penetrating the Pakistani corporate market (and even international i’m supposing) due to international policies, IT Policies and the first mover advantage by BB with the Pakistani telecoms. However, the belief that the E-series can cater to a  consumer market requires serious re-thinking. In a world dominated by affluent teens and young adults who thrive on IMs, SMS and increasingly social networks on their phone (incidentally Facebook App on Nokia is the worst i’ve used) are being targetted via a 30 year old technology whose behavior requires that a person think

Copyright @ SenseApplied 2009

10 Points For Guessing Right. Which Is The New Phone? Copyright@SenseApplied 2009

and reply in a more fuller answer than 160 characters. Not the behavior observed in our youth.There’s also a reason why though 300 million people have tried mobile email, only 10% have retained their accounts there (source: Gartner). Mobile behavior is just not conducive towards email messaging beyond short messages and reading. Yet Nokia believes it can cater to the 80% of the people who still don’t have email accounts when they (the people) have already jumped to technologies like SNN and SMS for most of their needs. Anyways, let’s see if this strategy would work.

The other thing observed at the launch was regarding the nature of the questions and general discussion over lunch. The most popular questions asked at the launch were direct comparisons to the iPhone or its features especially touch (to which Imran replied they want to produce touch for the mass market than an elite market…..). This reminded me about Apple’s recent stunt. In a question as to how Apple viewed its increased competition for the iPhone, Apple COO Tim Cook said “they’re still catching up with the first iPhone”. Nokia… you just cannot do Touch. Touch is a nightmare on Symbian, no matter how cheap it is. I’ve used both the 5800 XM and a 5530 XM in my lifetime and neither gets marks for ease of use or accessibility. Both still require a stylus to use properly.

One of the FAQs often thrown at Nokia’s events is regarding number of iPhone Apps vs. number of Nokia’s Apps. Nokia’s answer usually is that we have countless apps and thus more than Apple. However, that is side stepping the issue very neatly. Apple just crossed the 100,000 Apps for ONE PHONE only. Nokia’s apps are spread over so many series and models, that none of the phones probably has more than 10,000 at best. I counted around 4000 for my Nokia 5730 on http://www.getjar.com.

Also If i were the brand manager at Nokia, i’d be getting serious nightmares. Instead of one of my phones being the benchmark / standard in the industry (e.g. N72 vs. Nokia 97) or even the current E72 phone being launched thought cool enough to define a new standard, i’m nowhere in the tech leader’s category. Instead for free my main competitor is gaining publicity at my expense. Though the questions were handled very deftly (full marks to Imran), it just shows that people belief that Nokia’s losing its technology lead to its competitors. Even during lunch the general conversation centered around a lot of topics but what was launched.

The problem is being multiplied moreso. The upcoming phones by Nokia are just more of the same. These include the Nokia N97 mini, Nokia X6 and Nokia 5230.

Now I agree completely that most of the sales for Nokia comes from mid-low end phones especially in the sub-continental and Chinese markets. Unlike the west also, we simply can’t afford iPhones or most smart-phones. We pay full price for ‘Unlocked’ phones rather than having them subsidized through telecom packages, thus Nokia’s offerings really makes sense in our price conscious markets. However, does the strategy of keep pumping out so called “new models” with minor differences (e.g. 6303, N95, N86, 7310, 7510 etc…) really work? Do potential customers of these phones really care if the cam has been “upgraded” or not? If sales are increasing whilst profit is shrinking, so does it still make sense to keep pumping out so called “new models” constantly? More importantly when YOY the sales results are showing that the strategy is not working, why is the strategy not being changed.

In marketing, we have a saying that ‘Less Is More’. Yet Nokia is increasingly trying to ‘cater to all markets’ and segments, not noticing that these are not the markets of a decade ago. GM had the same problem with low end Japanese imports (Chinese mobiles anyone) and premium brands and tried to get out of the situation then by launching Saturn.

Fundamentally, there are two ways to increase sales: (1) Expand the brand, or (2) Expand the brand’s market share.

Most companies focus on the first way, expanding the brand. While this might seem to work in the short term, expanding the brand will eventually weaken the brand and leave it in worse shape than before the process began. While it’s more difficult to expand a brand’s market share, this is the better way to go. The larger the market share, the more powerful a brand becomes. When a brand reaches 50 percent or more market share, it becomes so dominant that it is almost impossible for a competitor to overtake.

Perception dictates reality. Does Starbucks coffee tastes better because the consumer thinks it tastes better or is it really better?

The larger the market share, the more dominant the brand, the greater effect the brand has on the consumer’s perception of reality. All candy bars are pretty much alike, because no one brand dominates the category. Every one percent increase in a brand’s market share does two things, both favorable. One, it increases the power of the brand in the mind of the consumer and two, it decreases the power of competitive brands.

The ultimate goal of a marketing campaign should be to dominate the brand’s category so the brand itself becomes a generic name for the category.

Which brings up the sad saga of Saturn.

Here is a brand introduced by GM less than 20 years ago in a highly competitive category. In 1994, just four years after its introduction, Saturn hit its high-water mark, selling 286,003 cars. That year, the average Saturn dealer sold more vehicles than the average of any other brand. That was the year the Saturn spirit was in full bloom. That was the year 44,000 owners and families attended a ‘homecoming’ at the Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. So what did Saturn do next? Did it try to expand its market share? Or did it try to expand the Saturn brand into larger and more expensive vehicles? You’re right. Expand the brand.

A typical quote from that year: ‘Many analysts feel that Saturn will eventually need a bigger model to retain customers as they older and more affluent’, reported The Wall Street Journal in its June 17, 1994 issue. In the February 9, 1998 issue of Automotive News, Ron Zarella, then vice president of GM’s North American sales, service and marketing, was quoted as saying, We’re doing everything we can to get them a wider product range. In the March 9, 1998 issue of AutomotiveSaturn goodbye News, Charles Child, news editor, said: GM has to bite the bullet and let Saturn spread its wings. That is, give Saturn a full line of cars and light trucks as soon as practical. In January 1999, Cynthia Trudell took over as head of Saturn and as you might expect, one of the first things she said was that Saturn is definitely looking for ways to expand the portfolio. (Ms. Trudell was the first woman to head a car division at any domestic or foreign auto maker.) Two years later, Ms. Trudell was gone and Annette Clayton took over. The strategy didn’t change, however. My focus for the immediate future, said Ms. Clayton, is to prepare us for the SUV launch and to position us to grow the portfolio. The larger Saturn (the S series) was introduced in 1999. The sport-utility vehicle (the Vue) in 2002 and a replacement for the original Saturn (the Ion), also in 2002. When Bob Lutz arrived at GM as vice chairman responsible for product development, he sounded the same tune. In the December 13, 2004 issue of Fortune, he was quoted as saying: We’re investing in Saturn’s future because the inherent health of the brand is quite good. It just needs a bigger, more exciting product portfolio. Nothing helped. Saturn sales fluctuated over the years, but never reached the high-water mark of 1994. Then in 2004, in spite of the fact that Saturn dealers had three models to sell, as opposed to the original one, sales were only 212,017 units, down 26 percent from 1994. Average sales per dealer were only 483 units, half the level of a decade earlier.

The E-series is starting to sound like GM’s Saturn. In catering to the Corporate Category, Nokia’s losing its focus on the consumer markets (My Nokia 5730 does not sync with OVI Store and doesn’t work with OVI Suite 1.4 out of the box). Worse, it’s not even doing corporate well. There’s virtually no distinction between the different phones in the E-series. The hyped up Nokia-Seimens venture NSN is going the Nortel way. (Do read up on http://www.cn-c114.net/577/a452043.html). The technologies being deployed are starting to sound old. On the consumer smartphone front, Samsung Star has swept the market in our part of the world because of which Nokia’s launched a mega-campaign promoting the 5530 to contest it. Nokia Pakistan is also not bracing for the fact that operators are starting to bundle phones with their packages and whilst it’s going to be impossible to route Nokia from the low-end phones market in the immediate future (they make up over 80% of Nokia Pakistan’s Revenues), over time the sexier technologies being bundled with Chinese (TV anyone?????) and other OEMs manufacturer will create a dent in the market share as the category shifts from voice to other forms.

Granted there’s a huge difference between cars & phones and markets and times… however in my opinion Nokia is starting to sound the same tune. They’ve lost what made them Nokia in the first place ‘Connecting People’ and are trying to expand the brand into areas where it doesn’t belong using the same technologies over and over, pushing them to death in all their series until there’s virtually no differentiation – a death knell for the brand. Here’s an excerpt from their press release ‘… we make a wide range of devices for all major consumer segments and offer internet services that enable people to experience music, maps, media, messaging and games….’. Sounds like a serious lack of strategy. For what customers really think about their Flagship N97 check out http://www.intomobile.com/2009/10/27/video-dear-nokia-the-nokia-n97-blows-and-you-know-it.html. Toshiba’s recently announced that they’ll be mass producing a 14.6 megapixel CMOS sensor for fones in Q3 2010. Compare that to the highest Nokia 8 megs.

With the new enterprise / corporate trends like cloud computing devices, Enterprise 2.0, android, Winmo 7 (i’m really excited about this one), mobility computing, social applications, HD on phones and so much more, where do we place Nokia’s products in the upcoming smarter world especially its E-series?

B&O Beosound 5 – Launched In Pakistan


Beosound 5Bang & Olufsen have officially announced the BeoSound 5 in Pakistan, a digital music system intended to bridge the gap between the company’s high-end hifi systems and music stored digitally. Priced at Rs. 500,000, the system is aimed at two segments – the high flying bachelor (rettes) looking to impress their friends (esp. at parties) and particularly mature music fans -  who are tentatively making their first move towards digital music (which also explains the lack of compatibility with lossless formats such as monkey audio and FLAC).

Beosound 5 Controller
Beosound 5 Controller

The Design

Designed by Anders Hermansen, the main interface to the system is the BeoSound 5 controller, a 2.65kg table-top or wall-mounted remote dominated by a 10.4-inch 1024 x 768 LCD and an aluminum scroll wheel. The BeoSound 5 exhibits trademark B&O industrial design ethics – the sleek, minimalist lines, and use of aluminium in a reassuringly solid construction that oozes class – and is controlled at the colour display panel by a trio of metal rings that respond to the lightest touch. A Graphical User Interface provides the user the ability to navigate their entire music collection smoothly and quickly whilst displaying crisp graphics and album covers. An Aluminum and black wall bracket is included with the Beosound 5 and as an option you can have an extended wall bracket, a table stand in black and a floor stand in aluminum.

Beomaster5

Beomaster 5

Providing the power to this setup is the BeoMaster 5, a 500GB music server with internet connections. This allows the user to transfer uncompressed or ‘lossless’ binary versions of their favourite sounds onto the 500GB hard drive housed inside the BeoMaster 5, which can be secreted away in your media room or linked to the outside world by an Ethernet cable (though why not just make it WIFI compatible is something that’s really made me wonder).

That 500GB capacity means you’ll get around 80,000 songs (or digital photos), all without that trade-off between the accessibility of having music stored digitally and the accompanying audio quality. It plays internet radio, too.

Beosound5 Menu

BeoSound User Interface

Beosound 5 with Beolab 9

Beosound 5 with Beolab 9

The Sound

Beolab9

Beolab9

In most cases, that move to digital music comes with a huge drop-off in quality sound reproduction, given the highly compressed nature of most digital music tracks. What Bang & Olufsen have achieved with the BeoSound 5 is the perfect balance. In action, the B&O always sounds good and occasionally great, although as with all such devices, sound quality depends on the file types in which you choose to store your music.

My system was linked into a pair of BeoLab 9 speakers, where WAV and Lossless files naturally worked best: here, the sound is at once assured and impressively ‘hi-fi’, and has little truck with the high-frequency hardness that can plague many digital music systems.

Service Menu
Service MenuTo Access The Service Menu on the B&O Beosound 5 , Press Right Arrow – Left Arrow – Right Arrow Again – Left Arrow Again- Then Go, Very Quickly

Even more impressive is the fact that B&O have also done this without losing the tactile pleasures associated with handling a beloved music collection. The entire experience of handling and selecting the tracks is reminiscent of going through a record collection, searching for the perfect song to complement your mood.

Transferring the music via connection to the PC was problematic initially, but we finally resolved this by connecting a USB Flash Drive to the Beomaster and copying the music onto the HD directly.

The supported formats by the system include WMA, WMA Lossless, MP3, WAV, ASF and AAC, together with internet radio streams in WMA, MP3, ASX and M3U.  It will also display video in MPEG, MPE, MPG, AVI, WMV and VFW formats.  500GB is enough room for over 28,000 songs stored losslessly.

When the music comes to an end, BeoSound 5 will continue to play ‘More Of The Same’ (MOTS) – that is, it will find other music on your system that complements what you’ve already been listening too. MOTS analyzes tracks by rhythm, syncopation, key tonality and vocal harmonies, and creates automatic playlists that evolve as you choose music and add to the list.  It’s impossible to tell without experiencing the system how well this works, but B&O apparently have at least two patents pending.

Beosound5
Beosound5

In Summary

To sum up a system like this is not easy. However if you can afford it, we do envy you.

Nokia E75 Launched In Pakistan


Disclaimer: The following is a personal opinion after watching the launch presentation of the E75. I haven’t used the phone personally.

I was at the launch of the E75 Business Messaging Phone today at the Karachi Sheraton. During the course of the presentation, i couldn’t escape this nagging thought that this phone would have been awesome had it been the year 2005 or 2006 but in 2009, it feels like too little too late.

For those who don’t know… the Nokia E-series phones enable you to manage your business and personal life. With the E75, you can type quickly with the side slide design, check email on the fly and browse the internet in your phone. Users can also easily access personal and corporate email accounts like Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail, IBM Lotus Notes Traveler and Mail for Exchange. The enhanced email user interface supports most common features like one-click reply, expanding views, folder support and HTML support. The phone is meant for Enterprise, Consumers and Emerging Profiles. I can understand the enterprise or the consumer segment, but have a problem with the emerging profile though.. Question:- How does a Rs. 39,900 ($400+) phone (more than 6 months salary for greater than 50% of our people) satisfy Nokia Pakistan’s vision of “First Email / Internet Experience Being On A Nokia Device”. Especially given the fact that a Pentium 4 system in our country only costs Rs. 7000 (<$100).

Anyways, the phone is unlike any other enterprise version launched by Nokia – much much different. It supports N-Gage so us corporate types can now seriously waste time with Tetris and Snake, it supports music for those bored times waiting for people to show up however there’s no way to edit office documents without paying extra, so i’m not sure how we can increase productivity whilst on the move. I also really don’t get the 3.2 Megapixel camera, especially for a phone in this price range.

Nokia-E75_6839

The integration with OVI also left me wondering “Why do i need another email account, that too which i’ll need to pay for in a few years, if not months”. Also, there’s nothing great about OVI in Pakistan at least. I’m already saving my contacts on my laptop & Online, i have a free Skydrive which i can access from any mBrowser, i like Google Maps over Nokia Maps (especially since this feature doesn’t work in Pakistan) and so forth. Nokia  said that they will be giving us more services over the next few months but… I remain a skeptic. Most of the things that they will do for money, i’m already doing for free on my phone. Maybe this OVI service is targeted more towards the emerging profiles, since it’s estimated that only 25% of the population has an email account, so that’s a big chunk of the market still which hasn’t discovered the joys of ‘constant connectivity’.Will that chunk buy an E75 is another matter.

Word of Advice: Don’t lose the phone ever. If you’ve saved your passwords on the phone, it can remote access your PC. Talk about security nightmare.

Net Take-Away: It is my personal belief that Nokia E75 is more suited for teens than corporates. It’s main selling point is aimed at people who are heavily into mobile mail services and multiple IM clients and therefore could use a full-sized keyboard. That’s mostly the youth segment of our country. I think this is why they’ve incorporated music and gaming into the phone too. There’s no Facebook App for it right now though Nokia’s promised to rectify this soon. Why they’re calling it an enterprise phone though, i don’t know?

Conclusion:

All in all, i’m not sure why Nokia has launched this phone in Pakistan. It’s nothing like the E71 and especially given the price conscious market that we are, the E55 is better suited for this market than the E75. Messaging / media wise the Nokia 5730 XpressMusic is probably a better buy.

What do you think?

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