>Apple vs Amazon — Let the Games Begin

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Around the turn of this century (21st that is), Apple was getting itself ready to go beyond the highly competitive (and low margin) PC business and into the feverishly controlled and secretive music industry by introducing a tiny cigarette pack size device called an iPod. Driven by 5GB micro hard disk which promised to hold thousands of our favorite songs and could run them for many hours at a stretch was something that we did not even know we wanted. And the industry giants like Sony thought it made no sense and just outright went on an anti-mp3 crusade.

For Apple, it was truly a radical departure from its core business of making computer hardware and software. But with Steve Jobs cunning insight, and ability to see what we want before we know we want it, has turned the company into a media giant. What happened since that day is nothing short of a revolution for the electronic industry. Today, iPods are no longer just music players, they are essential accessories in our lives. It is hard to not run into someone who is not listening to a Podcast, a song, or watching a video, playing a game or gesturizing something on their iPods/iPhones.

What Apple got right and what Microsoft, Google and Nokia don’t get is that Apple is not trying to get into the music or phone business. No, it’s not into a PDA or gaming market either. It is essentially about being a leader in the distribution, use and viewing of digital media using an electronic device preferably a hand-held like an iPhone. Something that Amazon has been aspiring to do with its Kindle devices for the past many years.

Apple with its well and tightly integrated iTunes desktop, store and hand held devices (iPods and iPhones) has created a unique eco-system that is hard to rival or match. Kindle, from Amazon, comes in close with its ability to let users download what they want to read at a touch of a button. However, it still lacks as a complete device in many ways including not letting them run interactive media (like games, videos or even music). It does not support Wifi and still runs on some proprietary mobile data network (making it hard to use outside the USA). And worst of all the display is still black and white. Which is great for reading books but makes a boring display for doing everything else. And oh, it is heavily dependent on tons of buttons as the screen is not yet touch sensitive.

It is touted that within a few months Apple will announce an iMac Touch/iPad, a tablet PC with no keyboard or mouse, but just a huge touch screen. In short, a glorified version of iPod Touch that will probably have built in access to a 3G network (along with Wifi) allowing users to do anything and everything digitally. A device that will take on Amazon at a game that it thought it had created and had a complete monopoly over. Users who are already more comfortable dishing out money at iTunes Store will probably use it to buy/read books, watch movies, share photos and do whatever their heart desires online.

Apple’s strategy of going after the digital content and dominating that space has truly secured their place for the next decade. They are likely to dominate this market place for many years to come while traditional rivals like Microsoft and Google (with Android) will be left behind wondering what hit them. And for Amazon, it finally has a competitor that has its game plan all worked out against them.

The next decade is all about digital content. It will be all online and will be fueled by handheld devices. Apple has already geared itself to that challenge and will likely dominate this segment while its rivals will be once again left wondering what did they do wrong.

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>Inside the Google machine

>Here is a video I found online at the TED talks. It was shot 5 years ago this Februrary during the annual TED Conference in California. Here Sergey Brin and Larry Page talk about cool new products and services that are being rolled out by the Google Machine.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/sergey_brin_and_larry_page_on_google.html

Services like Adsense and Orkut among others. At the time of the the video being shot, Orkut had only 100,000 users and almost 60% from USA. It also talks about their concept of letting their employees spend 20% of the time building cool new apps including the just released Google News among others.

The video is just five years old, yet it seems like a life time ago. In these preceding years, Google and its products have changed the way we use internet, transact and communicate with each other. It is amazing how the internet world has grown and changed around us these years and how technology is becoming more intertwined in our lives.

>Islamabad Bloggers Meetup

>Now here is another refreshing meetup I attended in Islamabad. It was even more amazing that over 100 people came together at Bahria campus on December 29th who had received invitations either via email or through Facebook just a few days earlier.

It was an encouraging sign to see so many Pakistanis in Islamabad either reading or blogging on a regular basis. There were people who blogged about popular topics like technology, about their personal life, politics, their country to such obscure topics like Mayan Calendar predicting end of the world in 2012. There were freshmen students, political activists, techno-geeks, and young entrepreneurs sharing their successes with the audience. And not just in English but also in Urdu language as well.

And yes, the event was being live blogged and twittered on the internet. It was also broadcast live for a small but dedicated audience of viewers online.

It was a great opportunity to finally meet face to face with many bloggers whom I have been following for the past many years. Bytesforall, PakSpectator, Metblogs, Sizlopedia.com are just some of the early success stories of bloggers from Islamabad.

The event also featured some stunning success on the internet in Pakistan including BrightSpyre, Pakistan’s premier job hunt website that I co-founded in 2001. Naqsha.net, Pakistan’s first application providing street maps and GPS navigation among others.

It is amazing that this medium is able to attract such a huge following in Pakistan. The traditional media as is the case worldwide still not being able to grasp the power of blogging and citizen journalism to the level that is required. This void is now being filled by twenty something youth who are now building Pakistan’s next generation of citizen journalists and reporters.

Badar Khushnood
from Google in collaboration with IEEE Bahria University Chapter organized this meetup. I do hope such events take place more regularly in Islamabad as it will only inspire more youth to use this medium to their benefit. The organizers did a good job of keeping the event running on a schedule and a agreed upon format thus making it more productive and interesting for the audience.

What happens when Google goes bust!

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With the US economy tanking and its ill effects being felt right across the globe, many silicon valley startups and stars of today may not see the light at the end of the gloomy dark tunnel. And one of the biggest shining stars coming out of the rubble of the bubble bust has been Google. What if it tanked? Already its stock options crashed over 60% in recent days, what if it cannot see through the tough times ahead. Techcrunch, the foremost authority on the technology based enterprises, is predicting the death of web 2.0 and the related startups.
Today, we rely upon Google for almost about everything. Google Search, Youtube, Picasa Blogger, and Gmail are some common ones, but corporate world is increasingly switching to Google Apps which provides us with in integrated space for email, docs, collaborative calendar, company specific chat, collaborative wiki and even web hosting (for static sites). Ah heck, how would we feel without Google Analytics, or Adsense?

Now consider this, what if Google goes out of business and closes its doors during the current downturn. What happens to many blogs hosted on blogger (including this one) or the photos that we upload and share using picasaweb or our gmail that we use to store and send thousands of messages since whenever. What happens to search and other cool things that we take for granted from Google?

Well, maybe I am exaggerating a little by foretelling their downfall, even though Microsoft has been predicting and planning it for years. Having said that, still many startups would be shaken up by the current bust in the US economy and Wall Street excesses. No matter how great the idea, or how successful the company, many are likely to breath their last in the coming months. And hence the need for the alarm. We need to be careful of where we store our critical and personal data and use those snazzy online services. Many Software As a Service (SaaS) companies may not survive nor would web 2.0 social networking portals.

So how would we feel when the likes of Google, Facebook, Flickr, or Youtube disappear from the horizon?