A resourceful destination for academicians, corporate professionals, researchers & tech enthusiasts

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Apple - The Strategy!

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997, the product line then was confusing. When he went to the VP of Marketing and asked him which Computer he would suggest given the requirement of himself, the VP offered 3 different choices. That incident is a testimony to the fact that over the years, the product line of Apple became confusing. 

Then Steve Jobs called a meeting of strategy and put forward his thoughts on how the product line should look like going forward and he gave a shocker to the whole team when he said, he's going to kill all the existing products. He absolutely hated people who gave presentations on slides and asked them instead to take a marker and write it on the board because he believed people should know what they are talking about and when they know what they are talking about, they don't need slides to assist them. So in his trademark style went to the white board and drew this simple 2 X 2 matrix which went on to became the one single page of strategy for Apple. The matrix looked like this: 

Over the years Nomenclature changed but the strategy remained the same. iMac remained iMac. iBook became Macbook Air, Power Mac became Mac Pro and Power Book became Macbook Pro.

This slide explained the vision for Apple. The need of the hour for them was to eliminate the clutter of thinking users have to go through before they bought a laptop or a desktop from Apple. Steve Jobs felt, this is the way to move forward. There should be one choice for each of the use case: Consumer Desktop, Consumer Laptop, Professional Desktop, Professional Laptop. That's it. No different products for the same use case. 

Then Apple started with iMac - the consumer desktop in 1998 and went on to fill the parts of the grid over the years. Now that we have the power of hindsight, we can admire how logical and correct the decision was but for the people who were at Apple, it was a nightmare. 

Firstly, unlike many other companies where the teams were formed around function, the teams at Apple are made around products. ie., iPhone has a team, iPad has a team, Mac has a team and so on. So to execute this kind of strategy where in 40 different products are brought down to only 4 needs a lot of management power and consolidation. Management needs to fire people to make this consolidation happen which in itself is a difficult task. They need to identify the right composition for the team so that the power centres are proper. 

Secondly, Apple didn't fell in the trap of cost cutting and instead focussed on making great products. Apple is loosing money like crazy when Steve Jobs came back and the logical step for any CEO to do is to fire people, decrease incentives and other bonuses. These kind of strategies not only suffocate people but kills the innovative vigour needed to make a great product happen and as they believe, Apple is made not by a bunch of scientists but a team of Artists! So the focus of Steve Jobs when he came back was always to innovate than cutting down the costs.

Thirdly, it may sound trivial but the right incentive structure is very important for a company like Apple that not just focuses on great products but on all these products working together. In any other company in the same industry the incentive system is based on the performance of that particular division. For Eg, Windows team is incentivised based on the sales of Windows and Office team is incentivised based on the sales of MS Office in Microsoft. But the case at Apple is completely different. Every division receives incentives based on the overall performance of Apple. ie., even iPhone brings two-thirds of profits of all the products combined, Apple TV team and iPhone team are incentivised in the same manner. This decision by management of Apple is really important for 2 reasons:

  • When an organisation grows, divisions fight for resources and attention from top management. This creates a vicious culture where the company is seen as a conglomerate with many divisions and individual P&L accounts. This is not at all good for a company that operates in a single industry and so, fights happen between divisions all the time. In case of Apple, for an iPhone team to receive proper incentives, Apple TV team has to perform as well. This creates a collaborative environment by definition.
  • Apple is a company that is built around the reputation of all the devices working seamlessly. The features like - handover where in you can take a call of an iPhone in a Mac or coping something in iPhone and pasting it on a Mac or even unlocking a Mac automatically with Apple watch requires enormous cross collaboration effort. This can be possible only through the organisational and incentive structure Apple put in place. 
We can attribute various other factors to why Apple is so successful but their strategy and the way they went about executing the vision which is as important as formulating a strategy, makes them stand apart in the industry. When Steve Jobs said "we think we have the right architecture not just in silicon but in the organisation to build these kinds of products" while introducing iPad 2, (video linked below) this is what he meant!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

3D Printing: From Stones To 3D Printing

"If a picture is worth a thousand words a prototype is worth a thousand pictures."

Most of the people now know or at least have heard about 3-D printing. For those who have not heard of, it is the process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file using a 3-D printer.

Manufacturing has always played the most important role in all sorts of endeavour of the mankind. Printing dates back to the time when Johannes Gutenberg  introduced printing to the Europe and the World through a printing press thus enabling the dissemination of knowledge throughout the world in the form of Books. At that time printing was done on 2 dimensions however, printing has grown by leaps and bounds to manifest into its present form known as 3-D printing.

A 3-D printer can make copies of any object in 3 dimensions unlike a conventional printer thus making even the complex processes easier many times. 3-D printing is achieved through additive manufacturing. Additive process creates objects by laying down successive layers of material till the object is created.

Nearly three decades ago before machine parts, toys, artificial organs were created engineer Charles Hull printed a small cup using a plastic material and ultraviolet light. He named this process stereo-lithography and got it patented in 1986. Stereo-lithography is the process for creating prototypes in a layer by layer fashion using photo polymerization ,a process by which light causes chain of molecules to link together forming polymers.It is one of the many methods for creating 3-d printed objects.

Slowly and slowly this new technology started gathering attention of manufacturers for use in prototyping. Chuck Hull founded 3-D systems in 1986 to sell 3-D printers to  the likes of Mercedes Benz  and General motors. Competition rose in 1989 when Stratasys, another 3-D company was founded. Stratasys used Fused deposition modeling which layer-by-layer building of the object from the bottom up by heating and extruding thermoplastic filament through a nozzle of the 3-D printer which is called an Extruder in 3-D printing industry.

There are many processes used for 3-D printing however the two processes mainly used for 3-D printing are Stereolithography and Fused deposition modeling. Let’s have a look at the difference between the two:

3-D systems use stereo-lithography while companies like Stratasys employ fused deposition modeling technology. For a more precise and detailed objects laser based stereo-lithography process is used. Laser based process employs usually a UV laser which is focussed on to a vat of photopolymer resin. Computer aided design softwares are used to prepare designs of the object to be printed after which UV laser is used to draw the design on the photopolymer surface.Projection based lithography(DLP) employs projector below the resin tanks to project the layers at once. DLP can print objects finer than even Laser based stereolithography however its capacity is limited in terms of volume.Whatever the processes may be but they all are being used for one or the other purpose.

3-D printing today is being used from creating parts of planes to creating 3-D printed houses. It is also being used for creating artificial ears,kidneys,Prosthetic Hands with the help of patient's tissues thus opening new doors for such patients while at same time reducing the grave possibility of rejection by the body such as in case of Kidney transplants. 3-D printing has also been used lately to print eatable items thus bringing more options for the customers.

Parts used in space shuttles are today being created using 3-D printing technology. 3-D printers are today being manufactured for the households thereby enabling the customers to print whatever they need, designs for which are  available on the internet.

However, with positives every invention brings with itself some negatives as well.Recently an activist Cody Wilson 3-D printed a gun which created a lot of fuss in the media about the possible threats which 3-D printing brings with itself such as the existence of the design of a gun on every computer.

So, while the advantages of 3-D printing include Rapid prototyping, more jobs, hope for Medical patients its disadvantages include the possible increase of Dangerous items.With the advantages of 3-D printing, mankind may be entering a new post-industrial manufacturing age where products are significantly cheaper and built quicker than ever before, however the disadvantages of 3-D printing needs to be known to be better understood and mitigated against.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Cryptocurrency - The End Of Money?

We spend a major part of our life chasing money and accomplish our dreams but its also an instrument of destruction some might say evil driving criminals to lie, steal and even murder. The existing Banking system derives enormous value from society and it is parasitic in nature. Money is the catalyst for the worst and the best of human endeavours.

All civilizations are based on currency, go back to the earliest of the earlier civilizations and you shall find how important a role money plays in the development and running of a civilization. However it has always been a subject of interest just like an unsolved mystery as to how does money runs through the whole world.

Traditionally measure of an individual’s potential was based on the amount of cash he/she used to have in his/her vaults. However time brought an enormous change and no more do we see people carrying loads of cash, in fact people now rely more on the amount they hold in their bank accounts connected via a small yet important interface and a significant invention to the humankind known as an ATM card.

But why do we need the traditional forms of currency like Dollar, Sterling Pound, Yen or Rupee when all we are doing is transferring money online? In Britain as much as 97% of the transactions are done online then why do we need banks? What if technological innovation allowed everyone to carry bank in their pockets to create a currency free from taxes and banking fees?

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, now what does a crypto currency means and why did it come into existence, was there really a need for such a currency.

In the ancient civilizations currency existed in the form of a commodity money (Barter system), however soon people realized the need of currency 

There are 5 important characteristics for a currency to be accepted universally

1.It should be relatively scarce
2.Easily recognizable
3.It can be cut into smaller pieces
4.One can substitute one piece with other piece of equal value
5.One can carry it around without too much trouble.

Commodity money are subject to their availability thus decreasing their durability.

Enter physical currency in the form of coins, however coins were subjected to debasement by the central authority that issued them.

Debasement is the practice of lowering the value of currency. It is particularly used in connection with commodity money such as gold or silver coins. A coin is said to be debased if the quantity of gold, silver, copper or nickel is reduced.

Enter currency notes., Currency notes were printed on the promise of an individual to pay a certain amount of gold or silver coins. Over generations the concept of paper money revolutionized and became popular in the present day countries .

In the present day countries currency notes are printed only on the order of the central bank such the Federal reserve in USA or Reserve Bank in India. The central banks are supposed to print money proportionate to the amount of gold in the bank’s reserve however this does not happen anymore. Banks print money way more than the gold reserve on the basis of concept of debt. Suppose you deposited Rs 10 lakh in your bank account. Banks are custodians of your money right? Wrong, this money deposited is now bank’s property on their balance sheets and it can do virtually anything with this money including printing new money. Lets understand this:

You hold 10 lakh ruppes but bank keeps only 1 lakh rupees while lending the other 9 lakh to say Shyam for starting a business on his promise of paying back in a certain time interval. In the bank’s computer you still have 10 lakh rupees but shyam now has 9 lakh worth of virtual money created by the bank. This is called debt.

This process of loaning put money more than the reserve is called fractional reserve banking.Thus entire system is based on trust and debtor’s promise to payback. If only 3% of people demand their money at the same time this run on the banks would reveal the truth however this happens rarely. Thus came the need of cryptocurrency -Bitcoin is the first recognizable promisable cryptocurrency.

A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. A cryptocurrency is difficult to counterfeit because of this security feature.

Bitcoin is a a decentralised peer to peer payment network. Since it is decentralized it cannot be controlled by any government. Bitcoin is a shared code that creates a global payment network using internet. Bitcoins are virtual currency, digital money created stored exchanged on network. But unlike virtual currency created by central banks this is created with math. Bitcoin is an open source software protocol thus anyone can use it and no one can control it and every change is transparent. Any shared info can be flawed and corrupted then how do we know that bitcoin is safe.

In finance we rely on third party like banks and other financial institutions. We trust that their digital ledger balance a financial system that cuts out these middlemen could be faster cheaper and most secure. A bitcoin is not a file on a computer, it is an entry in the publicly distributed database called the block chain. Just like a ledger, bitcoin’s ledger is a block chain which keeps track of all the transactions ever performed since its inception.When bitcoin is sent from one digital wallet to other what they are really sending is control over that part of the database code that is unique for the new owner. Every transaction performed is simultaneously updated across all the peers or the bitcoin miners in the block chain.

Each bitcoin miner has a complete and ana identical copy of the ledger and since the block chain is public it cannot be controlled by any single miner in the network. Bitcoins are created by bitcoin miners using special softwares to solve math problem and a re issued a certain number of bitcoins in exchange.This provides a smart way to issue the currency.

Incase of bitcoin math problems act as the gold reserves, the more the number of solved problems the more is the number of bitcoin generated. Bitcoins are created at a decreasing and predictable rate. The number of new bitcoins created each year is automatically halved over time until bitcoin issuance halts completely with a total of 21 million bitcoins in existence thus eliminating the question of not being scarce.

Advantages of bitcoin

Payment freedom
Choose your own fees
Fewer risk for merchants
Security and control
Transparent and neutral

Disadvantages of bitcoin

Degree of acceptance is low as of now 
Ongoing development.

Why do people trust bitcoin?

Much of the trust in Bitcoin comes from the fact that it requires no trust at all.


Coming on to the legality,bitcoin has been reported to be used for illegal purposes like trading drugs like ecstacy and cocaine, however every major currency that we know of has been used by people for illegal purposes. Even credit card systems have been hacked in recent times however the benefits of bitcoin are far beyond its potential drawbacks.

Many companies like Microsoft, Reddit, Subway, Expedia have started accepting bitcoin. Bitcoin seems to be a promising substitute however all the questions need to answered before it gets accepted widely.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

State of Environment and the Emergence of Air Purifiers

Wondering what will happen when the already prevalent air pollution in the country is boosted by the smoke of crackers this Diwali? Though breathing fresh air on streets is one problem that's always debatable, this week on Dot Club we've got you a few indoor air purifiers to ensure you're breathing safely - at least inside the house. We would also discuss some of the current trends of the air purifier industry and if it is actually necessary for us to buy air purifiers?

Current Market Trend

The market is driven by the surging pollution levels, depleting air quality leading to increasing prevalence of the air borne diseases. Global Air Purifiers Market has been growing at a moderate rate over the last five years on account of upsurge in the carbon dioxide emissions leading to surging prevalence of deaths owing to air pollution. During 2016-21, Air Purifiers Market is anticipated to grow at an increased rate on the back of intensifying government regulations in various parts of the world. Moreover, increasing demand for various types of air purifiers such as vehicle mounted as well as portable air purifiers has been anticipated to propel thrust in the sales of air purifiers in the future.

According to Azoth Analytics research report, Global Air Purifier Market: Trends, Opportunities and Forecasts (2016-2021) – (By Value, By Filter Technology – HEPA, ION & Ozone, Activated Carbon; By Region; By Country – US, UK, Canada, China, India; Key Players; Recommendations), global Air Purifiers Market is projected to exhibit a CAGR of over 12% during 2015 - 2020. 

In 2015, HEPA air purifiers comprised of around 60.39% share of the overall market owing to is the imperative role being played by the HEPA in the abatement of ambient as well as household air pollution. Few of the leading companies operating in Global Air Purifiers Market are Coway, Camfil, IQ Air, Honeywell Inc., etc.

Brands in India

Eureka Forbes

Eureka Forbes – the brand behind Aquaguard – has a few air purifiers in its product portfolio. Prominent ones include the Aeroguard Breeze (priced at Rs 12,999), Aeroguard Mist (priced at Rs 17,999) and the Aeroguard Wave (priced at Rs 29,999).

All the three share an Activeshield technology to filter out dangerous respirable particles, and Active 10X Pre Filters, HEPA filters and carbon filters. The top-of-the-line Wave also features a compound filter and an active oxidation cell – which helps in generation of negative ions to remove air borne pollutants.

The brand also has some other nifty air purifiers – particularly the Aeroguard Fresh (priced at Rs 4,999) and Aeroguard Clean Air Glo (priced at Rs 1,390). 


Philips has a few air purifiers in its product lineup, which range in pricing from Rs 17,000 to Rs 50,000. All of them come with a Vitashield IPS technology with multi-level filtration. The multi levels include a pre-filter which removes the larger particles in the air, a main filter which removes pollen and other dust particles and a finer, third filter which removes harmful gases and odours.

Philips also has replacement filters and other spare parts officially available in the country. So if you’re looking for a more long term option, this should be a safe bet.


The brand’s most popular air purifier in India is the Honeywell Air Touch. Notable features include a HiSiv filter technology, visual indicator for air quality, touch panel based controls and a dedicated sleep mode.

The purification filters are multi-layered, and they can be replaced easily. The design is a zero-blind one, to optimise the air flow to reach all corners of the room. The CADR is 300 cubic metres per hour, and the area range is upto 270 square feet.

The Honewell Air Touch is priced at Rs 28,000, and if you’re looking for a sleek, minimal purifier which gets the job done, this should be it.

Factors to keep in mind while buying

Size Of The Room

Depending on the size of the room, air purifier sizes will differ greatly. Ideally, the air purifier must be placed 5 to 10 feet away from where the person usually sits. The outflow should be directed towards the direction of where the person sits. It’s all about getting the right balance in the airflow.

Presence Of Allergies

If somebody in the home has a risk of an allergy, or if there is a smoker within the home, then the HEPA filter must be accompanied with a carbon filter to clear out the microscopic pollutants.

Also, with this point comes the ease of cleaning or replacing the filters. Filters can be either washable or replaceable, and if spare parts for air purifiers are hard to come by, then the natural choice would be to settle for an air purifier with a washable filter – as is the case with some old vacuum cleaners.

Additional Features

Some air purifiers come with added functionalities such as the ability to reduce the presence of unpleasant odours in the air. While this might seem as a promising feature, it might just be a gimmicky feature which seldom works, and instead emits ozone into the air.

Besides this, some air purifiers come with remote controls for easy controlling. Needless to say, this is a handy addition.

The Benefits Of Buying An Air Purifier
  • Air purifiers improves the quality of air within homes and offices to maintain a pollution-free environment.
  • The walls we use to shelter and protect us from the elements also trap airborne chemicals, gases, odor and particles. The EPA has found that our dwellings may contain air that is 2 to 5 times, even 100 times more polluted than outdoor air.
  • Many researchers now believe that disease is an on-going process in the body that may take years to evolve from the earliest stage. Therefore a fetus or newborn exposed to a cancer-causing toxin early-on will have an increased chance of developing a disease later in life - simply because it will have more time to evolve.
  • Natural circadian rhythms and sleep cycles have shown to improve when the air quality is better. This trend actually goes with smart scales being able to measure the air quality.

Air purifiers will get smarter. The best example in this regard is the Mi Air Purifier by Xiaomi, which purifies the air and integrates with a smartphone app to notify the user about the status of the contaminants at home.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Augmented Reality - The Next Big Thing?

Reality is what we see & believe with our senses but the technology has categorised it further i.e virtual & augmented reality. Both of them are like cousins who are similar but they need to differentiated for better understanding of the latter one. Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is made using software and immerses the user’s senses (sight and sound) completely in a digital world while augmented reality makes use of digital image and sound and superimposes it into the real world. (To make it clear, virtual reality is when you put your phone in google cardboard or various VR equipment available today and immerse yourself to in an artificial world. Augmented reality on other hand is like Robert Downey Jr. in Iron man making projections on whichever surface he wants in a real world. Microsoft's holo lens and Google glass are such examples.)

After making this necessary distinction now let’s discuss how AR (augmented reality) works. Under augmented reality various sensors (including a camera), computer components and a display device are used to create the illusion of virtual objects in the real world. Smartphones at present is the best platform for most commercial augmented reality applications. Perhaps the best example being Google Glass.

The main function of the Google glass is based on the mini projector, which projects image on a prism which further projects over the real view of the user and finally focuses the image on the retina. In general, sense the AG device works by looking for a particular target which may be anything for example a movie poster on wall. As AR app recognizes the target using camera, it processes the image and augments it with respective pictures and sound. In AG devices algorithms and sensors like accelerometers (instrument used to measure the acceleration of a moving body) and gyroscopes (instrument used to maintain a reference direction in navigation systems) are used to keep the augmented elements aligned with real world images.
For example, you may see the movie poster spring to life and play a trailer for the film.


AR’s potential to impact our lives is immense as it has a wide range of applications due to rise in consumer smart devices. According to Brian Selzer from Ogmento (AR video game maker), AR will not only change the way we live, but will actively shape how our lives progress: “There is no question that AR is going to have a profound impact over the next decade.”

The main commercial development in augmented reality are namely education and gaming. Mainstream gaming consoles, Playstation & Xbox have included augmented reality capabilities for the last two console generations. They have incorporated AG in the form of the Kinect (for the Xbox) and Playstation Eye (Playstation 4 & 3). It is being also used in fields such as medicine where students can get benefit of live 3D models. In medical practice AR is also been used for example,  Veinviewer system shows a real-time image of infrared vein scans directly onto the patient’s skin. Thus, creating the impression that patients the skin is transparent which allows the doctor to “see” the veins directly.

Future AR applications :
Tourism – Geolocative media includes navigational and historically-relevant data.

Publishing – enhancing print media through targeted AR (For Eg: IKEAS’s catalogue), study materials, manuals, etc.

The Military – Unmanned drones with complex HUD systems, and army training.

Manufacturing – AR manuals that will facilitate technicians to work with reduced scope of error, which may further reduce production costs

Retail – AR shopping will result in sophisticated immersive experiences


In spite of all good future applications AR has some limitation as well like the GPS used has accuracy within the range of 30 ft. and does not work indoor, least network requirement is 3G and camera quality also affects the technology quality. A major disadvantage is that the present mobile devices are still not powerful enough to process the required amount of data in real‐time i.e. to run at interactive frame rate (15‐30 frames per second).

To conclude, augmented reality will have good future prospects despite some limitations. It, being an evolving technology is facing technical, social and financial problems. As time passes and this technology matures all these issues will be rectified. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Quantum Computing - The Next Leap Towards Our Future!

Quantum computers, which function according to the laws of quantum physics, have the potential to dwarf the processing power of even today's computers! Able to process huge amounts of information "all at once". Researchers at the University of Oxford have achieved a quantum logic gate with record-breaking 99.9% precision, reaching the benchmark required theoretically to build a quantum computer. 

A logic gate is a physical device implementing a logical operation on one or more logical inputs, and produces a single logical output. It is at the core of designing a computer and it helps us in producing an output from a given input. However, the logic gates used in modern computers are designed electronically and are slower since they work on the principles of electricity as compared to quantum logic gates. Quantum logic gates would be much faster because they would work on the principle of quantum physics which is based on a phenomenon called "quantum entanglement". 

The team at Oxford achieved this logic gate, which places two atoms in a state of quantum entanglement and is the fundamental building block of quantum computing, with a precision (or fidelity) substantially greater than the previous world record. The term "fidelity" used here means the degree to which the atoms are connected to each other through the process of quantum entanglement. Quantum entanglement -- a phenomenon described by Einstein as 'spooky' but which is at the heart of quantum technologies -- occurs when two particles stay connected, such that an action on one affects the other, even when they are "separated by great distances". This connection is possible due to the correlation in their behavior with respect to each other which means that change in one atom results in change in behavior of the other atom !! This phenomenon can happen even over large distances and thus the effect travels much faster as compared to electricity.

Quantum technology is a complex area, but one analogy that has been used to explain the concept of quantum computing is that it is like "being able to read all of the books in a library at the same time", whereas conventional computing is like having to read them one after another. This may be over-simplistic, but it is useful in conveying the way in which quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize the field.
But what does this actually imply? The fact that it is not merely a different technology for computing in the same way our everyday computers work; it is at a very fundamental level a different way of processing information. It turns out that this quantum-mechanical way of manipulating information gives quantum computers the ability to solve certain problems far more efficiently than any conceivable conventional computer.

The applications for Quantum computing are thus enormous !! Here is a peak into the applications of Quantum computing :

1. Safer airplanes—Lockheed Martin plans to use quantum computers to test jet software that is currently too complex for classical computers.

2. Discover distant planets—Quantum computers will be able to analyze the vast amount of data collected by telescopes and seek out Earth-like planets.

3. Win elections—Campaigners will comb through reams of marketing information to best exploit individual voter preferences.

4. Boost GDP—Hyper-personalized advertising, based on quantum computation,we will be able to stimulate consumer spending.

5. Detect cancer earlier—Computational models will help determine how diseases develop.

6. Help automobiles drive themselves—Google is using a quantum computer to design software that can distinguish cars from landmarks.

7. Reduce weather-related deaths—Precision forecasting will give people more time to take cover.

8. Cut back on travel time—Sophisticated analysis of traffic patterns in the air and on the ground will forestall bottlenecks and snarls.

9. Develop more effective drugs—By mapping amino acids,for example, or analyzing DNA-sequencing data, doctors will discover and design superior drug-based treatments.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Modular Smartphones – The End As We Know It?

A modular smartphone is a cell phone that can be upgraded or customized through the attachment or replacement of discrete components called modules. This aims to reduce electronic waste, lower repair costs and increase user affordability and flexibility. These are packaged in easy-to-remove modules which can be replaced as needed without having to rework the soldering. Components could be obtained from the open-source hardware stores.

Ideas behind Modular Smartphones

The earlier desktops used the tower cases where one can easily swap or upgrade components like Graphics cards, Hard-disks, Processors etc. to further customise the systems to enhance the computing and the processing speeds. Among the earlier mobile devices, the Handspring VisorPDA had a Springboard Expansion Slot which could give it the capabilities such as a phone, GPS, a modem, or a camera - but only one at a time.

The first of its kind to seek the limelight was Phonebloks – the first commercially released modular handheld device. Then many of the computing giants has been working on the Modular smartphones concept including LG, Motorola and Google.

Developments in the category

Last year LG dropped the jaws of all the tech-savvies when they announced the concept of LG G5 – the first modular smartphone of its range. The Modules available ranged from LG 360 VR- a VR goggle, LG 360 CAM, LG Rolling Bot-a companion device that rolls like a ball while capturing images and videos with its embedded 8MP camera, H3 by B&O PLAY- a set of high-end earphones, LG Smart Controller- device that allows users to easily control certain drones. There are many such modules which can be used to extend the functionality of the device with additional customization.

Motorola has also been working on a similar project Moto Z and is expected to be released this year. But perhaps the most discussed among all the developments going across the globe in this category is that of Project Ara- The project under development by Google. The project was originally headed by the Advanced Technology and Projects team within Motorola Mobility while it was a Google subsidiary. Google retained the ATAP group when selling Motorola to Lenovo, and it was placed under the stewardship of the Android; Ara was later split off as an independent operation.

Project Ara was intended to consist of hardware modules providing common smartphone components, such as processors, displays, batteries, and cameras, as well as modules providing more specialized components, and "frames" that these modules were to be attached to. This design would allow a device to be upgraded over time with new capabilities and upgraded specifications without requiring the purchase of an entire new device, providing a longer lifecycle for the device and potentially reducing electronic waste.

But to everyone’s surprise, Google pulled the plug on Project Ara funding. On September 2, 2016, Google announced that Project Ara had been officially cancelled in an effort to "streamline the company's hardware efforts.” The Project had already been delayed in the past in its 2005 commercialization deadline. Earlier this year, the project was again delayed to 2017. Additionally, the Ara team had announced that Ara would pivot from fully modular to having a fixed CPU, GPU, antennas, sensors, battery, and display. After that announcement, Ara was watered down so much it barely had a reason to exist. Finally on September 2, Google decided to Kill Project Ara.

The quote about "streamlining the company's hardware efforts" points to Google's new hardware division as being behind the change in strategy. The division, with former Motorola President Rick Osterloh at the helm, has been tasked with combining Google's hardware efforts into a single portfolio.

LG has also similar future plans for G5 as G5 failed to impress its customers. Experts suspect that these instances may discourage the other developers from further working on it. The modular smartphone concept seems to be fading slowly, with the Lenovo owned Motorola being the only one still in the market. A new module for Motorola’s Moto Z smartphone was announced last week, by Hasselblad, but that also seems quite expensive.


The development of Modular smartphones is challenge in itself. Developing such devices is particularly challenging, because of issues with size, performance and price.
Here are the top seven reasons why it's so difficult to develop smartphones that let users swap out the processor, camera and storage options:

The biggest technical challenge to building a modular smartphone is the underlying architecture, the structural frame and data backbone of the device, which makes it possible for all the modules to communicate with each other. It has to be so efficient that the overall performance doesn't take a hit and still be cheap and frugal with power consumption.  

Last year, the Project Ara team posted and then retracted a Twitter message that a prototype had failed a drop test. But it's clear that keeping the modules in place is a challenge. In the message that wasn't retracted, Project Ara said it's developing a new and better solution. It also remains to be seen how the modules and connectors will be able to handle the wear-and-tear of long-term daily use.
Form factor

While modular design gives users more flexibility it also comes with several drawbacks. Smartphones have become more svelte thanks to tighter integration between components, so the addition of chassis that needs to be quite sturdy adds to the overall size and weight. Vendors have to find the best possible balance between durability and size, which won't be easy.
However, the size likely won't be a deal breaker. Recent flagship smartphones from the likes of LG Electronics, Motorola Mobility and HTC aren't very light or small for their respective screen sizes and they still leave little to be desired.
Battery life

The communication between the modules uses more power than in a traditional smartphone. What the eventual power tax will be remains to be seen. It was one of the main challenge of Ara team.

The testing part of the development process is more complicated and time-consuming for modular phones. Instead of having to ensure that one hardware configuration works, vendors have to make sure that all permutations work equally well. 

A more complicated development process and less product integration will have an effect on pricing, as well. The Project Ara FAQ states that it’s much too early to tell what phones will cost, but the bill-of-materials cost of a basic, entry-level Ara device is in the $50 to $100 range. The smartphone market has become very price competitive, so if modular smartphones are to succeed, the extra cost for manufacturing them has to be as small as possible.
Do consumers want one?

Spending money on developing modular smartphones is at the end of the day very brave since there are no guarantees they will succeed technically or commercially. There will always be tech enthusiasts who will buy them. But those customers aren't enough to make them financially viable in the long term, and convincing the large group of consumers who simply want a smartphone that just works will be very challenging.

Future of Modulations – Revolution or Doomed?

After the death of Project Ara, the future of the Modular phone category hangs on the line.

Reuters says that while "Google will not be releasing the phone itself," licensing the technology to third parties is still an option. Will anyone dare to pick up the modular smartphone torch when even Google has failed?

But the market is promising. A fair vision and estimate tells us that in 2017 the number of Android users who will opt for a modular smartphone will be 10% and around 30% in 2018, which is roughly equals to 140 million and 450 million respectively. After 2018 the new market factors are expected to sprout. This will further drive the demand for various categories of modules. The forecast is getting more complex, still it remains intriguing.

Recently, a research on the smartphone market was conducted by a respected research and analysis company IDC.  According to IDC, due to high speculations and buzz on the web, it is likely that many Indians will think of grabbing one for themselves. But, the chances of it creating heat waves isn’t likely because the concept of the modulation and customization is entirely new and people treat new concepts with caution. They would probably expect their highly tech savvy friends to get one, and later buy one for themselves depending on their experience. Going down on these, we concluded that only around 2% of the Android users in India would lay their hands on the modular phone in the first year. 
It will be interesting to see how the modular phones will fair in the current market. 

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DoT as a whole.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Jio - The Business Model!

Reliance Jio been making a buzz for a while and finally it is making a disruptive entry in the telecom industry by making Relinace Jio 4G services available from 5th September. Reliance Jio will surely revolutionize the Indian internet market reasons being – it has the largest optic fibre optic network in india (250,000+ KMs of high quality fiber optic cable and have installed over 90,000 eco-friendly 4G towers (camouflaged signal towers), 4G spectrum in all 22 zones of India, capital investment over Rs 150,000 crores which will further boost Indian economy and generate employment opportunities for millions,and as stated by Mr. Mukesh Ambani presently India is ranked 150th in mobile Internet rankings out of 230 countries. He believes that India's ranking will go up and it will be ranked among top 10 of mobile Internet rankings in the world. But it raises a concern that will Reliance Jio will live up to its promises and a cloud of confusion emerges in the market as well in the consumer’s mind that Relinace Jio will they be able to provide such cheap services in the telecom industry. The answer of this question lies in Jio's business model. 

Under the business model it mainly focuses on giving unbelievable tariff plans, free voice calling and cheap data plans but if things are analysed further, different story emerges.

Firstly, unbelievable tariff plans: Let us look at existing telecom service providers before coming to Jio's tariffs. It is an Industrywide practice to judge a mobile network operator's performance through a metric called ARPU (Average Revenue Per User.) In India ARPU (monthly) for almost all the telecom operators is around Rs.150. Now let us have a look at Jio’s tariff plans:

As you can see the lowest tariff plan is Rs.150 which means that Jio will be earning monthy revenue equal to average revenue per user i.e Rs.150 and this means that it is smart pricing not cheap service. So by default, Reliance is going to earn Rs 150 and not less than that. If we look closely, they are going to earn more than that. 28 days which generally is perceived as a month is not a month. There can actually be 13 (365/28) 28 days months. That means, ARPU per month is going to go upto Rs 162 (Rs 12 more than the existing operators.) Smart indeed!

Secondly, free voice calling: Reliance unlike many other mobile networks was built on a strong Data foundation. So even voice calls you do is treated as data in Jio's network. This technology is called (VoLTE - Voice over LTE). This allows company to provide superior quality calling service at cost effective price. In 2010, Mukesh Amabani, Founder of Reliance Jio acquired Infotel Broadband which had won 4G spectrum in India and renamed the company as Jio. After doing so company started building a fibre optic network which could handle 5G & 6G. (Generally the infrastructure of other operators have a 12/24 fibre lines but Jio has 64/96 fibre lines which could handle 5G or 6G in the future) Thus the way in which WhatsApp calls are free as internet is used for calling in the same way Jio will provide free voice calling using its fibre optic network laid before. Now considering Jio’s data plans if wifi hotspots and unlimited night data are rubbed out of the picture then per GB price of the plans are as follows:

0.3GB for Rs149 = ~Rs 497/GB
4GB for Rs 499 = ~Rs 125/GB
10GB for Rs 999= ~Rs 100/GB
20GB for Rs 1499= ~Rs75/GB
35GB for Rs 2499= ~Rs71/GB
60GB for Rs3999= ~Rs66/GB
75GB for Rs 4999= ~Rs66/GB

As stated by the company that it will lowest per GB data i.e Rs.50/GB. But the additional benefits (wifi hotspots and unlimited night data) are excluded even highest plan does not fulfil the promise.

Now question arises that is it really worth it? Answer is a resounding yes as it will be economical for users for who have high 3G/4G consumption it will reduce the bills by 50% (Provided data consumption remains same) and they are proving LYF branded handsets that are one of the cheapest 4G phones in the world. Despite low specs, it would connect homes of many people with 4g. It also provides bundle of benefits like 3 hours night unlimited, Wifi hotspot access, free voice-calls, free sms, no-roaming charges, free access to live-tv and other apps, etc which prove to be a great deal. I believe launch of Reliance Jio will change the face of the Indian telcom industry (which it has done even before its launch as its competitors have started making tariff changes). 

To conclude I think it will provide 2 to 3 times value for money to consumers through smart pricing,it is securing its future as consumers will instantly port to Jio and it will be able to capture a large maket share in near future. 

PS: To answer a few who ask: "What does it cost a company to provide an MB of data," the answer is Zero because once the infrastructure is laid, barring the cost of electricity, the cost of producing data is zero. The cost would instead be the cost of capital that allowed them to lay the fibre optic lines.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DoT as a whole.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Whatsapp's New Privacy Policy - Things You Need to Know!

Whatsapp started to display a change in its privacy statements a week back and is prompting users to decide for themselves whether they want to share their phone numbers with Facebook or not. Whatsapp after 4 long years for the first time changed its privacy statement. While the previous privacy statement was 2000 words long, the new one is about 7000 words long which in itself states that a lot has changed.

First let us understand what Whatsapp has access to and what it does not. Due to the roll out of new end-to-end encryption in April this year, Whatsapp no longer has access to our images and personal texts but what it has access to is the information about our phone numbers and details of our operating systems. 

Now what is this new privacy policy? According to the new privacy policy Whatsapp can share your profile information with Facebook. Facebook then tries to link your Whatsapp's profile  information with your Facebook account. Facebook says that it is not trying to display your phone number under your profile but they just want to use profile information to show better friend suggestions and help them fight spam accounts. They are also stating that this helps them display relevant ads to users. These are obviously loaded PR words!

Now if you give access to your profile infomation to Facebook, Facebook tries to show you as a friend suggestion to people who have you as a contact in their mobiles. They can also start to display more relevant ads to you. These use cases are okay but what if Facebook decides to do more in the future? Whatsapp says that it is selling your profile information only to Facebook and not to anyone else. That’s fine but what if Facebook wants to leverage that data in the future and sell that to somebody else? The analogy that I can think of is like Whatsapp saying “Hey we are selling guns to a trusted organisation. Its fine!” Now what if that trusted (really?) organisation decides to sell that guns to robbers and psychos? 

Its only logical to think that Facebook should get something from Whatsapp for that they have spent $22 Billion (yes by the time the deal was closed it jumped $3 Billion in value) to acquire it. Now that Facebook had decided to drop subscription model for Whatsapp which used to be a $1 per year this January, the only way Facebook can monetise this platform is to collect some data out of it. 

The voice of this article is a little harsh on Facebook and may look like a rant. But the reason is that, it would have been great for Facebook to take a high moral ground and say users can opt out of sharing their data whenever they want. The caveat here is that you can’t opt out of sharing your data after 30 days of accepting this proposal. 

So before Facebook gives more clarity on the limitations with which they use our data, We suggest you all to uncheck the option of sharing data with Facebook and then accept the new privacy policy. If you have already accepted, you can go to settings and opt out of it within 30 days. To opt out, head to settings -> Account -> Uncheck Share my account info. Breathe! 

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DoT as a whole.