The move

April 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

I finally took the plunge and moved to dedicated hosting for my blog and website. Until recently, wordpress.com was sufficient for what I wanted to do and my website was hosted by Google Sites. This was nice and free but I wanted to have greater control on the style of the blog and website and also utilize better themes and plugins. In addition, I am hoping to add more sections to the blog and also the website to make it meaningful. Hence the shift.

This WordPress blog will be around for a while until I fully transition all content and settings. All the old posts are already the new site. They will continue to be here also (indefinitely). Future posts will only be in the new location.

The rest of the website will take a bit longer to be fully active and functional.

Hope you patronize the dedicated site as much as this one.

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How does AT-T’s purchase of T-Mobile affect us?

March 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

News just hit the wires that AT-T, the once largest, sometimes and recently  second largest telecommunications carrier in the US agreed to acquire T-Mobile, the 4th largest carrier with 33 million subscribers in a $39 billion dollar deal. This makes AT-T the definitive largest carrier by a big margin. It is early hours to speculate and confirm if the deal will pass the scrutiny of the antitrust folks but chances are the big telecom lobby will make sure it does. And when it does happen, it will mean 3 major carriers left standing (and one of them wobbly at that) and a bunch of fringe players whose valuation just jumped up at the prospect of Verizon scooping them. Metro PCS at less than $6 billion now seems a juicy target for Verizon.  While the 8 million subscribers that Metro PCS offers is much less than the 33 million from T-Mobile that AT-T just picked up, it is still a first step for Verizon. The added bonus of having a LTE network rollout in progress will help the Metro PCS-Verizon Wireless marriage, if it were to happen.  The speculation will start tomorrow and Metro PCS shareholders will definitely see the stock go up.

The implication of this event is significant. As recently as last week, rumors suggested that Sprint-Nextel, the third largest carrier with about 50 million subscribers was looking to merge or get acquired by T-Mobile to give the third and fourth place carriers some heft against AT-T and Verizon. This is particularly important in the era of exclusive handset agreements that can make or break multiple quarters for a carrier. The iPhone exclusivity is a case to point that effectively killed a lot of business for Sprint-Nextel and T-Mobile. The Verizon-Google-Motorola relationship was another. It made sense from a business standpoint for T-Mobile and Sprint-Nextel to merge although there were significant technological hurdles stemming from the completely different radio technologies used by the two (CDMA by Sprint and GSM by T-Mobile).

The synergies for AT-T and T-Mobile are much more than T-Mobile and Sprint-Nextel. Given that they have significant field test and operation presence out of Seattle and that they utilize similar wireless radio technologies, it makes for a relatively smoother transition. It also gives AT-T, extra spectrum for its LTE roll-out in the future.  But where does that leave the consumer?. T-Mobile has been consistently rated as the best in customer service while AT-T often finds itself at the bottom of the pile. T-Mobile has a loyal set of customers who have benefited by excellent data and messaging plans often times cheaper than AT-T and Verizon. What T-Mobile has lacked is the killer smartphones that have fueled the rise of AT-T in recent years and also a larger coverage map thanks to AT-T’s legacy. This will change now with AT-T and Verizon primarily duking it out for the best smartphones while Sprint-Nextel watches from the sidelines with the occasional exclusive HTC phone. But consumers also have only one national GSM operator to pick making AT-T a bigger behemoth than what it was with a lot more muscle. This will affect the all critical data plans moving forward. On the bright side, with the expanded network, voice calls on AT-T will be better.

Day After Update:

Metro PCS stock is up 5% (PCS). Leap Wireless, a similar CDMA operator is up 12% (LEAP). As expected, this hurts Sprint the most, not just the stock price which is down 15% (S) but also their future prospects (here).

And yes, its all about LTE spectrum.

Revisiting Cisco

February 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

A few months ago, I had written about the slow yet defined remaking of Cisco. Since then, the Silicon Valley stalwart has delivered three lukewarm quarters and has seen its stock stagnate against its nimbler competition. The Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting article questioning some of the very moves it had lauded over the years. Analysts have also questioned Cisco’s slowing its pace of innovation against its competitors in its core area of expertise, routers. I figured the time is ripe to revisit my post and see if anything has changed fundamentally.

For starters, some of the niche acquisitions have not panned out as planned. Some of this is obvious. While the Flip camera product line was extremely popular at the time of purchase, it is now challenged by smart phones that do everything the Flip does and more. In addition, the Flip is a relatively pricey single purpose device while smart phones are multi-utility and carry a similar price of entry (excluding monthly service costs, of course).  Cisco has been releasing newer models at a steady clip but the question is if the product has outlived its utility.

Cisco announced a tablet product, the Cius to capitalize on the popularity of the iPad. It wanted to target the product for businesses and enterprises that were well entrenched into the Cisco family of tools and services. On the face of it, this was a smart move. It still is, if Cisco can deliver not just a business solution but a universally appreciated productivity tool. Android tablets are expected to be all over the place this year and Cisco needs more than its suite of applications to sell the Cius. One of the Cius’s biggest selling points namely video conferencing might soon become a feature of iOS with the rumored front facing cameras in iPad 2. Also, when the Cius was announced, enterprises were still evaluating the iPad. Almost 8 months since then, the iPad is a certified blockbuster in board rooms and executives are clamoring for their own iPad. This, coupled with Apple’s increased attention to business customers and the Cius has indeed a big wall to climb.

Cisco continues to sell its routers and lots of them. In recent quarters, they have complained of a stagnant government segment (which might not improve much for the next few quarters considering how much of a budget hole most states are in). In addition, HP has started encroaching on some of the lower end router business. Cisco itself entered the server business recently with their Unified Computing System (UCS) and has made slow but steady inroads there. The pricey acquisition of Scientific Atlanta for its set-top box business gave a new business area for Cisco to get into but they have been reporting lower sales in the segment, where the main competitor Motorola has been doing well the last few quarters.

Overall, Cisco is going through a rough patch the last few months. It would be easy to blame its strategy of expanding into hitherto unknown segments but there was not much more to gain in their primary router business and the expansion made sense. Eventually, Cisco might shrug off a few of these acquisitions and settle down with just a few select successful ones. Until then, the San Jose behemoth deserves the benefit of doubt.

The downside of a “smarter” life

February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Note: This post is more personal and reflective than my usual ones. If that is not what you are looking for, skip this post and do come back for the next one which is will be more in line with my usual posts.

As most of my readers and friends know, I am a gadget freak who loves to surround himself with the best. In addition, I love to keep myself in the know of all things tech (and hence the blog). I have and love my iPhone 3GS and use all  the cool apps on my smartphone. I have enough and more to keep me occupied- online or offline until the battery runs out. And I am starting to pay the price for all this. You might wonder what and if there is a downside to such an up-to-the minute data filled life. Yes, there is.

As my apps have increased, so has my time on my smartphone. And this has taken a toll on my eyes. They hurt by the end of the day. Even when I was hooked for 8 hours on my computer in the past, they didn’t hurt quite as much. Now it does. The small screen kills. Really. Every second I think I am free, I am gazing on my Twitter feeds or reading about the latest Android superphone on Engadget. I am pretty sure my face-contact time in elevators and corridors is starting to drop. Not to mention the time at home where the laptop barely gets any time unless its for serious work. I am not alone. I just finally admitted to it. I am sure many of you are going through a similar experience or see others in the same place. At least I dont read my emails at traffic lights. Something I see so much in the Bay Area signals every day. I hope people realize that there is a downside to the content and information overload at our fingertips before its too late.

Admitting that you have a problem is the first step. The next is to take concrete steps to fix it. I plan on dramatically reducing my app time to a fixed duration every day. In addition, the daisy-chained-apps (as I call the ones which have embedded links leading you to other web pages) will not get any face time but for lunch and later in the evening. The phone will remain in the pocket while in the car and I plan on greeting every single person I see in the corridor and in the elevator. I fully believe the problem is under control and hope to be my pre-smartphone self very soon.

I dont believe that smartphones are to be blamed for where we are today. Its a combination of high speed cellular networks, affordable data connections, affordable and well designed mobile devices and our thirst for knowledge that has caused us to be where we are. Its all good as long as there are limits to the consumption. So instead of taking the dramatic step of downsizing to a feature phone, I will work on my ability to limit my use of my smart phone.

I apologize for the rare personal post here. I truly believe a lot of us are facing a similar problem and I wanted to use this forum to illustrate it. Ill be back to my usual posts with the next one. If you think you have some ideas to combat a situation like these, please feel free to share it for other readers.

The new Cisco

May 20, 2010 § 1 Comment

Somewhere in San Jose, there are big changes happening. One that is not being shouted out from rooftops but a major one, nevertheless. As the title of the post would have revealed, I am refering to the transformation of and at Cisco. For most of us, the perception of Cisco is a staid old router company that makes gazillions selling routers and switches to the world. While that is still very true, Cisco has made a very conscious and admirable approach to expanding its portfolio in very adventurous ways.

Looking at their acquisitions over the last few years, one can get an idea of how they are trying to spread their wings without fundamentally changing themselves. The first oddball acquisition really happened in 2003 when they picked up home networking gear pioneer LinkSys. At that time, people were surprised by Cisco’s move to the SME and home office business but it definitely made sense. Things were then relatively silent from their image makeover standpoint until 2005 when they acquired Scientific Atlanta, a profitable maker of set-top boxes. Until then, Cisco had primarily been a backend communication equipment vendor with the lone exception of LinkSys. With this, they were starting to expand further into consumer electronic devices. The rest of their 2005 acquisitions, minor yet important are listed here. In 2006, they acquired a bunch of complementary tools to start putting together an ec0-system for enterprise customers at the front end. They are listed here. Their next big acquisition came in 2007 when they picked up WebEx, a pioneer in web conferencing systems and business collaboration tools. This was a major move by Cisco, one that would be bolstered further by their Tandberg acquisition in 2009.

With WebEx and later with Tandberg, Cisco was placing itself more and more in the end point devices and services space- for enterprises big and small. This was a smart move to build a complete enterprise offering for its customers- many of whom had large Cisco accounts and affiliations. The icing on the cake happened in 2009 when Cisco is an extremely surprise move, acquired Pure Digital Technologies, the maker of the very popular Flip video systems. This was a straight consumer play that was extremely unlikely for a very large networking vendor. But by 2009, Cisco was no longer that Cisco 0f 1999. They were a “network” ecosystem player- one that made anything any everything that had an IP address and the ability to communicate via a wired or a wireless interface.

The launch of the Valet line of Linksys devices targeting the novice home network user and the acquisition of the Moto Development Group, a consumer electronics design firm confirms Cisco’s full on assault on home electronic and networking devices. The company is now intriguingly poised to be a force to reckon with across the full spectrum of networking gear- ranging from GigaBit core routers to consumer video capture devices, from corporate wireless systems to enterprise video conferencing software and hardware. This is not your dot-com Cisco. This is a very different beast and one that had a lofty vision.

Welcome to the Human Network!

Improving the classroom learning experience

May 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Technology that truly impacts how good things can be done better is worth knowing, understanding and appreciating. As a lifelong student I have been interested to know how technology can, is and will impact education. A press release from Cisco today on its suite of classroom learning tools is worth taking note of.

The full press release is here:

http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2010/prod_050310.html?CMP=AF17154&vs_f=News@Cisco:+News+Releases&vs_p=News@Cisco:+News+Releases&vs_k=1

I wont claim to be an expert and evaluate Cisco’s word on the matter. We will take it as it is – they have lived up to their claims for a long time now to be questioned on it. The suite in its entirety is pretty exciting in what it claims it can do. It will truly change distance education and e-learning systems if implemented fully. What I am curious to know is how can it impact low income education systems and school boards on a budget crunch (as almost all of the country is today)?. Can it save money for the school district or university system while improving on things as it stands today?

The other dimension to this technological evolution in how education is delivered is more personal – is there a downside to our dependence on such systems for learning?. When I was doing my undergrad, I used to have a handwriting that was appreciated and well respected. Once I hit grad school and subsequently a career in technology, my handwriting has significantly deteriorated. Reason- I use electronic systems to do most of my reports and communication. There is no value for the written word. The same is true for our memories. The more I trust my smartphone to handle my tasks and phone numbers and such, the less I focus on trying to retain this information in my head. As we head towards the smart learning systems that truly are innovative and ground breaking, do we stand to lose something else in the process?

Back in the saddle

April 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

I used to blog a lot a few years ago. Then the posts thinned as life took over. This was followed by the arrival of facebook and twitter and all was lost for a while. Until it stuck me- I still have thoughts to share that are not for friends alone and not restricted to 140 characters. Away with the past and here with the new. Here is my new blog. Nothing personal. Just all things cool and all things tech.

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