Rapid product development at Google

Google Gets Ready To Rumble With Microsoft – N.Y. Time, Steve Lohr and Miguel Helft.

Google maintains that pace courtesy of the cloud. With a vast majority of its products Web-based, it doesn’t wait to ship discs or load programs onto personal computers. Inside the company, late stages of product development are sometimes punctuated by 24-to-48-hour marathon programming sessions known as “hack-a-thons.” The company sometimes invites outside engineers to these sessions to encourage independent software developers to use Google technologies as platforms for their own products.

New features and improvements are made and tested on Google’s computers and constantly sprinkled into the services users tap into online. In the last two months alone, eight new features or improvements have been added to Google’s e-mail system, Gmail, including a tweak to improve the processing speed and code to simplify the handling of e-mail on mobile phones. A similar number of enhancements have been made in the last two months to Google’s online spreadsheet, word processing and presentation software.

Early this month, Google released new cellphone software, with the code-name Grand Prix. A project that took just six weeks to complete, Grand Prix allows for fast and easy access to Google services like search, Gmail and calendars through a stripped-down mobile phone browser. (For now, it is tailored for iPhone browsers, but the plan is to make it work on other mobile browsers as well.) Continue reading Rapid product development at Google

Fring de! India

VOIP for mobile happens to be one of my top predictions for fastest growing markets in India. Fring is the application making it happen. It is already the most frequently used application on my Nokia E61i. I use Fring for Skype International calls, chat on GTalk, MSN and other networks. The only drawback is that it seems to suck out your mobile battery faster than you can imagine. I end up having to restrict its use to only when I am traveling.

The people behind Fring seem to acknowledge the huge interest and potential and have dedicated a blog to India. The blog is a great addition to help their customers, announce features and new phones compatible with Fring.

Now if only AirTel, Vodafone and the other big Mobile boys wake up and learn to walk their customers through enabling wireless data on their handsets.

Another product riding the mobile wave in India is Mowser who claim to receive more than twice as many mobile requests from India alone. Rajan attributes that interest primarily to dial-up users from India who use Mowser and other content adaptation engines for mobiles to surf the web.

SysInclude == Remarkable

I’m trying to keep only the best Startups from India in focus here. In order to get listed, a product has to be Remarkable, early stage, in sync with our times, and address a significant need which many people have.

SysInclude is a social network dedicated to IT professionals in India (and elsewhere) who work with the top IT shops.

Why does the idea rock? In our turbulent and confusing times, when everyone is vying to be a Facebook, SysInclude is a refreshing idea. They are focused on identifying and solving the needs of a large (enough) niche. They have wisely selected an audience with growing requirements.

They have restricted their registration to folks with a working e-mail address from a recognized IT shop. All other registrations are blocked. Their aim is to keep their resources and targets focused on their target audience.

Monetization should not be very hard for SysInclude. IT professionals are obvious targets for advertisers who wants to reach out to a high-spend, technology-savvy class of youth making anything from Rs. 5 lakhs p.a to the insane. Advertisers and sponsors will definitely include companies that recruit for IT, Startups looking for talent and advertisers from the retail, travel, automobile and real estate sectors.

The devil is definitely in the details. The team at SysInclude is geared to execute the idea with passion and perfection. They will need to work hard and innovate features that stretch beyond the ordinary. I am yet to see how they intend to make the idea compelling enough to draw in the audience through word of mouth. One possibility is to focus on answering the many questions that IT pros have including housing, services, work conditions, local information and networking.

What can they do better? I’d suggest that they open up a little to include professionals who aspire to either work in IT and are currently placed abroad (and have been invited to join by a friend). I get a number of requests from returning Indians every year with questions about jobs and companies.

I have not been able to gain access to screenshots of features for Sukshma. You can get a peek at a few shots on WebYantra here.

My Nokia E61i

I have been eyeing a new phone to replace my existing Nokia 6230 for a while now. I finally caved in and bought a brand new Nokia E61i from the Nokia priority dealer in the Pune city area today.Nokia 6230

My last smart phone was a BlackBerry 7100. The phone was tuned for e-mail like other BlackBerry’s. However, the 7100 fit well in my jeans since RIM managed to squeeze in two alphabets for every key. Setting up GMail on the BlackBerry was a breeze and did not require additional tweaks. Using the proprietary BlackBerry network, my desktop Outlook contact book always stayed in sync with my BlackBerry. I could even charge my BlackBerry over USB – a feature that was extremely handy when I traveled overseas.

The BlackBerry 7100 (and later models) are killer e-mail devices because they do the following extremely well.

  • push e-mail
  • new e-mail notification
  • a huge local e-mail cache with search
  • a complete contact book to store names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses
  • keep your e-mail, desktop contact book and calendar in sync without cables
  • the ability to modify your “sent from”
  • auto configure access to GMail and other popular personal e-mail providers

However, without the BlackBerry network, it is next to impossible to provide the functionality listed above. Joining the BlackBerry network in India costs Rs. 2000 a month which is by no means priced for individuals. In comparison, AirTel GPRS costs Rs. 350 a month with no caps on how much data you can transfer. Additionally, we decided to avoid Microsoft Exchange and opt for Google apps for our office e-mail infrastructure. Until and unless you plan to be on the BlackBerry network, a BlackBerry might not be a good fit.

Nokia E61i

There are several phones that compete fairly in the general smart phone category. I had a serious look at Samsung i600 (~Rs. 18,500), Nokia E62 (~Rs. 12,500). The Nokia E61i was the final winner primarily because it is based on the very stable Symbian OS. Also, it is an improvement over the earlier (tried and tested) Nokia E61 and was launched in May 2007. In terms of features and connectivity options the E61i is comparable to other phones in the category.

Nokia E61i - package contents

The Nokia E61i costs a little north of Rs. 18,850 here in India. Additional charges including VAT apply. In my conversation with the dealer, he claimed that Nokia phones have only a 1% retail margin and therefore credit card charges would be over and above the price of the phone (an additional 2%). Unlike the US, additional discounts are not offered by carriers. You usually end up paying the full cost of the phone and having a zero commitment contract.

The phone comes in a box with a battery charger, a single battery, a memory card (microSD) of 256MB, a pop port headset and a CA-53 data cable. The Nokia CA-53 data cable happens to be the most popular data cable as far as duplication by after-market vendors. I have attached a screen shot of the cable to help identify the real thing. Fake Nokia CA-53 cables never work as intended.

I will be looking to get the best out of the phone in the coming weeks and promise to highlight some of the best applications available out there.

Related Links and Credits:

Nokia E61i is just about good for anything

Nokia CA 35

RIM is Research in Motion

This reporter thinks that the new BlackBerry 8800 from AirTel is somehow connected to Reliance?

New Delhi: There’s good news for the Reliance phone users.

Telecom operator Bharti Airtel on Wednesday launched a new model of RIM’s business phone Blackberry in the Indian market at a price of Rs 31,990.

Can’t blame him, RIM in India is also Reliance India Mobile.

Here is the full article – AirTel launches BlackBerry 8800 in India (CNN-IBN).

Humble Beginnings

This week has been an incredible roller coaster ride for me.

When you start out, everything looks tiny and detailed. It is almost as if your staring hard at one piece of a 1,000,000 piece jigsaw puzzle and your wondering “Wth am I building?“. Here are some pieces from other puzzles that went down into history.

Google hardware circa 1999.

The first Google production server.

Google’s corporate history (official).

When we make a sale without having to pitch – there is a sense of elation and relief. “He snapped it up without batting a eyelid!” I found myself thinking.

We are also trying hard to not miss the gorilla in the mist. We see strange behavior and feedback all the time and think to ourselves – “Why do they do that?“.

The number one advice I can give to a salesman on the ground is to simply “Have a conversation with your customer first“. This is what I have learned over the last week by watching other good ambassadors of our service. The conversation ensures that your customer will remember your product or service and look it up later. It does not ensure a sale.

Here is some advice on Sales that I can promise will help you chart your course.

The Art of Rainmaking – Guy Kawasaki.

Finally, you can only plan to cover about 99.99% of everything that can go wrong. We are still learning and occasionally find ourselves dousing a few fires.

Here is the story behind Riya’s launch – Munjal Shah.

GPRS and m-blogging in India

Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson are excited about the potential of m-blogging in the Metros according to this article in the Economic Times. The article is bullish about the future of m-blogging but does not really put across any hard facts.

Notice the fact that of the consumers who opt for a GPRS-enabled handheld, less than one in 4 opt for GPRS from their mobile provider. Only the carriers have themselves to blame for the current trend. I believe that poor support for GPRS services and awareness of applications for the service are to blame.

There are over 156 million mobile subscribers in India. According to industry estimates, around 10% of mobile subscribers in metros use GPRS facility and 2-3% in tier II and III cities have hooked on to GPRS facility, which allows fast internet access on mobiles. Approximately 40-45% phones sold in India are GPRS enabled. According to IDC, in India the sale of camera phones is registering around 25% quarter-on-quarter growth.

Globally there are 200 million bloggers. Industry estimates put 100,000 as the figure for India. (According to Blog Herald, there are 1.2 million bloggers in India). And the number is growing. “The number of m-bloggers is fast growing though the trend is just an year old,” says Nokia’s Mr Taneja. Nokia N series has m-blogging feature to capture the potential of this segment.

3G auction skewed in favor of CDMA

Two professors from MDI, Gurgaon assert that the rules behind the 3G auction do not foster fair competition between CDMA and GSM technologies. The last I heard, the 3G spectrum will be auctioned off some time at the end of 2007 or early 2008.

The ramifications for the end-consumer are deep. Due to the lack of competition, operators won’t be incentivized to market innovative pricing schemes in favor of growth over price-hoarding.

Economic Times – “TRAI must try again“.

What is 3G? (Wikipedia).

Google Reader for Mobile RSS for news, blogs and more

I switched to Google Reader recently from a desktop-based RSS client. Google Reader offers an advanced web-based RSS interface and a rich feature set. The key feature for switching to Google Reader was mobility and access from any terminal.

For those not familiar with RSS, it is the cheapest and quickest way to customize your own newspaper with the help of a client like Google Reader. RSS is also the most popular way to publish, distribute, collect, and filter information on the web. You can learn more about syndication on the Google Reader FAQ.

The easy way to get Google Reader for your mobile is to bookmark this link – http://www.google.com/reader/m with your mobile phone browser.

In order to enable Google Reader on your Google home page, add the Google Reader module to your home page by clicking on Add Stuff, search for the keyword Reader. The first result should be Google Reader (Labs) module. Click on Add it Now.

Now access your personalized Google home page from your mobile phone by bookmarking on this link – http://www.google.com/xhtml. Click on Personalized Home. You should be prompted to sign in immediately. Do so, and then bookmark your personalized home.

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