Wednesday, March 19, 2008

DesiCrew... Rural BPO... Fantastic Story

Absolutely inspiring... This is tapping the true potential of India. The picture on their web site sums it up the best...

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Web videos on TV

News that trickled through yesterday... TiVO is now bringing youtube videos on TV... One of those many "over the top" services that cable and telco providers have been extremely wary off...

While Apple TV has had this for a while, this announcement I thought was significant since TiVO has a much larger user base in the US. Google has been able to do very little in terms turning the youtube acquisition to hard revenue except the standard web ads and hence, this presents a much more viable avenue for Google to monetize Youtube. If this takes off, I can see a Youtube version or APIs for providers who have a active link to the internet from their deployed set top boxes. This could include IPTV providers in the US, Europe, Japan or even those satellite providers who have deployed hybrid boxes with a port at the back for connecting the box to the user's broadband line. It could even include the likes of SlingBox and Hava.

The concern though is going to be picture quality. As it is, the likes of Youtube downconvert the video to lower resolutions to fit within a 10MB size limit to save storage space. Having been part of an experiment myself where this video was played on TV using a Set Top Box, I can say that on TV screen, these videos look pretty bad. Given the compression of video affects video with a lot of motion a lot more, sports clips and action movies look especially very poor on TV. Youtube and other such website may have to spend more on storing higher quality video to improve viewer experience, which is going to be critical since High Definition is beginning to set new benchmarks in video quality.

That said, the price of storage will be a small price to pay for if the business model affords video sharing websites to make money out of all this content. With recent news about Youtube sharing ad revenue with the uploader of the video, opening up the living room TV for those ADs will get a lot in the user community excited. This has the potential to get to the point where one day, you may be able to create you own channel and broadcast it around the world to everyone's TV (and even possibly make ad/subscription revenue out of the same).

Saturday, January 26, 2008

net neutrality...

Recently one piece of news that caught my eye was that of time warner's plans to introduce metered billing for broadband. Being in India, any broadband user should be pretty familiar with the ultra low data caps (for ultra low prices of course). My connection has a 1.5G cap which I just tip over every month when I am not on vacation. Its a different story when I am on vacation. But it serves the purpose for me 11 out of 12 months a year.

But its a different ball game in the US. With the likes of Apple TV, xbox, vudu and TiVO bypassing the traditional video delivery path of cable companies and telcos, there is a real threat to the age old cable digital TV or the new age IPTV services on offer. Not a real threat at the moment primarily because the content on broadcast or IPTV is still way more in demand but telcos and cable companies do certainly see the threat coming.

Seen in this context, the announcement from Time Warner gains a lot of significance. Metered billing beyond a certain data cap can make a lot of these "over the top" services way more expensive than they are today. On the other hand, the on demand content that the provider himself offers will become more attractive price-wise. We are most likely to see the hue and cry about net neutrality come up again.

While a service provider like Time Warner may have to do this to cover for all the additional network maintenance costs, doubting thomas' will not always agree that there is no anti-competitive behaviour. Will certainly be interesting to see how this develops. Exclusive content deals like the NFL Sunday Ticket in the US may get to become more significant but if every cable, telco and "over the top" service provider starts striking these deals, the end user may have to bear the brunt, either paying for multiple such services or losing out on the chance to view the content.

A related comment:

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


My $6.25/mo DSL internet connection :)

This was at peak usage times. Have seen this go up to 1.9 at night. Never had it go down since I started using it. How much ever anyone may whip BSNL for their customer service, this is a terrific deal.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Something different if you will be in chennai next weekend...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

GPL and patents...

I have been reading up a bit on GPL and patents and it makes interesting reading. What happens when someone writes patented code under a GPL license? GPL mandates that the code and any modifications to it should be made freely available with any binary distributions. But if that were to be done, then the code distribution can be a patent violation! To complicate matters, GPL is universal while patents are enforced locally within the regions where that patent has been granted. So this seems like GPL and patent laws are like oil and water. Recognizing this seeming contradiction, GPL3 has some points that relate to this.

If you are someone who is interested in open source and commercializing products based on open source, this must make interesting reading...

Copyright and Linux, GPL patent issues

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

DVR for India

My last few posts have been a unusually technical considering what I have been posting on these blogs before... My passion for DVRs though started first at bschool where TiVO was popular case study in marketing. TiVo is an interesting example of a product that caught on so well with its adopters that they literally refused to part with it, once they started using it, but still a product that struggled to find mass appeal. It was not a product that was adopted by the technically oriented. Even its early customers included those without a technical background. Tivo in fact has always done an excellent job with its user interface, so that the complexities of a DVR are presented in a simple and easy to understand manner. Even the remote control and the interaction model were way ahead of their time and pretty much set the benchmark for such TV based applications. Despite all these positives and almost a cult following, a la the following that say Harley Davidson bikes enjoy, TiVO always found it tough to make it big in the market. It was a classical case where word of mouth somehow did not seem to work. Their advertisement campaign's came up short when it came to making the average TV viewer understand the concept. Though the concept was not very different from that of a VCR, somehow TiVO never took off.

I still believe a DVR like TiVO has excellent potential in a country like India, especially if a service provider were to introduce the service. I say that because, if a company were to introduce standalone DVRs like TiVO, they will face challenges like, how does the device fetch program guide data. TiVO acheived this by asking customers to hook up their broadband or phone line to the device. That may be very clumsy or unacceptable in most indian urban homes. A service provider will have the advantage of owning the network that will deliver guide data to a DVR. I can hear some people say, a DVR is still good without guide data but having sampled many DVRs personally, I can tell you that the addictive experience of a DVR completely depends on the quality of program guide data. The lack of good programming guide data available in the electronic form is a dampner in India. I had a tough time getting my MythTV DVR to scrape website to source guide data. A service provider again will have the advantage, especially if its a Tata Sky or Dish given they already seem to have guide data.

I only wish one of these service providers offered me the option to rent or buy a DVR that will work with their service. That alone will be compelling reason for me and my family to switch. Imagine this... TV Serials, especially the "K" ones in the hindi belt and the Sun Network channels in the south are so popular. If every housewife had an easy option to search or see program listing on their TV and could schedule recordings of these programs, would they not pay for it. I think they would.

That made me wonder why no one has ever thought of introducing these in India. I remember Dish did offer a DVR for a few months sometime back but it was priced so high that no one looked at it. I also imagine that Tata Sky and Dish wont want to introduce a DVR. Given they are indirectly owned by the content providers like Star and Zee, they sure don't want their customers to be recording and skipping ADs.

Windows Media Center or MythTV are the only options left for the average Tv viewer in India. Neither satisfies the need, given PC penetration is low and more importantly, no one wants to put their computer next to their TV or leave it on forever.