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Modern day requirements

Whether it is related to work or pleasure or everything personal, today’s modern tech-savvy world speaks of portable and light-weight devices, connection to the external world and comfort along with ease of use. Therefore, as an individual who needs to move around frequently, I was thinking through the my basic needs that will make my life easy and yet meet the demands of office work. The thought actually triggered off when one of my friends posted in Facebook on the unfortunate closure of a very popular entertainment retail chain in Kolkata viz. Music World. That particular store in Park Street was really the first major exposure in Kolkata to having a good ‘experience’ while exploring CD’s, DVD’s all under one roof equipped with free listening and very friendly staff helping out customers. As is true across similar retailers in countries like UK, technology bring in competition people never thought off even few years ago. However, that’s another topic to discuss another time.

Today’s modern world is all about connectivity, cloud and mobility. Now you need high speed internet (even if you are travelling) at a very affordable price and devices that can ‘tap’ the ever-presence powerful ethereal internet hanging in the air. So, the first thing that you desire for is wi-fi that can boast of high speeds at a low cost or powerful mobile networks capable of doing the same (but they are still quite costly). To me, this should be considered under the definition of ‘basic infrastructure’ needed in any city.

For users like me, gone are those days when you needed big, heavy desktops or laptops to perform office functions or personal work. You need those applications available to the users without any local installations and hence you can actually shrink down the sizes of the devices. All you need are applications hosted up in the cloud and access of the same through high speed internet. And of course, you will be thrilled if you don’t have to carry those heavy laptops – instead take some small devices (not “too small” to my liking) which can host some applications to connect to the cloud and use them on an ‘on-demand’ basis.

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Frankly, I am currently writing this using all the above combinations through a very portable ‘mini-tab’ equipped with a similar sized Bluetooth connected keyboard (for ease of typing), calling the application for this blog through the cloud and using the wi-fi services to post my data to the external world.

The basic demands of human beings change from generation after generation … and as we still fight for food-clothing-shelter, the current and coming generations will start demanding for connectivity-cloud-mobility more and more.

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Not knowledge, but Information is Power !

When we were in our teens and starting to bunk college, we were often told about a phrase which supposedly defined professional life and the growth of an individual in the never-ending rat race of success – the phrase was “knowledge is power”. I still remember that our community had two distinct school of thought on this – one supporting the cause and the other clearly opposing that. Of course, the noble opinion was that which opposed the motion – simply because you could feel the greatness within yourself when you could claim that you helped someone grow up the knowledge ladder because of your greatness in sharing the limited knowledge you had on a particular subject. Apart from the feel-good factor, there was obviously the phenomenon of teaming and helping each other which made this school much more glorified than normal.

But with the advent of internet and the ease of accessibility through mobile phones and tablets made me think if really knowledge is power or not. Reason being that by a mere click, you can get the fundamentals or a basic knowledge of any subject you might be looking for – whether its the know how of how a digital camera works to Einstein’s theory of relativity or Marxism, it does not matter. You have all the basic knowledge that can take you through a normal discussion either with a client or with your friends, where your immaculate knowledge depth keeps on impressing them day and night. Then there are sights like “how stuff works” which basically serves the purpose of an internet encyclopedia or equivalent. Even if you get bored by reading stuff on the internet, or cannot concentrate hard on a tough and complex subject by going through lots of figures and diagrams enveloped within a sea of text; most of the times you will get attractive video clips in sites like You Tube and likes. You now have all tools and options to make knowledge acquiring quite attractive and easy. Finally even if you do not know the sites where you can find useful information, you will get a virtual guidance through fantastic innovations we often describe as “search engines”, where companies like Google outpace its own competitors.

So, if you ask me on the subject of knowledge and power in the 21st century, I would rephrase that and say that the turn of the century has evolved the world knowledge with internet and probably today’s world will stand up and say “Information is power”, simply because knowledge can be easily “acquired” using online technologies, but you now need to keep track of latest trends and information – as based on these trends and information, you can go on and get the knowledge through several clicks.

What do you think ?

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The scene of “obscene” pricing

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Very recently some of my friends, including myself, were debating on the topic of the prices of the expensive smart phones available in the market and one of the common conclusions being drawn was that the prices can be labelled as “obscene” to a common man. That led me to think what defines this definition of obscene pricing and whether the corporations have the right to go for this kind of obscene prices of products.

The basic philosophy of corporations is not only to make profits but to maximize the same at a minimum cost. This is because this will allow the companies to grow, make more profit and by that measure make the share holders happy. Hence in a free economy, any organisation has the right to price any of their products in a manner that will help then to make more profit and I personally believe that is not a crime. If they price a product insanely high resulting in people not buying it just because they don’t see the value in buying that product at that price, then obviously the company will not generate that amount of sales to create any profit and will soon be out of business. While pricing, they might definitely target a particular customer category which might make the other customer categories feel that the same product is “too costly” for them to afford it.

However if the economy is state controlled, then the scenario might be current as the government will feel the necessity to control the prices of the various products and hence to the consumer, they will feel that they are getting the prices as dictated by a bigger and powerful body. Obviously this will lead to the lack of options to the consumer and hence in the longer run the people living in that country will feel that they are deprived of the fundamental right of having a self determination of choosing a right product for his use and to his own liking. We have seen that happening in several countries in the 20th century.

In a free economy if a business is so lucrative that a company can afford to maintain an “obscene” pricing, then either the company has some unique technology to invent an unique product which no other company has; or they are the first entrants with that product in that market. But it will be a matter of time when the prices will be coming down with competition coming in to take a slice of that thriving market.  The best example we have seen in recent years in India is in the telecommunication sector wherein the prices of hardware as well as services 10 years ago was quite “oscene” and only a few selected people could afford that price. But now you will find a mobile in the hands of every person walking in the street. This is what a free economy can do to an obscene pricing.

Inventions or “first of a kind” products can afford to keep a very high price in the beginning, but the balancing power of a free economy will force the system to come to a price equilibrium. Till that comes, there might be instances when the prices looks “obscene” – but it will be the force of the competition which will bring down the insane prices to sanity !

Exploiting the technology addiction

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There has been a huge advancement in mobile technology in the last few years which will definitely change our lives – both our personal and professional worlds. People have realised the tremendous positive impact of the mobile and across the world, we have seen a lot of enthusiasm and excitement in embracing new technology and new devices. Needless to mention, this adoption is also taxing the common man’s wallet as most of the latest gadgets are quite costly if you have to keep in touch with the latest functionalities and the latest designs. But the enticement of the adoption of the positives are currently outweighing the burden on the wallet. Hence the generation who is excited on the big potential of the world of possibilities using mobiles and tablets are also getting addicted towards this technology. The seduction is obvious and we are also witnessing a huge number of technology addicts !

This is where the big corporates lick their lips with lot of glee and lot of lust to exploit these addicts. Let me give an example – let’s see the brief history of the phenomenon called iphone : the first version of the iphone came up in 2007 with features that will make the current generation laugh. In a span of 4 years, we are now into the version of 4G and probably waiting for another revolution called iphone-5. In-between came at least 4 to 5 models with varied capacities and functionalities to entice the consumers. I do not have the price charts but I am sure each of the launches were priced at around 350-400$. And if you try to find the price of the original version of the iphone which got launched in 2007, the chances are that you will get that version at the price of scrap!

PS: if you are interested to know the evolution of the iphone, suggest to go to the below site for a simple interactive description:
http://mashable.com/2011/10/04/iphone-history-so-far-infographic/

What does this mean to people like you or me ? If you have become technology addicts, you would have shelled out an amount of 2000$ on a device which will make your life exciting. Or if you manage to control the lust for the device, you will continue to stare at the devices every time you pass the retail store and everytime you have to take a deep breath to control that urge to bring out your wallet. Though I have no data points or have any proof, I have a feeling that the big corporations do not tend to bring the changing features in one shot by launching a model say every 2-3 years instead of launching devices with few delta functionalities every 8 months. This is because they can coerce money out of the consumers for each of the new models simply because the people have become addicts.

When you become an addict, you tend to be desperate to meet your requirements at any cost. For that you may even go for some expensive loans just to meet the price of an expensive device which you cannot afford to buy at that point of time. You then try to justify why you need that device – you will explain yourself that you need a blackberry for office use, iphone for personal use, ipad for general browsing, laptop for personal work, a smart tv for entertainment,  etc etc. The list simply grows and grows. Add to the fact that there are so many companies bringing out similar devices with little difference in the features. You will hear discussions that iphone has a better camera, HTC has an unique HTC sense, Samsung has a better screen display, etc etc. The choices are huge and hence the lure to buy several devices in a span of say six months is quite high.

I have actually seen lot of the younger generation spending big amounts on the latest models every three months just to be in touch with the latest happenings, irrespective of the fact whether they do really need the latest devices or not. It is upto us only to have that control and ask the question whether we really need an expensive device or not – otherwise we run the risk of spending a lot of our hard earned money on something that we could have lived without !

The world will be all mobile !

Mobile with virtual key board on any flat  surface

Mobile with virtual key board on any flat surface

If you see the above picture, this actually shows a fantastic innovation where from a device, you are getting a virtual key board appearing on any flat surface, which can communicate with a mobile and hence help in faster, easier usage just like a full-fledged QWERTY keyboard.

I personally believe that the definition of a “conventional” office is under threat – office can now mean any place in the world, whether you are at your home, or in a multiplex, or in a restaurant or even your toilet :-) All that is possible just because of the innovations like what is depicted in the picture and the huge advancement of technology in the mobile / smart phone arena.

I think the following parameters will transform how we define ‘work’ – whether in offices or even how we do our personal work :

– speedy access to internet with adequate bandwidth through 3G, 4G, 5G’s
– advancement of cloud usage, whether in private of public domain
– enhanced security issues surrounding internet access, specially from a cloud perspective
– growth of battery back-up innovations – smaller, lighter batteries with lot of back-up power
– finally the innovations as depicted in the picture which will ease usage of typing, editing, reviewing, presenting through virtual screens, keyboards, etc

The usage of smart-phones have increased many folds and that has made life quite easy and accessible. You can remain connected, write mails or posts (like what I am doing now) on the fly, video calls with friends, relatives, clients; doing online transactions – whether be it buying some stocks or transferring money from your bank account to your parents; buy tickets to the latest destination or the recent movie; play games and relax when you want to, chat with friends located thousands of miles away from you; check the latest score by watching live TV; checking on breaking news; etc, etc. You can do all this NOW !

With the maturity and innovative developments, I am sure very soon you can review complicated power point presentations or documents on a ‘big’ virtual screen with a full QWERTY ‘virtual’ keyboard even though your mobile screen is very very small. You should be able to perform video conferences with multiple people without worrying about speed, battery back-up. We are in the middle of this transformation and anyone who is working in mobile technology or others who are associated with anything that’s mobile (like me, as an user) are witness to a major global revolution !

The world will be all mobile ! And very soon …

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Connecting socially, but virtually

Most of us (by us, I am referring to you who is reading this article) have an account in a social networking site – in all probability, we all are in Facebook. It has been reported that more than 30 million Indians are in Facebook and they interact socially with their ‘friends’. These ‘friends’ are a part of our lives – whether we like it or not. For a teenager or an individual just in their 20’s, if you ask ‘how will be life without Facebook ?”, they will respond “are you mad ?”

The growth of Facebook has increased rapidly in last couple of years not because the big growth in conventional internet access, but because of mobile internet access. You are always ‘connected’ and hence you almost respond on a real time basis to your friend’s posts or questions. And I am sure with this growth in mobile and ‘cheaper’ smart phones, this phenomenon is bound to increase – specially in non-urban areas within India. With regional language access, this will be much adored by all sections of our society and hence the year to year growth figures should be quite an astronomical figure in the recent future.

I was thinking that why did I joined Facebook as an user ? Basically one of my college friends encouraged me to join with the USP of “we can meet daily even if we are in different parts of the world physically”. I tried, I got addicted. Soon, I was in virtual touch with my classmates with whom I did not have any kind of contact for last 20-25 years. Fantastic feeling and hence I started campaigning for Facebook to the rest of my friend who did not have such an account. Soon I found myself surrounded by not only my school and college friends, but also with my relatives, office friends, colleagues. My participation on Facebook increased because of easy mobile access and it has now become a habit to check on Facebook postings, with the same frequency of checking my mails.

Then came online debates – whether you discuss why Argentina failed in last world cup or Jan Lokpal, you are sharing ideas and perspectives from people physically located at different places in today’s world. This can never happen physically, but now you can do that so easily and so cheaply. This indeed has become part of our lives and you do really keep connected with the people with whom you want to keep in touch.

It is very easy to do a profiling of a person by studying his/her participation in Facebook. Whether you like cricket or football, whether you like to read books, whether you are in Kolkata or in Paris, whether you support a political or social view or not, whether you like to drink beer or not, whether your favourite sports club has won or not – you can do that easily, provided you have the data points. Even you can calculate somebody’s movements – whether he will be travelling to Bangalore or whether he will not be at his residence next week as he is going for a vacation – you can do that quite easily. You need not be a Sherlock Holmes for doing so …

When this is so easy, then comes the scary part. What will happen if your facebook data is “shared” with a person or group who is not your friend but a sworn enemy ? What will happen if your profiles of likes and dislikes are shared with corporations, who then can lure you with your merchandise or can even push you to an extent with your weaknesses ? What will happen if your personal information is shared with someone who intends to use your data for forgery and commit crime ? What will happen if your personal perspectives are shared to political parties or other organisations who can call for vengeance as you had opposed their views ?

Sounds quite scary now ? Yes, definitely. With more hackers, with more flaws in privacy safeguards in Facebook, are you sure that you are ‘safe’ with the assumption that only your trusted ‘friends’ knows the secrets of your life ?

The answer is quite obvious and I now sign-off from this topic with the inference that you will decide what to do next. After all, it’s your life in question and you know what is best for you.

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