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Thursday, 28 April 2011

FarmVille 1 - EA Sports 0

This morning I saw a headline that probably a year ago would've made me say WOW.  However, now I wasn't as blown away just because we've seen the writing on the wall for a while now.

The headline was on Reuters and read "EA's COO leaves for Zynga : sources."  For those of you who aren't aware, Zynga is the company that is behind the success story of games such as FarmVille or CityVille that are super hits on social media platforms like Facebook.  EA or Electronic Arts, has been one of the most dominant gaming software houses out there and have been behind the EA Sports franchise which includes FIFA '11, NBA Jam, NHL '11, Madden '11 and a whole host of other sporting titles.

The difference between EA and Zynga is that EA is dominant in the traditional gaming platforms such as console gaming (Xbox, Wii and PlayStation) and PC's whereas Zynga is only really on Facebook.  EA have a whole host of genres and games that they market through a wide distribution network whereas Zynga have few games and effectively only one distribution channel, which is Facebook.

Will Wayne Rooney be endorsing a game
on Facebook anytime soon we
The fact is, the gaming industry has undergone tremendous changes in the last few years and this is only going to continue.  In the last quarter of 2010, we saw a report that Zynga in fact had a higher valuation than EA (click here to read this).  Therefore, it isn't much of a surprise to now read that EA is losing it's key executives to Zynga.  A year ago, maybe you would've wondered why a senior executive like that would jump ship.

With Rovio, the team company behind Angry Birds, a game that essentially started on the iPhone just a few years ago, also making huge inroads into gaming, it'll be interesting to see who dominates this market in the next couple of years and how many of the gaming houses that many of us grew up with still exist.  We've already written about the demise of Guitar Hero (click here for details) and the rise of Angry Birds (click here to read this post) but we hope some all time classics like Super Mario remain evergreen.

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

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Why the iPad 2 and not the PlayBook?

We've been getting in a lot of requests to explain why we haven't started selling the BlackBerry PlayBook yet when we didn't hesitate in launching the iPad 2 here shortly after it's launch in the United States.

There are a few simple reasons for this that I felt needed explaining:

  1. Supply & Demand - The original iPad and the iPad 2 were so much in demand that we'd never seen so many lining up and waiting for it before.  It was this, coupled with the fact that it was never clear when the Apple would be officially releasing the iPad here that made us start marketing those devices earlier.  The original iPad was officially launched in the UAE in January 2011 whereas there is no announcement yet as to when we can expect to see the iPad 2 launched here.  In the case of the PlayBook we've received an indication up front from RIM of when we see the devices here officially and thus felt it was better to wait it out.  
  2. Service and Warranty Support - In the case of the iPad, broadly speaking, it was similar to the iPhone in several aspects whereby we were more comfortable to support the warranty.  The operating system software, the hardware components, etc. were not too different to what we'd seen on earlier iPhone's.  In the case of the PlayBook, the hardware and operating system software are both new.  As members of the Dubai Service Excellence Scheme (DSES), we're bound to adopt certain service standards and where we weren't confident of this, we didn't want to take a chance.  Since we know RIM is launching the PlayBook here in a matter of weeks, we didn't mind waiting for the official support channels to open up to back us and our customers up.
RIM and the BlackBerry brand have had their share of brand-bashing of late.  Our decision had nothing to do with this and it's been commercial and service decisions that have dictated our stand on this thus far.  We hope that when the BlackBerry PlayBook is indeed launched here, it'll do well and more Apps should be available hopefully sooner rather than later.  The fact is that RIM has been extremely open in their communication with us as retail partners on when we can expect products and considering their timeline was reasonable, we decided to wait.  We just hope many of you will as well.

Update - 28 April, 2011: Apple announced a few hours after this post was issued yesterday that the Apple iPad 2 will be coming to the UAE this Friday, April 29, 2011.  The only difference here has been that with Apple, we've come to know fairly late on when they're going officially launch the iPad 2 whereas with RIM, they've told us upfront prior to release, when we can expect the PlayBook here.  As a consumer or as a retailer, I'm sure getting advanced information like this certainly helps us more in terms of deciding where we want to buy from and if we're prepared to wait for official release products.  We just hope all manufacturers were as transparent always.

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

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Amazon: Home of Cloudy Computing

We've all been hearing the term "Cloud Computing" being dropped into virtually every techie conversation these days that it actually sounds like a cliche.  We've actually come to accept the fact that a lot of what we do is going to be based on a cloud somewhere (or a server farm, which is why you wonder the term "Farm Computing" didn't quite take off).

In any case, what we've seen in the last few days has been a case of Cloudy Computing.  How is that?

Well, the server outages at Amazon have been an example of this.

Up until a few months ago, few people would've known that Amazon is actually not just an online bookstore or a shopping mall but also a hosting provider.  They've immersed themselves so deeply into managing the online presence through an offshoot called Amazon Web Services which powers so many popular websites today, that when Amazon decided to have an off-day, it's shaken most of their clients to the point that the fundamentals of cloud computing came into question.

The first most of us heard of Amazon's involvement in the business of Cloud Computing was when WikiLeaks was kicked off their server farm a few months ago, just as the US government had starting tightening the screws on Julian Assange and his crew (click here for a story on the Amazon-WikiLeaks saga).  For most people, it was an odd combination to say the least but this has been a revenue model that Amazon has built-up over the years and it seems to work well for them.

Now with Amazon having major problems for the last three days, more popular websites hosted by Amazon such as Quora, Reddit and FourSquare seem to be suffering (click here for a link on a story related to this).

So if Cloud Computing is the future, we'd better equip ourselves, keep an umbrella ready as there could be not only cloudy days, but most likely heavy rain to follow.  I'm sure that's news that any portable hard disk manufacturer is happy to hear.

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

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Delayed Again: Mobile Number Portability

After wetting our appetite at the prospect for launching mobile number portability (MNP) earlier this year, we've again seen this has been delayed as per the announcement from the TRA till Q3/2011 (click here to see a story on this in Arabian Business).

The issue of MNP has been something that we'd been told for years would be coming to the UAE and in many mature and developing markets, this has happened much, much earlier.  In Hong Kong for example, they've had MNP for well-over a decade.  In India, it started recently to much success.
MNP is in full-force in India. Image courtesy: connect.in.com

By announcing that it's coming soon and then delaying it, the TRA has actually killed competition instead of encouraging it.  I know of many people who've been talking to me saying that they didn't want to change their number thus didn't move from one operator to the other but with MNP they would do it since it was coming soon.

Soon doesn't seem soon enough and I'm sure if many of these people were aware of the fact that soon meant several years, many of them may've considered changing their number if it meant they'd save a significant amount of money over the period.

I certainly hope the TRA doesn't put in another set of delays and hope that we do see a truly competitive telecom landscape in the UAE soon enough.

Previous posts on our blog for MNP can be seen at the below links:

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

Monday, 18 April 2011

Are smartphones getting in a Ghz battle?

I saw a headline today which pronounced "Samsung's 2GHz dual-core smartphone will melt your pants next year" and I wondered is the smartphone industry turning this into a battle of smartphone processor speeds much like Intel had done with CPU's many years ago?  
It seems really bizarre because I thought smartphones were all about user experience, not necessarily specs. Isn't this what Apple has taught us? The iPhone 4 or iPad 2 don't have the best specifications but they offer the best experience.

My other gripe with faster processor speeds is how will battery life be affected? There is nothing to stop I'm sure quicker or more processors being loaded onto a phone today but it would defeat the objective of ensuring that your phone wouldn't last for the full day on one charge. After all none of us want a phone that dies in three hours.

I just hope the rest of the smartphone industry wakes up before its too late and doesn't allow this to turn into a Ghz game else it could be ceding more market share over to Apple (who'll I'm sure continue to pound on with their user-experience strategy).

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

Friday, 15 April 2011

Electronics Recycling Awareness Growing

I was thrilled to read this morning a report that many of the top brands and retailers in the US have joined hands to promote and monitor electronics recycling programs jointly.

Called the eCycling Leadership Initiative, the program has set aside clear targets in terms recycling goals that they'd like to see by 2016.  The aim is to triple the amount of recycling that happens in the US annually by 2016.

Manufacturers like Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba have backed this initiative and retailers like Best Buy have also committed themselves to this program.  The program will be tracked continuously and an annual report will be released each year to monitor the progress of the program.

With increased awareness, programs like this should do well and should bring about the change in habits that we all need to adopt if we want to look after our environment.

At Jacky's, we launched our very own Eco-Exchange program in the last quarter of 2010 and while we've been encouraged with the results thus far, we still know there is a lot more we can do.  If you do decide to replace your laptop or mobile phone, consider recycling it instead of tossing it into a drawer.  There are various retailers with recycling programs around today and you do have choices available.  Go out to the retailer of your choice, take your kids with you to educate them as well and let's make it a habit.

To read more about eCycling Leadership Initiative click here for their website or click here to read a report on this from Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) in the United States.  To learn more about the Jacky's Eco-Exchange program, click here.

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

Is it BlackBerry bashing season?

With so much talk of late about the BlackBerry PlayBook that is about to be launched, instead of seeing positive press for RIM, BlackBerry bashing seems to have come into vogue of late.  Sure, RIM is not Apple and doesn't carry the cool factor around it but it is one of the first few to actually launch a tablet while many others are still talking of a tablet.

Many technology sites like Engadget have had a whole host of stories that they've released in the last few days talking about the gloomy days ahead for RIM (read here: RIM, We've been here before) or the fact that RIM hasn't addressed their customer segmentation issues properly (read here: Dear RIM, I'm your customer and I don't wear a suit).

While each story would have its own merit, what does remain a fact is that a BlackBerry still has its own USP's and why we've seen so many devices being sold here in the UAE.  It wasn't too long ago, we were all in a state of panic when we heard the the UAE may ban BlackBerry services.  Faced with a potential ban coming in place, many worried how they would keep in touch with their friends if BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) was disabled or many of those who travel frequently were concerned at how they'd check their e-mails (as the BlackBerry service and the fixed fee roaming data packages you get from both local telecom providers are much more affordable than roaming on any other smartphone package).

What RIM does offer is functionality.  You can read your e-mails, chat on BBM and be accessible with a data connection anywhere you go.  Even though BlackBerry devices may not the most appealing or attractive, we've seen lots of students, grand-parents or housewives, who are non-core users for BlackBerry-type devices buy them here in the UAE.  Many of these people could've bought an iPhone or an Android-based smartphone but are still opting for a BlackBerry device.

In fact, we've seen many people adopt a second smartphone of late as they've found it difficult to totally give up their BlackBerry.  I do agree with Jacob Schulman at Engadget who says he uses his BlackBerry purely for BBM and does everything else on his iPhone.  Many of us do use the two devices like that right now but he concluded his story by saying "I'm still in college for a few more years, and I haven't found anything worthy of replacing my BBM list, so for now I'll keep double fisting. But look, I can only carry two phones for so long..."

With BlackBerry World, RIM's annual gala for developers and channel partners due to take place in a few weeks time in Orlando (where Jacky's will also be present), we're going to see hopefully what direction RIM is moving in.  Many of the tech sites that have been RIM-bashing of late know that this event is around the corner but without waiting to hear what may come, it seems they've already passed judgement it seems on what they want to say about RIM.  This seems a tad bit unfair as you never know what strategy RIM adopts here.

RIM co-CEO, Mike Lazaridis has a tumultuous relationship
with the press thus far
We've already been hearing rumours of RIM possibly opening some BBM functionality across other platforms or that the PlayBook may have some capability of running Android-based Apps.  There could be a lot more we don't know but with RIM's co-CEO's both being personalities that have had a rocky relationship with the press, you have to wonder is the press pursuing a personal vendetta or objectively reporting news related to RIM/BlackBerry.

The answer to this may come when BlackBerry World rolls around in May but whatever it is, I  hope that some objectively is seen in how BlackBerry news is conveyed.

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

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Why PC's are still relevant in the Post-PC World

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a story entitled "Strap on your seatbelts for a Post-PC world ride" in which we spoke of Steve Job's presentation during the iPad 2 launch.  There he discussed his views on the Post-PC world.  We paraphrased some of the views and opinions of Joshua Topolsky, who was at the time, Editor-in-Chief of Engadget, one of the most widely read and respected technology blogs.

While there were many compelling arguments made by Topolsky in his editorial, an equally interesting editorial post has emerged from PC World, in which they talk about the "Why Post-PC Doesn't mean Sans PC" which was written by Michael Gartenberg.

In his write-up, Gartenberg, says we have indeed moved into the post-PC world but that doesn't mean the PC is still not a part of this world.  Rather, he says "post PC means after PC, a new generation of products that build on the PC.  What it doesn't mean is sans PC, that is, without PC. The personal computer will no doubt be with us for a very long time... but that doesn't mean we're not in the post-PC world."  

Gartenberg goes on to say that PC's are still unique as most of what we do or Apps we use, still work perfectly well off a PC.   The alternative devices which exist today, whether it be a tablet or smartphone, can replicate some of the functionality of a PC but are still a far way from doing everything your PC does.  

The bottomline is that isn't quite time to start writing the obituary for the desktop PC or notebook.  We've certainly being a sales growth in our outlets this year and expect this to continue even though tablet sales have sky-rocketed for us.  PC's will still be around for many for many more years and even though we're now in the "post-PC" world, PC's still seem to be very much a part of the ecosystem.

To read Michael Gartenberg's post, click here and to read the original editorial from Joshua Topolsky while he was at Engadget, click here.

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