Friday, August 27, 2010

NDTV adds Live TV in app & removes the ugly advertisement!!


The NDTV iPhone app has just gotten a big boost with Live TV capabilities. NDTV 24/7, NDTV India (the Hindi channel), NDTV Profit, NDTV Goodtimes & NDTV Hindu are all now available for mobile viewing at just £0.59 each per month (Rs. 42.95 at today's conversion rates). That comes out to be £2.95 for the entire bundle on a monthly basis. Less than half when compared to Sky's news & sports bundle that comes at a steep £6 per month. But then again, besides them both being apps designed for news, there isn't anything more in common between them. They are after all for two very different markets.

Anyhow... The NDTV app streams well over WiFi though it does take a few seconds for the pixelation to subside and the image to become sharper. 

NDTV Hindu streaming over WiFi
Whats more important is that it ALSO streams over EDGE! It does take longer... much longer to load but it works!

NDTV 24/7 streaming over EDGE

The image of-course is not as sharp as over WiFi (or as we would expect over 3G in the coming days) but it gets its job done if you are really desperate for your news! 

Whats truly welcome though, is the removal of the genuinely ugly advertisement that the app sported in the news section. Besides eating up one whole row in the list, it was very distracting. The developers have left a white band in place where the ad used to be (when reading a news story) and one can only hope that its an oversight and not a plan to get in some other ad there.

Also updated is the Live Stock Markets info on the upper right corner of the app. Clicking on it will take you straight to the stocks section. Same is the case with the live sports and weather info that keeps looping with the stocks information at the before mentioned corner.

NDTV's resident Gadget Guru, Rajiv Makhni, also mentioned to his followers on Twitter today that more versions of the app are coming soon for other platforms. The next one though seems to be for Android.

Rajiv Makhni's Tweet

Vikram Chandra, also a Gadget Guru at NDTV (among many things) also let slip on Twitter that a high resolution version of the app will be coming soon for the iPad.

Vikram Chandra's Tweet

Check it out if you sport an iOS device at http://ndtv.in/NDTV-iPhone.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mischievous Maps II

The case of multiple versions of Google Maps was covered by me a few days ago with regards to the depiction of Kashmir in the Indian sub-continent. What Google has been doing is showing different maps to different countries according to what the government and people there demand... regardless of ground realities. I had also mentioned how there was a political and media fuss a couple of years ago against Google in India for precisely this reason. Today, however, it seems the issue has come back (as reported in the media). Only this time its not Kashmir in focus, but rather Arunachal Pradesh (an eastern state of India claimed by China).

Now we have seen for years that Arunachal Pradesh has been marked as disputed (with the dotted lines) in western maps. While China might claim it... it is a de-facto part of India. There is no 'occupied territory' and the Chinese claim is based on old and historic reasons. Now as with Kashmir, Google has found a great way to keep everyone (Indians and Chinese in this case) happy. BURY ALL THEIR HEADS IN SAND. What they can't see couldn't possibly bother them... eh Google? Below is what Indians see in Google Maps...

Arunachal Pradesh & Aksai Chin in Google Maps - India

And this is what the Chinese see...

No Arunachal Pradesh & no Aksai Chin In Google Maps - China

Now isn't this just lovely! What could be better? Well... what the western world gets to see ofcourse!

Arunachal Pradesh & Aksai Chin shown disputed in Google Maps - US

As you can see, the third map is the closest to ground realities barring of course Arunachal Pradesh (and some parts of Uttrakhand). There is really no reason to show that as a dotted boundary and leave other more 'internationally' disputed territories like Tibet totally inside China. The rules should be the same for everyone. Like Tibet is under de-facto Chinese control so is Arunachal Pradesh under Indian. Infact... India didn't 'capture' Arunachal Pradesh by military action either. In the case of Aksai Chin, China did move faster to claim and subsequently incorporate it within its territory and all India could do was complain about it being a part of Ladakh.

Like I said in the last related post, Google should just keep things levelled globally. Use the same version of maps everywhere! Depicting ground realities! Regardless of the fact that some of our parliamentarians might raise objections and regardless of how China might want to arm twist them... middle ground can be found (as demonstrated by the continued re-direction of Google.cn to Google's Hong Kong website).

The point is that currently both Google Maps India and Google Maps China are completely inaccurate! Patriotically satisfying sure... but inaccurate. I'd rather see the dotted lines and disputed territories and be aware of them rather than be shown a sand boxed and unrealistic depiction that is just misleading.

[Update] It seems the issue has gained traction in the main stream media. Here is a clip of an NDTV discussion of the issue with Sachin Pilot (Member of Parliament) on the course of action available to the Indian Government regarding all this.

video

While I agree its sort-of deceitful, I don't think India can or should force Google to show the 'Indian version' of the map globally. I think a modified version of the Google.com map (Arunachal Pradesh & parts of Uttarakhand inside India) should be put up instead... leaving the disputed parts of Kashmir marked as disputed. That would be more accurate for students and others.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Apple needs to re-think its iPhone strategy in India!!

What will ye fate be on our shores oh mighty iPhone 4?

Its no secret that India is not all that high on Apple's list of priority countries... There are no Apple Stores here (Authorized Reseller is the name of the game), the online Apple Store redirects you to the before mentioned resellers and the App and iTunes Stores are laughable.

The launch of iPhone 3G generated a lot of buzz in India back in 2008. After all, we were going to 'officially' get it too (as opposed to buying it in America, Britain, Australia or where-ever and then jailbeaking it). The phone was selling for about $500 in the States and by normal conversion rates (given hope by Steve Jobs's claim that it would cost the same everywhere in the world), the cost should have been about Rs. 23,000. Instead, we were offered un-subsidiced handsets ranging from Rs. 32,000 ($690 - 8GB) to Rs. 36,000 ($776 - 16GB) that were sim-locked to two of the largest service providers in the country. Needless to say the buzz died with the price and the launch party on 22nd Aug 2008 turned out to be a damp squib.

But the thing is, people had taken interest till before the price disclosure. Vodafone and Airtel, the two launch partners, had taken out full page ads in newspapers, television spots showed the new iPhone and for a brief moment in time, India was flowing with the rest of the Apple world. And then nothing happened. In-fact, a whole lot of Apple-related nothing happens anymore. It took forever to get the 3GS to India (launched March 2010) and now four months later rumours are flying about an October 2010 launch for the iPhone 4. Now to make sure this one doesn't fail and its consumers and supporters are not robbed again, Apple needs to change the way it does business here. The following few points sum up my take on what should be Apple's next iPhone strategy in India.

1. Negotiate with carrier partners to subsidise the handsets. Sure you want to keep them exclusive, but Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 25,000 is also a pretty exclusive price range. Apple will not only blow the competition out of the water but will also shake up the entire Indian handset market besides gaining huge traction in handset adoption. Besides, whats the point of SIM-locking the phone to the carriers if they do not give Apple or its (and their) customers any benefits in return?!

2. Negotiate with carrier partners for decent 3G voice and data plans for iPhone customers (both Post-Paid and Pre-Paid). With the 3G services launch just around the corner, there is wide spread concern that 3G will be treated like some holy spectrum/service and will be super duper expensive. Apple needs to let its customers know that they can get the best service on their expensive phone. Of-course Apple doesn't own these carriers to dictate to them what it wants, but, like it has done in countries the world over, it can still exert some influence and negotiate.

3. Market your device. Apple products are very popular in India even if people don't really know what they are really about. Help multiply that... take out television and radio ads, place features in papers/magazines and publish ads there. Go for that media blitz... its not like Apple doesn't have the money anymore.

4. Develop a real App Store for India. The Indian App Store is still weak. Why are we still being shown prices in US Dollars and not Indian Rupees after almost two years of lunch? If the eco-system is weak, then it weakens the appeal of the iPhone.

5. Develop an iTunes Store for India. This country has the largest film industry in the whole wide world. We have a huge music industry. We have a huge number of people that download songs over the internet. Then why... oh why do we have no iTunes Store (iTunes U doesn't count) to download songs  and to buy and rent movies from?! Granted that most of the downloading is illegal and free in India, but, wasn't that the case in other countries as well? More people will be willing to pay for the songs and movies if they get a good, convenient and secure service free from the hassles of spy-ware and shoddy sites.

The Indian Store Version

The UK Store Version

6. Sell iPhone online directly. Whats so difficult about doing this? If it works in other countries... it can work here. People do buy stuff online in India and Dell has been selling computers (electronic devices too aren't they) here for a number of years now. Volumes might not be the greatest but its an avenue to generate sales and give people easy access to your product rather than them buying from third party suppliers or un-interested carriers.

7. Push Airtel & Vodafone to get their act together. They need to do more to develop and sustain the iPhone user base. Just carrying the phone will not generate them any good will. They have been looting people for two years selling an expensive phone with expensive data plans and all this while they haven't even had a 3G service. They need to feature the device like they do Blackberry phones. Makes ads, display them at stores, feature them prominently on their web-sites (its a task finding the iPhone section on Airtel's website) and make apps for the users to help with the service (like most decent service providers do the world over). Again, negotiation with them is the key.

There is humongous potential for Apple to grow in India and the for the iPhone to dominate the market but only if Apple India wakes up or Apple switches off the auto-pilot on which its Indian arm is flying on right now. There are rumours that Apple India might be starting to learn to stand on its own two feet and India is becoming more of an important market for Apple but actions speak louder than words. When it happens, we might rest easy... but right now... in India... we still haven't seen any of that excellent customer service, magic or reality distortion which Apple is famous for.

And if its not too much trouble... can we please get our own Apple Store sometime this century?! ;-)



Why Facebook doesn't always mean fun!!

So by now most of us are smart enough to not click on random emails or Facebook messages and distrust links in them. But, the wonderful spamming, hacking and identity theft communities are always hard at work so they keep coming up with new ways to make you go to sites you'd later wish you didn't go to. 

If you receive an official looking Facebook message or notification... be vary. A good idea always is to keep the 'email me' notification service of social networking sites as just that... a notification service. One should not 'load images' if they are blocked by your email inbox or click on any links provided in it. Because frankly you don't have to. Whatever the email is telling you it will be available once you go to Facebook/Orkut/Twitter/Linkedin etc. and log in so why take the chance to click on a potential security hazard. Case in point, observe exhibit A...

Exhibit 'A'

Now I got this email two days ago and its a friend request from me to me! Or atleast some guy that has my same name exactly but some sort of an alien white body. Now human behaviour dictates that my interest would peak to know who this other 'Ahmer Hasan' is... and to go straight to his profile, I would click on the link provided and satisfy my curiosity. But then that could also kill my curious cat.

I didn't click on the link but later went on to Facebook manually (by typing www.facebook.com in my browser) and then logging in... and guess what I found... No friend request from Ahmer Hasan. So then who sent the mail? Yes... thats right... people who thought wanted to steal my identity for some reason and my Facebook profile because its so cool!

Its not difficult anymore to email people with messages that capture the recipients informational parameters and then incorporate them within the mail for perceived authenticity. Neither is it difficult to setup a fake Facebook or another social networking site and ask you to 'log in' to see the 'full message' or 'picture' or 'friend request'. The moment you enter your details... POOF goes the real account on the real Facebook (or any other social networking site).

So click not and you shall prosper... be vary, for you have been warned and for the love of common sense update that anti-virus software!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mischievous Maps

Ok so this is not really that big a deal and something that I noticed a few weeks ago but is still a bit interesting... Observe the image below and see if you notice something odd...


The map of India is complete! Disputed territories are not shown. Why is this a big deal? Its not! Its just that before they were clearly marked... Now this is the 'Photos' app in iOS 4 which uses Google Maps... So I went to Google Maps India and looked up the subcontinent... This is what came up...


Full India... Entire Kashmir shown within India... Thats great then isn't it?! Well... till about the time you go to the US or the UK based Google Maps sites... And the following is what you see...

Google Maps US
Google Maps UK

Woops! Thats different! Thats what struck me as odd a few days ago... I had always seen the version of Maps on my phone and the web that showed the disputed areas as they exist in reality. The reason for that is that I was accessing the UK version being based in London and always presumed that Google Maps was uniform globally though hosted at various places and tweaked  for local 'flavour' sometimes. I guess I was wrong. I do remember there being protests or complaints about this a few years ago... but I didn't know that a 'different' version had been 'gifted' to us to keep us happy.

And Google is not the only one... Microsoft Bing duplicated the same effort to safeguard our flimsy egos...

Bing Maps India
Bing Maps US

The two places where I found uniformity was Yahoo! Maps (yes, such a thing exists) and Google Earth.

Yahoo! Maps
Google Earth on a computer
Google Earth on phone
Overall it is not out of the ordinary for something like this to happen. But I'm a bit vary of duplicity. This is NOT keeping things levelled globally (a challenging task no doubt but do-able in this case).  Did we really need an inaccurate (though official government line following) version of Maps? Is it right or fair that an Indian student should go online for reference and get a biased, un-realistic version? Are we not capable enough as a nation to accept ground realities and see them as they exist?

Interestingly, Google Pakistan does not have a local Maps version and uses the US version which shows them exactly what they want to see! :-p

[Update] Almost a month after this post, sections of the Indian media also caught on to the same thing (no... sadly NOT because of this post) and that aspect of the story has been covered here.

What is A.B.A.T.A.G.A.S ?!?!

Welcome to A Blog About Technology And Gadgets And Stuff (i.e. A.B.A.T.A.G.A.S)!! This is my little effort to channel some of the curiosity and interest that I have in technology, modern gadgets and electronics into something constructive and sharable.

I intend to write about mobile communications, cool new gadgets, space exploration and a few other things that might catch my fancy. I hope you find at-least some of the thing here interesting and I'm always willing to hear what you have to say in the comments section (no really!). :-)

So read thru, give feedback and if possible ideas about what we can write here and discuss.

Thanks! :-D