Friday, December 29, 2006

VC And M&A Deals In Indian Digital Media In 2006

Contentsutra has a good list of VC and M&A deals:
There were as many as 26 venture capital deals publicly announced. That has brought in about $175 million in VC money alone in 2006. The M&A has also been picking up with more than a dozen deals while the most of figures are undisclosed. Here is a quick compilation.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

HDTV or Web Video

Two very interesting and contrasting opinions on HDTV and IPTV/Video-on-internet:

Fred Wilson reports on "A VC":
I think people consistently overestimate the "quality" and "screensize" issues in the IPTV debate and underestimate the issues of convenience and ubiquity of content. I have found that time and time again, ubiquitous content of poor quality wins over a narrow selection of high quality.

Last night after dinner, our whole family crowded onto the master bed in one of our two hotel rooms and watched Good Will Hunting on my 15" MacBook Pro. Nobody complained about the lack of quality or screensize. I am not saying that families are going to start throwing away their family room flat panels and replace them with MacBook Pros, but I am saying that a ton of content that used to be watched in the family room is going to be watched on other devices.

What are those devices? Desktop and laptop PCs, xBox and other game devices, PSP and other portables (maybe even smartphones). It's exploding TV time and 2007 is going to be a breakout year.

In addition to iTunes/iTV, we are going to see The Venice Project come to fruition in 2007. It will start on Windows PCs, but I hope and expect to see a Venice client for Mac, xBox, and PSP before year end.

And you cannot underestimate the power of web video (YouTube, Google Video, etc, etc). I would expect to see a number of these players adopt a client like The Venice Project and also a p2p backbone, and offer the content that is building on their networks in downloadable formats. I also expect more and more people to connect a web browser to their family room systems and start watching web video sitting around after dinner.

Mark Cuban reports on his blog:
HDTV is the Internet video killer. Deal with it. Internet bandwidth to the home places a cap on the quality and simplicity of video delivery to the home, and to HDTVs in particular. Not only does internet capacity create an issue, but the complexity of moving HDTV streams around the home and tp the HDTV is pretty much a deal killer itself. Together, internet video is destined for the PC monitor for a long time to come. The only wild card that will have an impact is gaming consoles, but they dint offer access to internet video, they all kill themselves by only offering access to content inside their walled gardens. Internet video won't replace TV. It wont even complement TV offerings. It will flourish in the office. It will be a fun way to share personal content privately or publicly. It will be Community Access TV. On the flip side, HDTV is here and now. Its gone from being a future technology that could be cool in our living room to being the King of this holiday shopping season. 10s of millions of HDTVs have been sold and will be sold in the next year. The number of households with HDTVs is exploding. Yet for reasons I cant figure out, the broadcast networks are ignoring the opportunity it presents.

This is a unique point in time for all networks broadcast in HD to push the ball forward. HDNet is going to start a big ad push in 2007. Maybe we can carry the ball, but either way, its absolutely crazy, and stupid to not leverage this opportunity to the hilt. This coming year, 2007 will be known as the year Broadcast TV leveraged HD to create a golden age of TV with huge gains in ratings vs non HD networks, or it will be looked back upon as the year Broadcast Networks blew it.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Moser Baer Launches Hindi Movie DVDs At Rs 38; Plans To Acquire 40% Of Indian Movie Content Rights

Contentsutra reports:
Leading optical disk manufacturer Moser Baer is launching Hindi movies on DVDs at Rs 38 and VCD at Rs 24 (see press release). That’s dirt cheap - and interestingly cheaper than the DVD rental which is Rs 200 a month for four movies. Currently, the price of a Hindi DVD at retail stores varies from Rs 200 to Rs 400 and even higher if it’s a new release. (The saving grace is that DVD rental companies currently give out a lot of Hollywood movies).
Moser Baer will buy home video and DVD/VCD rights and distribute them across retail stores in the country.
Online DVD rentals companies now will have to innovate their business models.

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First short movie to premiere on the mobile phones in India

Contentsutra reports:
Phonethics Mobile Media has tied up with Reliance Communications to make available on Reliance Web World, their short film Ctrl+Alt+Del, starring actor Rahul Bose. As per the release, this is the first short movie to premiere on the mobile phones in India. I wouldn’t call it a premiere, since it has been screened at film festivals, and on NDTVs Indie Film Club. Phonethics will also be developing 30-60 second and 3-5 minute long content for the mobile. A trailor can be viewed here.

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WiMAX update (BSNL to invest Rs 2000 cr to hike broadband network)

WiMAX seeing some light of day in India (and in Pune):

Marketwire reports:
"India is quickly emerging as a major market for WiMAX," said Adlane Fellah, principal analyst, Maravedis Research and co-author of a comprehensive report on WiMAX in India. "With a population of more than one billion and a growing economy, India lacks the wireline broadband infrastructure to support its growing economy. India is a gigantic market for wireless broadband and the adoption of WiMAX will only accelerate as new spectrum is opened up to support the government's broadband policy. In this context, Aperto has proven its ability to meet the needs of major service providers in India and continues to capture a dominant share of the Indian WiMAX market."
Hindu Reports "BSNL to invest Rs 2,000 cr to hike broadband network":

India's largest telecom operator BSNL will invest about Rs 2,000 crore to augment its broadband infrastructure in urban and rural areas.
He also announced that the company would offer broadband connectivity at a speed of up to 2 mbps at the existing tariff of Rs 250 per month.
With this offering, BSNL will upgrade all its 8.2 lakh broadband users with upto 2 mbps broadband speed from the current 256 kbps. reports:
BSNL will be deploying Aperto's PacketMAX 5000 base stations, the industry's highest density, highest capacity, and highest performing base station. BSNL will also be deploying Aperto's PM 300 subscriber units, along with Aperto's WaveCenter™ EMS Pro, the element management system.

A little research on PacketMAX 5000: It is WiMAX Forum Certified, IEEE 802.16-2004 and ETSI HyperMAN certified. Radio power output is of 17dBm, 20 dBm, 30 dBm. Which makes the range of available from 7 to 18KM.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Simplicity Is Highly Overrated

Don Norman has written an excellent article, which defies traditional thinking; you must read it entirely; here I reproduce an excerpt:
“Why can’t products be simpler?” cries the reviewer in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the local newspaper. “We want simplicity” cry the people befuddled by all the features of their latest whatever. Do they really mean it? No.

I recently toured a department store in South Korea. I found the traditional “white goods” most interesting: Refrigerators and washing machines. The store obviously had the Korean companies LG and Samsung, but also GE, Braun, and Philips. The Korean products seemed more complex than the non-Korean ones, even though the specifications and prices were essentially identical. “Why?” I asked my two guides, both of whom were usability professionals. “Because Koreans like things to look complex,” they responded. It is a symbol: it shows their status.

But while at the store, I marveled at the advance complexities of all appliances, especially ones that once upon a time were quite simple: for example, toasters, refrigerators, and coffee makers, all of which had multiple control dials, multiple LCD displays, and a complexity that defied description. In the Korean store, I found a German toaster for 250,000 Korean Won (about $250). It had complex controls, a motor to lower the untoasted bread and to lift it when finished, and an LCD panel with many cryptic icons, graphs, and numbers. Simplicity?

Why is this? Why do we deliberately build things that confuse the people who use them?

Answer: Because the people want the features. Because simplicity is a myth whose time has past, if it ever existed.

Make it simple and people won’t buy. Given a choice, they will take the item that does more. Features win over simplicity, even when people realize that it is accompanied by more complexity. You do it too, I bet. Haven’t you ever compared two products side by side, comparing the features of each, preferring the one that did more? Why shame on you, you are behaving, well, behaving like a normal person.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Record Year for M&A

As of Monday morning, announced global M&A activity topped $3.5 trillion, according to Thomson Financial. That puts the year above the all-time record set in 2000, when about $3.38 trillion in deals were announced.
Big deals have pushed up this year’s performance in dollar value. The total number of deals announced this year has reached 34,785, which means the average deal has carried a value of slightly more than $100 million, according to Thomson data.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

SMS and other mobile applications -

Very interesting news from around the world:

IDT Internet Mobile Group's market research firm reports that -
"the worldwide mobile content market will grow from $16.7B in 2003 to $78B by 2007." reports "Using text message to send cash" in Phillipines:
Smart Communications, the system of using text messages to transfer cash now delivers at least $50 million a month to families in the Philippines, according to Washington-based lender International Finance Corp , reports The Mercury News

"The Philippines was an obvious place for the evolution to occur, given the huge popularity of text messaging there and the large numbers of people who receive regular remittances from abroad. According to bank data, nearly 8 million Filipinos in more than 100 countries sent nearly $100 billion home over the past 30 years. reports -
"A Bangalore based company has launched a unique service where a short message service (SMS) will now give you the number of the nearest taxi service." "We would like to support by providing information as to how you can get transport and that facilitation is important when people tend to enjoy in this festive mood," said Vijay Rekhi, President and MD, United Spirits. reports -
Reliance Communications Ltd. has launched the 'Free Group Term Life Cover' (TLC) offer for the more than 25 million CDMA subscribers of Reliance Mobile and Reliance Hello. The scheme offers Reliance Communications' customers an insurance cover of up to Rs. 50,000 merely through an SMS without paying any premium.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Cisco -- not apple -- announces iPhone branded VoIP phones

Edgadget reports:
We hate to break it to everybody who thought the inevitable Apple phone was going to be called the iPhone, but Cisco, which has apparently had the trademark on the name since the 90s, is launching a line of Linksys "iPhone" VoIP devices (yes, that's right, lower case "i", uppercase "P"). Why wait until now to launch the iPhone name? We can't say for sure, but we imagine Cisco was probably trying to work behind the scenes to sell the rights to the name to Apple, but things didn't pan out -- but since "iPhone" is already a fairly ubiquitous brand without even being launched, hey, why not run with it?
Businessweek reports:
Cisco has owned the trademark on the iPhone brand since 2000, when it acquired Infogear—which had registered the name in 1996. Infogear showed an Internet appliance bearing the iPhone name at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 1997 (see, 2/3/97, "A New Gig for Your Phone: Net Surfer"). Cisco spent $301 million to acquire Infogear in 2000.

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Indian firms: moving into high-value strategic advice

Forbes has an interesting article titled the consultants from chennai (through Sadagopan's Weblog).
The article starts by pointing out that Indian firms are moving into high-value strategic advice faster than anyone had expected. From being purely providers of cheap call-center services and payroll processing, they are moving up the value ladder. They offer product design, software design, chip engineering and the kind of corporate asset-deploying advice once the sole domain of Western firms like McKinsey & Co. and Booz Allen Hamilton. Forrester's Stephanie Moore thinks that a lot of consulting deals won by the Indians in the last few years have really shocked the industry – IBM, EDS & Accenture’s have not come to terms with this.

Look at a few cases that demonstrate this : Northeast Utilities in Hartford, Connecticut consolidated three customer information systems into one, and six call centers into two. Global firms and Indian headquartered firms competed for this opportunity. The usual providers of this kind of advice are firms such as IBM, Capgemini and Accenture , the well-known shops that sponsor golf tournaments and run ads during the Super Bowl. These firms bid on the aforementioned projects, but they lost. The winners came from Bangalore and Chennai, firms such as I-flex Solutions, Mphasis BFL Group, Infosys Technologies and SlashSupport. In the case of Northeast Utilities, Infosys got the strategic advice business while IBM got left with the scut work of moving the company's 2 million customer records from the old system to the new. Seven years ago GE Appliances entrusted Satyam to prepare only engineering drawings and blueprints for its home business. Four years later Satyam was doing tear-down analysis of all its products and its competitors' products. Now it's the only point of contact for GE Appliances' vendors and components suppliers, and it has also taken over the design of nearly all new product features. Multinationals are relying on Indian firms for fundamental missions.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Firefox use continues to rise in Europe

Reported on The Inquirer by Paul Hales: Friday 08 December 2006, 16:16
ACCORDING TO research carried out by French firm Xiti Monitor, use of the Firefox browser continues to grow in Europe. According to Xiti's research, the browser is now used by some 23.2% of European PC web surfers - up from 19.4% in April. Slovenia loves the Fox, where over 40% of surfers use the browser. Brits, along with the Spanish and the Dutch are the least Firefox friendly Europeans as the pretty map below shows. Use of Firefox generally goes up at the weekend in Europe, suggesting that people have the browser on their home PCs and may get what they're given at work.

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India's GSM user base crosses the 100 mn landmark

Economictimes reports:
Riding on the cellular boom and the aggressive strategy by operators to add new users, the GSM subscriber base in the country has crossed the 100-million landmark. India has now become the third-largest GSM market in the world behind China (401.7 million subscribers) and Russia (152.2 million). Five million new GSM subscribers were added in November, which is the largest since cellular services began in India in 1995. During October, India had created a global record by adding 6.5 million new wireless (including both CDMA and GSM) subscribers.

GSM market share stands like this:
Bharti Airtel - 30.3% with total subscriber base at 30,262,269
BSNL - 22.80% with total subscriber base at 22,975,201
Hutchison Essar - 22.10% with total subscriber base at 22,274,580

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Time’s Best Inventions 2006

Time’s Best Inventions 2006 has some neat stuff (through Signal vs. Noise):

Janjaap Ruijssenaars air mattress uses a matching set of repelling magnets, built into the bed and the floor below, to support ~2,000 lbs.

Read more here.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

YouTube vs. Fox + NBC + CBS

Michael Arrington reports a very interesting story on Techcrunch:
This is a rumor that just won’t die: The major television networks are considering creating a new online video service joint venture to compete with YouTube.

Here’s what we’ve heard: a few major networks want to create a YouTube competitor, and they have been seriously discussing this for months prior to the YouTube/Google deal. The technology is fairly straightforward, and would be based on Adobe’s Flash platform. The networks would then license their online rights to content to this new service, allowing users to legally watch full episodes of tv shows on the site. Simultaneous to the launch of this new service, the networks would launch massive litigation against Youtube/Google for copyright violations, forcing them to pull the content off of YouTube.

But discussions have stalled. First, Google has offered substantial payoffs to the networks to keep their content on YouTube. Second, complications over how to split revenues from advertising have lengthened discussions. Our understanding is that Viacom and Disney have dropped out of the discussions entirely, but that Fox, NBC and CBS are still trying to put a deal together.

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Xbox >> Wii >> PS3

Reported on Gigaom:
The number of the week is 10 million. That’s the number Microsoft is sticking with; on second thought, make that 10 million plus change. Based on current market demand, that’s how many Xbox 360s that Peter Moore, the company’s gaming ubermensche, claims they’ll sell by the end of this year, worldwide. Next Generation also reports that Sony expects to have 2 million Playstation 3s on the market, and Nintendo, 4 million Wiis.

For those scoring at home, this means (assuming all of those units ship and sell), the world’s next gen market will break down like this at the end of the year:

Xbox 360: 62.5%, Wii: 25%, PS3: 12.5%

[Image Courtesy]

Microsoft’s lead seems unbeatable now, fueled by a one year head start, the raging success of Gears of War as 2006’s killer app (it’s already become Xbox Live’s most popular multiplayer game), and most recently, a blitzkrieg of promotion for Halo 3, scheduled for 2007. (The game’s ultracool teaser ad is now causing collective squeals of geek delight.)

Betanews reports:

"It's not hard to be confident when you're the only show in town. Sure, PS3 and Wii have been released, but try to buy one. Short supplies mean sunny sales for Microsoft," remarked Microsoft Watch editor Joe Wilcox. "Also, Xbox 360 is HD ready at a time when HD TVs are hot items. Consumers can wait around for PS3 or Wii and likely not get one--or they could buy a Xbox 360 for their brand new HD plasma or LCD TV. Microsoft is right to boast about sales."

Also, check out this very good technical comparision of XBOX, Wii and PS3 here.

Tax holidaying in Mauritius

Cover story in Businessworld, through Venture Intelligence:
Over the past few years, more money has come through the Mauritius route to India than through direct investments from almost any other country. In April-June this year, a total of Rs 4,165 crore came in through Mauritius to India — as against Rs 1,105 crore from the US. By the end of the year, the money flowing in from Mauritius to India could be as high as Rs 15,000 crore. In 2005-06, a total of Rs 11,441 crore came in through this route, more than double the Rs 5,141 crore in 2004-05, which in turn was almost double the Rs 2,609 crore that had come in in 2003-04. Compare that with the relatively piddly Rs 2,210 crore that came in through the US in 2005-06.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Content Businesses Don’t Scale Anymore

Can anyone think of a content business — meaning a company that produces original content — that has scaled dramatically in recent years? I can’t. Look at the businesses that have scaled — Google, MySpace, YouTube — all platforms for content, but not producers of content. Compare those to original content businesses like Weblogs, Inc., Gawker, TechCrunch, Paid Content — they are successful at their scale, but that scale is still tiny compared to the scale of the aggregation businesses. Even portals like AOL and Yahoo are much more aggregators of content than original producers of content.

Jonathan Miller at Web 2.0, shortly before his abrupt departure from AOL, effectively conceded that the content business is losing scale. John Battelle asked him whether portals like AOL can hold onto their monopoly, or whether they will go the way of cable TV, i.e. infinite fragmentation. Although he gave the dutiful public company answer, that in practice he didn’t see why AOL wouldn’t hang onto its monopoly, his first answer was frank and honest — in principle, there’s no reason why these monopolies shouldn’t unwind.

New Spanish cell phone for the 4-year-old reports:

Yet another cell phone for the 4-year-old set. Spotted on Core77

"Developped by Barcelona-based firm Node, the MO1 is distributed to 20 countries by Spanish companies Movistar and Imaginarium.

Other cell phones for kids:

-- Teddy-bear shaped mobile phone for four-year-olds

-- DoCoMo unveils phone to keep kids safe

-- Dutch introduce phones for kids

New Spanish cell phone for the 4-year-old reports:

Yet another cell phone for the 4-year-old set. Spotted on Core77

"Developped by Barcelona-based firm Node, the MO1 is distributed to 20 countries by Spanish companies Movistar and Imaginarium.

Other cell phones for kids:

-- Teddy-bear shaped mobile phone for four-year-olds

-- DoCoMo unveils phone to keep kids safe

-- Dutch introduce phones for kids

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Is Microsoft An Innovator? - The Winer-Scoble Debate

Reported on Slashdot:
Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "Bloggers Robert Scoble (a former Microsoft 'technical evangelist') and Dave Winer (longtime Microsoft critic) debate whether Microsoft is driving innovation or playing catch-up, in an email conversation published on Winer writes, 'Microsoft isn't an innovator, and never was. They are always playing catch-up, by design. That's their M.O. They describe their development approach as "chasing tail lights."

They aren't interested in markets until they're worth billions, so they let others develop the markets, and have been content to catch-up.' Scoble responds that Microsoft's innovation can be found in the little things: 'I remember when they improved the error messages you get in Internet Explorer, or when they improved fonts in Windows with ClearType technology. That improved our lives in a very tiny way. Not one that you usually read about, or probably even notice. Is Microsoft done innovating in those small ways? Absolutely not. Office 2007 lets me do some things (like cool looking charts) in seconds that used to take many minutes, maybe even hours for some people to do.'"

GizmoWeb Will Make Web Calling Easy

SIPphone, makers of Gizmo Project have developed a new web based, and very simple version of their VoIP offering. The new web-based service utilizes a browser plugin and is expected to launch sometime soon. It will allow people to make calls by visiting Gizmo’s website, logging in, and simply typing in the number they wish to call without needing the Gizmo software. It would be an easy way to make calls when using computers, at say an Internet cafe.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Nokia To Do Mobile TV Broadcasting Trials With Doordarshan In 2007

Contentsutra reports:
Nokia plans to do a trial of its mobile television broadcasting in India. The trial, using Nokia’s open standards based digital video broadcast handheld technology (DVB-H), is expected to be done early 2007 in association with state-run Doordarshan, reports Reuters. Nokia has chosen India because it’s the world’s fastest growing mobile market and it also has a significant marketshare in India. In India, other mobile TV technologies are also in the process of being readied for trials. Koreans are pushing T-DMB in India, while Qualcomm is pushing MediaFlo.
Business Standard reports:
The service will be available only on N 92 handsets, though N 92 was a 3G-enabled handset, mobile TV could be watched also on 2G platform. Mobile TV works by receiving a digital TV broadcast signal optimised for mobile devices in much the same way as televisions do at home. Operators and broadcasters, of course, have to put up towers across cities.