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Category: Random Thoughts

The truth about Google’s “open” Android ecosystem

Here’s the truth about Android’s so-called “open-ness”. If a phone manufacturer using Android wants to pre-install say, Google Play, as the app store (or any other Google app) on their devices, they have to:

  • pre-install all Google applications on each device.
  • agree to give prominent placement to all Google applications in the phone’s user interface.
  • set Google Search “as the default search provider for all Web search access points.”

These are all listed as explicit requirements in the Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) that manufacturers have to sign if they want access to even a single Google app for Android. For a full explanation of MADA’s requirements and how it hurts consumers, read this brilliant piece by Benjamin Edelman.
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Protecting Net Neutrality – should the internet be regulated like electricity?

In mid-January, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned two of the three provisions of the Open Internet Order passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December 2010. The two provisions that have been struck down were meant to promote net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data on the internet equally, and not treat data of any particular type or from any source differently from the rest (for details on the ruling, see this excellent article by The Economist).

This ruling paves the way for ISPs to charge differentially for services that they think are using a disproportionate amount of bandwidth on their networks, such as music and video streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix. So in theory, ISPs could tell customers that a basic broadband pack costs $25 per month, but if they want unlimited streaming from Netflix, they’ll have to pay $10 per month extra. For customers who don’t, ISPs could restrict access to such services, or, more likely, throttle the speeds customers get while accessing such services. Alternatively, ISPs can charge companies that use large amounts of bandwidth in order to provide unfettered access to their services to customers. There’s some evidence that a few such backroom deals are already in place – with this ruling we’ll start to see many more of them.
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Google’s acquisition of Nest – be afraid

Nilay Patel of The Verge asks an interesting question.

Co-founder Matt Rogers wrote that the company “takes privacy seriously,” and that its privacy policy limits the use of customer data to “providing and improving Nest’s products and services.” But those services could arguably be improved by integration with other Google products, and the implications are unclear — give Google the chance to acquire more data, and it usually will. Fadell wouldn’t rule out future changes yesterday. “At this point, there are no changes to our terms of service, and that’s it. That’s all I can say.”

We have a search and web services giant that gets almost all of its revenues from targeted advertising. It is arguably the world’s largest private collector of online user data, which it uses to successfully target that advertising. It is continually on the lookout for more avenues to collect such data, not just online but also in the physical world. It is also looking for ways to show you more ads, and coming up with new ways to charge for those ads. It has shown repeatedly that it is not above shoving its products down users’ throats, whether they want to use them or not. And it has now acquired a company that makes devices that help you control the environment in your home.

Hmm. I wonder what all the fuss is about.

Of course, you can’t fault Google for ruthlessly implementing a sound business strategy. Google makes money when you’re connected to the internet – so it wants to be everywhere you are on the internet. It started with search, and moved to e-mail, maps, online storage, photos, social networking. When the internet came to mobile devices, Google came there with Android and the Open Handset Alliance (how open it is now is, of course, a different matter). Now with the coming internet of things, it knows it needs to be there too. Hence the move to cars with the recently launched Open Automotive Alliance. And now, the final frontier–your home.

As a consumer, though, I’m worried.

Hardware commoditization at CES

Interesting post on hardware commoditization on the Digits to Dollars blog:

The hard reality of electronics today is that if you can make a device, it will get copied quickly.

At the same time:

Whatever you want to build, there is probably someone in Shenzhen who already has a circuit board laid out for you, who can help you design your shiny plastic cases and most likely help you get it shipped.

Like most technological progress, the advances in electronics manufacturing are a double edged sword. If you have an original idea for a device that you think can disrupt (or create) an industry, this is bad news. But if you lack original ideas, but want to make money selling devices nonetheless, it’s great news.

As an aside, it’s much harder to replicate software and an ecosystem than it is to copy hardware. The biggest successes of the dot-com era (think Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook) have based their success on building a software ecosystem or platform. This is what’s giving sleepless nights to companies like Samsung, Dell and Sony, whose success was built on their hardware prowess.

Of Whatsapp vs telecom operators

So Whatsapp was used for 54 billion messages by their users on December 31.

And while Whatsapp was doing this, Airtel was sending all their subscribers an SMS that read:

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Cost of English to the Indian Product Industry

The IT and IT Enabled Services boom in India over the past two decades was possible, in large part, because of the general proficiency of our engineers with the English language. In this time India’s IT exports grew from  $130 Mn in 1990 to $70 Bn in 2012, giving hope and opportunity to the educated middle classes and partly fuelling a dramatic turnaround in our country’s fortunes in that time period.

But English – that wonderful gift of our colonial masters – also has an interesting negative influence on the domestic IT product ecosystem. Humour me here for a bit. 

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