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Sunday, 21 October 2012

App developers get ready for Windows 8 debut

With Windows 8, Microsoft’s new operating system (OS), the technology giant is attempting to rethink its platform to bring in big changes to the user interface and navigation. One of the biggest components of this platform’s success would be application developers.

Microsoft has announced that developers from 120 markets (including India) will be able to publish their Windows 8 apps and start selling them online on Windows App Store from October 26, when the new OS will be commercially launched.

The sheer number of apps, both free and paid, was the primary reason why Apple and Google succeeded with their iOS and Android platforms, respectively, and also where Research in Motion (RIM) failed with its BlackBerry OS. With 3,500 developers participating at its AppFest earlier this month, Microsoft is throwing the red carpet to welcome developers.

However, app developers in India are in a dilemma, for they have to choose between Windows 8 and Android. Vishal Gondal, managing director – digital, DisneyUTV, says: “This is the first time that you will have an OS, which is tightly integrated with a number of devices and which is outside of the Apple eco-system. It is only in an Apple environment that a user gets a seamless experience between gadgets such as Mac, iPad and iPhone. The other advantage that Microsoft has is the number of users already using Windows. iOS, in that sense, is still restricted to a certain segment of users in India,” points out Gondal.

The other advantage of Windows 8 is that it lets app developers monetise their applications. Amrish Goyal, director, Windows business group at Microsoft India, says: “Microsoft will offer developers the option of using in-app transactions to make money or get the money upfront from the users for their apps. Alternatively, the developers can rely on the ad-funded model. The minimum price of an app, according to Microsoft, will be as low as $1.49 or as high as $999.”

Microsoft, like Apple, will keep 30 per cent of the app price on sales up to $25,000. For app sales beyond this, the Redmond-based company will keep 20 per cent. This revenue-sharing arrangement for a company like Rovio, which made a killing selling Angry Birds, could mean a potentially larger pay cheque from Microsoft over competing platforms.

Predictably, Microsoft has managed to get the attention of Indian developers. “After iOS, we will be considering the Windows platform for our apps, before we even think of Android where monetisation is extremely difficult,” says Mohit Sureka, founder and CEO, Spiel Studios. According to him, while the company is not looking at Windows 8 apps for PC, it will consider developing gaming apps for the Windows 8 platform on tablets and smartphones, once the OS is commercially launched. Spiel Studios has published several iOS apps such as Propel Man, that even featured among the top-10 apps on Apple’s India app store.

Girish Nuli, managing director and CEO of Antara Software, a Bangalore-based start-up that is ready with a health care app for Windows 8 web and mobile platform, says: “We evaluated other mobile OSes, but realised that Windows had a formidable reach in India. Our app, Active Life, is ready for Windows 8 app store and we are looking to monetise the app with in-app purchases.” Nuli is also working on adding a few more health care and education apps for Windows 8 soon.

Even developers who don’t have a Windows 8 app are betting the platform would open new doors. Nilay Arora, business head at ibibo Games, says: “We have been monetising our Android apps via in-app advertisements, and it has worked all right till now. But, we will use in-app upgrades on Windows 8 platform to monetise the app, since the company is providing a secure payment gateway.” With seven apps on the Android platform and two on the Apple iOS, ibibo Games believes while Android platform provides the company a better volume scale today, Microsoft’s new platform would give a wider distribution network to its apps.

Developers also see Windows 8 as an alternative to Google’s Android OS, one of the most popular OSes. “The Android ecosystem is fragmented at the moment, as developers have to configure apps according to different devices and the experience varies for each device. Secondly, there is no real business model surrounding Android. Google has not provided for any payment mechanism. Although one can depend on advertisement revenue, that is still very small,” said Gondal.

Microsoft’s Goyal emphasised that apart from computers and tablets, the Windows 8 OS also supports apps on Xbox console and smartphones, providing developers a much larger opportunity than its rivals. Windows has sold 630 million licences in about 200 countries and has a 90 per cent share of the OS market, which indicates the upgrade potential for Windows 8. The new OS, says Goyal, will also allow users to make purchases for their Xbox 360 gaming and queue them up for download on the console. In other words, Microsoft hopes to unify the OS across device platforms.

According to the latest Developer Economics report, Apple’s iOS is the most expensive platform to develop apps on, where an average app development costs about $27,000, making it 21 per cent more expensive than Android. The average app will take approximately three months to develop. A Windows Phone app, on the other hand, costs about $17,500 and an average Android app costs $22,617. “Naturally, app development costs depend on the country and app category. For example, iOS is faster to develop communication and social networking apps than Android,” the report notes.

Microsoft has also launched a four-month long programme across 50 cities in India, titled TechDays, to promote developers and technology enthusiasts to create apps for its OS.

Although Microsoft and its partner on the mobile front, Nokia, are going all out to woe developers and customers, its success will only be decided over the next few quarters..

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Airtel launches 4G service in Pune

After Bangalore and Kolkata, Bharti Airtel yesterday the launch of Airtel postpaid 4G services in Pune,  the first 4G service in Maharashtra.

Airtel also has plans of rolling out India’s first multi-mode LTE TDD smartphone in India along with partners Qualcomm and Huawei.

The dongle for accessing 4G services on laptops and PCs is priced at ' 4,999. In addition, there are monthly usage charges. The 4G service is available for mobile handsets, Airtel 4G LTE, Airtel 4G dongle and Airtel 4G movies.

Commenting on this,  K Srinivas, president, consumer business, Bharti Airtel said, “The response received by Airtel 4G services in Kolkata and Bangalore has been compelling – thus reinforcing our long term focus on delivering technologies to fulfill the needs of India’s rapidly growing data evolution story. With both home and office users opting for 4G services, it is heartening to see early adopters of this technology acknowledge the experience that Airtel 4G delivers – for everything from streaming videos and downloading music, to accessing business applications, email and rich multimedia content. We are optimistic about the traction that 4G will see in months to come and loo k forward to rolling out our services in other circles soon.”

Customers can now check the availability of Airtel 4G services in their area online through the familiar Google Maps interface and buy the services online.

Along with a host of payment options, Airtel 4G will also be available on monthly EMI’s and cash on delivery. The online purchasing capability will soon be rolled out for customers in Bengaluru and Kolkata as well.

Airtel Broadband TV service on Airtel 4G dongle allows customers to stream live TV content directly onto their laptop or desktop without the prerequisite of a cable or set-top box connection.

Using Airtel 4G, customers can now access to close to 76 channels and on-demand videos across various genres including movies, music, entertainment and news.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Facebook has 65 mn active users in India

The number of active Facebook users in India has swelled to 65 million, according to Kirthiga Reddy, director (online operations) at Facebook India. This is an eight-fold jump in a span of two years.

“Facebook had a user base of eight million when it started its office in India in 2010, and 65 million monthly active users is the number that we have today to share and connect,” she told mediapersons in Hyderabad on Thursday.

The social networking platform has key products and innovations for India, both on desktop and mobiles, said Reddy. She added that Facebook was now available in nine languages on phone and 10 languages on desktops. She also announced the company’s new office in Hyderabad, which has a floor space of approximately 66,000 sq. ft. Facebook employs less than 4,000 people globally.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that the company had passed the one-billion user milestone globally, making it the first social network to do so. “Over eight years, we have over one billion people spending time, sharing and connecting on the social network platform globally. Of that, 600 million use it from their mobile devices,” said Reddy. “Our goal is to make sure that we have a fantastic experience not just on smartphones but also on feature phones.”

Stating that Facebook continuously innovates to create products such as ads and ‘sponsored stories’ in news feeds for marketers, Reddy said a clutch of new products such as Facebook Exchange, Sponsored Results and Offers were further driving loyalty. “These are getting 40 per cent conversion via Facebook than any other source,” she said.

Citing the example of Mumbai-based Chumbak.com, she said that 25 per cent of the retailer’s online revenue came from Facebook.

“Chumbak has seen 5X return on investment (RoI) and 40 per cent of its traffic comes from Facebook,” she said.

“We drive results for marketers. A study across 63 campaigns globally (on Facebook) witnessed five times the RoI in 49 per cent of the campaigns.”

Reddy added that the online advertising spend in India is growing at 25 per cent year-on-year and Facebook’s reach can be a strong platform

Barack Obama is now anti-India, says Indian-American Republican

Citing US President Barack Obama's stance on outsourcing of jobs to India and work visas for IT firms, a leading Indian American Republican has said that Mitt Romney, not the incumbent, is the best bet for strong and enduring Indo-US relations.

Dr Sampat Shivangi, who was one of the three Indian American delegates to the Republican National Convention and a major fundraiser in Mississippi state, said the Democrats' India-friendly image is but just a myth.

Shivangi, the President of Indian American Forum for Political Education (IAFPE), said that with Obama openly and unhesitatingly criticising outsourcing to India, the future of ties between the two nations will be in safe hands only if a Republican occupies the White House.

He claimed that though majority of Indian-Americans do support the Democratic Party and Obama in particular, the trend was changing among second and third generation Indians.

"They no longer carry the Socialist and Nehruvian baggage from India like some of us in the age group of 60 to 70 do.

"President Obama is very critical of outsourcing jobs to India and work visa from India for IT companies are being gradually dispensed with. It's only a myth that Democrats are India-friendly," said Shivangi.

"President Obama's tirade against India on outsourcing has really changed his image in majority of the Indian-Americans. His television advertisements day in day out have taken warpath to disgrace India as the problem for joblessness in US which is untrue," Shivangi said.

Shivangi helped raise USD 1.7 million for Republican contender Romney in Mississippi, the highest collected in the State so far topping USD 1.2 million collected for the then President George Bush, again with the help of Shivangi.

... contd.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

No ADF at Delhi, Mumbai from Jan 1

The civil aviation ministry on Tuesday asked operators of the Delhi and Mumbai airports to stop levying Airport Development Fee (ADF) from next year, and directed Airports Authority of India (AAI) to infuse more equity into the joint venture firms.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh directed Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) and Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) to submit proposals to the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) on stopping ADF from January 1, 2013.

ADF — a form of viability gap funding to bridge the difference in the actual and estimated cost of construction for the private sector airport developers — is currently charged at the rate of Rs 200 per domestic passenger and Rs 1,300 per international passenger at Delhi airport, and Rs 100 and Rs 600 respectively at Mumbai.

DIAL said it would “analyse its financial structure... and increased impact on the aeronautical tariffs and respond appropriately to AERA”.