Friday, May 31, 2013

Apple iPhone sales in India increase by 400 percent: Report

In the past couple of months, Apple has stepped up its marketing initiatives in India and it seems that Cupertino's strategy is now paying off.
As per a report by Apple Insider, the sales of Apple iPhone in India have shot up by a whopping 400 percent. This is thanks lately to the schemes launched recently.

Apple along with its Indian distribution partners had launched cash back schemes that enabled users to exchange their existing smartphone for a new iPhone 4. Furthermore, it had also introduced monthly installment schemes that made it easy for the common man to purchase Apple iPhone.

Apple Insider is quoting analyst Sunil Tirumalai, who states that prior to launching these scheme, Apple was selling 70,000 to 80,000 units per month.

Tirumalai says the benefit of the new initiatives is clear, "The 4-9 percent implicit discount coupled with the option of easy EMIs spread over 6-12 months became popular. Within a few months, our discussions with handset retailers indicated that iPhone sales went up 3-4x, forcing companies to respond."

In the month of April, Apple had introduced the cash back scheme for its iPhone 4. Under this scheme consumers had to bring in their old smartphone and could take home a brand new iPhone 4 at a minimum discount of Rs. 7,000. As per the conditions of the scheme, Rs. 5,000 was the cash back discount given and the additional Rs. 2,000 was the minimum resale value pegged for the old smartphone.

If the consumers tried to exchange a smartphone, whose resale value was more than Rs. 2,000 then the effective cash back to them was Rs. 5,000 plus the value the resale of the phone. Initially, the scheme was launched for just 15 days. However, given the popularity the scheme was extended till May.

Even now, Apple is running a scheme, where in students are eligible for Rs. 7,777 discount on purchase of Apple iPhone 4. Apart from this, the American Express card holders can get an additional 10 percent on purchasing this smartphone.

With the success of these schemes, one can hope that Apple along with Redington and Ingram Micro will look at introducing more innovative schemes for its existing line-ups, in a bid to up sales of Apple products even further.

Apple has sold 100 million iPod touch units: Report

Apple has sold more than 100 million units of its iPod touch music player since its launch in 2007, a new report has stated.
Loop Insight's Jim Dalrymple says that the Cupertino-based company told him the iconic media player has achieved this feat to become one of its most popular products. It's worth pointing out that Apple had launched a new 16GB variant of the iPod touch on Thursday.

Apple usually doesn't disclose the breakup of iPod touch sales during its quarterly results and clubs it under iPod sales and iOS device sales. In the last quarter, Apple sold 5.6 million iPods down 27 percent from the 7.67 million iPods it sold in the second quarter of 2012.

During the last quarter, Apple announced that it sold 62.5 million iOS devices out of which 37.4 million were iPhones and 19.5 million were iPads. If we do the math, the remaining 5.6 million were iPod touch units. This implies that while iPod unit sales continue to decline, a majority of the iPods sold are iPod touch units.

The iPod touch was first launched in September 2007 in 8, 16 and 32GB storage variants. It essentially offers the iPhone experience as it runs the same OS but is stripped of voice calling, 3G/ 4G data connectivity and some other features. The iPod touch did not feature a camera till the third generation hardware line. The fourth generation iPod touch brought more parity in terms of the device's feature set with the iPhone, and the fifth generation iPod touch featured a 4-inch screen. The iPod touch's popularity stems from the fact that it's not merely a music/ media player and can run most iPhone apps. So it's replaced portable gaming devices and even point and shoot cameras.

Apple launches new 16GB iPod touch variant for $229

Apple has listed a new 16GB variant of its iPod touch music player on its website pricing it at $229.
The iPod touch variant features a 4-inch Retina display with 1136x640 pixels resolution and is powered by a dual-core A5 processor. It also features a front-facing FaceTime HD camera in the same form factor as that of the 5th Generation iPod touch that takes 1.2-megapixel photos and records 720p video.

It's interesting to observe that Apple has stripped this variant of the iPod touch of some features to cut costs. Unlike the ffth generation iPod touch, the new 16GB variant of the music player does not feature a rear camera and the lanyard hook. It comes with Apple's new EarPod in-ear headphones and a Lightning to USB cable and promises the same battery life as that of the fifth generation iPod touch offering 40 hours of music and 8 hours of video playback. The other feature set remains the same as that of the fifth generation iPod touch though the player weighs 2 grams less at 86 grams.

The new iPod touch variant is only available in Silver colour and has gone on sale in the US.

It's also worth pointing out that Apple has now discontinued the 16GB and 32GB versions of the fourth generation iPod touch.

Apple had unveiled the fifth generation iPod touch in 32GB and 64GB storage variants in September 2012. The iPods sport a 4-inch Retina display screen with a 1136x640 pixels resolution, just like the iPhone 5. Apple had claimed that the new iPod touch is its thinnest ever at 6.1mm, sporting a lighter anodised aluminium body weighing only 88grams.

The front-facing camera was upgraded to allow 720p video recording while the rear-facing iSight-branded camera had been bumped to 5-megapixels with autofocus and LED flash, a new Panorama mode and support for 1080p video recording with video image stabilisation. Apple had also introduced the 8-pin "Lightning" dock connector that is reversible and can be used with other accessories with the fifth generation iPod touch. The device also includes support for Bluetooth 4.0 and dual-band 802.11n.

The 32GB and 64GB iPod touch versions come in five colours- Black, Silver, Blue, Yellow and Red. While the 32GB iPod touch costs $299, the 64GB variant is priced at $399.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

First of Boeing's P-8I planes for Indian Navy arrives

The first of eight Boeing P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare (LRMRASW) aircrafts India has purchased from the United States arrived at the naval air station at nearby Arakkonam on Wednesday.

The P-8I, based on the Boeing 737-800(NG) airframe, is the Indian naval variant of the P-8A Poseidon that Boeing has developed for the U.S. Navy.

Vice Admiral Bimal Kumar Verma, Chief of Staff (Eastern Naval Command), received the aircraft at a function organised at INS Rajali.

Equipped with foreign and indigenous sensors for maritime reconnaissance, anti-submarine operations and electronic intelligence missions, the aircraft is fully integrated with state-of-the-art sensors and highly potent anti-surface and anti-submarine weapons, a defence press release said.

"The P-8I aircraft will greatly enhance India's maritime surveillance capability in the Indian Ocean Region," it said.

The remaining seven aircrafts under the 2009 contract will be delivered over the next two years, the release added.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

US Navy launches stealth drone X-47B, makes aviation history

Aboard the USS George HW Bush: The US Navy made aviation history on Tuesday by launching an unmanned jet off an aircraft carrier for the first time, taking an important step toward expanded use of drones by the American military with an eye on possible rivals like China and Iran.

The bat-winged X-47B stealth drone roared off the USS George HW Bush near the coast of Virginia and flew a series of pre-programmed maneuvers around the ship before veering away toward a Naval air station in Maryland where it was scheduled to land.

"This is really a red-letter day. May 14 we all saw history happen" said Rear Admiral Ted Branch, the Atlantic naval air commander. "It's a marker ... between naval aviation as we've known it and the future of naval aviation with the launch of the X-47B."

Because of its stealth potential and a range nearly twice that of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the X-47B and its successors are seen as a potential answer to the threat posed by medium-range anti-ship missiles developed by China and Iran, defense analysts said.

The missiles and other so-called anti-access, area-denial weapons would force U.S. aircraft carriers to operate far enough from shore that piloted aircraft would have to undergo refueling to carry out their missions, leaving them vulnerable to attack.

But with a range of 2,000 nautical miles, an unmanned jet like the X-47B could give the Navy both a long-range strike and reconnaissance capability.

"That makes it strategically very important," said Anthony Cordesman, a senior defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He described the drone as "essentially a really long-range stealth system."

"As we rebalance to the Pacific, the Navy is going to increasingly need range," said Brien Alkire, a senior researcher at RAND's Project Air Force. "That's something an unmanned system can bring them that they don't really have right now and give them the ability to operate from a good standoff range.

The X-47B, one of only two demonstrator models made by Northrop Grumman Corp, carries the equivalent of two precision-guided bombs. It was catapulted from the aircraft carrier on Tuesday using the same sling-shot system that sends manned aircraft aloft.

Landing on board

It is scheduled to undergo two weeks of testing aboard the carrier leading up to a landing on the ship, in which a plane's tailhook grabs a wire that will slow it and keep it from plunging overboard.

While the carrier takeoff represented a significant milestone, defense analysts are focused on the next step, when the Navy attempts to use what has been learned with the X-47B to develop an unmanned aircraft for actual operations.

"The X-47B is a great story," said Mark Gunzinger, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think-tank. "It's a milestone and a step forward for unmanned, carrier-based aviation. But I think the real story is what's next. How do we operationalize this capability?"

Future variants of the drone could probably be designed for full-spectrum broadband stealth, which means it would be hard for radar to locate it, analysts said. That level of stealth would be one of the drone's major defenses.

US drones currently in use in places like Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan, like the Predator and Reaper, are not up against any air defenses and are not stealthy aircraft.

Because of its long range and the Navy's need to have it take off and land, day and night, from an aircraft carrier, the X-47B has been designed to operate with far greater autonomy than the remotely piloted aircraft currently in use.

That has raised concerns among some organizations worried about the heavy US reliance on drones in warfare and the rising use of autonomous robots by the American military.

Human Rights Watch, in a report launching its recent campaign against "killer robots," cited the X-47B as one of several weapons that represent a transition toward development of fully autonomous arms that require little human intervention.

A follow-on program - known as the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System, or UCLASS - is expected to build on what was learned with the X-47B to produce operational aircraft.

An initial request for design proposals is expected to be issued by the Navy sometime this month. Other aircraft makers, from Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing to General Atomics - are expected to compete to participate.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

India's nuclear deterrence capacity is in place, the country can sleep well: Defence research chief

In a big step towards securing India's capabilities for nuclear deterrence, the reactor on board India's indigenously made nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant will become operational in three weeks. After that, INS Arihant will be ready for sea-trials and will subsequently be commissioned to the Indian Navy. (Read)

Dr VK Saraswat, the chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation or DRDO, shared these exclusive details with NDTV's Science Editor Pallava Bagla and asserted that India's nuclear deterrence is robust. He also spoke about the Agni-V missile project, and made a pitch for a shift from global buying to indigenous technology development and procurement of defence equipment. Here is the full transcript of the exclusive interview:

 NDTV: What is happening with the Agni series of missiles now? What is the next phase?

VK Saraswat: Agni Series of missiles are in an advanced stage of production. Today, as you remember, we have completed development of Agni I, Agni II, and Agni III. Agni IV and Agni V are in an advanced stage of development. And this year, you will see two more launches of Agni V, which will culminate its complete developmental activity and it will be led to production. Agni IV is already getting into production mode. So with this - Agni I, Agni II, Agni III, Agni IV, Agni V - getting into production mode, the next logical corollary as far as the long-range ballistic missile deterrents capability of this country is concerned, we will switch over to force multiplication. Force multiplication in the case of ballistic missiles will be by way of multiple independently manouevreable re-entry vehicles (MIRV).

NDTV: Meaning one missile which can carry many war-heads?

VK Saraswat: Carry multiple warheads. Our design activity on the development and production of MIRV is at an advanced stage today. We are designing the MIRVs, we are integrating it with Agni IV and Agni V missiles, and that would also give us the capability to cover a vast area plus deliver in the event any activity requires a number of payloads at a required place.

NDTV: So will the next test be with a multiple warheads system or...

VK Saraswat: No. The present task, as I was mentioning, will be only with the normal configuration of Agni V. But there will be an experimental test in which we will be testing the MIRV capability.

NDTV: So that would be what? Agni VI or...

VK Saraswat: No we are not naming it Agni VI... it will be Agni V missile with MIRVs.

NDTV: So Agni V plus?

VK Saraswat: You can name is Agni V plus or Agni VI, but certainly it is not Agni VI.

NDTV: It is not Agni VI but Agni V will have multiple warheads so we can have a single missile going and hitting several targets at the same time?

VK Saraswat: Yes it will be in that category.

NDTV: OK. Now, you also need a certain platform for your nuclear reactor. So what is happening on the Arihant project? How soon can we see criticality and commissioning?

VK Saraswat: Arihant development is at an advanced stage. Last year, we saw the culmination of the development trials of BO5, which was launched from the pontoon (landing stage) and it completed all its objectives. It is under production today. As far as the platform is concerned, it is also at an advanced stage today. I must say, in a couple of weeks, you will see that it will go into criticality and from there onwards the commission exercise will start.

NDTV: Criticality meaning, that the nuclear reactor which is on board INS Arihant will be started and the submarine itself will be powered by the Indian-made nuclear reactor. Is that what you are telling?

VK Saraswat: Yes, absolutely.

NDTV: How soon can we see that?

VK Saraswat: I think it should happen in the next 2-3 weeks.

NDTV: In the next 2-3 weeks, the nuclear reactor will be started and the nuclear chain reaction will start working in INS Arihant. So it will become like a self-propelled vehicle then?

VK Saraswat: See, criticality means the reactor gets into operation. And that is the most important for any nuclear system, whether it's a reactor or it's a power plant for a nuclear submarine. It's a very important event as far as the designers, the builders of these platforms are concerned.

NDTV: So what next? When can we see a full-fledged trial?

VK Saraswat: After that we get into the trial mode. We have an evolved programme in which many trials of this system will be done with the submarine moving into the right operational mode and then also trying out the weapons and equipment. There is a series of tasks that are required to be carried out.

NDTV: So you are happy with the INS Arihant as it stands?

VK Saraswat: We are extremely happy because it is a major technological breakthrough for the country. And as far as the indigenous capability is concerned I must say that India has reached one of the major milestones in the field of complex technology of nuclear powered submarines.

NDTV: There is a lot of indigenisation underway now. That everything should be made in India, that technology development should in India. Is the DRDO in a position to deliver without time delays and cost over-runs?

VK Saraswat: I think a shift in India's policy as far as acquisition of defence equipment is concerned -- from buy-global to buy-Indian as a preferential mode of procurement -- is very welcome and a good shift because it will give a major boost to the development and production of indigenous equipment and participation of the Indian industry in a big way. Obviously, as far as DRDO is concerned, it will have a major role to play.

DRDO, under this umbrella of buy-Indian will have tremendous opportunities for tying up with industries, tying up with academic institutions and with global players for delivering systems and products and equipment as desired by the armed forces. When we integrate with the industry, obviously it acts as force multiplication -- in terms of our capability and capacity. This will also reduce the time to develop things and also maybe control costs.

NDTV: So in effect you are saying that DRDO and India are ready for this huge push on indigenisation?

VK Saraswat: It's a beginning. I must say that it's a beginning because a shift from buy-global to buy-Indian requires the readiness of the industry to participate in this kind of venture. Obviously, there will be some time required for industries to gear up for these challenges. What is required is investment in the Indian industries, in the major areas of technologies, which would ensure that when DRDO goes to these industries, they are capable to absorb and produce in large numbers. Or tomorrow if they tie up with global players, because that is also a mode of operation, then they should be in a position to absorb that technology.

NDTV: But DRDO is known for delays...

VK Saraswat: No, DRDO will use this as an opportunity for cutting down delay. Also, by using the industry as our extended arm, we can control delays, can control the development of technologies, can control production and we will also be able to use our technology to augment the capability and capacity of the Indian industry.

NDTV: There is a lot of concern about incursions by the Chinese. We have certain technologies like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Did we use them? Why did we not learn about these incursions? Is there something under DRDO, which can help India learn ahead of time or when an incursion is happening?

VK Saraswat: We have a number of technologies and we are using our UAVs, we are using our surveillance systems. In fact, we have kept a few UAVs in our labs in the Leh area and we are in a position to see what is happening in that system. In case of land incursions, we can use UAVs, we can use our radars, we can use our battlefield surveillance radars, and we can use our border security radars to find out what is happening. Incursions are not new, they have taken place earlier. But the way this incursion has taken place  is certainly an alarm bell for us.

NDTV: You are deploying your technology for this current incursion also to learn more... to do surveillance on it?

VK Saraswat: Yes, we have our UAVs in that area.

NDTV: They are operational even as we speak?

VK Saraswat: We can utilise them today. We are not integrated with our armed forces today because they are experimental UAVs, which are for our application but, certainly, it can generate the required data for the purpose of surveillance activities.

NDTV: There is some concern that India's nuclear deterrence is more a political statement than actually a statement of fact. DRDO was involved in the Pokharan II blast in a very big way and you are developing many technologies. What do you have to say? Do we have the capability or is it all bluster?

VK Saraswat: I think all the statements are made out of ignorance. India has a very robust and a systematic deterrence capability, both in terms of weapon platforms as well as in terms of the required payloads. India has industry to support it, has the mechanism to control, mobilise and also use it whenever needed. Plus India has a very robust doctrine on these matters. It is a structured system, which controls the entire deterrence activity that starts from the highest body in the country to all the operational units, which are essential for exercising deterrence.

The notion that many analysts have are purely based upon their perception of things and comparison with other countries. I think every country has deterrence capability based upon its capacity, based upon evolving threats and also (takes into consideration) the ecosystem and the environment in which this deterrence has to work. So one need not compare whether country A has a better one (deterrence) or country B has a better one. It is what India needs. Do we have that? I can assure that India has the required deterrence capability in all forms. The triad is getting completed and I have no doubts that we will match with the best in the world.

NDTV: So DRDO, Department of Atomic Energy, Indian armed forces together can protect India if there is a nuclear threat to India?

VK Saraswat: I can assure you of that.  

NDTV: A hundred percent?

VK Saraswat: One hundred percent!

NDTV: Average citizens need not worry? I can sleep well?

VK Saraswat: You can sleep well. The country can sleep well. Indian scientists, industries, armed forces and deterrence mechanisms are fully in place and we have nothing to fear.

INS Arihant, India's N-powered submarine, to be operational soon

In a big step towards securing India's nuclear deterrence capabilities, the reactor on board the indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant is set to become operational within three weeks. The submarine, which is over 100 metres long, has been undergoing trials in Visakhapatnam for the last three years .

Dr VK Saraswat, the chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation or DRDO, shared these exclusive details with NDTV (Read: Transcript of full interview). He said that once the Indian-made enriched uranium nuclear reactor - which has been in development for two decades - becomes operational, INS Arihant will be ready for sea-trials and will subsequently be commissioned. (Watch)

The induction of INS Arihant into the Indian Navy's fleet will complete the crucial link in India's nuclear triad - the ability to fire nuclear weapons from land, air and sea.  So far, the US, Russia, France, China, and the UK have the capability to launch a submarine-based ballistic missile.

Though this comes as good news for India's defence capabilities, there is some concern over the overall strength of India's submarine fleet. India has 14 conventional submarines that run on either battery or diesel and are aging and outdated. Each of them will have completed the standard life-span of 25 years by 2017.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

In a $100 million move to counter China, India to upgrade Iran's Chabahar port

In a strategically significant move to counter China's presence in the region, India has announced that it will upgrade Iran's crucial Chabahar port that gives a transit route to land-locked Afghanistan.

India's decision was conveyed by Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid in Tehran today during his meeting with his counterpart.

An expert team from India will visit Iran to assess investment needed for the upgradation of the port on the Iran-Pakistan border facing the Arabian Sea. Sources say an investment to the tune of $100 million is required for the upgradation.

The move comes despite strong pressure from America, which doesn't want any investment in developing infrastructure in Iran to put pressure on the Western Asian country over its covert nuclear programme. But India has been worried and keen to open alternative route to Afghanistan ever since China took over Pakistan's Gwadar port in the region, which is just 76 km from the Chabahar port.

Chahbahar port, which is surrounded by a free trade zone, is crucial particularly since Pakistan does not allow transit facility from India to Afghanistan.

India will also discuss ways to increase trade with Iran as it is concerned over the "grave" imbalance. The two-way trade is around US $15 billion, out of which Indian exports account only for around US $2.5 billion.

Oil is the biggest item of Indian import from Iran but India feels there is a lot of scope for increasing Indian exports to the Persian country particularly in pharmaceuticals and food.

However, efforts to enhance trade have been facing hurdles because of sanctions imposed by the UN and European Union, which make payment difficult.

There are also problems like re-insurance of oil refineries and transportation of consignment from Iran because of the sanctions.