Amazon enters the retail store business with Kindle Fire

It’s not about tablet wars anymore and the past year has shown that you can’t treat the tablet market like the PC hardware one. From the hardware side Apple is the one who’s going to be profitable for the near future, and the tablet as a PC replacement will really take off once Windows 8 enters the fray.
Until then Amazon & Apple are going to be the ones making money through tablets. The one who should be really worried is Google, as there Android tablet strategy is falling apart. Looks like Microsoft & Amazon are the ones who’ll be making money from Android. Google really needs to leverage its Motorola deal and go for vertical integration.
Tablets are more like consumer appliances and that’s the way Amazon is treating the device. So, just like a brick & mortar retailer would rent our buy its shop floor, Amazon is using a tablet to setup its own shop and eliminate the middle man (PCs, browsers etc). Apple is the only one with a similar strategy, albeit across a wider range of devices that are technically more open to competitors (kindle app). Then again their primary revenue is from the hardware sales, while Amazon is all about selling you stuff.
This will of course change once the tablet market matures & saturates, but that’s a long way away. Apple is the one setting itself up for this future, while Amazon will be there come November.

What if Apple released a second iPad this year…

and it were a 7″ version that had the same 1024×768 resolution as the current 10″ model? For one, they would be able to reach a lower price point, now that the kindle fire is in the scene. Secondly, it would make a good replacement/upgrade for the ipod touch. Thirdly, they do have the content offering along the lines of amazon.
Of course they lose the economies of scale associated with an iphone-ipod touch combo. It would also help Samsung say that Apple copied them for a change. But, this would pretty much slow down the kindled fire…

2012: The right time for Windows 8 tablets

Windows_8_Developer_Preview_Start_Screen

That is of course if the world doesn’t end. Jokes apart, the reason I think that the second half of 2012 is the right time for Windows 8 tablets is that it’ll guarantee the right mix of hardware will be available around that time. Quad core & higher ARM tablets would be the norm then with pretty powerful graphics (which would be a must if display resolutions hit the 2Kx1K levels with the iPad 3). Intel would also be closer to providing a compelling x86 based SoC in the tablet space. In fact, the tablet hardware is going to continue to scale up in leaps & bounds over the next 2-3 years before we reach a level of acceptable performance (just look at the roadmaps of the major SoC makers).

 

Apart from the hardware angle, the software landscape and usage model on tablets is also evolving. At the moment people are trying to mostly replicate the desktop or smartphone UI paradigms on the tablet. For Windows 8, it all boils down to how well Microsoft is able to adapt their MS Office UI to the tablet. Then again, we could also be looking at tablets being used as a laptop\desktop replacement when docked – Apple seems to be heading that way with their Thunderbolt display (MacBooks for now).

So, don’t fret over the timelines, and instead be excited over the emerging paradigms over the next couple of years.

P.S. Extremetech has a nice how-to for building your own Windows 8 tablet (you will need an existing Windows 7 tablet of course)

Interesting links (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Interesting links (weekly)

  • Bottom line is that you need a strong business model backing your products. Apple has one, and Amazon is just pushing into the new space, while Google is still not sure what to do.

    tags: amazon tablet ecommerce

  • So, Marx had something in his diagnosis of capitalism. Now, if we could only find a suitable prescription for the economy.

    tags: socialism capitalism politics economics communism marx

    • America’s largest private employer is Walmart. America’s second largest employer is McDonald’s
    • while Marx’s prescriptions were poor, perhaps, if we’re prepared to think subtly, it’s worthwhile separating his diagnoses from them
  • Proposed redesign of the iTunes agreement. One aspect that Apple has not been able to simplify thus far.

    tags: apple agreements design

  • Nice bunch of tips to consider for your website design

    tags: infographic design webdesign

  • More relevant now than ever before

    tags: cartoon economist capitalism

  • Communism didn’t work that well, and neither does unrestrained capitalism it seems…
    The infographic on top is particularly enlightening

    tags: jobs nytimes economics usa depression

    • Most telling of all, Washington deregulated Wall Street while insuring it against major losses. In so doing, it allowed finance — which until then had been the servant of American industry — to become its master, demanding short-term profits over long-term growth and raking in an ever larger portion of the nation’s profits.
    • Germany has grown faster than the United States for the last 15 years, and the gains have been more widely spread.
    • Yet the rich are now being bitten by their own success. Those at the top would be better off with a smaller share of a rapidly growing economy than a large share of one that’s almost dead in the water.
  • It makes you wonder how startups manage to even survive, much less grow to become Apples, Microsofts & Googles, once such “mangers” come into the picture.

    tags: startup entrepreneurship

    • What really sent him over the edge, as far as I can tell, was when I related my  response to a member of the Harvard faculty who asked me what it was like to  watch venture capitalists and professional managers run ArsDigita (I replied  “like watching a group of nursery school children who’ve stolen a Boeing 747 and  are now flipping all the switches trying to get it to take off”).
  • All the tools do is to make the weak ties more accessible, but that’s not going to lead to too many revolutions outside of slacktivism & clicktivism. Unless of course, the internet is turned off. That would be the real stimulus to get people off the armchair.
    Time to revisit the high context & low context culture definitions too

    tags: activism socialmedia facebook gladwell

    • Are people who log on to their Facebook page really the best hope for us all?
    • In the Iranian case, meanwhile, the people tweeting about the demonstrations were almost all in the West.
    • “Through it all, no one seemed to wonder why people trying to coordinate protests in Iran would be writing in any language other than Farsi.”
    • Even revolutionary actions that look spontaneous, like the demonstrations in East Germany that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, are, at core, strong-tie phenomena. The opposition movement in East Germany consisted of several hundred groups, each with roughly a dozen members. Each group was in limited contact with the others: at the time, only thirteen per cent of East Germans even had a phone. All they knew was that on Monday nights, outside St. Nicholas Church in downtown Leipzig, people gathered to voice their anger at the state. And the primary determinant of who showed up was “critical friends”—the more friends you had who were critical of the regime the more likely you were to join the protest.
    • The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life
    • By not asking too much of them. That’s the only way you can get someone you don’t really know to do something on your behalf.
    • In other words, Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice.
    • No one believes that the articulation of a coherent design philosophy is best handled by a sprawling, leaderless organizational system. Because networks don’t have a centralized leadership structure and clear lines of authority, they have real difficulty reaching consensus and setting goals. They can’t think strategically; they are chronically prone to conflict and error. How do you make difficult choices about tactics or strategy or philosophical direction when everyone has an equal say?
    • Enthusiasts for social media would no doubt have us believe that King’s task in Birmingham would have been made infinitely easier had he been able to communicate with his followers through Facebook, and contented himself with tweets from a Birmingham jail.
    • A networked, weak-tie world is good at things like helping Wall Streeters get phones back from teen-age girls.
  • Are we people or “sheeple”?

    tags: activism culture wikipedia language people

  • And so we have a proper definition & wikipedia page for it

    tags: activism socialmedia culture language wikipedia

    • posits that people who support a cause by performing simple measures are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change
    • the desire people have to do something good without getting out of their chair
  • It’s not enough to just have a vision & supreme taste. You need to be able to really refine them & make them a reality.

    tags: apple stevejobs innovation design

    • But the idea, so common in this week’s media coverage, that Jobs was an inspired savant who succeeded by taking big risks on personal hunches, is way off the mark. Rather than worship at the altar of inspiration and “going with your gut,” the rest of us should use this moment to consider the fundamental strategies that drove Apple’s success.
    • And, oh, the marketing: brilliant marketing. No one is better at creating attention than Apple. But attention without fulfillment is a straw fire. The magicians say “Presto!” and we gasp in delight. But they deflect our attention from the back-breaking labor that goes into assuring a perfect customer experience, hundreds of times a day, at 300 stores around the world, and countless conversations on the phone.
    • Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple has done 10 times the amount of relevant homework of most companies — internal competitions, supply chain training, endless deal-making, endless recruiting, training, and generating and sustaining employee excitement that you just can’t fake.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

harman/kardon HS 280 – the 2 month usage review

hs280

Got this home theatre system a couple of months back after doing quite a bit research on speakers & home theatre systems. Have been pretty satisfied with the system so far. The footprint is quite small, while the sound quality is very good. And, it looks quite good too. It goes nicely with the Samsung 32” LCD TV that I got earlier, while also serving as a network media player.

Why a 2 speaker system?

I went for a 2 speaker system mainly due to the smaller footprint as my living room is not that big, and the additional wiring hassle for a 5+ speaker system, which is a big issue when staying in a rented flat. Also, I was mainly focussed on getting a system to play music well rather than watching movies (it does enhance the sound experience compared to the TV speakers for movies, but 5 speaker systems give you the true surround sound experience).

The alternatives

One of the alternatives would have been to go for an A/V receiver with a 2 speaker + sub woofer option and expand later on to a 5+ speaker configuration. However, I eventually eliminated that option as that has its own set of issues. The A/V receiver for one, as going for a low to mid range model could make future upgrades difficult, and second, finding a set of speakers compatible with the initial ones would be another exercise in itself when the time came for the upgrades. Moreover, I would also have to buy an additional DVD\Blu-ray player if I wanted to watch disc content. So, I decided to lookout for a 2 speaker HTIB.

I came across the harman/kardon HS 280 in the JBL showroom in the Palladium Mall in Mumbai, and it was one of the few 2 speaker systems that I found during my research. The other HTIB alternatives in a similar price range were from Bose. There were also a couple of speaker systems minus the DVD player from Bose in that range.

The research findings

I looked around quite a few forums for suggestions on speakers & brands, and saw that Bose had a really poor rating in terms of sound quality (check out this essay that features in a lot of Bose bashings). This was one of the surprise findings from my online endeavours. Some of the highly regarded brands were Wharfedale (warm sounding), Polk Audio (bright) and Klipsch (check out this forum thread for the sound descriptions like warm, bright etc.). However, I found very little information on the system I eventually bought.

That was when I decided to get some hands on (ears on?) research done & visited a bunch of showrooms to listen to the system demos. The HS 280 sounded really great, both for music (I had made a demo playlist on my iPod & they played it using a stereo cable, but still sounded very good) & movies. As for Bose, I was really disappointed with their 2 speaker systems and I seem to understand first hand the reason behind the forum bashings. I listened to both movies & music (my iPod docked at that rather than using a stereo cable) and the systems sounded pretty flat.

One of the reasons behind the poor Bose impression could be the fact that I had demoed some great 5 speaker systems from Mirage (Nanosat & MX) & Energy (Take Classic & RC-Micro) just before going to the Bose showroom. If you are considering a 5 speaker setup, do check these out. The Mirage dome speakers in particular create a very interesting cloud of sound effect that’s quite an experience for movies, while the Energy speakers are good value for money. Incidentally, this was at the Atria Mall in Worli, Mumbai. I also demoed a Polk audio 2 speaker set at ProFX in that mall, & understood why they are called bright.

If you plan to do ears on research, make sure to carry a music demo playlist\CD with you. It will really help in comparing the different systems, and if you are used to hearing the playlist tracks on your existing audio devices, then you have a baseline to compare them with. There are some ready made demo discs (the Chesky Records one in particular) available too that can help you analyse different aspects of an audio system.

The 2 month impression

So, after almost 2 months with the system here are my thoughts:

  • Audio quality is really good and the Dolby Virtual Speaker modes enhance the sound in most cases (oldies don’t get impacted much). I’ve listened to a variety of music ranging from oldies (Hindi, English & Bengali) and instrumental to the latest soundtracks and the system sounds great all around.
  • The network play support is a really helpful feature. All you need is a router (I’ve got a Belkin wireless one) & a media server (any machine running Windows 7, or a dlna certified device). You can then play pretty much all kinds of media ranging from music & videos to photos on the system. However, since the device is not dlna certified, you can’t push content to it, i.e., you can select tracks from your PC to have them play on the system. The video format support is also somewhat limited though – doesn’t seem to play mp4, but it does support wmv & xvid\DivX. Also, lossless wma is not supported, so no ripping CDs in lossless formats & streaming them.
  • The system also supports USB storage devices including hard disks, so even if you don’t have a home network, you can always attach external drives & play content. Browsing through the file system can get a bit tedious though.
  • The system has made me appreciate the difference in audio quality between audio CDs and mp3s, especially the lower bit rate ones. In fact, I ended up buying a bunch of audio CDs just to have some good quality audio.
  • The remote can serve as a universal one to control a couple of other devices. You need to program it of course, and the instructions are provided in the user manual. The keys need to be programmed one at a time, and so can be pretty time consuming. I tried programming it for my TV & the Tata Sky box, but the utility is not very reliable as the buttons don’t seem to work most of the time. Overall, the remote is not very user friendly with small buttons and a non-intuitive interface.
  • There are quite a few audio input options including a couple of optical & line in links. So, you can connect your TV audio & a bunch of other devices to the system. No video input options though.
  • The sub-woofer is downward firing, and has a few controls & a 11 o’clock volume position is suitable for most music. It can get pretty boomy otherwise.
  • The disc drive is slot loading & the remote has an eject button – quite handy. The system seems to get pretty hot when playing disc content (this could be due to the confined space I have the system in though)
  • The HDMI video out supports 1080p output and up scales video content accordingly. This goes quite well with our full-HD TV.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Might as well post about the movie that I ended up watching 3 times in the absence of better alternatives:

  • “Bagwati” actually is credited on screen – it’s the last one in the actor list and credited to Hermes (wikipedia explains how the bags are made & the extensive service network).
  • A superb showcase for Spanish tourism, albeit for the ultra rich. TOI seems to have taken a sudden liking to covering the festivals shown in the movie (check out their mobile apps in particular for the coverage)
  • Farhan Akhtar continues his track record of having his hand in some of the better movies in the last decade. He also has something about father-son relationships (remember Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya?).
  • It was a nice showcase for Javed Akhtar’s poetry
  • Pretty sad usage of a Canon EOS 550D by Abhay Deol throughout the movie. Firstly, he was using it as a Point & Shoot (even had the flash up during some daytime shots!). Secondly, he seemed to be still using the kit lens (EFS 18-55mm IS). Last but not the least, given the way they splurged money throughout the movie, he should have been using a higher end DSLR model (the 7D at the minimum, if not as full frame like the 5D).

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan

Saw the movie last night. Some thoughts:

  • One of the better, or at least entertaining yrf movies in recent times (watching a movie in the night show definitely lets you gauge its entertainment value)
  • It has the usual references to previous yrf movies, plus a bunch of old hit songs being used throughout the movie
  • It could have done with fewer songs
  • The movie turned out to be quite different from the impression made by the trailer, and for the better
  • Imran Khan is getting stereotyped, but then again these types of roles seem to be the one that make his movies click
  • Regarding the gadgets:
    • Apple continues to feature in the movies – this time with an iMac (for video chatting through a matrimony site, no less) & iPhone
    • They showed a bunch of different phones being used in the movie – iPhone, Blackberry (used to take a crucial video at that)
    • They finally showed a photographer who was serious about his equipment – Imran carries a Canon EOS 1D with an L series lens – which is quite unlike Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, where a zillionaire like Abhay Deol carries around a Canon EOS 550D and uses it like a Point & Shoot

Switching to a light theme

Switched to the light version of the current theme (Coraline), as the dark version seemed to be a bit difficult to read. Also shuffled some widgets so that the more relevant ones were on top. Hope you like the changes. Feedback welcome.

I like it when…

…my bank sends me email notifications when it dispatches documents. However, I’d like it even more if they sent the alert before the document arrived at home.
Bank in question: HDFC