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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