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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Sharing Digital Content

Several months ago we'd put out a post on our blog entitled "Digital Dilemma: How do you share content?" where we asked three questions with regards the frustration we have living in the UAE with access to digital content that we've currently got on our smartphones, tablets or e-readers.  While not much has changed in this region since then, it's comforting to know that some of the questions we had raised are being answered internationally.

1. How do you buy it?

To answer the first question which we asked in our original post, we're still sadly in a part of the world where most content providers haven't given us a means to legally purchase digital content.  Google's Android doesn't allow you to buy Apps.  Apple's iTunes only lets you buy Apps but not music, TV shows or music.  Amazon's Kindle is not officially supported in the Middle East.  This has then meant that if you live in the UAE and you want to legally get access to this digital content, you're using a foreign SIM card in your Google phone to access paid Apps on Google's Android Market, buying Gift Cards from the US or UK to access Apple's iTunes store or using an American billing address to buy content for your Amazon Kindle e-reader.  There is still no timeline on the horizon as to when the situation will change and sadly this question still remains unanswered.
Image: philosophyblog.com.au

2. What do you do if you only want the content for a short period of time and have no intention of buying it?

One of the other frustrations till now had been how do you borrow a book digitally as you would from a library.  Amazon and Apple both have services where you can either rent a textbook for a year or rent a movie.  This is often times at 30-40% of the cost of buying the content but at least you now an alternative if you can access the content using the means mentioned above.

3. How do you lend the content to a friend or family member?

This is something that Amazon recently helped address recently via the Kindle.  If you own a Kindle, you can now lend books to another person in several cases which in essence would be like lending a hard copy of a book to a friend.  There are certain time restrictions but it's good to know that at least an option has been worked out.  If you've got a Kindle and are interested in knowing more about this, there's more information at this link.

The bottom line is that to get access to digital content legally in the UAE, there are still several hoops you have to maneuver through until you get to where you want.  There are some people who will go through this trouble but the rest end up getting the content where they find it, which is often on an illegal peer-to-peer download services.  Content providers are yet to take this region seriously enough and until then, have to accept the fact that they've created a treasure hove of pirates in the region.  Things can change and content providers can start to get their rightful share of the pie if they gave us a solution.  Till then, they like us have come to accept the fact that the digital dilemma will remain as it is and the region will remain behind most of the developed world when it comes to digital content.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

2011 Jacky's Festive Guide - TV's and Cameras

Following on from our previous post on what products that could be a part of your shopping list this festive season, we've worked out a second list of recommendations for those looking to buy TV's and cameras.  The trends have clearly moved towards 3D, connectivity and HD quality images in both these categories as you'll see in the write-up below.

Samsung MV-800 Digital Camera

Samsung may not be the first name you think of when thinking of cameras but what has made Samsung rather unique is that they've taken their expertise in smartphones and started incorporating this into digital cameras.  The interface of several Samsung digital cameras is starting to resemble that of a smart phone and the use of icons on the touch screen would make you think you were using an Android-powered digital camera.  Even the picture modes or filters that are available will remind you somewhat of Apps that are used on smartphones today like Instagram or Halftone.

Apart from the interface though, the MV-800 is unique in that it has a rotating LCD screen that can tilt out to 180 degrees.  That means you can take pictures from angles where you wouldn't have been able to see the viewfinder traditionally.  The MV-800 also has a sweep panorama function that allows you to take wide shots or sweeping pictures much more easily.   The camera has a 3" LCD screen, 16 mega-pixel picture quality and 5x optical zoom.

Olympus SZ10 3D Camera

The challenge for most manufacturers of 3D cameras has been in capturing 3D content.  To capture 3D content, you generally need to use two lenses and this can be an expensive proposition.  Olympus has worked out a solution for their SZ10 camera wherein using a single lens, you can take 3D pictures by taking a picture twice out of the same  lens.  This means that you have got 3D quality images in a camera that can be more affordable and which is also compact.

Will all pictures come out great in 3D?  The jury is still out on this as it may work for pictures where the subject remains still but in a dynamic setting, it may not give the best result as it's taking a picture a second time to get the 3D effect.  Also, you can't preview how the image looks in 3D on the LCD screen as its not 3D enabled so it is only when you connect it to a 3D enabled television or computer that  you can check the picture quality.  The argument is that glasses-free 3D may still give you a headache if you use it for too long on a tiny LCD on a digital camera and commercially it probably would be much more expensive.

Other features of this camera include 18X optical wide zoom, dual image stabilization, 720p HD video capture, HDMI connectivity and a host of magic filters to take pictures with.  A lot of this functionality is not found in most smartphone cameras today and thus meaning, Olympus has tried to carve out a niche for themselves.

Canon EOS 600D and Nikon D5100 Digital SLR Cameras

Buying or using a D-SLR camera was a daunting thought once upon for most consumers as they were extremely complicated to use, required a lot of photographer skill and were expensive.  Over the last couple of years, we've seen a lot of this change as most major manufacturers started designing these cameras keeping the consumer in mind.  In this regards, the Canon EOS 600D and Nikon D5100 D-SLRs have been probably the most popular D-SLR in the consumer range of both brands.  A lot of the functionality that you would expect to find in a typical point and shoot camera is now included in these D-SLRs which means that most members of the family can expect to use the camera without too much difficulty.

Canon EOS 600D

The quality of pictures at the end of the day from a D-SLR is far superior to what you'll find coming out of even the best camera phones so if you're looking to preserve any of your special moments, a D-SLR camera is the product for you.

Nikon D5100
The Canon EOS 600D is a 18 megapixel camera whereas Nikon's D5100 is a 16.2 megapixel camera.  Both have a 3" LCD screen.  Both have got on-screen feature guides that help explain the different modes a little better and both would work well in challenging situations where a camera or point & shoot camera may not give ideal results.  The Nikon D5100 also has Full HD recording capabilities and thus can be used for video recording where required.

Deciding between these two brands really comes down to personal preferences at the end of the day but once you decide on a brand, be prepared to keep investing in the long term as the lenses generally are brand specific and you may be locked into that particular brand in the long term.

Samsung UA55D6600 LED Smart TV and LG 55LW6510 Internet TV

Samsung UA55D6600 Smart TV
The idea of a TV being "smart" or Internet-enabled has in theory been something that should've and could've been possible for a long time but it's only really been in the last year or so that we've seen this category develop.  The fact is that for a long time we've been dependent on using our computers at home for a lot of tasks that we're now realizing we can do on other devices, whether it be a smartphone, tablet or even a television.  Connectivity to social platforms like Facebook and Twitter on a television may not seem too exciting as those are probably best experienced on a tablet, laptop or smartphone but connecting to YouTube, Skype (wherever it is legal) and movie streaming sites, a Smart or Internet enabled television could be ideal.  Even if you've got a WIFI  network setup at home, it could be possible to stream your TV shows and movies that you've downloaded onto your television, thus making the entire experience of watching a TV show or movie more sociable.

Initially it may not seem that you'd need a Smart or Internet TV and sounds like a "nice to have" than a "must have" but as you start using it, you realize how easily it fits into your domestic lifestyle.
LG 55LW6510 Internet TV
The Samsung Smart TV is a Full HD 55" LED TV.  It has Samsung's "All Share" functionality that allows you to connect several devices within your household wirelessly.  It also the ability to convert 2D content into 3D content.  During the festive period, it's also coming bundled with a Samsung Galaxy Tab.  The equivalent model in LG is also a Full HD 55" LED TV.  It can also convert 2D content to 3D and unlike Samsung, uses regular 3D glasses, similar to what you'd use in a cinema, which are much cheaper than the glasses used by other manufacturers.  The LG TV has two USB slots and three HDMI slots on the TV.  It's coming bundled with a WIFI dongle and Blu-Ray DVD player during the festive season.

Posted By: Mahesh Chotrani, Head - Retail Buying and Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics

Sunday, 4 December 2011

2011 Jacky's Festive Guide

With an action-packed end to the year, we've been getting all sorts of requests with regards what would be our picks during this festive season here at Jacky's, so we decided to do a festive gadget guide of our own.  Before we get into our recommendations, we'd also like to remind you to ensure you dispose of your products responsibly.  At Jacky's for example, we have our Eco-Exchange program, wherein you can recycle used phones, cameras, gaming consoles and laptops.  Everything traded-in under our Eco-Exchange program is re-used or recycled and nothing ends up in a landfill.  If you want to set an example for the next generation, then we request you to please think of your environment when buying your next set of festive toys.

We hope you find our shopping guide useful and look forward to your feedback on it.

Acer S3 Ultrabook

A lot has been said about the Ultrabook category since we first it at GITEX Shopper's this year and till now, demand has far outstripped supply at our retail outlets.  Acer has been the first brand to market the ultrabook in this region and has had thus had the first mover advantage.  

Image courtesy: engadget.com, photographed is the
Core i7 variant of the Acer S3
What makes an ultrabook unique is the fact that it is designed to be super slim (like the Macbook Air) except that it runs on Windows 7.  For people who don't want to make the switch to Apple but want an ultra-slim notebook that switches on instantly, the S3 Ultrabook is the product for you.

There are various models of the Ultrabook, but our pick would be the model with an Intel Core i5 processor, 13.3" LED screen, 4GB RAM and 240GB SSD.  This model typically retails for Dhs. 5,299, though there are some variations of the S3 Ultrabook that retail for as low as Dhs. 3,599.

An SSD for those who aren't sure is an alternative to a conventional hard disk that we're used to normally having in most notebooks and PC's.  An SSD is uses flash memory similar to what is used in most MP3 players and smartphones today.  SSD's are normally more stable than conventional hard disks.

Dyson Air Multiplier 

Dyson have always been known for having cool products and their bladeless fan is no exception.  If you ever thought a simple fan wouldn't be able to grab your attention, then you are indeed mistaken.  The Air Multiplier works using a motor that's in the base of the fan which can suck in air and push it up into the ring.  There are tiny, millimeter long slits which the air rushes out of which are designed to push air out uniformly around the ring.  If you ever wanted to get someone a housewarming present, this would be the one to get.  Prices range from Dhs. 1,299 to Dhs. 1,899.

Apple iPad 2

Image: cnet.com.au
Nearly two years after Apple basically introduced the tablet category to the world, they still run supreme with their tablet offering.  The user-experience and variety of apps that are available for Apple still make it a must-have product.  For those who've never owned a tablet before, it's never too late and no matter whether you're talking about a child who's just a few years old or a grand parent who's never used a computer before, the ease of use of the iPad, makes it the perfect gift during the festive season.  Prices vary based on capacity (16, 32 and 6GB) and connectivity (Wifi or 3G + Wifi).  The iPad 2 is also available in two colors, white and black.

Samsung 8.9" Galaxy Tab

Image: slashgear.com
The only major brand that's managed to dent Apple's sales overall in tablets in this region has been Samsung.  Starting initially with a 7" model, Samsung added various products to ensure they had a portfolio of tablets in different sizes.  The 8.9" is probably our pick of the lot as it doesn't feel too small in your hands when you're browsing a website or watching a movie and still remains handy enough to carry around.  The Galaxy Tab is different from the Apple tablets in that it runs on the Android operating system and thus ties you into Google's ecosystem.  It has a better camera than the iPad 2 (three megapixels) and can accommodate an SD card in case you want to increase the memory on your tablet as the standard model comes with 16GB memory but you can expand it by 32GB using an SD card.  

BlackBerry Bold 9900

Image: engadget.com
The market leader in the UAE for smartphones is BlackBerry and it's no surprise that the Bold 9900 was an instant hit from the moment we launched it in August of this year.  It's running on the latest version of RIM's operating system, boasts a wider screen, faster processor and superior camera.  The stand out feature of this device though is the fact that apart from a bigger keyboard, it also has a touch screen that makes surfing the web or accessing apps on the phone that much quicker.  There is also a new BlackBerry Curve that was recently introduced that boasts the new operating system and touchscreen capabilities but the Bold 9900 still remains our pick within the BlackBerry line-up (to see a more detailed review we did on the Bold 9900, please click here).

Samsung Galaxy Note

Image: guardian.co.uk
Is it a phone or is it a tablet?  This is the question we asked ourselves when we first saw this device at the Samsung stand at GITEX Shopper's.  Since then, Samsung has gone ahead and answered this question for us and said it's a smartphone.  Boasting a massive 5.3" screen, this Android-powered device looks like a bigger version of Samsung's hugely successful Galaxy SII smartphone.  It has super sleek, has an extremely quick interface and packs in the power as far as camera (8 megapixel with flash), processor (dual-core 1.4 Ghz) &  network connectivity go (HSPA+ with supported speeds of 21 mbps).  It also has a little stylus that pops out of the phone so if you want to take notes the old-fashioned way, you can still write them down.  This is a phone that makes a statement wherever you take it and if you want to be noticed this festive season, this may be the device for you.

Nokia N9

2011 has been a year re-emergence for Nokia.  After taking the decision at the beginning of the year to start partnering with Microsoft on their next generation of smartphones, Nokia surprised everyone with this phone that runs on the MEEGO operating system.  More fundamental than the operating system is the philosophy that Nokia has adopted on this device which Nokia hopes changes the way we use our smartphone.  Apple for all intensive purposes changed the accepted norms of what we'd expect from a smartphone when they launched their  iPhones but Nokia has again challenged this by deciding to drop the concept of a home or back button.  The N9 fundamentally works off three screens and the belief at Nokia is that you need three screens to run your phone that you can swipe to and from.  If you're curious what Nokia has in-store with Windows Phone 7 in the future, the N9 is a good indication of that and we hope many of the fundamental shifts that Nokia has implemented on the N9 will carry forward into the devices we see coming in 2012.

Apple iPhone 4S
Image: apple.com

The hope is that Apple announces the launch of the iPhone 4S via their authorized partners, du and etisalat, before the year is out.  This is good news if you're a die-hard Apple fan or someone who's been delaying buying an iPhone because you were waiting for this to be officially launched in the UAE.  When it'll launch is still a mystery, what price it'll launch at is still a mystery but what we do know, is that when it launches, it'll no doubt be one of the most successful products for us this festive season and we don't require Apple's digital assistant, Siri, to tell us that.

Posted By: Mahesh Chotrani, Head - Retail Buying and Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics

Carrier IQ: Is it Worth the Fuss?

The past week in the United States, the technology blogs and publications have created an uproar over the role of a company that's been apparently snooping on most people that own a smartphone.  The company at the centre of the scandal is Carrier IQ and they've opened up a can of worms with regards data privacy in the US media.

Carrier IQ has said they've worked with most major vendors so regardless of whether you've been using an iPhone, BlackBerry or most variants of Android, you've probably been feeding data back to Carrier IQ on how you use your phone.  Who wants this data?  Well, it seems manufacturers and telecom companies are keen to analyze what we've been doing and have been using the services of companies like Carrier IQ to gather this (Gizmodo have a nice summary entitled "What is Carrier IQ?").

The fuss apparently though has been dug up because Carrier IQ could actually gather keystroke data which means if you've been feeding in credit card data or anything else sensitive into your smartphone, they could be recording all of this.

Of course, Carrier IQ denies it would keep that and most manufacturers are now trying to distance themselves from Carrier IQ as well, but this really does beg the bigger question: As consumers in a digital era, should we be surprised that we're being digitally analyzed?  

Image: filmandmusicfashion.com
My basic belief is that if you've got nothing to hide, then you shouldn't worry.  As individuals, we've all got digital fingerprints plastered over the Internet and it may not always seem obvious to us, but if someone wanted to, they could piece together everything about our lives like a jigsaw puzzle.  We've moved on from the age of when Peter Sellers was playing the role of Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies and so has any sense of privacy we can expect to have.

Most of us have a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google (Gmail), Hotmail, Yahoo, Amazon or Apple iTunes these days and in most cases, these are linked back to our desktop or notebook computer, smartphone, tablet or e-reader.  We've had no problems that these companies with whom we have an account are using this data every minute of every day to either recommend products or push advertisements our way.  They've all get access to a treasure trove of data about our lives and probably use some sort of data consolidation and analytic tool in the background.  Carrier IQ is no different.  It is a tool used to consolidate and analyze our usage patterns.

The responsibility for digital data and digital fingerprints lies with us as individuals.  If we don't want to be traced, we do have an option.  That option is to not buy a smartphone, not use a browser, a social networking service, a search engine, an online commerce retailer or an e-mail account.  The moment we do, it is implied we've consented to have our lives under the magnifying glass.

The US Senate has now weighed into the Carrier IQ case and I'm sure there will be countless more investigations.  The fact is that even if Carrier IQ is slapped over the wrist or dropped as a partner by most smartphone manufacturers, someone else will replace them in this space.  Data privacy laws only go so far but in the digital age, you can't expect to remain private if you want to remain connected.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics

Monday, 28 November 2011

An Open Letter to TV Manufacturers

Dear TV Manufacturers:

Please don't mind the format of this open letter.  I speak today to you not as a retailer of your products but as a consumer who has enjoyed the innovations you've given us in terms of TV technology but who is also frustrated with your inability to innovate in the ways I'd like.

While most of you have brilliant engineers working on your products, the benchmark for user experience has changed significantly over the last couple of years where many of you have fallen short.  The reasons for this are numerous but consumer expectations far exceed the innovations we've witnessed in the last couple of years.

Image: eikongraphia.com
A simple case in point for example is that you've worked on trying to make the television as slim as possible that it is today as thick as a picture frame.  This is nice to have but this is ruined when you hang it on your wall and have wires to connect to your external devices dangling down.  Do you ever see a picture frame with wires hanging from it?  The answer is NO, so why should we have wires hanging down the bottom of our super slim televisions?  

Why haven't any of you come with a solution that totally eliminates the clutter of wires that seem to hang off every TV?

Even when you do insist on us having to use cables to connect everything up, why do you keep the access for the cables on the back of the television?  I know, a few of you keep slots on the sides of the TV as well but the vast majority of the slots are always on the back of the TV.  Now put yourselves in the shoes of a consumer who buys another piece of gear and wants to connect it to his TV that's hanging on his wall.  What does he do?  If the majority of the slots for the cables are on the back of the TV, it means he needs to call a technician to come over to his house, take the TV off the wall, fix the cable on and then hang it again.  If you don't think this is happening, I can tell you, I've had to do just that in the last 24 hours.  I at least have an access to a pool of technicians who would come over to my house and do this for me as a favour but the normal consumer would have had to pay for a technician to come to their house just to install an HDMI cable.

I know you have great engineers working for you, but please get someone to review the designs with the consumer in mind.  Don't work in silo's where each department operates independently.  Your design team, your hardware engineers and your software teams all need to design a product together.  The norms and status quo in your industry is join to be challenged and when it does happen, it's not going to be about who has better technology.  It is going to be about who's innovated on the user experience.  

In his biography, Steve Jobs has already mentioned televisions was an industry he was going to target.  What could Apple do differently with TV's that you aren't doing at the moment?  Think about it because you need to move out of the comfort zone you're in at the moment as far as innovation goes.  Slimmer or higher resolution TV's is not the only thing the consumer wants today.

As a multi-brand retailer, I'm happy to continue selling your products, but I urge you as a manufacturer, please listen to your consumers as they are the ones who finally make the final decision to buy your brand.  If your brand doesn't deliver on the overall expectations of user experience, then don't expect consumers to buy them.  Marketing budgets will not convince them.  They are smarter than that.  I know a lot has changed in a very short time and I know you've worked hard to bring certain innovations to the table, whether it be Internet-enabled TV's or 3D TV's, but these could still be considered works in progress to the end consumer.  We expect more from you and we hope you'll do what it takes to deliver on these expectations or you could see someone else pull the rug out from under you before they start to dominate your  industry.

Yours sincerely,
Chief Operating Officer
Jacky's Electronics LLC

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The iMessage Uproar in the UAE

It's been an interesting month or so on our blog.  Even though we haven't posted much, we found traffic on the way up during October and the early part of November.  This was largely due to one topic: iMessage.

In June, we had innocently asked the question "Will iMessage be blocked like FaceTime?"  The rationale was that if Apple's FaceTime was blocked earlier and BlackBerry's Messenger service had come under scrutiny, then the same may be the case with iMessage.

While this post was clicked and viewed by many of you in June, we were surprised to see more people accessing this story from the second week of October onwards when the iPhone 4S was officially launched in markets like the US and UK.  The parallel iPhone units started flowing into the country and with iMessage not working on some devices initially during this time.  This was also when iOS5 was also available for download for other Apple devices in the iPhone and iPad family.  This led to the second wave of people accessing this post.  

When iMessage was officially blocked this week by the telecom players in the UAE, we saw the third wave of visitors to our page kick in.  The post on iMessage is now ranked as the second most popular post on our blog as per our stat server.  

The passion that most Apple users have got for their products and services is unique.  An Apple fanboy (or girl) is forever ready to get vocal about their love for Apple products.  We all probably know a few such people and it amazes us to see how vocal the reactions are when services like iMessage get blocked. 

The truth of the matter is that services like iMessage can't be blocked infinitely.  I don't think Apple fans would allow it to happen.  They are a bunch that doesn't mind voicing their views and I think this was partly the reason we saw some services resume within a few hours.

How the TRA or the telecom companies should've handled the entire episode is another story but all in all, it's been interesting to see how iMessage and Apple fans have at least kept our blog active during a period when we didn't say much.  Thank you all for visiting us thus far and we promise to have many more posts coming on this blog shortly.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Amazon: We Didn't Start the Fire

I had convinced myself last night I wouldn't write about the Amazon tablet announcement today as I seemed to have to been discussing non-stop for the last few days.

All that changed this morning though when I woke up and started humming the tune of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire."

Amazon has indeed not started the fire ("Fire" by the way is the name of the new Amazon tablet), but Amazon has added the flames to what is a rapidly changing tablet, content distribution, cloud computing and web surfing game.  The chorus to Joel's song says "We didn't start the fire. It was always burning since the world was turning." Amazon realized it's not always about being first to the table but about thinking through your strategy and offering something that makes people go WOW!

This is what Amazon did.

  • Hardware- they offered a subsidized tablet (that looks a lot like the BlackBerry PlayBook).
  • Operating System - they used an operating system that's so far struggled on tablets (Android).
  • Content & AppStore - they offered content (which they've been doing for years and where everyone except Apple has struggled.  Further they distributed the content through their WhisperSync technology (and cut out the complications that Apple initially had of needing a cable to connect the device to your computer)
  •  Multi-Device Approach - They made it easy again through WhisperSync to move content across devices seemlessly.
  • Browsing & Cloud - Amazon used their expertise in cloud computing to not only talk about storing your content on a cloud but also offering a solution to speed up browsing by loading all the heavy bits of a webpage on their cloud servers, thus giving you a speedier & lighter browsing experience.
  •  User Friendliness - they gave you a solution that requires no configuration, no setup and that knows who you are right from the moment when you open up the box.
What last night's presentation highlighted was the fact that while many companies went out to imitate Apple, most forgot to innovate.  Amazon took their time, sat quietly in the back and did what most brands should've done.

The second half of chorus of Joel's song says "We didn't start the fire. No we didn't light it, but we tried to fight it." This sums up what the competition was trying to do in the meantime.  The fire was lit by Apple but flames grew bigger last night when Amazon rolled out their strategy and just like that companies like Samsung, Asus, Acer, Dell, HP, HTC and the rest realized, they now have a new competitor in Amazon.

It'll be interesting to see what Apple does next week at their iPhone event and what the response from their camp is.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Here we go again...Mobile Number Portability Delayed Again...

In what seems to be a never-ending story, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) have come out and said that Mobile Number Portability (MNP), that was to have been implemented years again has been delayed once more.  At the risk of sounding like a teen-pop music fan, the song "Here We Go Again" by Demi Lovato really captures the essence of how a lot of people with this delay (the video of the song is below and the lyrics at the bottom of this post).

Apart from the fortunes of the telecom operators, the people who've really lost out here have been the end-consumers and to keep them hanging for this long has been unfair.  We've heard feedback from numerous people who've wanted to switch from one operator to the other but the hassle of getting a new phone number has put them off.

If the UAE is to have a truly competitive telecommunications market, the launch of MNP is a must.  This is when true competition comes in.  Many mature and developing markets offer this and although the TRA has put the reasons down to "technical difficulties," the fact is, whatever the difficulty is, it shouldn't have taken two or three years to resolve if someone wanted to ensure it was done.

If MNP is to happen, it should happen soon.  When the talk was that MNP Q3/2011, many people including myself thought it may be delayed so a grand announcement can be during GITEX Technology Week.  This sadly will not be the case and I don't know how many people will continue waiting for MNP to finally happen before switching carriers.  A lot of people have been paying more for their telecom services or putting up with services that are not to their satisfaction thinking they'd be tolerant and wait for MNP to be implemented but if there is no believable timeline given, it may be worth to bite the bullet and adopt a new phone number.

To read other posts we've done on MNP, click here.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics

Lyrics to Here We Go Again - Demi Lovato 
Songwriters: Filian, Mher; Hasson, Isaac R; Robbins, Lindy;

I throw all of your stuff away
Then I clear you out of my head
I tear you out of my heart
And ignore all your messages

I tell everyone we are through
'Cause I'm so much better without you
But it's just another pretty lie
'Cause I break down
Every time you come around
Oh oh!

So how did you get here under my skin?
I swore that I'd never let you back in
Should've known better than trying to let you go
'Cause here we go go go again

Hard as I try I know I can't quit
Something about you is so addictive
We're falling together, you'd think that by now I'd know
'Cause here we go go go again

You never know what you want
And you never say what you mean
But I start to go insane
Every time that you look at me

You only hear half of what I say
And you're always showing up too late
And I know that I should say goodbye
But it's no use
Can't be with or without you!
Oh oh

So how did you get here under my skin?
[ From : http://www.elyrics.net/read/d/demi-lovato-lyrics/here-we-go-again-lyrics.html ]
I swore that I'd never let you back in
Should've known better than trying to let you go
'Cause here we go go go again

Hard as I try I know I can't quit
Something about you is so addictive
We're falling together, you'd think that by now I'd know
'Cause here we go go go again, 'gain

And again
(And again)
And again
(And again)
And again!

I threw all of your stuff away
And I cleared you out of my head
And I tore you out of my heart
Oh oh, oh oh

So how did you get here under my skin?
I swore that I'd never let you back in
Should've known better than trying to let you go
'Cause here we go go go again

Hard as I try I know I can't quit
Something about you is so addictive
We're falling together, you'd think that by now I'd know
'Cause here we go go

Here we go again
Here we go again!
Should've known better than trying to let you go
'Cause here we go go go again

And again
And again
And again

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Amazon's Tablet & the Piracy of Digital Content

Tomorrow evening Amazon will most likely be unveiling their tablet and also entering a marketplace where many brands have been trying to conquer Apple's dominance without any measurable level of success.

Why then would Amazon think their tablet can do any better?  

Apart from the fact that they've had a number of years success with an e-reader called the Kindle, they've also had another ace up their sleeve which most other tablet manufacturers have struggled and that is digital content.  To succeed in the tablet or smartphone business, you need to build the right eco-system around your product (to read a previous post we did on the eco-system, click here for First to market or first to create an ecosystem?).  It is not about hardware specs anymore and Amazon knows.

What type of content does Amazon have today:

  • Books - Amazon has been in the book business for years and with the Kindle e-reader, they've had a few years to build up their library of digital content that can port over to most tablets today.  
  • Music - Amazon also sells music, both CD's and MP3's for downloads so they can satisfy someone who's looking to use their tablet for listening to music.  
  • Movies & TV Shows - Amazon recently launched their own video streaming service similar to Netflix, which means access to TV shows and movies off a tablet or PC screen.  In addition to that, Amazon has had a relationship with most content publishers in this space for years because they've been selling their shows and movies as a DVD for many years as well.
  • Subscription & Rental Models - Amazon recently started offering the ability to rent or borrow a book much as you would in a typical library (sans the late fees).  This together with their ability to allow you to subscribe to newspapers and magazines gives Amazon an added advantage over most other platforms out there today.
  • Cloud Services - Amazon has been busy in the background hosting web services through Amazon Web Services and with Apple talking of iCloud, Amazon has also got their own cloud service ready to roll-out (we blogged about Amazon's cloud service a few months ago, click here to read 

    Amazon: Home of Cloudy Computing and iCloud: Is this the end of the road for hard drives?)

  • Games - Amazon is not really known as a destination for downloading games from but they've been selling software for most consoles for many years now.  The know-how in offering games for download shouldn't be a huge challenge for a company like Amazon to offer.
  • App Store - This is probably where Amazon stands out from Apple's competitors.  Many have tried using their own App Store or relying on Google's Android Market, but that hasn't always been successful primarily because they didn't have the digital library that Amazon has.  The fact that Amazon found it feasible to launch their own Android App Store without really involving Google means they've been working hard on this for a while now.

Should I buy the Amazon tablet if I live in the UAE?

However, if you're living in a country like the United Arab Emirates, don't start jumping for joy yet.  Indications are that Amazon is not planning to launch the Kindle e-reader or their tablets here anytime soon.  Even if you were to import the tablet yourself, access to content would be limited as Amazon generally doesn't sell any of their digital content in the UAE

Why  might you ask is the reason?  One reason would be that while Amazon has got the content ready digitally, the copyright holders have restricted the regions into which Amazon can sell their digital content. The Middle East generally doesn't figure in most of these agreements.  Secondly, the market has to be big enough for Amazon to see it as a priority, which it clearly doesn't at the moment.  There are ways around this though but it involves showing that you have an address within a country that Amazon is allowed to sell their digital content in (which works when buying books but not music).

Fueling Piracy

This is not something unique to Amazon though.  Most of the content that can be sold digitally in this region, isn't.  The reason is that there are various archaic content distribution agreements that exist that still haven't been addressed in this region.  The end result of this is that piracy has unfortunately been rampant.  

If a legal alternative to download or access digital content was provided, then I'm fairly confident piracy rates would reduce.  At the moment, there is a flaw in the system and that has to be addressed.  Asking consumers to buy DVD's or CD's instead or blaming internet service providers isn't the solution (click here to see a story in ArabianBusiness eluded to this week).  Providing access to the content legally is what had to addressed by the content distribution companies and until they fail to do this, they're only continuing to make the hole that they dug deeper (click here to read a previous post on digital content piracy - Digital Dilemma: How do you share content?).

Concluding Remarks...

As much as we'd like to say the United Arab Emirates is advanced because we get the latest and greatest products quickly or because we've got one of the most advanced telecommunications infrastructures in the world, we're falling behind because we've lost out on offering the most advanced services.

There is no reason why we shouldn't have services like Netflix, Spotify, Rdio or Skype in this region.  The same goes with having an  iTunes store where you can buy music or TV shows from or an Amazon App Store that you can buy books from (without having to show you live in a different country).  

If piracy has been a problem here or if new product innovations are being held back here, it has a lot to do with ensuring the entire ecosystem exists.  The ecosystem today means having the right hardware, operating system, telecoms capabilities and content.  We have three out of four and the most glaring area we've missed out on is content.  Let's hope someone can lead the way here and ensure this happens soon so we don't continue to drift behind the times.

To know more about how else the Amazon tablet may do, have a read through this article that appeared in PCWorld this week.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

GeekFest and Jacky's Eco-Exchange

Jacky’s bring Eco-Exchange to Geekfest taking place at The New Shelter (http://www.shelter.ae) on Thursday, September 22 from 7:30pm onwards.
It’s Jacky’s first out -of-home recycling drive and you can be a part by bringing in your old devices (mobiles, laptops, MP3 players, cameras or gaming consoles) and everyone attending Geekfest is encouraged to bring their old devices so we can dispose of them responsibly
With technology changing faster than speed of thought, It’s not surprising to get overwhelmed and owing up a new piece of tech wonder quicker than ever. Almost every choice involves leaving something behind in the backyard perhaps sitting idle and eventually dead with a little itch of the metal pile up, the locked residual economic value and perhaps some would imagine the impact on environment by materials not being disposed as they should have been. 
Understanding the responsibility that lies with us as a Retailer, in not only providing best in the class of products and services but also to provide appropriate end of life solutions for the products we sell. Jacky’s Electronics, in 2010 started offering, a service called ‘Eco-Exchange: Recycling that pays’, which aims to drive consumer awareness for the proper disposal of electronic products in the UAE. 
This program kicked-off as an "In Store" solution for customers to bring their old/unwanted (no matter where they were purchased) consumer electronics for recycling. Regardless of where the product is bought, what brand it is, or how old it is, the product can be properly and safely recycled. 
The Eco-Exchange Programme currently accepts gadgets such as old mobile phones, notebooks, cameras, MP3 players and gaming consoles. The recycling is done free of charge and if the product stand a value then a cash voucher is offered for purchase.  The value of the product is calculated in-store by trained Customer Service Executives who use a custom-built online portal to help determine what the value of the product would be, whether it is working or non-working.
Importantly this program facilitates to trade-in devices in whatever brand or condition giving freedom of choice to buy latest device and keep up with the technology yet remain socially responsible and get the locked value out. 
All collected devices are 100% reused or recycled to the highest industry standards, including ISO 14001 and 9001, through a strict zero landfill policy, so nothing is disposed in a manner that would harm the environment.  
To learn more about GeekFest, have a read through these links:

Posted By: Manish Arora, Head - Retail Marketing, Jacky's Electronics

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Who's leading the Post-PC Evolution: Apple or Microsoft?

Several months ago, there was a story on our blog about the Post-PC world that Apple's Steve Jobs spoke about (click here to read that post).  In essence, Jobs said we're moving onto a world beyond PC's and we'd better get ready for the ride.

So for all this time, we've sat and assumed Apple was leading the way forward.

I would've agreed with this sentiment until I got thinking following Microsoft's unveiling of Windows 8 to the developer community and reading an analysis by Boy Genius Report (click here to read the whole story).  Microsoft looks to be moving a step ahead of Apple because they're moving towards unifying the operating system on tablets and PC's  in what Boy Genius calls the post-post-PC era.

While the popular opinion is that Microsoft has been behind the times in the last couple of years, you have to wonder if they will rebound.  Acquisitions like Skype or partnerships like the one they have with Nokia have seen that Microsoft is looking for a way forward.  The traditional WINTEL days (where Windows was always associated with Intel) seems to be a thing of the past.  Intel this week unveiled their partnership with Google for Android, Microsoft said they're working with ARM, which clearly shows everyone is working with everyone in the race to get ahead.

Apple's vision till now has been led by a team that Steve Jobs put together while CEO of Apple.  Jobs obviously has the confidence that his team can still carry this vision forward.  However, most of Apple's competitors like Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung or Google are probably seeing this as their opportunity to leapfrog ahead.

While Windows 8 does have many people including me excited, what Apple has up their sleeve is still the six four million dollar question.  Did Boy Genius call it too early by declaring Microsoft is ushering in the post-post-PC era, who knows?  It's a bold statement to make or to predict anything in such a rapidly changing industry but what's for sure, it will be an interesting period ahead in the tech space going forward.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Ultrabooks: Is it about the Hardware or Software?

In the last one week, we've seen a bevy of announcements from various IT vendors like Acer, Asus and Lenovo who were bubbling with excitement about the launch of their Ultrabooks (not sure what an Ultrabook is, click here to learn more about it).

Why were they excited?
In short, because they've got a product now to compete against Apple's MacBook Air.
Acer has set  high expectations for their Ultrabook

Should they be excited?
Yes, because till now, most laptop manufacturers have struggled to make major inroads into the lucrative tablet segment that Apple dominates with their iPad's and without having a product to compete with MacBook Air, they were left to fight it out in the traditional laptop computer segment, which has been seeing a downwards spiral as far as prices go.  The drop in prices has been so steep, that even an industry leader like HP has had to re-think how they position their PC business overall.  Now with a product that can compete with the MacBook Air, most laptop manufacturers hope they can make inroads again into a segment dominated by Apple that's been able to sell the MacBook Air at a premium.

Will Ultrabooks succeed?
While talking to one industry insider, it came out in discussion that this could actually determine whether it is the hardware or software that makes a difference.  Apple had a design that no one else had with the MacBook Air.  With other brands now coming with similar designs, it becomes clearly a battle of operating systems and is a case of Microsoft competing with Apple.  With most Ultrabooks also slated at around the USD 1,000 mark, it'll be interesting to see if they're able to grab marketshare at a price point lower than that of Apple.

Is it a MacBook Air? No
it's an Acer Aspire 3951
What we may also see happen (and will most likely happen) is that a lot of traditional laptop sales start converging towards Ultrabooks.  With the era of cloud computing ahead of us, portability is increasingly becoming the need of the hour and if you can get a nice 13" screen that is light enough to carry around, you could see many users compromise on hard disk space in the short term.

So who wins?
Intel is probably the party that benefits the most in this case as both Apple and the PC brands marketing Ultrabooks use their processors.

Do I still need a tablet?
It depends entirely on how, where and what you plan to do with it.  If you plan to use it primarily for work though, I'd still recommend buying an ultrabook or a laptop if you need Windows or else a MacBook.

When will it be available?
We've been told by a few brands that they'll have some Ultrabooks available in limited quantities by GITEX Shopper's which takes place from October 8 - 15, 2011.

Update: As rightly pointed out by Mita Srinavasan (@mita56 on Twitter), we missed out talking about where Google fits into the picture here and their Chromebooks.  This is a valid piece of feedback so it may well turn into a three-way  battle of Microsoft vs.  Apple vs. Google.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Wiki-Review: The Motorola (Google?) Atrix

An object from the future.

That was my first thought when I saw the videos of the Motorola Atrix from the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where it won the Best of CES award.

It was a spark that lit a flame of unabashed gadget lust.

Not only was it the most powerful Android phone to date, the first to sport a dual-core processor, it is also the heart of an ecosystem of modular accessories that extended its functionality beyond that of a mere smartphone, enabled by a host of modifications that Motorola has made to the Android operating system - it speaks to the promise of innovation that Google expounded when they launched Android.

The most exciting of these accessories is the Lapdock (pictured above). The dock itself is essentially a large battery wrapped in a sleek dark grey aluminum package housing a full-sized keyboard, generous trackpad and crisp 11.6", 1330x768 resolution screen and weighing in at just over 1kg it resembles nothing so much as a competitor to Apple's Macbook Air. Except that the Lapdock doesn't do anything until you insert the handset into a hinged dock behind the screen and that's when the magic starts: a glowing red Motorola logo pops up on the screen and within about 20 seconds you're in what's dubbed the Webtop environment.

Basically this a custom shell and graphic user interface (GUI) built on top of a lightweight instance of the Linux operating system. The phone continues to run live in a window that allows you to access all of the phone's functions, including voice calls, SMS and apps. A bar along the top of the screen has notifications and status indicators and along the bottom of the screen there are shortcuts to important phone apps such as the dialer, contacts, file system and most importantly a full blown, desktop version (v 3.6) of Mozilla's Firefox web browser - which is where things get really interesting. Having a desktop grade browser, running flash, means that you can access pretty much any website or web application as you would from a traditional computer including cloud based productivity suites such Google Docs and Microsoft Office Live, as well as video sites like YouTube and Vimeo.

The HD dock allows one to bring the same experience to the desktop.

Narain's Atrix set-up with all the accessories connected.

Bluetooth and native Linux drivers make for easy interface with a wireless mouse and keyboard.

So was that gadget lust justified?

I've had the Atrix for a month now and have been using it both as my primary phone and laptop.

Undoubtedly it is a paradigm shifting device, one that challenges conventional notions of what a computer is.

However, in order to get the most out of it one either already has to have a cloud based workflow (which I do) or be ready to move to one and be ready to accept some compromises.

From a hardware point of view the phone itself is fairly anonymous, but it feels well constructed and solid - the, crisp, bright 4" 960x540 screen is covered with a sheet of Corning's scratch and shatter resistant Gorilla Glass. It has both a 5mp rear facing camera and 2mp front facing camera for video chats and checking your hair. The removable battery panel has a faux carbon fiber look to it, handsome but without any tactile texture, making it a bit of the slippery side though I have yet to drop it. The power button is unique in both design and placement, with an integrated fingerprint reader, positioned at the top center of the back panel.

While it presently runs Android Froyo (2.2), not the latest version Gingerbread (2.3) - this is due not just to Motorola's customizations associated with Webtop but also with the tweaks its made to Android itself dubbed Motoblur. Many reviewers have criticized Motoblur but personally I find it an enhances Android from both aesthetic and functional points of view making for a slick and unobtrusive package with hands-down the best Android email client for non-Gmail accounts. You can feel both Motorola's experience at phone making and the thinking they've put into making the device enterprise ready come to bear in Motoblur, not just in the email client but also contacts, calendar and other core functions.

As already mentioned the Lapdock is beautifully designed, thin, light, sturdy and delivers up to 8 hours over battery life while simultaneously charging the phone - it does have it's downsides though, namely in the form of small keys and slightly poor accuracy on the trackpad (which also doesn't allow for even the most basic gesture based input). Also, while there are a variety of keyboard shortcuts available for Android functions, such as the CTRL key bringing up the Android menu, there are no indications of this on the keyboard itself so it's a bit of a treasure hunt when it comes to figuring them out.

But the bigger question is: Does a phone, even a dual-core 1GHz one, have enough horsepower to run a desktop grade browser?

The answer is linked to one's expectations - the reality is that it will not deliver performance anywhere near the current generation of Intel Core i3 laptops. It is more akin to Atom powered netbooks - not sluggish (unless one has many, many browser tabs open) but there is discernible lag. Which means that while multi-tasking isn't impossible, one is probably better off focusing on one or top tasks at a time (in some ways not a bad thing) - this applies primarily to browser based applications, one can quite happily have multiple Android applications running in the background (like a music player) and still have a good browsing experience.

Also, the phone chokes on HD video greater than 720p though the forthcoming upgrade to 2.3 allegedly solves this issues for video stored on the device, but not for streaming web video.

Battery life is on par with other high-end phones but using it in conjunction with the Lapdock significantly extends it.

So, who is this phone for?

If you're looking for the latest, greatest standalone Android powered smartphone and are happy to accept a heavy manufacturer's custom skin then you're probably better off with Samsung's flagship Galaxy II S or HTC's Sensation.

On the other hand, if your workflow is cloud based, you regularly tether your phone and laptop because you need internet access on the go and you are looking to minimize the number and weight of the gadgets you're carrying on a daily basis then the Atrix is certainly worthy of your consideration.

And remember, you're buying a piece of the future. Today.

My set-up is as follows:

Motorola Atrix - AED. 2,399
Lapdock - AED. 400
HD Dock - AED. 400
16GB MicroSD Card - AED. 120
Logitech DiNovo Edge Bluetooth Keyboard - AED. 350
Logitech Anywhere MX Mouse - AED. 325
LG 23" LED Monitor - AED. 695

Posted By: Narain Jashanmal, General Manager, Jashanmalbooks.com 
Narain posted this as a guest reviewer for us. He is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts where he majored in Screenwriting and has had a lifelong affair with technology since he got his first computer at the age of 4.  If you're on Twitter, you can follow Narain on his twitter handle (@njashanmal)