Saturday, May 19, 2012

Europe thinks the unthinkable

Policymakers insist they want Greece to remain in the euro zone but European Union trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said the European Commission and the European Central Bank were working on scenarios in case it has to leave.

European officials are working on contingency plans in case Greece bombs out of the euro zone, the EU's trade commissioner said on Friday, while Berlin said it was prepared for all eventualities.

European shares were on course for their steepest weekly decline since November and are now in the red for the year, spooked by the prospect of a Greek euro exit sparking a wave of contagion in the currency bloc which could engulf much larger economies such as Spain's.

Policymakers insist they want Greece to remain in the euro zone but European Union trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said the European Commission and the European Central Bank were working on scenarios in case it has to leave.

"A year and a half ago there maybe was a risk of a domino effect," De Gucht told Belgium's Dutch-language newspaper De Standaard, in comments confirmed by a person close to him.

"But today there are in the European Central Bank, as well as in the Commission, services working on emergency scenarios if Greece shouldn't make it. A Greek exit does not mean the end of the euro, as some claim."

Speculation about such planning has been rife, but de Gucht's comments appeared to be the first time an EU official has acknowledged the existence of contingencies being drawn up.

A German finance ministry spokeswoman, asked about plans for a possible Greek exit, said, without elaborating: "The German government naturally has the responsibility to its citizens to be prepared for any eventuality."

But a spokesman for the European Commission, the EU's executive, said there was no active planning.

"(The) European Commission denies firmly (that it) is working on an exit scenario for Greece," Oliver Bailly said. "(The) Commission wants Greece to remain in the euro area."

World shares slid and German borrowing costs hit record lows as uncertainty about Greece's future in the euro zone and a deepening Spanish banking crisis bolstered safe-haven assets.

Investors were rattled by a ratings downgrade of 16 Spanish banks by Moody's Investors Service, although the move had been expected.

Sentiment has soured to such an extent that an opinion poll showing Greeks are returning to establishment parties which support the country's bailout had little impact.

If they vote that way in June 17 elections, Greece's place in the euro zone would look more secure and the threat of contagion engulfing countries such as Spain would diminish.

The poll, the first conducted since talks to form a government collapsed and a new election was called, showed the conservative New Democracy party in first place, several points ahead of the radical leftist SYRIZA which has pledged to tear up its 130 billion euros bailout programme.

"It's up to Greek politicians to explain the reality to their people and not make false promises," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, one of Greece's harsher critics, told France's Europe 1 radio.

"We want Greece to stay in the euro but meet its commitments and that's a decision that's up to the Greeks," said Schaeuble, predicting that financial market turmoil fuelled by the euro zone debt crisis would calm in a year or two.


The biggest fear for European leaders is that a Greek meltdown, which would surely follow the stoppage of its bailout funds, triggers a domino effect among the currency bloc's weaker members.

Even aside from the contagion threat, they have huge problems of their own.

Spanish banks' bad loans rose in March to their highest level in 18 years, figures from the Bank of Spain showed on Friday, underscoring the problems facing the government as it attempts to clean up the sector.

The Bank of Spain said bad loans rose to 8.37 per cent of the banks' outstanding loans, the highest since August 1994 and up from 8.3 per cent in February.

Banks beset by bad property loans which could deteriorate further, along with overspending in indebted regions, are the two biggest risks for Spain's public finances.

Investors believe Spain needs to aggressively address these two issues to avoid a bailout and pushed Spanish borrowing costs to euro-era highs this week.

The fact the euro zone crisis is moving back into an acute phase will place it centre stage at a weekend summit of leaders of the G8 top industrialised nations.

President Barack Obama, the G8 host, has urged European leaders repeatedly to do more to stimulate growth, fearing contagion from the euro crisis that could hurt the U.S. economy and his chances of re-election in November.

New French President Francois Hollande is pressing for measures to boost growth rather than cut debt, Britain's David Cameron has become increasingly vocal in demanding Europe acts more decisively, Canada's Stephen Harper has been a frequent critic, and of the euro zone G8 members, Italian premier Mario Monti was calling for pro-growth policies before Hollande was.

That could leave Germany's Angela Merkel, who insists debt-cutting programmes cannot be diluted, cutting a lonely figure.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Facebook shares open at $ 42 per share.

Facebook shares jumped 11.4 per cent on debut. With expectations sky high, Facebook shares opened for trade at $ 42.05 per share but fell sharply to $ 40, gaining 5.3 per cent over the IPO price.

Shares, which trade under the FB symbol, were priced at $38 apiece.

The price gave Facebook a market value of $104 billion. With the share price surging 11 per cent, the company’s market value has soared to $ 115 billion.

From his headquarters in Menlo Park, California, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg rang the opening bell on the US Nasdaq market on Friday to announce the listing of his eight-year-old social networking company.

Facebook is larger than Starbucks and Hewlett-Packard combined.

The pricing indicates high expectations despite ongoing concerns about Facebook’s long-term money-making potential.

Frenzied demand, especially from individual investors, hoping to buy into an Internet juggernaut that touches hundreds of millions of people every day, could drive Facebook well above $38 a share.

Analysts have been divided on how high the price might go on the first day of trade, with some expecting a relatively modest gain of 10-20 per cent, while others said anything short of a 50 per cent jump would be disappointing.

Shares to the extent of an 18 per cent stake in the company were offered in the IPO.

The IPO will be the largest by a US Internet company and the second-largest in US history after Visa.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wall Street girds for Facebook frenzy

Wall Street and investors around the globe girded for a frenzy for Facebook shares with investors hungry for a piece of the share offering expected to be launched on Friday.

In the past few days, Facebook boosted the estimated price for the shares, placing a value on the social network around a whopping $100 billion, and added to the number of shares being offered from insiders.

With a definitive price still not set, Facebook estimated shares to be offered at between $34 to $38 per share, translating to a value of $93-104 billion for the company.

But London bookmakers were anticipating a stampede for shares. At the betting firm Spreadex, clients have been speculating that shares could rise above $56 after their first day.

"Our market on the percentage change in the price of Facebook shares after the first day's trading has seen appetite from clients in buying on the price as the big day approaches, moving the spread up from 30-35 percent earlier in the week to 35-40 percent," Spreadex spokesman Andy MacKenzie said.

Spreadex noted that among other tech IPOs, LinkedIn rose 109 percent the first day while Groupon surged 31 percent. Social game maker Zygna lost ground on its first day.

But MacKenzie noted that "we have had some customers holding back based on their belief that Facebook shares may well fall in value after the furor over the initial launch has died down."

Lou Kerner, founder of The Social Internet Fund, said he expects a strong response.

"US institutional demand has been good, the retail and global demand has been overwhelming," he said.

London-based Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers said Facebook may have a hard time living up to lofty expectations but pointed out that it is "a relatively developed company which can display 'real' income and profit."

"There are extremely high expectations for the company's prospects and perhaps on that basis it deserves the punchy valuation it has been given, the brokerage said in a note to clients.

"It is then down to the company to convince investors and analysts that the confidence was well founded and that Facebook will be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Apple and Google in the years to come."

The excitement about social networks was highlighted separately when Pinterest, a bulletin-board style sharing website, attracted a $100 million investment led by Japanese online giant Rakuten, with existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners, and FirstMark Capital, and "a number of angel investors."

Under the share plan, Zuckerberg will hold 55.8 percent of the voting power, down slightly from an estimated 57.3 percent. The 28-year-old controls the firm through a dual class stock structure and certain shares that give him a "proxy" for voting.

The net proceeds to the company were estimated at $6.4 billion, the filing with regulators said.

At the midpoint price, the IPO could net some $16 billion for all the sellers at the latest estimate, and at the maximum price more than $18 billion.

Depending on the final value, the IPO would be one of the largest of a US firm on Wall Street, comparable to the 2008 offering of Visa ($17.8 billion) and that of General Motors in 2010 ($15.7 billion).

According to the Wall Street Journal, the rise in shares announced this week comes from a number of insiders cashing out bigger portions of their stake, including Goldman Sachs, the equity firm Tiger Global Management and Peter Thiel, one of the first Facebook investors.

The Journal said 57 percent of shares will be from insiders, which is an unusually high percentage. Under Wall Street rules, these investors would have to wait six months to sell any shares not offered at the IPO.

Google revamps search with Knowledge Graph

The new feature debuting Wednesday draws from a Google-built database of more than 500 million people, places and commonly requested things to provide a summary of vital information alongside the main search results.

Google Inc. spent the past two years poring through online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the CIA Factbook and other sources to expand a database of 12 million items that it picked up as part of its 2010 acquisition of Metaweb.

The information warehouse, which Google calls a "Knowledge Graph," is an attempt by the Internet's dominant search engine to provide answers as quickly and concisely as possible so users don't have to sift through a hodgepodge of Web links displayed on the main results page.

The nuggets of information will appear in boxes to the right of the main search results. Google will gradually roll out the feature to its logged-in users in the U.S. during the next few days before extending it to a wider audience.

The changes come as one of Google's biggest rivals, Internet social networking leader Facebook Inc., prepares to complete an initial public offering of stock that is dominating the technology spotlight. The Knowledge Graph's unveiling comes a week after the second-largest search engine, Microsoft Corp.'s Bing, announced an overhaul that will highlight more information mined from Facebook - insights that typically don't show up in Google's results.

The Knowledge Graph will work in different ways.

If a person enters a search request, such as "kings," that can be interpreted in several ways, Google will now display a box on the right side of the page listing several other options, such as the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, the Sacramento Kings basketball team and the Kings TV show. Clicking on any of these choices will deliver results exclusively devoted to that topic.
Queries on specific people or places will generate thumbnails that list key statistics about the topic. Google bases its assumption on what people are most likely to want to know on an analysis of past search requests.

Google is hailing the Knowledge Graph as an important step in Internet search's evolution. The company is trying to make the difficult transition from merely presenting a list of Web links to delivering the kinds of responses that people expect when they pose a question to an expert.

"This used to be the stuff of dreams because we didn't really know how to accomplish it," said Amit Singhal, a Google fellow who has been studying search for 22 years. "The dream has always been to understand things like you and I do, so this this really feels like a sea change."

The Knowledge Graph also will help address another problem vexing Google.

As websites seeking traffic have learned to manipulate commonly requested search terms, their links have been appearing more frequently on the first page of Google's results, even though they might not have the most relevant information. Google periodically tries to remove the rubbish by tweaking its ranking system, only to have websites figure out new ways to outfox the search formula.

If the Knowledge Graph works like it's supposed to, it will give visitors less reason to leave Google's website.

Although Google says that isn't its main objective, anything that gives people a reason to hang around for longer periods, and perhaps enter more search requests, promises to help the company make more money. Google distributes ads all over the Web, but it reaps its highest profit margins from commercial links that are clicked on its own website.

Anything that keeps people on Google longer is likely to amplify complaints that the company is more interested in promoting its own services than pointing visitors to other helpful Internet destinations.

Singhal doesn't see it that way. "As we answer more of our users' questions, we save them time," he said. "Time is the only quantity that we can't make more of. When people save time, people search more. The Web gets more traffic and all boats rise."

As Facebook grows, millions say, 'no, thanks'

Don't try to friend MaLi Arwood on Facebook. You won't find her there.

You won't find Thomas Chin, either. Or Kariann Goldschmitt. Or Jake Edelstein.

More than 900 million people worldwide check their Facebook accounts at least once a month, but millions more are Facebook holdouts.

They say they don't want Facebook. They insist they don't need Facebook. They say they're living life just fine without the long-forgotten acquaintances that the world's largest social network sometimes resurrects.

They are the resisters.

"I'm absolutely in touch with everyone in my life that I want to be in touch with," Arwood says. "I don't need to share triviality with someone that I might have known for six months 12 years ago."

Even without people like Arwood, Facebook is one of the biggest business success stories in history. The site had 1 million users by the end of 2004, the year Mark Zuckerberg started it in his Harvard dorm room. Two years later, it had 12 million. Facebook had 500 million by summer 2010 and 901 million as of March 31, according to the company.

That staggering rise in popularity is one reason why Facebook Inc.'s initial public offering is one of the most hotly anticipated in years. The company's shares are expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market on Friday under the ticker symbol "FB". Facebook is likely to have an estimated market valuation of some $100 billion, making it worth more than Kraft Foods, Ford or Disney.

Facebook still has plenty of room to grow, particularly in developing countries where people are only starting to get Internet access. As it is, about 80 percent of its users are outside U.S. and Canada.

But if Facebook is to live up to its pre-IPO hype and reward the investors who are clamoring for its stock this week, it needs to convince some of the resisters to join. Two out of every five American adults have not joined Facebook, according to a recent Associated Press-CNBC poll. Among those who are not on Facebook, a third cited a lack of interest or need.

If all those people continue to shun Facebook, the social network could become akin to a postal system that only delivers mail to houses on one side of the street. The system isn't as useful, and people aren't apt to spend as much time with it. That means fewer opportunities for Facebook to sell ads.

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, says that new communications channels - from the telephone to radio, TV and personal computers - often breed a cadre of holdouts in their early days.

"It's disorienting because people have different relationships with others depending on the media they use," Rainie says. "But we've been through this before. As each new communications media comes to prominence, there is a period of adoption."

Len Kleinrock, 77, says Facebook is fine for his grandchildren, but it's not for him.

"I do not want more distractions," he says. "As it is, I am deluged with email. My friends and colleagues have ready access to me and I don't really want another service that I would feel obliged to check into on a frequent basis."

Kleinrock says his resistance is generational, but discomfort with technology isn't a factor.

After all, Kleinrock is arguably the world's first Internet user. The University of California, Los Angeles professor was part of the team that invented the Internet. His lab was where researchers gathered in 1969 to send test data between two bulky computers -the beginnings of the Arpanet network, which morphed into the Internet we know today.

"I'm having a 'been-there, done-that' feeling," Kleinrock says. "There's not a need on my part for reaching out and finding new social groups to interact with. I have trouble keeping up with those I'm involved with now."

Thomas Chin, 35, who works at an advertising and media planning company in New York, says he may be missing out on what friends-of-friends-of-friends are doing, but he doesn't need Facebook to connect with family and closer acquaintances.

"If we're going to go out to do stuff, we organize it (outside) of Facebook," he says.

Some people don't join the social network because they don't have a computer or Internet access, are concerned about privacy, or generally dislike Facebook. Those without a college education are less likely to be on Facebook, as are those with lower incomes. Women who choose to skip Facebook are more likely than men to cite privacy issues, while seniors are more likely than those 50-64 years old to cite computer issues, according the AP-CNBC poll.

About three-quarters of seniors are not on Facebook. By contrast, more than half of those under 35 use it every day.

The poll of 1,004 adults nationwide was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications May 3-7 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Steve Jones, a professor who studies online culture and communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says many resisters consider Facebook to be too much of a chore.

"We've added social networking to our lives. We haven't added any hours to our days," Jones says. "The decision to be online on Facebook is simultaneously a decision not to be doing something else."

Jones says many people on Facebook try to overcome that by multitasking, but they end up splitting their attention and engaging with others online only superficially.

Arwood, 47, a restaurant manager in Chicago, says she was surprised when colleagues on an English-teaching program in rural Spain in 2010 opted to spend their breaks checking Facebook.

"I spent my time on break trying to learn more about the Spanish culture, really taking advantage of it," she says. "I went on walks with some of the students and asked them questions."

Kariann Goldschmitt, 32, a music professor at New College of Florida in Sarasota, Fla., was on Facebook not long after its founding in 2004, but she quit in 2010. In part, it was because of growing concerns about her privacy and Facebook's ongoing encouragement of people to share more about themselves with the company, with marketers and with the world.

She says she's been much more productive since leaving.

"I was a typical user, on it once or twice a day," she says. "After a certain point, I sort of resented how it felt like an obligation rather than fun."

Besides Facebook resisters and quitters, there are those who take a break. In some cases, people quit temporarily as they apply for new jobs, so that potential employers won't stumble on photos of their wild nights out drinking. Although Facebook doesn't make it easy to find, it offers options for both deleting and suspending accounts.

Goldschmitt says it takes effort to stay in touch with friends and relatives without Facebook. For instance, she has to make mental notes of when her friends are expecting babies, knowing that they have become so used to Facebook "that they don't engage with us anymore."

"I'm like, 'Hmmm, when is nine months?' I have to remember to contact them since they won't remember to tell me when the baby's born."

Neil Robinson, 54, a government lawyer in Washington, says that when his nephew's son was born, pictures went up on Facebook almost immediately. As a Facebook holdout, he had to wait for someone to email photos.

After years of resisting, Robinson plans to join next month, mostly because he doesn't want to lose touch with younger relatives who choose Facebook as their primary means of communication.

But for every Robinson, there is an Edelstein, who has no desire for Facebook and prefers email and postcards.

"I prefer to keep my communications personal and targeted," says Jake Edelstein, 41, a pharmaceutical consultant in New York. "You're getting a message that's written for you. Clearly someone took the time to sit down to do it."

Billion Dollar Antilla "modern home with an Indian heart"

Billionaire Indian industrialist Mukesh Ambani's wife Nita describes their 27-storey Mumbai house Antilla as a "modern home with an Indian heart" and the "only home we have in the world."

The ultra-luxurious 400,000 sq feet Ambani mansion and its contents continue to fascinate people not only in India but also abroad. Vanity Fair, which interviewed Nita last November, will publish a few pictures from inside Antilla in its June edition, giving a sneak peek into what has been described as 'The Taj Mahal meets flash Gordon."

"The closed door policy has only piqued the worldwide fascination that has surrounded the edifice," the magazine said of Antilla.

Contrary to speculation that the Ambanis had not moved into their home as it did not conform to the ancient Indian architectural doctrine of 'vastu shastra', Nita told Vanity Fair that they had moved into the house around September last year and some of the media reports about their house were "exaggerated."

"This is the first time I am talking about my home. There have been exaggerated reports in the media about it I must say," she said in the article 'The Talk of Mumbai,' the title referring to Antilla.

"We moved in two months ago. And then it was going around that we have not moved in. It is a modern home with an Indian heart...It is the only home that we have in the world," she said in the interview which was conducted in November.

A New York Times report last October had said the Ambanis had not moved in to their new home, considered one of the most expensive private residences, and family members only slept there "sometimes".

Nita told Vanity Fair that the whole house is based on the theme of sun and lotus. Exquisite materials like rare woods, marble, mother of pearl and crystal were used to craft the shapes of the lotus and the sun in the building.

Ambani said rooms for the family are at the top of the high-rise to let in plenty of sunlight. The family quarters "sit at the pinnacle. We made our home right at the top because we wanted the sunlight. So it is an elevated house on top of a garden," Nita said.

Of the eight pictures that accompany Vanity Fair's article, one shows Nita in a red and pink saree standing in a brightly lit porch near one of the several terrace gardens of her home with a marbled dome structure in the background.

Another picture shows her reading a book in one of the expansive and exquisitely decorated living areas, with tall pillars and glass windows through which Mumbai's high-rises are visible.

The other shows large statues of Hindu gods Ganesha and Shiva and perfectly manicured gardens. The house also has multi-storey garage, ballroom, spa, theatre, guests' suites and terraced gardens.

Vanity Fair said like any Indian housewife Nita keeps a track of the weekly kitchen spending and waits for her husband "with candles lit and supper ready" to come home from office which is typically at 11 at night.

"I like to have everything smiley and happy for my husband. Men don't want to see a grumpy face at the end of a hard day," it quotes Nita as saying.

The article also talks about the series of enterprises that Nita has built in the past years that are "proud success stories in contemporary India" like an international preparatory school, a premier league cricket team, the nation's first braille newspaper in Hindi and a 400 acre model township that houses 12000 people.

"For a modern maharaja living in Mumbai, a peninsular city where land is in particular short supply, there is nowhere to go but up and up the Ambanis went," it read.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Indian Navy in fast-forward mode

The Indian Navy will acquire at least five ships every year for the next 10 years, and deploy two nuclear submarines and its new aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, in 2013.

The fast forward mode after a long lull has been mentioned both by Defence Minister AK Antony as well as navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma on different occasions, particularly at the induction of the nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra on April 4.

Since then, the navy has inducted the first of its newly-designed Teg-class guided missile ships, INS Teg, from Russia (Apr 27) while plans are being firmed up for building four amphibious transport dock ships like the INS Jalashwa, as well as six new conventional submarines with air independent propulsion (AIP) and cruise missile capability.

Two INS Deepak-class fleet tankers have already been acquired from Italy to give the Indian Navy what Admiral Verma described as "Long Legs".

The navy has been very happy with INS Jalashwa, the refitted USS Trenton (LPD 14) it got rather cheap from the US Navy, particularly due to the vessel's added potential for providing disaster and humanitarian relief. It is the second biggest ship after INS Viraat, the Navy's lone aircraft carrier at present, and has comfortable crew quarters and efficient lifts.

Interestingly, naval personnel are making innovative use of cycle rickshaws to pedal across small items from one end of the vessel to the other.

Reports from Russia indicate that the much-delayed INS Vikramaditya aka Admiral Gorshkov is now ready for sea trials beginning May 25. Fuel has been pumped into the vessel and steam is being generated before it moves into the cold waters for trials and final checks.

Russia had promised delivery to the Indian Navy by December 4, 2012. The date, according to Vice Admiral Ganesh Mahadevan, the chief of material at naval headquarters, is "cast in stone" but the delivery will be in Russian waters. The vessel should be at Indian shores in early 2013.

It may be recalled that the navy has already inducted two of the three Shivalik-class frigates in 2010 and 2011, respectively (INS Shivalik and INS Satpura), while the third in the series, INS Sahyadri, is due this year.

Admiral Verma told India Strategic ( earlier that while the acquisition process could be "torturous some times", adequate funds were available for the navy's modernization and that due care has also been given to its shipboard air power.

Overall, the navy has planned to acquire some 500 aircraft, about 100 of them combat jets, and the remaining for transport and surveillance roles. Helicopters form a major chunk of the proposed acquisitions.

Sources told India Strategic that the 45 MiG-29Ks that the Navy has already ordered from Russia will only be used on board INS Vikramaditya and India's first indigenous aircraft carrier now under construction. Both these will have ski jumps and arrested wire recovery (STOBAR or Short Take Off but Arrested Recovery).

Notably, the Russians have already modified the arrester wires on INS Vikramaditya to accommodate the naval variant of India's indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the naval prototype (NP-1) which was test flown on April 27.

India is working on two more aircraft carriers, possibly of over 60,000 tonnes, and it will take some time to select the combat jet combination for them. Those two carriers should use slingshot propulsion by steam turbines rather than ski jumps, and of course, the standard three arrestor wires.

That technology will possibly have to come from the US carriers, where slingshot takeoffs are routine. Naval teams area already in touch with manufacturers as part of the learning process, after which RfPs should appropriately be issued.

French company DCNS is already involved in making six Scorpene submarines at the Mazagon Dock in Mumbai, with a proposal to upgrade the last two of them with AIP capability, which can extend the operational submergence of a submarine from about three days to seven or so.

As for the nuclear submarines, which can stay underwater for three months, the Indian Navy is working on two or three more Arihant-class submarines, but they should progressively be equipped with more powerful nuclear reactors and weapons than INS Arihant, whose systems are now being fine-tuned.

INS Arihant is smaller than INS Chakra, but is both nuclear-powered and nuclear weapon capable (designated SSBN) while INS Chakra is nuclear-powered but has non-nuclear attack missiles (SSN).

Both the nuclear submarines are based at Vishakhapatnam on India's eastern seaboard, where work on the remaining nuclear submarines is already in progress at the Ship Building Centre (SBC) there in different stages.

Apple readies iPhone with larger screen - sources

Apple Inc plans to use a larger screen on the next-generation iPhone and has begun to place orders for the new displays from suppliers in South Korea and Japan, people familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

Early production of the new screens has begun at three suppliers: Korea's LG Display, Sharp Corp and Japan Display Inc, a Japanese government-brokered merger combining the screen production of three companies.

The new iPhone screens will measure 4 inches from corner to corner, one of the sources said.

It is likely all three of the screen suppliers will get production orders from Apple, which could begin as soon as June. That would allow the new iPhone to go into production as soon as August if the company follows its own precedent in moving from orders for prototypes for key components to launch.

Apple's decision to equip the next iPhone with a larger screen represents part of its competitive response to Samsung Electronics <005930.KS>. Samsung unveiled its top-of-the line Galaxy smartphone with a 4.8-inch touch screen and a faster processor earlier this month.

Samsung, which this year became the world's largest cell phone maker, sold 45 million smartphones in the first quarter and sales of the Galaxy phones outstripped the iPhone.

Apple was not immediately available to comment.

Apple's move toward a larger display for the next generation iPhone was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Facebook IPO: Issue price range raised due to strong demand

Facebook has raised the price range on its initial public offering to $34 to $38 a share in response to strong demand, a source familiar with the situation said, giving the No.1 social network a valuation exceeding $100 billion.

At the mid-point of $36, Facebook would raise $12.1 billion by selling 337.4 million shares. The company founded in a Harvard dorm room by Mark Zuckerberg, who turned 28 on Monday, had originally aimed for $28 to $35 a share.

Wall Street had expected the company to increase the price range, with investors keen to get in on Silicon Valley's largest ever IPO that eclipses Google 2004 debut. Its roadshow began last week and has drawn crowds.

The company plans to close the books on its IPO on Tuesday, two days ahead of schedule and in a signal that the landmark initial share sale is drumming up strong demand, a second source familiar with the deal told Reuters earlier.

The social network is scheduled on Thursday to price its shares, then begin trading on Friday.

The IPO is already "well oversubscribed," which is why the company is closing its books earlier than anticipated, the source said.

The raised price range marks an increase of 21 percent on the lower end. A hike of more than 20 percent typically means the company would have to file an amendment with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Company spokesman Jonny Thaw declined to comment on Monday.

The IPO comes amid concerns from some investors that Facebook hasn't yet figured out a way to make money from an increasing number of users who access the social network on mobile devices such as smartphones.

Facebook will continue with its roadshow for the rest of the week, said a third source familiar with the deal, and investors who haven't yet attended a roadshow presentation will still be able to place orders.

Company executives met with prospective investors in Chicago on Monday and are slated to travel to Kansas City and Denver, before returning to Menlo Park, California, where Facebook is headquartered.

A host of Wall Street banks are underwriting Facebook's offering, with Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs serving as leads. Facebook will trade on Nasdaq under the symbol FB.

Apple rumoured to be acquiring German TV manufacturer Loewe

Apple is said to be in negotiations to acquire German manufacturer of HDTVs, Loewe AG. As per reports in AppleInsider, the final decision could be announced as early as the end of this week.

Apple is reportedly offering 87.3 million euros (112 million dollars) for the company, which is nearly 50 percent premium over the firm's valuation of 58.79 million euros (76 million dollars), based on Friday's closing price.

Apple has long been rumoured to be working on its own TV set. Acquiring an existing player could be one way for Apple to build the expertise required to design and manufacture televisions, and Loewe would be a perfect fit. Loewe, like Apple, is seen as a manufacturer of premium products, focusing on elegant design backed by a strong supply-chain.

Loewe's portfolio of products includes sound-systems and smart televisions that integrate beautifully with Apple technologies. One of its newest products is AirSpeaker, a beautifully-designed, sound box that integrate's with Apple's AirPlay technology. The company has also developed and released iPhone and iPad apps that integrate with its products.

Given the synergies between the two companies, it is easy to see why Apple would find the company attractive. The valuation shouldn't be a problem either. Hundred million dollars, give or take, is loose change for Apple given its healthy cash position.

Loewe, on its part, has tried to downplay any potential takeover, with a company spokesperson saying there is 'absolutely nothing' to the claims.

Shares of Loewe AG jumped 24 percent in early Monday trade on market talk of the potential offer from Apple.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Facebook $100 Billion IPO

Facebook frenzy is spreading ahead of the company's big-time stock market debut, with anything from Mark Zuckerberg's hoodie to the billion-dollar buy of Instagram sparking controversy.

Speculation about the promise or pitfalls of owning a piece of the world's leading social network was so feverish by the weekend that one report contended there was too much demand for the stock while another said it was lacking.

Facebook, already assured of becoming one of the most valuable US firms when it goes public, has been on an intense marketing drive ahead of its expected trading launch on the tech-heavy Nasdaq on May 18.

In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Facebook set a price range of $28 to $35 for its shares, which would value the firm at between $70 billion and $87.5 billion.

When Google went public in 2004, its valuation was $23 billion, and now it has a market value of $200 billion.

Some are offended by the price set for Facebook, a site founded by Mr Zuckerberg just eight years ago from his Harvard dorm room. Still only 27, he will retain 57.3 per cent of the voting power of the shares.

Others expected better - some analysts predicted a price of $44 a share in the short term, and a much higher figure in the long term.

At the midpoint of the price range, the sale of 337 million shares would generate $10.6 billion, making Facebook's offering the largest IPO of a tech firm.

Despite the intense spotlight on Facebook coffers swelling with a stock sale, analysts agree that for most of the social network's more than 900 million users, the focus will be on changes to the service - not ownership of the firm.

"What they hope, I think, is that Facebook will continue to innovate and make the service more interesting and more relevant," said Creative Strategies principal analyst Tim Bajarin.

"Facebook is not extremely specific on what they will do with the money."

The IPO also means wealth will be heaped on longtime employees compensated with stock at the startup launched in 2004.

"You give a group of people in a company a ton of money, you get some weird behaviour," said independent Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group.

"Facebook itself is going to change, and not necessarily for the better."

Workers made rich with company stock have been known to leave for new endeavours or to follow dreams. Sudden wealth can change people's attitudes or inspire spending binges, Mr Enderle noted.

"A lot of stuff unrelated to work happens that can lead to turmoil," Mr Enderle said. "It is going to be an interesting few months. Already Zuckerberg is acting outside the envelope."

Mr Zuckerberg was bashed by some analysts for wearing his trademark hoodie and jeans to pre-IPO roadshow meetings with Wall Street types accustomed to business attire.

"Showing up in front of suited financial analysts in a hoodie is not the smartest thing," Mr Enderle said. "It just pisses off people who can wreck your IPO."

Mr Zuckerberg was also second-guessed for orchestrating a billion-dollar stock-and-cash deal to buy the startup behind hot smartphone photo-sharing application Instagram.

The price tag evidently caught the attention of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is reported to be reviewing the takeover. Facebook declined to comment regarding an FTC probe of the Instagram deal.

Companies going public usually wait until takeovers are completed to spare investors uncertainty.

Becoming a publicly traded company could result in Mr Zuckerberg being more constrained because of accountability to stockholders and regulators, according to Mr Bajarin.

"To be fair, once you go public you have fiduciary responsibilities and are in a different scenario," Mr Bajarin said. "(Zuckerberg) could never do that Instagram deal for a billion dollars like that after an IPO."

Facebook has kept busy in the weeks leading up to the IPO.

The social network unveiled an online centre for smartphone applications synched to Facebook and bought mobile discovery startup Glancee. Microsoft announced it is weaving feedback from Facebook friends into personalized Bing search results.

Facebook confirmed on Friday it was creeping into the territory of Dropbox, Google and others with the roll-out of a service that lets people store files in the Internet "cloud" for access from a variety of devices.

"Facebook wants to create an open social network that allows them to get more aggressive in the way they connect people," Mr Bajarin said.

"Mark wants Facebook connected to all kinds of other sites, and this new model can be backed with more cash."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Goa voted most relaxed tourist destination in the world

Popular for its beaches and unique architecture, Goa has been voted as the most valued and relaxed tourist destination of the world.

Readers of 'Lonely Planet' magazine voted Goa as the 'best value destination in India' and the 'best destination for relaxation', the state tourism said in a release issued in Mumbai.

Lonely Planet is popular the world over and for the first time announced the Lonely Planet magazine India Travel awards to celebrate the places that provide the best travel experiences in the country.

"Goa is making continuous efforts to encourage a steady tourist inflow and keeping our guests happy through unforgettable experiences. We are really honoured that Goa has been voted as the best destination for relaxation as well as the best value destination in the country," Goa Tourism Director Swapnil Naik said.

India buys new artillery guns, 27 years after Bofors

The Indian Army got a shot in the arm today with the defence ministry clearing its long-pending $660 million (Rs.3,000 crore) proposal to buy 145 ultra-light howitzer guns to add teeth to its ageing inventory.

This is the first time the army is buying artillery guns in 27 years, since the Bofors guns payoff scandal broke out in the late 1980s, defence ministry sources said here.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony, cleared the deal for the M777 BAE Systems guns that will be bought through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route of the US government.

The purchase comes in the wake of Indian Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March highlighting the gaps in its preparedness.

Being light in weight, the 155mm 39-calibre guns can be easily airlifted and will be deployed in the high altitude mountainous areas in the northeast and in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir bordering China.

A couple of weeks ago the defence ministry had approved infrastructure development projects in the northeast, including strategic roads and rail lines that will enable easy and quick mobilisation of troops.

The DAC cleared the M777 gun following a favourable report by a committee headed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief V.K. Saraswat that studied the suitability of the weapon system.

The army had recommended the gun following a series of rigorous trials.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Defence Research and Development Organisation plans to equip Agni-V with multiple warhead

Agni-V, India's most powerful ballistic missile with a strike range of over 5,000 kms, is set to get substantially higher destruction capabilities as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) plans to equip it with multiple warheads.

Comparing Agni-V missile to the best in the world, DRDO chief Dr VK Saraswat said, "It is a game changer missile... It has taken the missile technology to the highest level and matches with the best and the current world standards. We are working in this area. It will take time for us to develop but our work is on."

Known as the Multiple Independently Targeted Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV), the missile would be capable of carrying multiple warheads to destroy several targets.

Asked about the plans in that regard, he said, "Basic vehicle (missile) will remain the same. The first three stages will also remain the same and only the kill vehicle or the payload delivery system will need changes."

Terming it as a "force multiplier", the DRDO chief said, "If I am able to do force multiplication with this... where I was using four missiles, I may use only one missile. So it becomes a force multiplier given the damage potential."

Such a capability exists only with a select few countries such as the US, Russia and China.

MIRV missiles are equipped with small on-board rocket motors and computerised inertial guidance system which manoeuvres warheads to several different trajectories.

Facebook to sell apps through new online hub

Facebook Inc unveiled a new hub for consumers to find games and other apps on the social network, including its first storefront for selling paid apps, in the company's latest effort to expand the ways its makes money from its massive audience.

The new App Center, which Facebook said will launch in the next few weeks, comes as the company is preparing an initial public offering that would value the company between $77 billion and $96 billion.

A key concern for investors is Facebook's slowing revenue growth, due in part to the widening trend of consumers accessing its service on smartphones, where Facebook provides limited ads.

In an amended prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, Facebook said the popularity of mobile devices has caused its number of daily users to grow faster than the number of ads it is delivering.

Facebook described the number of mobile ads it has recently begun showing to users as "immaterial."

Facebook makes the vast majority of its revenue from online ads, although it also collects fees when consumers purchase goods from within social apps, such as Zynga's Farmville.

The App Center will, for the first time, allow software developers to sell apps to consumers directly on Facebook.

Consumers will need to use Facebook Credits, the company's payment system, to purchase the apps and Facebook will take a 30 percent cut of the revenue as it does with in-app purchases, said Facebook spokeswoman Malorie Lucich.

Facebook is introducing the app service to give software developers additional options, but the company expects in-app purchases to remain more prevalent on the social network, said Lucich.

Apps, ranging from social games to music services, are popular activities on Facebook, the world's No.1 online social network with roughly 900 million users. According to the company, 200 of the apps that are available on Facebook have more than 1 million users.

The App Center will feature apps that designed for PCs as well as for mobile devices such as Apple Inc iPhones and Android smartphones. If a mobile app requires installation for the mobile device, Facebook said it will direct users to Apple's App Store or Google Inc's Play store to download the app.

The App Center will showcase apps based on the quality scores that users give apps and other data Facebook collects, such as how often and how long people use apps. Each user will see a different, customized version of the App Center, rather than one standard version of the App Center.

What if Apple were part of the Dow?

If Apple had been added to the Dow in June 2009, the last time there were serious rumors that it would happen, the average would be about 2,500 points higher than it is today and well above its all-time high.

Apple is the world's most valuable company. The Dow Jones industrial average is probably the world's best-known stock index. So don't they deserve each other?

Consider this: If Apple had been added to the Dow in June 2009, the last time there were serious rumors that it would happen, the average would be about 2,500 points higher than it is today and well above its all-time high.

Paul Hickey of Bespoke Investment Group, which crunches numbers about the markets, says the Dow would be at 15,360, about 1,200 points above its record of 14,164, set in October 2007. The Dow closed Wednesday at 12,835.

Not only would investors be perkier, but everyday Americans watching the Dow set one record after another would probably feel wealthier. That might inspire them to spend more money and help the economy grow faster.

But if you think the time is right for an Apple-Dow marriage, don't check your mailbox for a wedding invitation. Apple, which redefined how people listen to music and reinvented the cellphone, is simply too hot for the Dow.

In 2009, when a bankrupt General Motors and a hobbled Citigroup were booted from the Dow and Apple was talked about as one replacement, Apple stock traded at about $144.

On Wednesday, it closed at $569. Because of how the Dow is calculated, Apple would dwarf the other stocks in the average and distort the Dow from its purpose - which is to reflect the broad economy, not represent the hottest stocks.

A big one-day gain by Apple, like a $50 jump after it reported blockbuster earnings last month, would send the Dow higher by hundreds of points. Similarly, a big drop would suggest the market was in more trouble than it really was.

The Dow is weighted so that a $1 move by any stock, no matter how cheap or expensive, moves the average the same - about seven and a half points as the Dow is calculated today.

Because it's much easier for a $100 stock to move $1 than it is for a $20 stock, higher-priced stocks carry more importance. IBM, at about $200, is the most expensive stock and carries nearly 12 percent of the Dow's weight.

Apple would carry a quarter or more, depending on which stock it replaced. That is why the Dow would be thousands of points higher if it had welcomed Apple in 2009: Each share of Apple has grown by hundreds of dollars since then.

"It wouldn't be the Dow Jones industrial average," says Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group. "It would be the Apple Plus Some Other Stuff Index."

Apple is already the biggest component of the other two major U.S. stock indexes: It makes up nearly 12 percent of the Nasdaq composite and more than 4 percent of the Standard & Poor's 500.

The Dow was born in 1896 and has changed over the years to reflect the changing economy. Agricultural and coal companies have been replaced by banks and drug companies. Car makers have knocked off railroads.

Of the Dow's 12 original stocks, only General Electric is still part of the index. So why not add Apple, which has enormous cultural pull and admiration throughout corporate America - plus a market value of half a trillion dollars?

The goal is to pick businesses that can stay in the average for a long time, says John Prestbo, the executive editor of Dow Jones Indexes, which maintains the Dow and other indexes.

"We don't run the Dow as we would an investment portfolio," he says.

Prestbo, along with the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and the research head of the CME Group, which owns a majority stake of Dow Jones Indexes, decide which companies make up the Dow.

They meet occasionally to discuss whether they need to change the index. The CME Group provides benchmark indexes on investments like agricultural products, energy and metals.

The Dow committee might boot a company if it's no longer an industry leader, or if its industry is too heavily represented. Sometimes companies will ask to be included, which doesn't necessarily hurt or help their case, Prestbo says.

Three years ago, when GM and Citigroup got the ax, the group snubbed Apple and chose Cisco Systems, which makes computer networking equipment, and Travelers Companies, the insurance provider.

Travelers has risen by about half since it was added to the Dow, but Cisco has moved slightly lower. In the hypothetical example provided by Bespoke, Apple would have replaced Cisco in 2009.

There's some history behind the idea of having the most valuable company be part of the Dow. Exxon Mobil, which held the title until Apple wrested it in January, is a Dow member. Ten years ago, two Dow components, Microsoft and GE, jockeyed for the honor.

But Prestbo brushes off the what-if questions about Apple. Would the Dow be higher? Sure, he says. "But it also wouldn't be tracking the market."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

India attracts highest ever FDI of $8.1 billion in March

India attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of $8.1 billion in March, the highest-ever monthly inflow and an eight-fold increase over the same period last fiscal.

Cumulative FDI inflows for the fiscal 2011-12 amounted to $36.50 billion, sources said.

In March 2011, the country received FDI worth $1.07 billion.

The $7.2 billion Reliance Industries-British Petroleum (BP) deal, announced in February 2011 contributed significantly to the inflows, even though funds from the UK oil major would have come in phases, they said. The BP had picked up a 30 per cent stake in Reliance Industries' 21 oil-fields.

Earlier, highest FDI of $5.65 billion was received in June last year. Though the March data has been compiled by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), it is yet to be released officially.

The sectors which received large foreign FDI inflows during 2011-12 include services, pharmaceuticals, telecom, construction, power and metallurgical industries, a DIPP official said, adding Mauritius remained the top FDI source.

The inflows had aggregated to $19.42 billion in 2010-11, down from $25.83 billion in 2009-10.
The government move in the Budget for enabling it to tax Vodafone type multi-billion dollar deals had come in for criticism among some industry associations and multi-national companies. They criticised stating it would affect FDI.

However, the government has stood its ground retaining the provision in the Finance Bill approved by the Lok Sabha yesterday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Smart Phones

Google gets first self-driven car license in US state

Google's self-driven cars will soon be appearing on Nevada roads after the state's Department of Motor Vehicles approved on Monday the nation's first autonomous vehicle license.

The move came after officials rode along on drives on highways, in Carson City neighborhoods and along the famous Las Vegas Strip, the Nevada DMV said in a statement.

The Nevada legislature last year authorized self-driven cars for the state's roads, the first such law in the United States. That law went into effect on March 1, 2012.

Google's self-driven cars rely on video cameras, radar sensors, lasers, and a database of information collected from manually driven cars to help navigate, according to the company.

The DMV licensed a Toyota Prius that Google modified with its experimental driver-less technology, developed by Stanford professor and Google Vice President Sebastian Thrun.

Google's self-driving cars have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and driven along the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway, according to the company.

Autonomous vehicles are the "car of the future," Nevada DMV director Bruce Breslow said in a statement. The state also has plans to eventually license autonomous vehicles owned by the members of the public, the DMV said.

Legislation to regulate autonomous cars is being considered in other states, including Google's home state of California.

"The vast majority of vehicle accidents are due to human error. Through the use of computers, sensors and other systems, an autonomous vehicle is capable of analyzing the driving environment more quickly and operating the vehicle more safely," California state Senator Alex Padilla said in March when he introduced that state's autonomous car legislation.

Other car companies are also seeking self-driven car licenses in Nevada, the DMV said.

Facebook buys mobile discovery startup Glancee

Mere weeks from a multi-billion-dollar debut on the stock market, Facebook has ramped up its focus on mobile lifestyles with the purchase of "social discovery" startup Glancee.

Glancee founders behind the smartphone application for finding like-minded people nearby joined the Facebook team in what was seen as a talent grab by the Menlo Park, California-based social network.

"We started Glancee in 2010 with the goal of bringing together the best of your physical and digital worlds," said a message at the San Francisco startup's website.

"We wanted to make it easy to discover the hidden connections around you, and to meet interesting people," Glancee added.

"We are therefore very excited to announce that Facebook has acquired Glancee and that we have joined the team in Menlo Park to build great products for over 900 million Facebook users."

The Glancee application was removed from Apple's online App Store over the weekend after Facebook revealed the acquisition on Friday.

Facebook has made a priority of following its users onto smartphones at the heart of Digital Age lifestyles even though the social network has yet to make clear how it plans to make money doing so.

The financial terms of the Glancee purchase were not disclosed but were believed to be far less than the billion dollars Facebook recently spent on the startup behind photo-sharing smartphone application Instagram.

Glancee software ran in the background on smartphones, using Facebook and other online resources to match people based on similar tastes or interests and then alerting users to when kindred spirits were in the vicinity.

Facebook executives are on an investors "road show" this week, an intense marketing drive ahead of the company's expected trading launch on the tech-heavy Nasdaq on May 18.

For small investors, the California firm has produced a slick half-hour video set to music that explains the mission, products, finances and future of the company, with chief executive Mark Zuckerberg doing the narration himself.

In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last week, Facebook set a price range of $28 to $35 for its shares, which would value the firm at between $70 billion and $87.5 billion.

Based on the estimated market value, Facebook would rank behind Amazon and Cisco, each worth over $100 billion, but ahead of Hewlett-Packard ($48 billion) and struggling Yahoo! ($19 billion).

Nokia releases augmented reality app - Nokia City Lens

Nokia has announced the launch of their augmented reality app for Windows Phone smartphones today. Dubbed as City Lens, this app is currently in beta and can be downloaded from Nokia Beta Labs.
Similar to other popular augmented reality apps like Layar and Wikitude, it overlays the information related to your surroundings on your smartphone display in front of the camera output.

You basically look at the world through your smartphone and read the related information simultaneously. If that information is not enough for you, you can also tap on an item and read further description and reviews.
Company has included a sharing function in the app, which allows you to share information to others via email or SMS. Nokia City Lens is currently supported on Lumia 710, Lumia 800 and Lumia 900 smartphones.

 Nokia today unveiled an augmented reality app for its Windows Phone-based Lumia devices that uses the phone's camera to show you the restaurants, stores, and other venues in your immediate vicinity.
Dubbed City Lens, the app lets you scan the horizon with your phone's camera and see what's available. It will display reviews and star ratings for that location for a quick rundown of the neighborhood. If you find something interesting, tap to call for more info or share your destination with friends via social networks, SMS, or email.

If you're in a congested, urban area with many overlaying options, tap the screen for a vertical list. Tilt it sideways for a map view, which will provide walking directions with one tap.

"What I like the most in this app is that you can keep you head up when you're using it. Instead of looking for a place on a map and look down on your smartphone, with Nokia City Lens you are actually looking at the world around you through your smartphone," Nokia said in a blog post.

All searches are saved for easy access if you return to the area.

City Lens is currently available for the Lumia 710, 800, and 900 via Nokia Beta Labs. The company is asking users to leave their feedback "while we are polishing and refining its feature set."
In a video demo (below), Nokia said City Labs offers a solution that's "simple, fluid, intuitive and gets me to the information I want that much faster."

In March, Nokia Maps and its voice-guided, turn-by-turn walk navigation were released for iOS and Android via an HTML5 Web app.

Last week, meanwhile, Nokia was hit with a class-action lawsuit that takes the phone maker to task for claims it made about its Windows Phone lineup.

Security situation around Indian Ocean Region worrisome, says Defence Minister Antony

Taking note of the "complex security matrix" in the Indian Ocean Region and "political developments", Defence Minister A K Antony today asked the Indian Navy to maintain high levels of preparedness in the area.

Inaugurating a four day-long Naval Commander's Conference in New Delhi, Mr Antony highlighted the Navy's ability to play a leading role in ensuring peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

"The security situation in our immediate neighbourhood has become really complex. Considering the challenges in the IOR, it is essential to maintain high levels of operational preparedness at all times," he said.

On prevailing factors in the region which needs consideration, he said, "On the one hand, there are some political developments. On the other hand, a number of other factors are a cause for worry and need to be factored into our preparations, both in the short-term and long-term."

India's strategic location in the IOR and the professional capability of our Navy bestows upon us a natural ability to play a leading role in ensuring peace and stability here, Mr Antony told the Commanders.

The Defence Minister also stressed upon free movement of trade and energy supplies and various economic activities such as fishing and extraction of mineral resources and termed them "crucial" for the economic security.

"Security of maritime activity through sea-lanes in Indian Ocean is of crucial importance for the economic prosperity of our nation and that of the world," he said.

Commending the Navy's modernisation programme, Antony specially mentioned the induction of the nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra and said, "It has ushered in a new era of submarine operations".

"It (INS Chakra) has placed us in a select group of Navies that operate such a platform. We must ensure that Chakra is utilised effectively to harness its real potential and also evolve operational concepts for future platforms," Mr Antony said.

Observing that the Navy is on its course to acquire potent platforms which will add to its blue water capability, he said, "Induction of INS Vikramaditya in the near future, the potent MiG 29 Ks, as well as P-8I Rong-Range Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft would strengthen the Navy further." Mr Antony also highlighted the recent maiden successful test flight of Naval version of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA-Navy) in this context.

Expressing satisfaction over Navy's commitment to indigenization, he said, "44 out of 48 ships and submarines, presently on order, are being constructed in India. The Navy has also maintained close liaison with DRDO and participated actively in research and development projects."

Cautioning that the satisfactory pace of indigenization should not lead to "complacence", he said, "Public Sector shipyards must speed up construction of warships and submarines and further modernise the infrastructure and technology of ship-production."

The Defence Minister also exhorted the Navy and other agencies to put in more efforts to meet the timelines of the ongoing projects.

"This requires a synergy and active cooperation between Navy and all other concerned agencies. Such synergy is imperative for achieving self-reliance and ultimately reducing our dependence on foreign suppliers, particularly in areas of advanced technology," he said.

Stressing on the government's commitment to improving the service conditions of its armed forces, Mr Antony said, "To increase the attractiveness of Navy as a career, the Defence Ministry has taken several initiatives for grant of Modified Assured Career Progression Scheme and approved the honorary rank of Chief Petty Officers (CPO) for sailors."

"Our government will continue to provide the necessary funds to construct accommodation for Service personnel under the Married Accommodation Project for officers and sailors," he added.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

India's missile defence shield ready: Defence Research and Development Organisation

India has developed its own missile defence shield which can be put in place at short notice to protect at least two cities, bringing the country at par with an elite group of few nations. The shield, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has been tested successfully and an incoming ballistic missile with the range of up to 2,000 kms can be destroyed.

"The Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) shield is now mature. We are ready to put phase one in place and it can be put in very short time," DRDO chief V K Saraswat told PTI in an interview.

He said the shield, as part of phase one of the programme, can be put in place in two cities in the country, where the infrastructure is available. However, the two places have not yet been identified and the selection will be made at the political level. The DRDO used variants of Prithvi missiles as simulated targets and successfully intercepted missiles in test-firings.
The system was first test-fired in November 2006 elevating India into the elite club of countries to have successfully developed an Anti-ballistic missile system, after United States, Russia and Israel.

"We have carried out six successful launches and demonstrated the capability for 2,000 km targets. We have demonstrated it in two layers that is endo-atmospheric (inside the Earth's atmosphere) and exo-atmospheric (outside the Earth's atmosphere)," Mr Saraswat said.

The DRDO chief said the Indian missile defence system is comparable with the US Patriot 3 system, which was successfully used during the 1990 Gulf War against Iraq.

He said all the elements such as long-range radars and tracking devices, real-time datalink and mission control system required for the missile system have been "realised" successfully.

Under the phase two of the project, the premier defence research agency would upgrade the system to handle ballistic missiles with range of 5,000 km. This phase is expected to be ready by 2016.

The system required for phase-II of the project is being developed, he said, adding that for this purpose, ships are being built from where the target missiles would be launched.

Talking about the advancement of the system, he said the missile defence shield has been "automated" to an extent where human intervention would be required only if the mission has to be aborted.

As part of its efforts to protect itself from enemy missiles, India is developing this two-tier BMD which can intercept enemy missiles at altitudes of 80 km and 150 km.

The DRDO is thinking of intercepting the missiles at higher altitudes as it would give it more response time in case the first attempt is a miss and the second layer of the system can be put into action.

Friday, May 4, 2012

LinkedIn to buy SlideShare

LinkedIn Corp. said Thursday that its first-quarter profit more than doubled, and the business networking company is buying presentation sharing website SlideShare for $118.8 million.

Shares jumped $9.29, or more than 8 percent, to $118.70 in extended trading. If that rally extends into Friday's regular trading session, LinkedIn's stock price will be close to its peak of $122.70 reached during the shares' market debut nearly a year ago. The stock has remained well above its initial public offering price of $45 since then.

LinkedIn's net income for the three months ending in March totaled $5 million, or 4 cents per share. That was up from $2.1 million, or break-even per share, a year ago.

Excluding stock-based compensation expenses and other items, profit was 15 cents per share, beating the 9 cents expected by analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue doubled to $188.5 million from $93.9 million, topping the $179 million analysts had forecast.

In another encouraging sign, the number of people setting up LinkedIn profiles to post their resumes continued to grow at a rapid pace. The company added another 16 million profiles during the first three months of the year to end March with 161 million members. A year ago, LinkedIn had 102 million members.

Luring more people to set up profiles is important to LinkedIn because it makes its website more valuable to employers looking for to hire new talent.

Most of LinkedIn's revenue comes from fees it charges companies, recruiting services and other people who want broader access to the profiles and other data on the company's website. The rest comes from advertising. During the quarter, revenue grew across the company's divisions.

The Mountain View, Calif., company is buying San Francisco-based SlideShare with cash and stock and expects the deal to close by June.

"Presentations are one of the main ways in which professionals capture and share their experiences and knowledge, which in turn helps shape their professional identity," said LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner in a statement. He said SlideShare fits "perfectly" with LinkedIn's mission and will help deliver more value to its members.
LinkedIn said SlideShare had nearly 29 million visitors in March, citing data from research firm comScore.

Looking forward, LinkedIn said it expects second-quarter revenue of $210 million to $215 million, above the $208 million analysts had forecast.

For the full year, the company boosted its revenue estimate to a range between $880 million and $900 million, up from $840 million to $860 million seen previously. Analysts had estimated $876 million.

LinkedIn's shares had closed up $3.01, or 2.8 percent, to $109.41 during the regular trading day before its earnings report was released.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

World tour on solar-powered boat to beat climate change

Scanning the horizon on his solar-powered catamaran, Swiss electrical engineer Raphael Domjan counts down the hours to the completion of his record-breaking world tour.

"The idea was not to perform a feat but an eco-adventure with the aim of passing on the message that change is possible," Domjan told Agenve France Presse (AFP)-TV as his boat furrowed through choppy waves from Italy's Elba Island to Corsica in France.

Mr Domjan began his journey from Monaco in September 2010 on the boat he built after seeing the effects of climate change on an Icelandic glacier, and he is due to complete it on May 4 when he returns to the Mediterranean port.

"I realised climate change was real and I had to do something," he said.

The 31-metre (102-foot) white Planetsolar, with 537 square metres of black solar panels mounted around a raised cockpit, cost 15 million euros to build, and the project only became possible after Mr Domjan joined up with German businessman Immo Stroeher.

Forty-year-old Domjan, and his crew, including a captain, a chief builder and a mechanic, are hoping that their exhausting but historic 600-day journey will herald a new era in eco-friendly travel, particularly in the tourism sector.

After crossing the Atlantic and passing through the Panama Canal, they crossed the Pacific and returned to Europe via the Suez Canal.

There were a few hiccups along the way, including a frustrating three-day wait off the coast of Australia when a storm blocked out the sun.

"We have everything at our disposal: the know-how, technology, raw materials and renewable energy to become sustainable and protect the planet," said the engineer, a nature lover who is also a pilot, ambulance man and mountain guide.

Planetsolar can produce up to 500 or 600 KiloWatts per hour in good weather -- enough to travel 300 kilometres (186 miles) when the battery is fully charged using engines no more powerful than those on a scooter.

Everything on board is solar-powered: from the boat's engines and the on-board computers to the hot water and the light bulbs.

"The boat wasn't easy to build, but we built it in a record time of year-and-a-half years," said Jens Langwasser, 28, the chief builder.

"We had a lot of problems with finding the right panels, the right battery. It hasn't been easy. This is solar energy. You go on the road with storms, rain and all types of conditions. You never know what will happen."

As the boat requires maximum sunlight to move, it had to sail as close as possible to the Equator and follow routes that constantly had to change, based on how much sunlight was forecast for any particular day.

"Twice a day we get a bulletin with sunlight forecasts. Sometimes we have to slow down to go through a patch of clouds and find a sunny spot," said captain Erwann Le Rouzic, 40, an experienced sailor.

Erwann said that despite all the frustrations he was thrilled about the implications of solar-powered travel.

"Of course it only works in sunny areas and on some types of boat, and I'm not saying we'll see cargo ships becoming solar powered in 10 years, but now we know it works and there are a lot of possible uses," he said.

Ibor, a resident of Calvi where the ship arrived on one of its final legs of the world tour, said he was impressed.

"There's no two ways about it. This is the future. No doubt about it," he said.

Raphael said he has managed to show to industrialists, businessmen and politicians that his were not just fantasies from the novels of Jules Verne such as "Around the World in 80 days", but feasible ideas.

His first victory is already secure. As the Planetsolar was passing the Galapagos Islands, the government there decided to ban access to one of the archipelago's islands to all boats except for solar or electric-powered ones.

Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive compared

Moving digital files between your work and home computers can be a pain. Add smartphones and tablet computers to the mix, and you've got yourself a giant headache.

Google Inc. unveiled its solution to the problem last week, while two other companies, Dropbox Inc. and Microsoft Corp., improved their existing offerings. The idea is to leave your files on their computers, so that you can access them from any Internet-connected device, wherever you are.

That means you can stop emailing big files to yourself, and you can stop carrying those USB thumb drives that fill up quickly, especially when transferring photos and video. These services also make it easier to share documents with others.

The three services I tried are free, though you'll have to pay if you need more than your allotted storage.

Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft's SkyDrive share many core features.
You can store just about any type of file - photos, videos, songs, spreadsheets and more - on distant servers operated by those companies. All you need is a Web browser and an Internet connection. To upload a file to the online storage service, you simply move the file's icon to the browser window. The original file remains on your computer.

To access a file from another computer, you simply go to the service's website and log in. You can make changes on that computer and move the file back online. You can create Web links to entire folders or specific files for sharing.

You can install free software to simplify these transfers. The software creates a special folder on your computer for that particular service. Anything you add to it will automatically get transferred to your online storage. If you or colleagues make changes from another computer, the original version gets automatically updated.

A subset of features is also available through apps for mobile devices. You can pull up photos and other documents on the go, though it's not designed for making too many changes.

One drawback with all three services: You can lose metadata associated with these files. Attributes such as the file's creation date can change in transfer. The contents aren't affected, with one major exception I'll discuss as I compare the individual services.


The services give you plenty of free space for word processing, spreadsheets and other basics, but not enough for extensive storage of photos and video.

You get 2 gigabytes for free on Dropbox, 5 GB on Google Drive and 7 GB on SkyDrive. Those who used SkyDrive before April 23 can claim 25 GB of free space, though others might be eligible too. Dropbox lets you earn additional free space by recruiting friends or performing such tasks as installing Dropbox's software.

Signing up for additional free accounts gets cumbersome, so count on paying if you need more. An extra 100 GB will cost $50 a year on SkyDrive and $59.88 on Google Drive, while 100 GB including the free space will cost $199 on Dropbox. Cheaper plans with less storage are available.

Winner: SkyDrive, with the most free storage and cheapest upgrade plans.


All three let you share content by creating links.

On Dropbox, friends with that link can view the content, though you'll have to go through extra steps to create a "shared folder" for others to edit documents.

With SkyDrive, you can give people editing capabilities with that link. In fact, you can give some people a view-only link and others a link with editing privileges. You can share via email and decide whether recipients can edit documents. You can also post content to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks directly from SkyDrive.

Google Drive also lets you choose whether links come with editing capabilities. But unlike SkyDrive, you can't create view-only links for some and editing links for others. It's one or the other for particular files and folders. You can also email items as attachments or as a link to your Google Drive account.

Dropbox and SkyDrive can automatically turn the photos you share into galleries, so that friends can view them through an interface that resembles what you'd get on Facebook or a photo-sharing site.

Winner: SkyDrive, with the most options for sharing.


Not surprisingly, the best search options come from Google, the Internet search leader.

Searching on Google Drive is fast and versatile. You can search not just by file name, but also the contents of documents in a variety of popular formats. It uses an optical-character reader to pull out text from newspaper clippings and brochures you scanned. I was impressed that it found multiple references to "cockatoo" embedded in some scanned brochures.

Dropbox searches based on file names only. SkyDrive searches contents of documents in Microsoft formats - Word, PowerPoint and Excel - but it won't even index the file names for other types, including photos.

Winner: Google Drive


Dropbox has the most software options.

For desktops, there's a Linux version besides ones for Windows and Mac computers. Microsoft and Google support Windows and Macs only. Microsoft's software won't work on Windows XP, an older, but still widely used system. It also won't work on earlier versions of XP's successor, Vista. So many SkyDrive users will be stuck with the Web-based interface.

Dropbox also is the only service to offer phone apps for both Apple and Android devices. It's also the only one to support BlackBerrys. Google doesn't have a version for iPhones or iPads yet; its app only works on Google's Android system. Microsoft doesn't make one for Android, though it has one for its own Windows Phone system besides the Apple devices.

Winner: Dropbox

And the rest ...

Dropbox has a handy feature for restoring files you accidentally deleted or overwrote. That means you can go back to an earlier draft of a document if you change your mind - up to 30 days, or forever if you have a paid account. For truly sensitive files, a few extra steps are needed to permanently erase them.

SkyDrive will automatically shrink larger photos to save space if you use its Web interface, unless you notice and uncheck a small box. Some people may like that, as it'll speed up file transfers. But if I had deleted my originals before noticing that, I could have lost them forever. I didn't get any warnings ahead of time. That's enough for me to lose confidence in the service.

Google Drive offers to convert files to Google's online documents format. That makes it easier for multiple people to collaborate. When you make changes to a spreadsheet from your computer or phone, it will pop up seconds later on all the other screens where it's open. Collaborating through Dropbox and SkyDrive gets clunky. As a bonus, files in Google formats don't count toward the storage quota.

One annoying thing about Google: Under standard settings, if you upload the same file three times, it will get stored as three separate files on Google Drive - all with the same name. It ought to just replace the file - after asking, of course - and perhaps keep an older version hidden away as Dropbox does.

SkyDrive wins on storage and sharing, but it ought to be more forthcoming about shrinking originals.

Google's nifty search features make it the best choice overall. After all, storage does little good if you can't find what you need.

At the same time, I'm uneasy about relying on Google for even more of my online life. Google Drive doesn't currently run any ads, and the company says it has no plans to use your documents - such as your private diaries - to target ads elsewhere. But Google's recently revised privacy policy allows the company to do so if it ever changes its mind.

If you aren't bothered by that, Google Drive is the service you'll want. Otherwise, Dropbox is a fine alternative, especially if you expect to use it a lot on a variety of phones or an iPad.

Whatever you choose, I recommend that you keep your original files somewhere, even if you have to buy an external storage drive. These services are good for backups and sharing, but what SkyDrive did to my photos made me realize they are all too new to fully trust.

Pinstagram combines the best of Pinterest and Instagram

Pinterest and Instagram are two apps that have caught on like fire in the recent months. Ever thought what would the result be if the two were brought together? Two friends, Pek Pongpaet and Brandon Leonardo put a weekend to good use by coming up with Pinstagram, a mash up of Pinterest and Instagram. The idea stemmed from a simple discussion on company startups pitched to venture capital firms.

Once you sign-in using your Instagram account, the wall greets you with all your photos in the Pinterest layout. You can Like and comment on photos and pin them to your Pinterest pinboard as well. The app now also has a new Search option in the top left corner.

There are a few glitches in the site but considering it's only in its second week of running, we're sure it will be improved upon quite a bit. Talking to Mashable, Pek said that he also envisions iPad and desktop apps for Pinstagram in the future.

Pinstagram has blended the Pinterest and Instagram interfaces quite smoothly. The vertical Pinterest layout lacks a bit of colour which is compensated for by Pinstagram's earthy colours. Instagram's shades of blue appear as coloured icons for Pin, Like and Comment when you keep the cursor on a picture. While refreshing the site or opening other menu options, the site opens the page with a smooth animation. Overall, the site looks clean and simple.

The mash up however isn't entirely a new thought. Italian developer Gennaro Varriale had created a similar mash up called Pingram in March this year. Varriale said his love for collecting photos in boards led him to develop the site. Both the sites differ in their interface. Pinstagram is more stylised and user friendly as opposed to Pingram's rather static interface, without the Instagram and Pinterest feel.

Mashups such as these are likely to attract more users and contribute to the popularity of not just the individual apps (Instagram and Pinterest in this case) but of the mashed up version as well.