The Future of Content is — Video. And it’s Scary!

Have you noticed off late, how the sheer number of videos that we watch from the Internet has exploded. Thanks to the smart phones in our pocket, and the 3Gs and the 4Gs in the air, we now consume videos as copiously as we drink colas. And this transformation has been fairly recent, because till sometime back watching a video on YouTube was like booking a train ticket on the IRCTC portal; frustrating, exhausting and mind-numbing. Buffering was a term that we all came to hate and live with. It was like bad karma, and watching video was like a punishment, no less.

Funnily, the capability/capacity to watch videos has supposedly been around for quite some time. Does, the broadband tingle a bell? I remember back in the times when NDA was in government, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the Prime Minister, the then telecom minister Pramod Mahajan used to make promises of a ‘videod‘ future, where we will be able to see a Dev Anand or a Sunil Dutt film at a just a click at almost every press conference. That was in around the year 2000. But then even as the bandwidth grew, from 128 Kbps to 512, from 1 Mbps to 2 and then to 5, the video revolution was largely limited because of the ‘Pull‘ factor, namely, one had to visit a website or a portal to pull (or download) a video. So be it a YouTube or a Bit Torrent, we had to go to all these sites in search of something specific. We were searching for videos to watch, and since these portals were just hosting the videos they were not pushing the envelope in terms of technology.

And while we talk about technology, we just cannot ignore the role played by the porn portals that revolutionised the delivery of videos over the WWW. Because of all these portals that had to deliver videos to hundreds of thousands of people (at times even millions) simultaneously, they perfected the art of content delivery. The world owes a big debt to these carnal-delighters for making the magic of seamless video possible. Continue reading

Does Apple hate India?

It is often said that much like an inamorato or a paramour, you either love Apple or hate it. Renowned for its path-breaking innovations, Apple products are much desired all over the globe, from a college kid to corporate head honcho. Same is the case in India as well. Going by the strengths of all the people touting iPhones or moving around with iPads, it will be hardly surprising if we are not as obsessed with the Mac Maker as the Americans are. And yet, why do we have a feeling that the love isn’t mutual, in fact it seems more of an infatuation more than anything else.

A clear indication of this one-way street can be made from the way Apple treats the Indian market. There is an almost disdain on how and when products are launched in the market. For instance, Apple today announced that it will be shipping the new iPad2 to 25 countries mostly European nations and Mexico by March 25th. The company has also indicated that the device will debut in Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and additional countries in April. Yet there is singular silence when it comes to talking about India.

The few Apple-branded retail outlets dotted across in India, still sport the older iPads and are completely clueless on when and how the newer one will appear. Considering that it took Apple a good ten months after the global launch to officially launch the iPad in India, Indians will have to wait for some time. Leaving the patriotic jingoism aside, the market is rife with accusation that the delay in the India launch of iPad1 is proof that Apple treats India as a market to dump its old goods. The fact that it launched the first version iPad here at a time when it was in the final stage of launching the iPad2 only strengthens the perception that the company wishes to dispose of its inventory in India. Continue reading

The Best of the Web (courtesy Time)

Around this time every year, I eagerly wait for the annual specials from Time Magazine, be it the person of the year or the numerous other specials like the top 10 technologies of the year, top 10 films, etc. Dubbed as the ‘best and the worst lists’ they give a unique perspective on how the year has passed and what has been the high or the low points. But besides these, I really look forward to the world’s top websites listings. The reason is not all that hard to guess, because in it you will finds one of the best gems of human ingenuity, web ideas that were always there in the making except that no one did. This year’s list (,29569,1918031,00.html) is no different, there are scores and scores of ideas that not only seem worthwhile (to use) but also great (to emulate). So here are a few chosen gems from the Time 50 list of best websites for 2009. If you desire more, log on to the Time site and check the complete list.

Now, I know Tripit as an application in LinkedIn, have often seen my network friends listing their travel with it, what I did not know was that it is much more than a LinkedIn app, it is a web-portal, where you can put in all the travel related documents, for instance flight insurance number, hotel reservation desk, etc. and then access it over your phone or Web in case of need. How often when we land in a new place on not find a car from the hotel, hunt desperately for the hotel’s number here and there. All this could be saved on Tripit and easy accessed on the cell. And then, there is the social networking or rather the LinkedIn aspect as well, bumping into an old friend, who might be travelling to the same place via Tripit.

If you need something specific in your place or region, whom do you ask  — your friend or Google? Well, Vark takes it to search to that level. The idea is simple, why query a bunch of machines that can only understand meta tags and evaluate keywords, when you can pose the same to your friends. SO, next time you want to know where to find the best Mango Kulfi, don’t Google, Vark it by synching your FB contacts, so the question will be sent to your network only and no more. Now, what should we dub it as; social search?

Up in the clouds

Apparently, most inventions and technologies have their roots in jargon. In fact, jargonizing is the favourite pastime of almost all tech companies. So, when they are not conjuring up innovative software or hardware solutions, they are prone to cook up some mumbo-jumbo. Usually, these jargons are in the form of acronyms and over a period of time through repeated usage they tend to take on real shape. Sample some of the jargons that have become real, like NC (network computers), ERM (enterprise resource management), RIM (remote infrastructure management, Grid computing, SOA (service oriented architecture), etc. 

Cloud computing is the latest cloud on the block. The term today encompasses a lot more than it innocently declares, and often means different things to different people.  Accordingly, cloud computing stands for SaaS (software as a service), PaaS (platform as a service) and IaaS (infrastructure as a service). But that isn’t all; it also incorporates Web 2,0 and HyperWeb functionalities.  At the basic, it simply means ‘doing things over the Web’, the cloud tantamounts to Internet in this case.

While there is some sort of clarity on what a ‘cloud’ is and what it should be doing. But, there is little or almost no clarity on how one ‘cloud’ should be reacting to another ‘cloud’ or rather working with other clouds. The reason is fairly obivious, the companies that are working on cloud computing, are basically doing in a very personal and private way. Thus, you have the IBMs, the Googles, the Amazons, and the Salesforce.coms of the world who are building and rolling out services and solutions in a cloud architecture. But these are unique to the company and usually have little or nothing in common with others. Hence, there are myriad clouds floating over cyberspace that don’t recognise each other and neither want to either.  It is as if every company is in love with its cloud and wants their client to only be bound by their own. There is little trust in cloud computing. Continue reading

Schadenfreude Millionaire

It’s evening time at the posh Lincoln Plaza Cinema, in Broadway, New York an Amy Wilder is sitting perked up and looking with disbelief at the film running on the big screen ahead. Though, she has never really visited India, but has heard a lot about the country especially due to the job losses in the US. Like many else she believes that every white-collared IT worker that is retrenched in US is replaced by a brownie in some obscure city of India. Over the years, Amy, and many like her, have come to believe that India is no merely a land of elephants, snake charmers and the rope trick artists, but a potent threat to the workforce because of its laborious and educated workforce. The stereotype had steadily been effaced.

Yet, sitting in the Lincoln Cinema, she witnessed an image of India that she has often heard about but was not sure that it existed; an impoverished country wherein people were reduced to despondency, fighting, bickering, cheating, and killing each other. Thanks to the ‘Incredible India’ buses that flitted on the Broadway Street, her image of India as a third-world country had been replaced by that of an emergent and mystical land, the country of IT and that of the Taj Mahal. But Slumdog Millionaire got her thinking again

Seeing the two little orphans scampering across the cramped and filthy streets of Mumbai made her realize that India was not really a country that should be loathed, but rather pitied. In fact, on coming out of the theatre, Amy felt better about her existence, even though she was facing tough times in the face of job loses and defaults on mortgage payments, but at least it wasn’t as bad as in India, where small boys were blinded and made to beg on streets, or mobs of religious fanatics went about killing people just like that. Thank you lord for not making me an Indian, she heaved a sigh. Continue reading

Anil Ambani and his tech dreams

Recently, I came across a piece on the Time Magazine website, authored by Simon Robinson (,8599,1817222,00.html), wherein Simon talked about Anil Ambani’s Hollywood dreams. The story talked of how there was a probability of Steven Spielberg and ADAG coming together, to be more precise; “Reliance providing between $500 million and $600 million to Spielberg’s Dreamworks SKG, financing that would allow Dreamworks to split from Viacom Inc’s Paramount Pictures.”
As, I went through the piece; my admiration for the junior Ambani brother went a few notches higher, not as much for making the phriangi Jurassic Park director indebted to us Indians, but more for the mileage that he seems to be deriving even before there was pen put to paper on the deal. Imagine WSJ and Time Magazine discussing the story and carrying them in their publications. The only other Indian businessman, who achieved this feat recently was Ratan Tata; but then he had to build a ‘Nano’ for the same after investing billions of dollars. And this is the very reason, I ‘kind off’ like Ambani, his media-savviness.

Unlike Branson (Vijay Mallya’s role model), Anil Ambani exudes a very no-nonsense business image. Each bit of news that emanates from his PR machinery subtly reminds that he is a “Wharton” MBA. The press handouts will have an image of him sitting in his corporate office, smiling benignly at you. He will hold joint press conferences with the Hoi polloi, be it Steve Ballmer or Bill Clinton. Then, of course, there are marathons that “fitness freak” Ambani runs and the innumerable trophies that he keeps accepting all the time. Some months back, there was immense coverage of the fact how Ambani Jr. had become a trillionnaire and also the 6th richest person in the world (based on the valuation of one of his company’s IPO, that tonked immediately after listing. So that was the end to that story).

There is a world of difference between how the two Ambani brothers carry on with their work. While the elder one (also the more richer) tends to keep away from media even though he owns a rather ‘costly’ IPL team. The only time Mukhesh Ambani was in news recent times was because of the $2 billion house that he is building. Meanwhile, ADAG’s public machinery seems to be working overtime, much like some 24/7 call center, trying to come up with some saucy and juicy bit.

So, there is Ambani Jr. investing millions in Fame Adlabs (a multiplex and film distribution chain in India). Or his Reliance Power is being listed (apparently, the very listing saw the end of the bull run and the return of the bears). Or how he aimed to be as big as TCS and the rest by launching a software firm Tech Reliance. Then, recently there has been these high-profile negotiations with MTN, the largest mobile operator in Africa. And finally, there’s Spielberg. He has even coaxed his good friend, Amitabh Bachchan to turn to blogging (he writes on one of ADAG’s online properties). Through all these stories, the official machinery will maintain a discrete silence. While some “informed sources” will keep the media wheels running with tid-bits and suppositions. Ask some one for a quote, and all you will get is hush-hush. Even the Time Magazine couldn’t coax them into commenting on a story.

Come to think of it, the raison d’etre of Ambani’s wealth are entities that he did not create himself, like Reliance Communications and Reliance Energy, the former was done by big brother and the latter was a PSU. And that is the reason, I like Anil Ambani; he manages to be there on my newspaper every morning somehow the other, talking of some fantastical venture or a success and when neither just plainly accusing his brother for some corporate misdemeanor. Bravo Ambani Jr! Continue reading

Fight for Tibet goes online

Before I wrote the story on Tibet, I went to Youtube and saw the video of the Tankman, times and again. I remember seeing the video clip as a teenager in one of the television shows, Pranoy Roy’s The World This Week. As, a youngster I was amazed and spellbound by the courage of the man, who stood in front of that column of tanks, waving at them to leave. There hasn’t been an image that has left a mark on me, in the way Tankman had. And everytime I was seeing the video on Youtube, I could feel the pain the travesty of the person that drove him to make a statement like that. I often think to myself, was tankman immensely brave aware of the consequences and ready to pay the ultimate price or was just so frustated that he didn’t bother of anything. And that’s what I recalled when I saw the images of all those monks in Lhasa shouting slogans against the Chinese rule.Free Tibet, is a phrase that seems to be plastered all across the globe. As the momentum for the 2008 Olympics in China gathers force, so does the movement by Tibetan protestors some asking for autonomy and some for freedom. There have been hot debates, whether politics should be linked to sports. But in all these debate and discussion, what we seem to forget is that around 5 million Tibetans are not only living in the fear for their lives and sustenance but also in danger of losing their identity.

In many ways, this incursion by China into the ‘roof of the world’ could be termed as ethnic cleansing. Sadly, while India has been a host to Tibetan refugees, it can never take a stance for them. So, thousands live into cramped quarters in Dharamsala, dreaming of the day when they will move freely and be able to live in the valleys of Amdo or Kham. It is not hard to understand the pain that the exiled Tibetan community is feeling and can be gauged from the way they are using Internet to connect and spread the message. Using this as an excuse, I did a story on the issue for Dataquest and it was published recently. I am uploading the story in the memory of the tankman (who supposedly is living in Taiwan or was killed within a fortnight by the PRC Army) and more importantly as a salute to the indominitable human spirit that yearns and pines for liberty and freedom.



The struggle for Tibet goes digital

While monks and protestors in Tibet are battling with the heavily armed Chinese forces, Tibetans across the world are using the Internet to connect and rally for their fellowmen back home.

The gloves were finally off, as a column of Chinese Type 59 tanks rolled down the Chang’an Avenue, near Tiananmen Square. It was the spring of 1989, and hundreds of thousands of students were protesting all across China and especially so in Beijing crusading for liberty and free speech. To make their voices heard, students huddled in Tiananmen Square went on a hunger strike. But instead of negotiations, the communist regime of China decided to crush the non-violent movement in the most virulent fashion. Army was sent in to break the protests. The battalion of tanks was part of the same effort.

As the tanks slowly rolled on, a single student decided to make a statement at the very risk of his life. Armed with two empty shopping bags, he stood right before the mighty tanks and brought the whole column to a halt. The tank right in front tried to dodge him, but the unknown rebel (as he would be dubbed for eternity) would not be dissuaded. He gesticulated with his arms and climbed on top of the tank to express his views to the soldier manning the tank. He was not ready to let go, but people (protesters probably) pulled him on the side before something untoward happened. The whole incident was captured on video and beamed by the channels across the world, making it the most emotive image of the fight for liberty beck in 1989. The images raised international concerns and country after country lambasted the Chinese regime for the brutal reprisal. Other than that there is little that we know of the Tiananmen protest.

The world has changed infinitely much since then. Today China is a global power, both in economic and military terms. The country will be preening in front of the world by the Olympics this year. But there seems to be trouble brewing again, this time in the ‘roof of the world’, Tibet.

Last fortnight, near simultaneous protests started in Lhasa, and then spread to different cities of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Monks and ordinary Tibetans supposedly attacked Chinese business. People were seen marching in different parts of Tibet, denouncing the oppression of the Chinese military. Once again the Chinese government decided to come down heavy again. The protestors were shot at, and all media access to the region was denied. But unlike in 1989, this time the protestors did not have to be physically present in Tibet to be counted. Thanks to the Internet, Tibetans across the world are taking part in the ongoing struggle. Continue reading