Sunday, 29 March 2015

Smaller cities lap up offbeat items online

In India, what do people buy online? While electronics and apparel are some of the largest selling items, products such as adult diapers and blood glucose meters are seeing a rapid rise in demand on e-tailing sites along with tug-of-war ropes or even robotic ping-pong tables and selfie kits.

Kunal Bahl, co-founder and CEO of Snapdeal, was surprised when he reviewed the range of products being bought from tier II and III towns from his online marketplace. "Online retail has revolutionized the way Indians shop. Some of the categories witnessing high traction from these places are very interesting," he said.

Arvind Singhal, founder of retail consultancy Technopak, said, "Penetration of FMCG products and consumer durables are very high across India. But in smaller towns and cities, people don't have access to many categories that are easily available in metros. For instance, if you move just 300Km away from Delhi to Nainital, availability of items such as solar lanterns drops sharply. So the only option for people there is to shop online because, for many categories, the reach of online players is greater than that of their brick and mortar counterparts."

Snapdeal has a separate team that travels into far-flung places like the interior of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir to partner with local courier companies.

Data from eBay shows people in Lakshadweep buy a large number of bar accessories online from eBay, while Nagaland sees a high demand for camping gear. Bike accessories are a big hit in Daman & Diu, while Chandigarh sees big purchases of networking and wireless devices, and Goa fuels the demand for hats.

"We have seen faster e-commerce growth in non-metros due to the advent of low priced smartphones and internet access," said Vidmay Naini, director (business operations), eBay India. "Consumers in non-metros are not only buying mainstream products but also unique items such as DJ turn tables, body-piercing jewellery, dashcams, temporary hair colour styling gel."

People in smaller towns are going online not just for 'offbeat' goods, Singhal said. "Items such as branded apparel are also hard to find in those areas. So, shopping online is the only option for people there," he said.

For Flipkart, Coimbatore and Tirupur have become apparel hubs and have seen 200% growth in demand last year, while Kundli, Pudducherry and Panipat have emerged as major hubs for categories such as home, consumer electronics and apparels. "Demand for leather and sports goods is growing among smaller city customers with Ludhiana and Jalandhar catering to 65% of these orders," said a Flipkart spokesperson.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Microsoft releases report on government spying

  Microsoft said the number of global law enforcement requests for user data fell in 2014 as the tech giant renewed its call for surveillance reforms.

In its twice-yearly "transparency report," Microsoft said the total number of law enforcement requests received in the second half of the year was 31,002, bringing to the total for the year to 65,496 -- down from 72,279 a year earlier.

Some 70% of the requests came from five countries -- the United States, France, Britain, Germany and Turkey, the report said.

Microsoft deputy counsel John Frank said in a statement that while law enforcement authorities sometimes need to access data to protect the public, "access should be governed by the rule of law, and not by mandating back doors or weakening the security of our products and services."

He said revelations about vast government surveillance programmes underscore a need for reforms in the United States and more clarity in international agreements on cross-border data sharing.

"We need commitments that governments will not hack technology companies to access data outside the legal process," he said.

"Efforts to hack technology companies have undermined confidence in the security and privacy of online communications."

Microsoft also released data on US national security data requests, in accordance with requirements that it provide only ranges of numbers with a lag of at least six months.

The report showed that the company received between zero and 999 orders from a secret US intelligence court from January through June 2014 -- the same range it has reported since 2011.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Yahoo says it will buy back $2 billion in stock

Yahoo says it will buy back $2 billion in company stock as it prepares to spin off its stake in Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba.

Investors were pushing Yahoo to use some of the proceeds from the Alibaba spinoff to buy back stock, and the company had said it would keep buying back stock to return cash to shareholders.

Shares of Yahoo rose 93 cents, or 2%, to $45.40 in aftermarket trading.

The stock repurchase program will expire March 31, 2018. Yahoo has $726 million remaining on previous stock buyback plan, which was approved in 2013 and expires at the end of 2016.

In January, Yahoo said it will spin off its stake in Alibaba Group. later this year. The move will allow the new entity to pay lower taxes on Alibaba stock sales than Yahoo would have.

Yahoo owns 384 million shares of Alibaba, and as of Thursday's close its stake is worth about $32 billion.

Activist investor Starboard Value pushed for the spinoff in 2014. More recently it has called for Yahoo to spin off its Japanese business, cut costs, and get cash for its intellectual property and real estate holdings. It proposed an even larger stock repurchase of up to $4 billion. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Xiaomi working on 'smart' shoes

China's Li Ning is teaming up with Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi to produce a new generation of 'smart' running shoes this year, in the sports brand's latest effort to revive its waning fortunes.

Li Ning, backed by private equity powerhouse TPG Capital and Singapore wealth fund GIC, warned in January that it expects to post its third consecutive full-year loss, as it grapples with a restructuring, bloated inventories and slowing demand following the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Li Ning's efforts to recapture its glory days by appealing to a younger generation have been evident in its product design and high-profile marketing campaigns. In 2013, it signed a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal with NBA basketball superstar Dwayne Wade.

Li Ning said its partnership with Huami Technology, the fitness wearable company behind the Mi band and part of the Xiaomi ecosystem, is the first collaboration between sports and 'smart' technology in China.

"We have chosen to collaborate with the Mi band because of Huami Technology's strength in 'smart' wearable products," Li Ning said in a statement on Monday. "We hope to use this opportunity to provide professional 'smart' running shoes to running enthusiasts in China at an affordable price."

'Smart' chips are to be placed in the soles of Li Ning running shoes. The 'smart' running shoes will be connected to a Xiaomi mobile app, allowing runners to keep track of their progress and results, analyze their form, and monitor their achievements.

Li Ning is due to announce its 2014 results on Wednesday.

YU to launch Lollipop-powered ‘Project Caesar’ smartphone

It looks like YU, the recently launched smartphone brand from Micromax, is gearing up to launch a new smartphone.

The firm has already started teasing a phone which has been code-named Project Caesar. The latest teasers on the company's Facebook page suggest that the phone will come preloaded with Android Lollipop, the latest version of Google's mobile OS.

YU has even taken a dig at Xiaomi in a teaser that reads, 'KitKat in the age of lollipop? Give ME a break.' Interestingly the 'ME' in the teaser resembles Xiaomi's 'Mi' logo. It's worth pointing out that Xiaomi's recent flagship, Mi 4, comes preloaded with Android 4.4 KitKat and not Lollipop.

YU is rumoured to release the new smartphone in April. This is also the time when Cyanogen, which powers the software of YU smartphones, is expected to release a build based on Android Lollipop. No other details related to the phone are available at the moment. The company had earlier launched Yureka, a budget phone that offers mid-range specifications and is sold via weekly flash sales.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Google execs head to Cuba as Cold War ice thaws

Cuba may have one of the lowest rates of internet access in the world, but that hasn't dissuaded Google from sending over some of its leading lights.

Executives from its in-house think tank Google Ideas are on a visit to the communist island ? which is in the throes of trying to normalize relations with the United States ? to tour universities and meet computer science students, news portal Cubadebate said on Friday.

They include the deputy director of Google Ideas, Scott Carpenter, and Brett Perlmutter, a top Google figure who went to Cuba last June with executive chairman Eric Schmidt.

The latest visitors met students at the University of Information Science (UCI) in Havana, a technological institute and several public computer centers known as 'Youth Clubs.'

Just 3.4% of households in Cuba are connected to the internet and the government keeps tight control over the web, though it vowed last month to "put the internet at the service of all" to stimulate economic growth.

The historic announcement in December that Washington and Havana would resume relations after more than five decades of Cold War animosity has raised Cubans' hopes that they could soon have regular internet access via the United States.

It has also put companies in the US and beyond on alert, hoping to cash in on the rapprochement.

"It can't be a coincidence that two of the top executives visiting the country belong to Google Ideas, the subsidiary dedicated to 'exploring how technology can enable people to confront threats in the face of conflict, instability and repression,' as its mission statement reads," said Cubadebate.

The news portal said students told the executives that they still could not download certain applications from the Google Play online store to their cell phones despite Google's recent move to unblock Cubans' access.

Cubadebate said the students also expressed interest in selling video games developed at UCI on Google Play. But the Google team said it would "not be possible for the moment," the website said.

A number of complex issues still divide Havana and Washington, including a punishing trade embargo, which president Barack Obama would need Congressional approval to lift.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Intel Launches New Mobile SoCs, LTE Solution

Intel Corporation CEO Brian Krzanich has launched a series of mobile platforms including the company's new low-cost system-on-chip (SoC) for phones, phablets and tablets, a global LTE solution, innovative personal computing experiences, and a range of customers for mobile device and network infrastructure offerings. With technologies that span silicon, software and security, Krzanich said Intel was one of the few companies able to deliver solutions end-to-end, for devices, the network and the cloud.

The announcements include the Intel® Atom x3 processor series, Intel's first integrated communications SoC solution for the growing value and entry device markets, and the five-mode Intel® XMM 7360 LTE Advanced solution, designed for performance and worldwide coverage. In addition, Krzanich highlighted joint efforts with Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Huawei to address the demand for new telecommunications, cloud and data center services, improve network efficiencies, and accelerate the industry's move toward a software-defined infrastructure.

Krzanich also reiterated that Samsung Galaxy S6* and S6 Edge users will have the latest anti-malware solution fromMcAfee VirusScan Mobile technology built into and activated on their devices.

"The evolution of the mobile landscape and growth of smart, connected devices has led to increased demand for more connectivity and real-time, protected data on those devices," said Krzanich. "All of these factors are driving a transformation of the network to accelerate the delivery of new personal computing experiences, services and capabilities in a safe and secure manner. Intel is one of the only companies in the world that can provide solutions end-to-end for the full spectrum of mobility.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Sony PlayStation 4 coming to China on March 20

  Japanese electronics giant Sony will launch its PlayStation gaming console in China on March 20, it said after a more than two-month delay in officially selling its products to Chinese consumers.

The company originally planned to launch PlayStation 4 consoles in China on January 11, but abruptly announced a delay only three days beforehand, giving no reason for the change.

Instead it will start selling its flagship console, hand-held PlayStation Vita and software on March 20, a statement on the PlayStation China microblog said on March 11.

China last year authorized the domestic sale of game consoles through its first free-trade zone (FTZ) in Shanghai, ending a ban imposed in 2000, although imports through unofficial channels have long been widely available.

The country's leaders impose strict control over content they deem to be obscene, violent or politically sensitive, and under the rules of the FTZ all games must still pass inspection by cultural authorities.

Sony rival Microsoft was the first foreign company to enter China's potentially lucrative game market and launched its Xbox One console in China in September.

Sony has said it would offer the PlayStation 4 in China for 2,899 yuan ($471) and the PlayStation Vita for 1,299 yuan.

It will offer Chinese versions of games including "Dynasty Warriors 8" and "Final Fantasy", as well as titles from domestic developers. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Madz app is a one-stop-shop for deals in neighbourhood stores

Online shopping may have become a fad but there are some who still swear by brick-and-mortar stores. To ensure shoppers don't miss out on great deals, two Bengaluru brothers have developed an app that gives them a lowdown on all discounts available in their locality.

From property deals and medical check-ups to shoes and mobile phones, mobile app Madz covers diverse categories of goods and services. For example, if you're in Jayanagar, south Bengaluru, and are looking for good deals, you just need to download the app and log in. The screen will show a map of your neighbourhood, flooded by discounts on everything from apparel, shoes, bags and jewellery to food, haircuts, automobiles or even a new apartment.

It's the brainchild of Krishna Jonnakadla, 37 and Kartik Jonnakadla, 33, residents of south Bengaluru, who wanted to promote offline shopping through an online medium. While Krishna worked as a chartered accountant in the US for 11 years and invested in many such startups, Kartik, a market researcher, took the entrepreneurial leap and joined his brother in the new venture. The duo began to collate information from merchants and branded stores about the deals they are offering and put it together on the app.

"We want merchants to own the service. So if one logs in as a merchant/vendor/shopkeeper, she or he can automatically enter inputs on the discount, see how many people view it and how many are interested. There are 16 categories of products available on the platform," said Kartik. Madz is likely to be launched in 10 other cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi, early next week. "I have invested all I'd saved in the US.

The app is a platform that will enable both parties — merchant and consumer — to find what is best for them. We have to constantly upgrade technology so that streaming of information is smooth for those who access the app at the same time. Later, I will leave the app entirely to the users," said Krishna. He's invested Rs 65 lakh in the venture.

How it works:

Download the app

Log in and specify if you're a merchant or shopper

If you are shopper, search for the area you want to go to. You'll find a list of deals and offers available there. It can be seen on the area map too

If you are a merchant, you can upload your offers and find out the number of clicks they have fetched

What you can find:

Madz covers 16 categories of products and services, including apparel, shoes, bags, jewellery, food, haircuts, automobiles and even medical check-ups and apartments

How it began:

It was sometime in mid-2014 when we went shopping for shoes in Indiranagar. I came across mind-boggling deals on a US brand. On another occasion, we were leaving a mall in Koramangala when I heard a girl say to her father that she had heard of some discounts in the mall but wasn't sure which store was offering them. A tour of city markets was enough for me to realize that online shopaholics don't even know what all is available in their area, says Kartik Jonnakadla, co-founder, Madz.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

On the case at Mount Sinai, it's Dr Data

Jeffrey Hammerbacher is a number cruncher — a Harvard math major to a Wall Street quant who graduated to a key role at Facebook. Then came his Eureka moment — the founding of a successful data start-up.

Five years ago, he was given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a crisis that fuelled in him a fierce curiosity in medicine — about how the body and brain work and why they sometimes fail. The more he read and talked to experts, the more he became convinced that medicine needed people like him: skilled practitioners of data science who could guide scientific discovery and decision-making.

Now, Hammerbacher, 32, is on the faculty of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, with no academic training in medicine or biology. He is there because the school has begun an ambitious, well-funded initiative to apply Big Data (data science) to medicine.

Hammerbacher stood recently in front of a white board filled with an amalgam of computer and genetic code, speaking of "Linux clusters" and "gnarly C code" — standard terms in the language of computing — but the main subject was biomedical science. He also discussed "neoantigens" and "gene variants," and the data-driven hunt to find and understand the rogue cell clusters of cancer. "We're pursuing problems that are computationally and intellectually exciting, and where there is the potential to change how doctors treat patients in two or three years," Hammerbacher said.

Eric Schadt, the computational biologist who recruited Hammerbacher to Mount Sinai, says the goal is to transform medicine into an information science, where data and computing are marshalled to deliver breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Mount Sinai is only one of several major medical schools turning to Big Data as a big part of the future of medicine and health care.

They are reaching out to people like Hammerbacher, whose career arc traces the evolution of data science as it has spread across the economy.

After a job designing trading models at Bear Stearns, he worked for a few important years at Facebook, where he started the social network's data team and made his reputation, and a tidy sum. Next, he was one of four founders of Cloudera, a fast-growing company that makes software tools for data science. And now he is immersed in medicine, thanks to his roots in Math and tryst with bipolar.

Hammerbacher was always a numbers guy. Rachana Fischer, a litigator in Silicon Valley, was a year ahead of him in high school. She recalls, "His career is based on analyzing people by data and numbers."

Hammerbacher's team does not do the basic science. Other researchers do that. His group works on the "computational pipeline," he said, with the goal of making personalized treatments more automated and thus more affordable and practical.

Today he speaks less about quants taking over than about their lending a hand. "We're not the most important people," he said, "but we can help."

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Microsoft releases Office 2016 for Mac preview

Microsoft has released a preview of Office 2016 for Mac, free to all users of Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite until its official release later this year. This is the first new version of Office for Mac in five years, and brings a lot of features Windows users have had for some time.

For instance, all of these applications now integrate with Microsoft cloud storage, meaning you can save to and open files from OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint.

On the collaboration front, Word also gets the ability for co-authors to work on a document simultaneously, Google Docs-style.

It also gussies up the suite's look across Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, and Outlook, making it way prettier -including retina display, a redesigned Ribbon interface, and full-screen view support.

Otherwise, there are a lot of little improvements: Word gets better formatting options and a navigation pane that makes it easier to find specific spots in long docs. Excel's keyboard shortcuts are now the same between PC and Mac, which will probably save at least a few users some headaches. PowerPoint presentations get more slide transition options. Outlook gets the "conversation view" that lets you organize email chains into threaded conversations, support for external apps, weather information right in the app, Online Archive support, and other minor improvements.

Microsoft's major goal with Office 2016 for Mac isn't to reinvent the wheel, but rather to close the gaps and bring some of the cool stuff back to the Mac. The full version is expected to come out this summer for an unannounced price.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

China unveils 'Internet Plus' strategy

China will back e-commerce development and guide international expansion by Chinese internet companies, Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday, in an endorsement for firms such as Alibaba Group and

Addressing the opening of China's annual parliamentary meeting in Beijing, Li broadly laid out China's 'Internet Plus' strategy, which includes promoting cloud computing, online banking, mobile internet, along with logistics to help e-commerce expansion.

He also stressed the need for more state investment in the internet sector."In addition to the 40 billion yuan ($6.38 billion) government fund already in place for investment in China's emerging industries, more funds need to be raised for promoting business development and innovation," Li said.

Li's support would benefit Alibaba, the world's largest e-commerce company, which is already investing in cloud computing and internet finance. Its biggest rival, Beijing-based, has seen its transactions more than treble in its online marketplace.

Others firms likely to benefit include social networking and entertainment company Tencent and online search firm Baidu. Both have internet finance operations and are expanding internationally.

State-backed shipping and logistics firms China Cosco, China Shipping Container Lines and Sinotrans, as well as local delivery firms YTO Express and SF Express, should gain too.

Both Li and the National Development and Reform Commision (NDRC), in a separate annual report, stressed the need to boost the technology industry, at a time of slowing economic growth and as China tries to transition into a consumption-based economy from its heavy reliance on manufacturing.

Li said the world's second largest economy would target growth this year of around 7%, signalling the lowest expansion for a quarter of a century.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Google: Lollipop on less than 4% Android devices

Google's latest mobile OS Android 5.0 Lollipop is continuing to see a disappointingly small number of installs, according to new data released by the company.

As reported by 9to5Google, Google has released its monthly stats on the distribution of the various versions of its Android mobile operating system. Lollipop has risen since last month — but only just 3.3% of Android phones now run Lollipop, as compared to 1.6% at the start of February. 
 It's illustrative of the problem Google faces whenever it releases a new version of its operating system: It has very little power to see that it actually gets implemented.

Whereas Apple builds both its hardware and its software, ensuring that new versions of iOS are swiftly installed, Google isn't responsible for distribution. Instead, it's up to the smartphone manufacturers themselves — HTC, Samsung, etc. — to roll it out for their customers. But they can be extremely slow on the uptake, leaving the overwhelming majority of Android users with an outdated experience of the OS that doesn't represent what it is today.

More people still use Gingerbread — released in February 2011 — than Lollipop, the latest version.

In contrast, 64.6% of iOS devices use iOS 8, the latest mobile operating system from Apple that was released in September 2014, just two months prior to Lollipop. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

US fund Maverick backs mobile ad network Vserv

Mobile ad network Vserv has raised $11 million from Maverick Capital Ventures with existing investor IDG Ventures also participating in the latest financing round. Maverick Capital Ventures, the venture capital arm of US hedge fund Maverick Capital, which manages $8 billion in assets, is known for investing across mobile businesses outside the US, such as Korean messaging app KakaoTalk and, a Chinese video sharing site.

In all, Mumbai-based Vserv has raised $18 million in venture capital, including its first round of $3 million which it had raised from IDG Ventures India. Co-founded by Dippak Khurana and Ashay Padwal in 2010, Vserv pivoted last year to become a smart data platform from a pure play ad tech firm. Bengaluru-based InMobi is the biggest player in the ad tech space.

Confirming the fund-raise, Khurana of Vserv, said, "Maverick has a successful history of investing early in large-scale mobile platforms globally and we are delighted to be their first investment in India as they bring capital and deep technology domain expertise." Vserv's fund-raise comes at a time when globally and in India, too, ad tech firms haven't been able to attract new investments largely due to plummeting stocks of publicly listed US firms such as Millennial Media and Tremor Video. Google and social networking site Facebook have been weaning away clients from these ad tech companies.

Matthew Kinsella, MD, Maverick Cap, said, "Vserv is uniquely positioned to drive the mobile internet ecosystem in India and South East Asia through their data assets. We look forward to helping Vserv accelerate its growth further." Manik Arora, founder & MD at IDG Ventures India, said that the mobile internet ecosystem is at an inflection point in India today and "we are delighted to further support the company".

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Samsung Galaxy S6 launch live from Barcelona

Samsung is about to unveil the Galaxy S6 and its curved screen variant, S6 Edge at its Unpacked event on the sidelines of MWC 2015.

The biggest launch at the Mobile World Congress, Samsung Galaxy S6 is said to have a 5-inch display, smaller than the screen size of its predecessor. However, the resolution is said to go up from Full HD (1080x1920p) to 2K (1440x1560p). The Galaxy S6 Edge will have curved screens on both sides, according to leaks and Samsung's teaser videos and images.

The upcoming model will run on the 64-bit octa-core Exynos 7420 chipset, which is made on the ultra-thin 14nm process. The smartphone is said to come in 32, 64 and 128GB variants and is expected to have 3GB and 4GB RAM options. It is expected that Samsung will use a 20.7MP Sony sensor for the Galaxy S6's rear camera; a 5MP camera will be used for taking selfies.

The battery capacity of Galaxy S6 is said to be 2,600mAh, 200mAh lesser than that of Galaxy S5. Samsung is also making on add-on back panels that provide extra functionality to the smartphone, like turning it into an e-reader or place S Health features on the back.

The design too is likely to get an overhaul this year, with metal frame and ultra-thin bezels.

Modi asks IT engineers to take innovations to next level

Cyber security, mobile apps and cloud storage were buzz words in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech at a Nasscom event in the capital here on Sunday where he urged young IT engineers to take innovation to the next level.

Applauding their work, he said, "You are doing a great job and that is why I can expect things... The prime reason for the IT industry's success of the IT industry is that the government is not there anywhere," he said. Raising the issue of cyber security dogging the world Modi said the cyber security issue it is a great opportunity for the industry to leverage. He asked whether Nasscom could form a task force to check the feasibility of Indian IT professionals solving the cyber-security puzzle for digital assets around the world, which he said could be a future market. "Can we do innovation in this field? There will be a huge market, I am sure."

The PM offered strong support to the industry. He said Modi said the government is building IT infrastructure, and would adopt innovations by the industry. He said the world would need "digital godowns" in the near future and banks and the government could move to cloud storage. He referred Referring to the Gold Bond scheme announced in the Budget, on Saturday that gives people an option to own precious metal without physically buying it, and he said the instruments can be kept safely in 'Cloud Lockers'.

An avid user of social media, Modi who was one of the first political leaders in India to successfully use social media for campaigning, emphasized the significance of mobile apps and the important role mobile apps they can play in delivering citizen-centric services and mobile governance. Vouching for a revolution in e-governance, the PM said e-governance also implies easy and economical governance - and to begin with, he invited ideas from the public for developing a mobile app for his office to make it more mobile friendly for citizens. "The faster you all (industry) make mobile apps, the faster you will capture the market. We need a revolution in mobile governance," he said.

The PM also explained how technology was helping to curb corruption like He gave examples of the the coal block auctions and Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG subsidy. TNN Asking the Modi asked Indian IT sector to boost tourism in India. One way of doing this, he said, was to make virtual museums showcasing the country's heritage could be made and asked them to create e-libraries for schools. He also pressed upon industry leaders the need to contribute towards creating e-libraries for schools.