Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hollywood's gonna need us Indians

so it's time to enroll into an acting school, and then get an acting job!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Self-diagnosis, Dreams, Hydration - Not in any particular order

I've had recurring knee trouble for the last few years. The problem is exacerbated by excessive squash play, so I cut down on the number of days I played squash in a week. But more recently, my knees would be sore after every squash match, and I half contemplated getting an MRI to get my left knee checked out. A few days ago, I was stretching in the kitchenette at work the morning after an intense match - my knees were still sore - and a colleague happened to see me wince as I went through the stretches. She asked about the soreness, told me that she started out as a personal trainer, and then gave me a tip - hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

I've known for a long time that I don't drink enough water during my matches. Call it superstition, call it foolhardiness, but I feel if I drink water, my body will cool down and I will lose my edge. I didn't realize the edge came at the price of my joints; you see, hydrating sufficiently before, during, and after a match keeps your joints lubricated so that the constant motion doesn't cause too much friction. I was skeptical at first, but since her advice was so easy to follow, I decided to "water" up before and during all my matches this week.

The results - it's too early to say but the soreness has reduced substantially. I played for a little over an hour yesterday, during the course of which I consumed almost a litre of water. I had a couple glasses of warm water before the match, and a few after, and I didn't feel any of the aches I had grown accustomed to over the last two years. The hydration theory isn't a silver bullet; it's not going to protect me from my own stupidity. If I play longer than I should, I'll definitely be sore, but if I stay within limits, the prognosis is positive.

I've been having some weird dreams of late. Some of them centre around the hullabaloo that's going to be the November wedding, while others briefly touch upon my future. I woke up in the middle of the night earlier this week because I couldn't stop coughing. Now what would a normal person do? Get out of bed, walk over to the medicine cabinet, pop in the cough medicine, and go back to bed. Not me... All the episodes of House, M.D. that I've been watching have made me a faux diagnostician. My first thought was, is the cough due to environmental reasons, like for instance the pillow cover, the bed-sheet, the comforter I was wearing. During this process of diagnosis, I started coughing, and felt a tingling in my lungs - that's about when I passed out again; couldn't muster up the strength to look up what the tingling indicated. Yes I know, I'm nuts.

It's 9:20 on a Friday morning, and I want to be in at work before 10am. Have a great weekend...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I needed a weekend like this

If I was to recap the week that just whizzed past me, it'd have the following bullet points:

- Worked on Zune, on Facebook stuff
- Wore myself out in the gym more than ever before
- Hardly ate, hardly slept
- Finally slept, emptied my suitcases, and kicked back!

In the spirit of my new resolve to find a silver lining before calling it a night, I sit in bed and recount the events of the day gone by. If I draw a blank, I walk up to the mirror in my bathroom, sneak a glance at myself, and take solace in the mirror's reflection. I have evolved into a confident yet measured speaker with a distinctive style and presence. I didn't have to resort to too many looks in the mirror to keep my resolution this week; the P2P summit, my work for the 2.5 release, the progress with Rajit and Nishant, and the stimulating conversations with my close friends have given me more than enough to be optimistic about. Not every week is like this...

That part about evolving into a more dynamic person has its downside. When I was a bumbling teenager looking for my niche, for my edge, finding myself was my mission. My journey is chronicled in this blog, and at almost every turn, the company of boys and girls kept me going. In moments of solitude, I now reflect on the times gone by, wonder why I didn't tie up some loose ends, wonder how things would have been, could have been had I turned left instead of right at a fork. Looking back in time, in a nutshell, is my new problem, and it muddies my appreciation for today and the future. The wise ones say that we all carry baggage, mostly emotional, and as I write this I wonder, is there a tipping point in our lives after which the baggage starts to get lighter? What if I chose to always look ahead - would that help me jettison some of the load? I wish the questions would stop popping into my head!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Secrets and Lies

As I am watching this episode of Smallville, it becomes clearer to me that this series is not about Superman as a child but about the problems we create for ourselves when we keep secrets and lie. The formula to happiness isn't as simple as that, but even if it's one piece of the puzzle, it's worth knowing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The iPhone SDK release - Part Deux

I was gone for two days at a P2P summit, so I haven't really been reading all the tech news out there. The articles I did read made no mention of 2 subtle platform plays that Apple has made with the release of the iPhone SDK.

1. The SDK and tools are Mac only
2. I don't want to repeat myself but the thoroughness and richness of the SDK, the professional grade tools, and the Exchange support are sure to buy Apple some brownie points in the Enterprise space. Apple to date has focussed mostly on the Consumer space, eschewing the Enterprise because of whatever reasons (Enterprise customers are boring, not at the cutting edge, etc, etc).

The Halo effect of these 2 moves has got to fuel sales of the Mac. Developers are an influential community, especially the amateur kind that want to tinker with the SDK, but their influence is on the fringes. The real tour de force when it comes to computer purchases is the Enterprise. It isn't hard to foresee the curiosity corporate customers will have for the Mac platform once they get a taste of the iPhone's exchange support. Curiosity, if I remember correctly, killed the cat - it sure as hell won't kill the PC, but it might make the PC's life a tad harder. If corporate orders start pouring in, economies of scale will apply to Apple's hardware too. Hardware costs will reduce with increased production volume, and Apple can embrace the strategy it used with the iPod - reduce its profit per unit sold, and bring to market more cost competitive Macs. The new Mac tagline could might as well read - Coming Soon to a Desk near you.

Or, I'm dropping acid!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Firefox 3.0 - Get it cause it's HOT

Download Link: Discover Firefox 3.0

For everyone that had something to complain about with Firefox 2.0, the newest release will make you cheer. Improved tabbed browsing, a new soothing (and aesthetic) theme, improved memory management, improved security controls, better javascript support, better web standards support - in short, a Better Browser. I've been a Firefox user since its heyday as Phoenix 0.1, but even I was floored with the attention to detail and usability that has gone into this latest release.

Firefox is now among the first few applications I install on a new computer, and honestly, I am surprised that the OEMs haven't gotten in on the act of pre-installing computers with Firefox. If they did, I don't know how many people would actually use IE...

Friday, March 07, 2008

Apple releases iPhone SDK

For all of you that watch announcements in the embedded space, today's announcement by Apple about the upcoming 2.0 iPhone software release had to get your attention. The tech news sites are abuzz with the news, with multiple blog sites providing the minutiae of the announcement. engadget's live coverage gave me all the details I needed, but doing a roundup of the sites covering the announcements make me wonder - are people missing out on a crucial detail? Let me recap the announcement for you...

"At an event at its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Apple unveiled iPhone features meant for businesses and released a set of instructions for developers to create iPhone software programs. The moves are seen helping the consumer electronics giant meet its goal of selling 10 million iPhones by 2009."

I remember the day Facebook wrote Myspace's obituary - it was the day Mark Zuckerberg announced the Facebook API. It was a call to all web users - anyone who had basic coding skills and an idea - to embrace Facebook as A vehicle to give their idea fruition and have their application be used by the entire Facebook community. It took me a while to embrace the concept of something I develop to be usable within a few weeks, but I am now sold on the idea. But there are some hurdles to deploying an iPhone app...

Web hosting is the first (and biggest) hurdle that a new app developer has to cross. Most hosting services charge between $10 and $50 a month for their services, but picking the right one is tricky. Then there is the question of installing a credit card payment gateway, processing payments, and the associated headaches. Then there is the question of monetizing your idea, and paying your developers (and testers if any).

Well, Apple's doing a little more than just releasing an SDK today. It's building a platform for developers to build, and sell their applications online.
"Apple also released a set of instructions to create iPhone software programs and introduced a way to sell the downloadable software through its iTunes online store, with Apple taking a cut of the profits.

Developers will receive 70% of the sale price, which they get to set. Apple will screen the programs for privacy and other objectionable concerns.

Apple sees software sales as "making the iPhone more valuable so people will buy more of them." Mr. Jobs said he doesn't expect to make "much money" from the software sales; rather, he hopes iPhone software sales will support operation of the iPhone developer program.

Analysts estimate that an iPhone software market offering add-ons like games or calendars could become a $1 billion a year business, adding a penny a share of potential profit to Apple."
So Apple helps you overcome the biggest hurdles in your path - it does the application hosting, adds your application to its global application directory, pays you 70% of the software sales, shields you from dealing with credit card transactions, and if you've got a great idea, hooks you up with a Venture Capital firm?
"To help jump-start the market, venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers said it would launch a $100 million fund, called iFund, to invest in companies developing applications and services for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

John Doerr, partner at Kleiner Perkins, said it already funded one iPhone software maker and is in negotiations to fund another."
The demos in today's keynote indicate that Apple is really putting its best foot forward by releasing a great set of developer tools to the community. XCode is free, the SDK can be downloaded for free, and for $99 you get all of the debuggers, performance optimizers, support, et al to build the killer iPhone application. If I have a mobile application idea, why would I want to build it on any other platform now, especially Windows Mobile?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Clinton vs Obama, iPod vs Zune - the hidden similarities

Have you been following the race for the Democratic candidate for the upcoming elections? Back in December, Clinton was the clear front-runner; she seemed like the only choice, the incumbent even. It's March now, and we all know how that has changed - Obama has outmaneuvered, out-thought, out-campaigned, and out-fundraised Clinton (my condolences if you are her supporter, like myself!)

There is something to learn from this, something to even derive hope from - the tides can turn, a leader can become the follower, a winner today can be a loser tomorrow. But it takes work, a concerted effort on all fronts, and a desire to win for such a change to be affected. Here is how I think Obama did it (and willing to listen to your thoughts on the same):

A. He appealed to the younger generation, to the masses by following the principles of viral, fast, easy, simple, accessible. Here are the cornerstones of his public outreach:

1. A Viral Marketing Campaign
2. Facebook, MySpace, did I mention Facebook?
3. A Visually appealing website, with a minimalist design and an emphasis on negative space
4. An enviable Advertising campaign
5. The Message of "Change"
6. Celebrity endorsements, especially from the ones that have captured the imagination of today's generation

You must wonder where I am going with this list. The key to the campaign according to me lay in correctly identifying the target audience for the marketing blitz. My father once told me, "Manoj, you can't teach an old dog new tricks", and used that as motivation to make me change my behavior (apparently, me being a young pup made me malleable). By a similar token, the older generation of Americans aren't as easy to sway as the flippant and undecided younger generation. Obama's campaign got the attention of the 75 million odd voters in the age group 18 - 35, and in the process, turned the tables in the race. I doff my hat to the foresight and chutzpah of Obama's "shrewd" campaign manager in recognizing this fact.

B. He tapped the potential of a class of voters I like to call "discretionary" and "impulsive"
There is a distinct population of voters that don't mind parting with $25-50 to support a candidate or a cause, because the paltry donation can be easily justified and gives the supporter a sense of purpose. This is the same person that would guy a new pair of jeans, make a pledge to a local NPR station or C89.5FM, buy a round of drinks at a bar for friends, etc. on a whim - your average middle class Joe.

These two classes of voters, together comprising the younger generations (X and Y), didn't really care for politicians. Why - because they reek of corruption and are renowned for their shady, even murky, practices. By reducing the barrier of entry, by speaking to causes that are close to their hearts, by making himself accessible and creating a perception of openness, Obama has won their support. My analysis reveals that it is this voter bank that is spearheading Obama's rise to the top.

I could go on, but I think I have made my point. I know it's a stretch, but if you see this as I do, this story is analogous to Zune's fight against the iPod. Our approach is fresher and more youthful, the team has the talent to build a great end-to-end solution, and the product is finally garnering underground support. It's a matter of selling the story better now, which like the artist Kenna, we are having great difficulty with. Maybe it's time to start at the core of the problem - MIND-SHARE. A potential first step in achieving this would be to revamp our advertising campaign; one idea - hire the agency that came up with Obama's campaign. How about the agency that had the Pepsi account in the 80s, when Coke was the dominant cola in the market.

Pepsi pulled a rabbit out of its hat with its campaign in 1982 (I think it was) that showed how in a blind taste test, customers preferred Pepsi to Coke every time. The results (and the ensuing loss in market share) sent shivers down Coke's spine. Their response - reinvent the "COKE" formula - was doomed for failure since its inception, and we know how that played out. Coca-Cola miraculously pulled off a coup de etat by releasing Coke "Classic" and saved itself from certain defeat, but the point remains. Pepsi's campaign almost upstaged the incumbent Cola leader, Coke.

You've read this post, and if you're still wondering what a Zune is, I've proved my point. Q.E.D.