Friday, November 29, 2013

Google officially launches its election portal in India

After Facebook, Google has jumped on the bandwagon of polls in India, the world's biggest democracy, by setting up an election portal that gives all polls and politics related news to users in India.
The US-based search engine major Thursday launched its election portal which also provides information on political parties.

"Election portal will serve as a one-stop destination to help voters get answers to their elections and voting-related queries to make an informed decision," Google said in official blog.
In the first phase of the launch, the portal will cover news information and videos related to state elections in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Mizoram covering news from leading publications and broadcasters both in English and Hindi.


Users will also be able to watch content hosted by YouTube partners on elections and links to Hangouts done by political representatives in the recent past.

Earlier this month, social networking site Facebook joined hands with the Association for Democratic Reforms to help the voters access election candidates' criminal, financial, educational, professional information directly on their mobile via Facebook using USSD technology.
Facebook launched 'Register to Vote' feature, which seeks to promote its users to exercise their voting rights.

The feature encourages users to add on his/her Facebook timeline as a life event that the person has registered to vote and share this story with other connected users.

With over 200 million Internet users in the country, the Internet audience in India has reached a critical scale and it will play an important role in influencing decisions of a large proportion of the urban Indian population in the upcoming elections, Google said.

"Elections related search queries on Google have shown a considerable increase and the interest in news information related to elections and politics have started to peak," Google India Head of Public Policy and Government Relations Chetan Krishnaswamy said.

Leading political parties are active on most social media platforms, and users will be able to access all information sent out by the political parties on platforms like YouTube, Google+ and connect directly with the candidates in their constituency, he added.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s usurp Japan's smartphone market with 76 percent share: Kantar

It looks like Apple's iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c smartphones are selling like hot cakes in Japan. 

According to a tweet posted by research and data consultancy, Kantar, Apple's new iPhones accounted for 76 percent of new smartphone sales during the month of October. Interestingly, Japan's largest carrier, NTT DoCoMo sold a major number of iPhones in the same period. Out of the total number of smartphones it sold, 61 percent were iPhones. It's worth pointing out that it's the first time that the Japanese telecom operator is selling Apple's iPhones, and did not offer them before 2013.

The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c went on sale in Japan starting 25 September on NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank. 

The post comes a few days after the Wall Street Journal reported that Japan has appeared as the fastest growing region for Apple,  taking over America, China and other Asian markets.

The report attributed Apple's success in the Japanese market to  aggressive marketing and huge subsidies from telecom operators.

It pointed out that availability on NTT DoCoMo made the iPhone reach 61.8 million customers and boosted sales in September. It cites Tokyo's MM Research Institute's findings to report that the iPhone was Japan's bestselling smartphone, with a 37 percent market share in a period of six months that ended 30 September. 

It also added that Apple's iPad captured more than 50 percent of the tablet market in Japan in the year ended March 2013. The report states that Japan was the most profitable market for the Cupertino giant with its operating profit margins being more than 50 percent, in contrast with margins of 35 percent in the rest of the world.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In Silicon Valley, partying like it's 1999 again

These are fabulous times in Silicon Valley.

Mere youths, who in another era would just be graduating from college or perhaps wondering what to make of their lives, are turning down deals that would make them and their great-grandchildren wealthy beyond imagining. They are confident that even better deals await.

"Man, it feels more and more like 1999 every day," tweeted Bill Gurley, one of the valley's leading venture capitalists. "Risk is being discounted tremendously."

That was in May, shortly after his firm, Benchmark, led a $13.5 million investment in Snapchat, the disappearing-photo site that has millions of adolescent users but no revenue. Snapchat, all of two years old, just turned down a multibillion-dollar deal from Facebook and, perhaps, an even bigger deal from Google. On paper, that would mean a fortyfold return on Benchmark's investment in less than a year.

Benchmark is the venture capital darling of the moment, a backer not only of Snapchat but the photo-sharing app Instagram (sold for $1 billion to Facebook), the ride-sharing service Uber (valued at $3.5 billion) and Twitter ($22 billion), among many others. Ten of its companies have gone public in the past two years, with another half-dozen on the way. Benchmark seems to have a golden touch.

That is generating a huge amount of attention and an undercurrent of concern. In Silicon Valley, it may not be 1999 yet, but that fateful year - a moment when no one thought there was any risk to the wildest idea - can be seen on the horizon, drifting closer.

No one here would really mind another 1999, of course. As a legendary Silicon Valley bumper sticker has it, "Please God, just one more bubble." But booms are inevitably followed by busts.

"All business activity is driven by either fear or greed, and in Silicon Valley we're in a cycle where greed may be on the rise," said Josh Green, a venture capitalist who is chairman of the National Venture Capital Association.

For Benchmark, that means walking a narrow line between hyping the future - second nature to everyone in Silicon Valley - and overhyping it.

Opinions differ here about exactly what stage of exuberance the valley is in.

"Everyone feels like the valley has been in a boom cycle for quite some time," said Jeremy Stoppelman, the chief executive of Yelp. "That makes people nervous."

John Backus, a founding partner with New Atlantic Ventures, says he believes it's more like 1996: Things are just ramping up.

The numbers back him up. In 2000, just as the dot-com party was ending, a record number of venture capitalists invested a record amount of money in a record number of deals. Entrepreneurs received more than $100 billion, a tenfold rise in dollars deployed in just four years.

Much the money disappeared. So, eventually, did many of the entrepreneurs and most of the venture capitalists.

Recovery was fitful. Even with the stock market soaring since the recession, venture money invested fell in 2012 from 2011, and then fell again in the first half of this year. Predictions of the death of venture capital have been plentiful.

For one thing, it takes a lot less money to start a company now than it did in 1999. When apps like Instagram and Snapchat catch on, they do so in a matter of months. Venture capitalists are no longer quite as essential, and they know it. Just last week, Tim Draper, a third-generation venture capitalist with Draper Fisher Jurvetson, said he was skipping the next fund to devote his time to his academy for young entrepreneurs.

But there are signs of life. Funding in the third quarter suddenly popped, up 17 percent from 2012.

"I think this is the best time we've seen since 1999 to be a venture capitalist," Backus said.

He expects the returns on venture capital, which have been miserable since the bust, to greatly improve this year.

"Everyone talks about the mega-win - who was in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest," he said. "But the bread and butter of venture firms is not those multibillion exits but the $200 million deals, and there are a lot of those."

As an example he pointed to GlobalLogic, which operates design and engineering centers. It was acquired in October in a deal that returned $75 million on New Atlantic's $5 million investment.

Better returns would influence pension firms and other big investors to give more money to the venture capitalists, which would in term ramp up the number of deals.

"I would be really scared if all of sudden the industry raised $100 billion," Backus said. "But I don't know how you can stop that. The greed factor kicks in. Everyone wants a piece of action."

Benchmark is putting together a new investment fund. Given its recent track record, it could easily raise $1 billion from its limited partners. Instead, it will keep the fund to its usual size, $425 million. That is a hallmark of the discipline that has attended Benchmark since its founding in 1995. While other venture capital firms have bulked up, offering more services to entrepreneurs, Benchmark has stayed lean.

Its founding partners did not put their name on the door, a way of stressing that all were equal and would share in the profits equally. For Silicon Valley venture capitalists, this was a radical move. A rival venture capitalist told an industry publication that this was "communism."

Benchmark's first fund quoted Voltaire: "God is not on the side of the big arsenals, but on the side of those who shoot best." Its great dot-com hit was eBay, which was considered at the time the greatest venture capital success ever. In Randall Stross' fly-on-the-wall 2000 book, "eBoys," the partners are depicted as hardworking, smart and making it up as they go along, in the best venture capital tradition.

Now the partners are mostly different, but the one-for-all and all-for-one philosophy is the same, and the hits have kept coming.

Gurley, perhaps the best known of the partners at Benchmark, declined to be interviewed, as did the other partners, a spokeswoman said. But the executives of their portfolio companies were eager to discuss their skills.

Jess Lee, the chief executive of the shopping site Polyvore, said that Peter Fenton, the Benchmark partner on her board, was always encouraging long-term thinking.

"He wants us to focus on building the most impactful, sustainable business - an organization that lasts, versus take the best offer you can now," said Lee in a phone interview from a Goldman Sachs conference in Las Vegas.

When the Snapchat news was breaking, Gurley did not post another reference to 1999, the year the venture capital industry went crazy and valuations of revenue-less companies like Snapchat rose to incredible levels. Instead, he promoted the service, noting that "many adults still don't understand the draw of Snapchat." He has also pointed out that many enduring companies had no revenue in the beginning.

Half of Silicon Valley argues that Snapchat is a flash in the pan, which means its fate will be revelatory as well as entertaining to watch. Perhaps it will indeed rank with the likes of Google or Yahoo. Or perhaps it is Pets.com.

"I don't think we'll ever get back -and should never get back - to the days of the late 1990s," said Green, the venture capital association chairman. "But in venture capital we live in alpha world. It's all about taking risks. This will not be orderly."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Apple is world's most valuable brand, says Forbes

Global technology major Apple is the world's most valuable brand followed by Microsoft, Coca-Cola, IBM and Google, according to Forbes.

Apple has topped the 'World's Most Valuable List' compiled by Forbes magazine with a brand value of $104.3 billion, nearly double than the other technology major Microsoft, which has a brand value of $56.7 billion.

"... the Apple name is as strong as ever. Apple is the most valuable brand in the world for a third straight time at $104.3 billion, up 20 per cent over last year. It is worth nearly twice as much as any other brand on the planet by our count," Forbes said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's brand value has remained flat over the past three years, as the company struggles to make a transition from PC to the mobile world, the magazine said.

"Growth has slowed, but it is still one of the most profitable brands in the world with operating margins of 34 per cent in its latest fiscal year," it said.

With a brand value of $54.9 billion, Coca-Cola was ranked third in the list, followed by IBM ($50.7 billion), Google ($47.3 billion).

Among the top 10 brands, McDonald's, with a brand value of $39.4 billion, was ranked sixth, followed by General Electric ($34.2 billion), Intel ($30.9 billion), Samsung ($29.5 billion) and Louis Vuitton ($28.4 billion).

Brands from US-based companies make up just over half of the list of 100, with the next biggest representation from Germany (nine brands), France (eight) and Japan (seven).

No Indian company features in the list.

Technology brands are the most prevalent with 19, including six of the top 10.

Samsung, which came at No.9, had the strongest one-year gain of any brand in the top 100, up 53 per cent to $29.5 billion. The company's value soared 136 per cent over the past three years.

"Sales for Samsung's Galaxy S4 smartphone have been on fire and the company also benefits from its market leading position with memory chips," Forbes said.

Forbes, however, said the value of a brand can collapse in the complex, fast moving technology world.

Forbes had valued the Blackberry brand at $6.1 billion last year, but this year it stood at just $2.2 billion and has come out of the top 100 brands list.

Similarly, three years ago, Forbes had deemed the Nokia brand worth $27.3 billion, ninth highest in the world, while today it is worth $7 billion, which ranks the company at the 71st place.

Forbes valued the brands on three years of earnings and allocated a percentage of those earnings based on the role brands play in each industry. The 100 most valuable brands span 15 countries across 20 broad industry categories.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Why IT Dollars Will Go Further on Google's Floating Data Center

Is Google preparing another “moon shot”? The barge discovered in the San Francisco Bay this week hints at it, and rampant speculation has Google building a floating data center. Google hasn’t confirmed any ties to the barge, but many observers find it more than coincidental that the company filed for a floating data center patent in 2008.

Since this story broke, the Coast Guard confirmed that the barge is owned by Google, but a confidentiality agreement prevented the discussion of any other details. Basically, Google placed a gag order on the Coast Guard. In any case, the operative question becomes, why would Google be experimenting with an offshore data center?

The Data Center Power Problem

Data centers today have several points of friction, but none is more problematic than power consumption. The most significant operational cost of a data center is the recurring power cost — electricity. The cost of electrical power has been the bane of data center professionals for the last couple of decades. So any experimentation related to alternative data center models by Google would almost certainly include ways to reduce the cost of powering huge farms of servers.

Moore’s Law posits that computing power grows exponentially while the price of compute power drops just as dramatically. For the last fifty years, Moore’s Law has held true. In fact, the cost of the peripherals like storage, switches, routers and bandwidth have dropped nearly in lock-step with the cost of CPUs. But while information technology (IT) costs have plummeted, the cost of electricity has not.

Much has been done to reduce the power consumption of chips, power supplies, fans and other server sub-components. But as computing becomes an integral factor in the global economy, the need for energy-hungry data centers and mega data centers has skyrocketed.

Google Knows Power

Today, computing and powering the Internet accounts for 10 percent of the world’s electricity consumption, and that percentage is growing rapidly. Historically, the annualized capital costs of IT were the majority of the expenses related to data center operations. As the relative cost of IT has dropped, today, up to 70 percent of the costs associated with running a data center are attributable to power or power-related equipment for cooling, power conversion and power generation.

Google has been a pioneer in data center efficiency. In addition to the power used to run its servers, the typical data center uses an equivalent amount of “non-computing” or overhead power for tasks such as cooling and power conversion. Google’s data centers? They only consume 11 percent overhead power. In addition to building highly efficient data centers, Google has been a leader in using renewable energy, with 34 percent of its power consumption coming from renewable energy sources such as wind.

The hidden power cost of computing can rival the cost of IT equipment acquisition, and with the lack of data center expertise, the total cost of ownership can be taxing. That cost can be even more painful when a data center runs at 30 to 50 percent utilization rates, the industry average. Google data centers run at 80 percent.

Saving Dollars in the Data Center

No doubt, much progress has been made toward running power-efficient computing systems and lowering the associated carbon footprint. Some prognosticators predicted the explosive growth of the Internet would bring our power grid to its knees. It hasn’t. But continued research by forward-thinking companies like Google confirms there is more to be done — such as consider floating a barge in the bay to use seawater for low-cost cooling or even power generation.

Actually, cloud computing offers huge potential savings in both power and overall computing costs. You might not have considered it, but moving to a public cloud or SaaS (software as a service) applications eliminates a number of costs associated with running your own systems — namely the cost of power. In aggregate, if you were to move your common productivity applications such as email, office suites and customer relationship management to the cloud, you would reap a huge, direct benefit in reduced power consumption.

In a recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, lead author Eric Masanet found that moving just these applications to the cloud could cut IT energy consumption up to 87 percent — about 23 billion kilowatt-hours. The study estimated that businesses run some 4.9 million servers to host these applications. Moving them to the cloud reduces that number to 85,500.

To put that in perspective, that’s enough energy to power the city of Los Angeles for a year.

For the average business, running data centers or even hosting applications locally can be very inefficient and costly. They may be better served by letting Google and others do the heavy lifting. But, don’t be surprised if your data is floating in the San Francisco Bay — or even in space.