All posts by Abhishek Baxi

Abhishek Baxi is an independent technology columnist for several international publications and a digital consultant. He speaks incessantly on Twitter (@baxiabhishek) and dons the role of Editor-in-Chief here at Techie Buzz.

Adobe Enters 3D gaming with Flash Player 11 and AIR 3

Adobe Systems has announced Flash Player 11 and Adobe AIR 3 software to enable the next generation of immersive application experiences across devices and platforms. Flash Player 11 and AIR 3 will allow game publishers to instantly deliver console-quality 2D and 3D games over the Internet to anyone with a PC, tablet, smartphone or connected TV.

By the end of 2011, Adobe expects more than 200 million smartphones and tablets including Apple iOS devices to support Flash based applications via Adobe AIR. Adobe AIR, a superset of Flash Player, enables developers to leverage existing code to create and deliver standalone applications across devices and platforms.

Flash offers the best way for content owners to deliver their most demanding experiences, including games, premium video and sophisticated data- driven apps, to all of their users, while HTML 5 tools such as Adobe Edge and Dreamweaver are ideal to build interactive web pages, rich ads, branded microsites and general-purpose mobile applications.

– Danny Winokur, Vice President and General manager, Platform at Adobe.

Flash Player 11 and AIR 3 offer full hardware-accelerated rendering for 2D and 3D graphics that enables 1000x faster rendering performance over Flash Player 10 and AIR 2. Also, Flash-based applications on Apple iOS devices can now display full frame rate videos using H.264 hardware decoding. Rich applications on televisions will also be  able to deliver HD video with 7.1 channel surround sound.

Adobe Flash Player 11 + Adobe AIR 3

Although facing tough competition from HTML5 capabilities and the non-availability of Flash in browsers on most smartphone platforms, Flash Player is supported on more than 98 percent of Internet connected PCs today. More than 70 percent of casual games on the Web are based on Flash, although mobile-gaming has seen exponential rise in last few years. According to an IDC report from May 2011, total market revenue of casual gaming should rise to $3.5 billion  by 2015 and the number of gamers should rise to 138.2 million.

An Introduction to Metro Style Apps

The next version of Windows (codenamed Windows 8) is designed to build on what is great about Windows 7. It extends the fundamental features of Windows 7 with a new touch-optimized interface. Windows 8 introduces a new Metro style interface, which shows the information important to you, embodies simplicity, and gives you control. The interface is optimized for fluid and intuitive interaction and navigation with either a finger, or a mouse and keyboard. Windows 8 provides a platform to create a new generation of full-screen apps that are based on modern web standards and provide an immersive experience. These Metro style apps are tailored to users’ needs and to the device they run on.

Windows 8 Start Screen

Immersive and Fluid

Your Metro style apps fill the entire screen for an engaging experience and saving you from any distraction. Apps can adapt to a variety of form factors and screen resolutions, and can work on x86, x64, and ARM platforms.

Engaging

Metro style apps engage users with the info they are interested in and the people they care about. Live tiles present activity updates to users at a glance and the Start screen shows off what apps are great at.

Everywhere

Your apps are ready for you on any Windows 8 PC you use. When   you sign in with your connected Microsoft account to a PC running Windows 8, your Metro style apps and settings go with you. You’ll also be signed in to all of the websites you were signed in to.

Work Together

Metro style apps can communicate with each other in Windows 8, making it easier to search, share, and send content between them. So, if you want to send pictures in email, and they’re in different places like Facebook or on your hard drive, you can easily pick and send the ones you want.

Always On

Metro style apps run and stay up to date even when the PC is on standby. When Windows comes out of standby, your apps don’t need time to catch up.

Multitasking

While apps immerse your users in a full screen environment, Windows also makes it possible for them to multitask. The Snapped view allows users to do more than one thing at once while the Filled view allows users to snap one app and keep another app in the fill space.

Evernote: Forever and Everywhere

A few days back I interviewed Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote. We talked about Evernote’s roadmap and vision forward. Phil shared his thoughts on the competition and the progression of the app to a platform with additional, related services.

  • Funding: Evernote received $20 million in October 2010 in first round of funding and another $50 million in July this year.
  • Profitability:   Evernote achieved gross-margin profitability very early on, about two years ago. Six months back, the company got even on cash flow. However, Phil shared that they will probably go in red again in cash as they hire more people and look forward to buy few companies. The latter made sense soon after the interview with the Skitch acquisition.
  • Users: Evernote announced that they’ve crossed   the 10 million users mark in June 2011. During the conversation, Phil specified that they are past 12.5 million now and are growing by about a million users each month!
  • Competition: Phil mentioned that Evernote does not look at the competition in users of  similar products like Microsoft OneNote, but the pen-and-paper users. While 10 million users use Evernote, there are another 7 billion who aren’t using the same. Since Evernote follows a freemium model, other products cannot beat Evernote on price, but only on quality and features.

Source: I Love Windows Phone

Windows Dev Center for Windows 8 Launched; Download Preview Release Now

Earlier today at the keynote of   BUILD conference, Steven Sinofsky, President, Windows & Windows Live Division at Microsoft announced that developers will be able to download the Windows Developer Preview via the new Windows Dev Center. Microsoft showcased a detailed preview of the next major release of Windows, code-named Windows 8.’ The Windows Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8 for developers. Windows Dev Center

The new Windows Dev Center dev.windows.com – has just gone live and promises to make guides, tools, samples, forums, docs and other resources to build on Windows available soon. You can download the Windows Developer Preview right away.

Download Windows 8 Developer Preview

Windows Developer Preview with developer tools English, 64-bit (x64) – DOWNLOAD (4.8 GB)

All of the following come on a disk image file (.iso).

  • 64-bit Windows Developer Preview
  • Windows SDK for Metro style apps
  • Microsoft Visual Studio 11 Express for Windows Developer Preview
  • Microsoft Expression Blend 5 Developer Preview
  • 28 Metro style apps including the BUILD Conference app

Windows Developer Preview English, 64-bit (x64) – DOWNLOAD (3.6 GB)
Includes a disk image file (.iso) to install the Windows Developer Preview and Metro style apps on a 64-bit PC.

Windows Developer Preview English, 32-bit (x86) – DOWNLOAD (2.8 GB)
Includes a disk image file (.iso) to install the Windows Developer Preview and Metro style apps on a 32-bit PC.

System Requirements

Windows Developer Preview works great on the same hardware that powers Windows Vista and Windows 7:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
  • Taking advantage of touch input requires a screen that supports multi-touch

Note that you can’t uninstall the Windows Developer Preview. Also, the preview is available as-is, and is unsupported by Microsoft. The Windows Developer Preview is delivered as an .iso image that must be converted into installation media stored on a DVD or a USB flash drive.

Sinofsky mentioned that this developer preview will be followed by one beta version, and a release candidate before the final release. With Windows 7, a similar process took about a year to go from developer preview to final release. Microsoft hasn’t specified if and when a preview version of ARM-based version of Windows 8 will be made available.

Prior to this, all the developer information, downloads, and documentation was hosted at Microsoft’s developer portal MSDN. This included development for Windows client, and other Microsoft’s web and server technologies. With the launch of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft created App Hub, a developer portal for Windows Phone 7 app and games developers and Xbox LIVE game developers. Unless some integration or merger happens in the future around the release of Windows 8, this could create factions between developers on same technologies but on different portals.

Bing for Mobile Browse ‘Likes’ Facebook

Bing has introduced a new set of features that enhances Bing for Mobile Browse  experience for the mobile browsers at m.bing.com with the help of Facebook integration and some new additions. Earlier this year, Bing rolled out Liked Results’ to the desktop site which allowed you to instantly see which stories, content, and sites your Facebook friends have liked’. bing-for-mobile

 

A thumbs up from your friends definitely makes a particular news story, article, or blog post more relevant to you. The latest update has brought the same feature to the mobile browser. Bing shows faces of up to three of your friends that like a search result, offering a visual and virtual seal of approval from your trusted social network. To enable this feature, you need to authenticate and connect your Facebook account to Bing on the Settings page.

The latest update also brings together millions of videos from across the web: from Hulu, MSN, YouTube, and a slew of other sources. For sports fans, there are special tabs for MLB, NBA, and NHL. To make movie watching decisions easier, the update allows you to quickly review user and critic ratings while you browse the list of currently playing movies, watch trailers, and find show times. You can even ask your Facebook friends what they thought of a movie, or if they want to join you, all from within Bing.

Government of India’s Digital Diplomacy

Established in 2006, the Public Diplomacy Division of India’s Ministry of External Affairs strives to foster a greater understanding of India and its foreign policy concerns. Its mandate enables it to organise and support a broad range of outreach activities, both in India and overseas.

Public Diplomacy Division

Public diplomacy, a relatively new and rapidly evolving discipline, is regarded as the framework of activities by which a government seeks to influence public attitudes in a manner that they become supportive of its foreign policy and national interests. It differs from traditional diplomacy in that public diplomacy goes beyond governments and interfaces primarily with non-governmental individuals and organizations.

Successful public diplomacy involves an active engagement with the public in a manner that builds, over a period of time, a relationship of trust and credibility. Recently, the Public Diplomacy Division has made development of Web strategies to engage with diverse communities in India and overseas a key focus and is utilizing a broad range of social media platforms and services enabling the government to listen’ and understand the pulse of the nation.

The digital diplomacy was started on Twitter, and was soon followed by a Facebook page and a YouTube channel. While Twitter and Facebook are used to disseminate foreign policy news and engage with the overseas communities, the YouTube channel showcases documentaries and features on India’s ethos and culture. These initiatives have also served as a catalyst for many Indian missions and embassies to indulge in social media and form local communities. India Perspectives is the flagship publication of the Ministry of External Affairs and is printed in 17 languages in over 150 countries. The magazine, and other newsletters, are now made available online via Scribd and Issuu.

The digital diplomacy has been done under the aegis of Navdeep Suri, Joint Secretary & Head of the Public Diplomacy Division. An Indian Foreign Service officer since 1983, Navdeep Suri has served in a host of different capacities in India’s diplomatic missions in Egypt, Syria, US, Tanzania, UK, and South Africa. The strategy and execution of social initiatives is taken care by Abhay Kumar, Under Secretary and a young Indian Foreign Service Officer. He has in the past served at the Embassy of India, Moscow and at the Consulate General of India in St. Petersburg.

I met the two at a SMC Delhi meetup hosted by NASSCOM last week, where they discussed their vision and challenges with the panel that included me. The panel presented them suggestions  about further engagement strategy. They’ve had a good start with over 10,000 likes on Facebook and over 14,500 followers on Twitter already. Mr. Suri also shared some huge wins that were enabled by the social media engagement during the  Libyan crisis as they worked to evacuate Indian nationals in that country. While most people, including me, do not associate the  Government of India with technology adoption or initiatives in this space, the Public Diplomacy Division had me pleasantly surprised.

Evernote for Android Updated with Skitch Integration and More

Evernote is arguably the best note-taking application available for all the platforms on desktop and on phone as well as on the Web. It allows individuals to capture, find, and interact with their memories. Evernote has announced a few new features and capabilities as part of an Android update (3.2). Apart from some useful UX changes, there are some great new feature additions too.

Skitch Integration

Skitch on Evernote for AndroidEvernote recently acquired the popular annotaion app: Skitch. This update is the first version of Evernote to showcase the  technology as part of Evernote. When you create a note or edit an existing one, you’ll see Skitch’s heart logo in the toolbar. If you have Skitch installed, you’ll be taken into Skitch and in Skitch, you can draw and doodle, then send your sketch into Evernote by tapping the elephant icon in the top right.

Offline Search

You can now search within your Evernote account when you don’t have a network connection. In the past, you were able to access certain notes offline, but searching for notes wasn’t possible. While Premium users can take entire notebooks offline and search within them, free users can only search within notes that they viewed or created on their Android device. The Premium users will also have the ability to search within their PDFs while offline.

Slideshow View for images

The latest update features a dedicated image viewing mode: Slideshow View. Within a note, tap on an image, photo or something you marked up in Skitch to view it full-screen on a black background. Swipe left and right to view all the other images in that note. If your note contains an image and nothing else, then it will automatically open in Slideshow View.

Looks Like Bing and Twitter are Renewing the Search Deal

So, this one’s fresh off the Web’s water-cooler that is Twitter. Bing and Twitter did a Twitter conversation that hints at a renewed search deal between the two, or at least some announcement around the same.

(Read from bottom up to the top)image

While this is also a dig at Google who lost the search deal, it could just pave way for a fresh announcement around Bing-Twitter deal. While Bing has made good strides in several search verticals like travel, it struck a fine deal with Twitter two years ago that allows it to use Twitter data for its real time search queries. Twitter’s search, for all it’s worth, is far from being useful allowing searching only past few tweets. Bing had earlier also integrated social information from Facebook within the search results making them more relevant.

image

While this conversation was on, Stefan Weitz, Director of Bing at Microsoft added fuel to the fire by posting a message to Jessica Verrili who handles Business & Corporate Development at Twitter.

While Twitter and Bing do the harmless flirting in the preview, I’ll grab some popcorn and wait for the show reel.

Free International Shipping Comes to endless.com

endless.com offers a wide selection of premier designers and contemporary styles for women, men, and kids. Built by Amazon, endless.com has a growing customer base in the US influenced by its free two-day shipping offer backed by free return shipping, a 100% price guarantee, and a 365-day return window. endless.com has now extended the offering to international customers.

endless

endless.com is offering free priority international shipping for all orders over $100. International orders under $100 would ship for a flat $10 charge. Shipping to India, for example, would take about  3-5 days. Several countries in the list of destination countries had even lesser shipping time. Note that for some products shipped internationally, manufacturer warranty may not be valid.

Like the international shipping arrangement when you shop from Amazon.com, endless.com would make a duty and tax estimation during checkout and execute customs clearance on your behalf for certain eligible countries. An Import Fees Deposit will be estimated and collected for the shipment. The import fees  are paid by carrier on behalf of the recipient to the customs and tax authorities of the destination country. If the actual import fees are less than the deposit collected, you will automatically be refunded the difference to the payment method you used for the order.

Anyway, while you read the fine line and browse the catalogue, I’ll find my credit card to order shoes to wear at my wedding. Shiny!

Gears of War 3 to Launch in India on September 20; Pre-order Begins

Gears of War 3 is  a spectacular conclusion to one of the most memorable and celebrated sagas in video games. The game is now available for pre-order before the official launch in India  on September 20. You can place your order at the Microsoft India Online Store as well as select retail outlets across the country. There’s more good news: with all pre-orders, you can redeem an additional multiplayer character.

Gears of War 3

Developed by Epic Games exclusively for Xbox 360, Gears of War 3 plunges you into a harrowing tale of hope, survival, and brotherhood. The trilogy comes to an end with this new addition starring Marcus Fenix and Delta Squad. Gears of War 3 features an enthralling cinematic story with an unparalleled gameplay. It pushes the envelope for stunning visuals on Xbox 360. The game will be available in two editions: standard and legendary edition at an estimated retail price of INR 2499 and INR 3499 respectively.

To mark the launch of the game, Microsoft has also announced an online gaming challenge. You need to register your team at http://www.facebook.com/xbox360india. Only two teams will survive the online challenge; and will be a part of an immersive GoW3 gaming challenge in Delhi. The two squads will be flown to Delhi to reveal Gears of War 3 at the launch party. All members of the winning team will get a Kinect sensor each, Gears of War 3 CDs, and exclusive Gears of War merchandize. Runners up will get a GoW 3 CD each with exclusive Gears of War merchandise. The three runner-up teams will win exclusive Gears of War merchandize. Even if you are cheering for one of the teams, you stand a chance to win some Gears of War T-shirts and limited edition posters.

MotorExchange Sees Growth; Also Grabs $13 million Funding

MotorExchange is an online platform for  buying and selling  used vehicles. It enables businesses to sell their pre-owned vehicles. It is a unique combination of B2B and C2B business models where buyers are used auto dealers. Sellers include banks, insurance and leasing companies, corporate, automotive dealerships, and consumers.

MotorExchange is a powerful platform that reduces friction in used vehicles marketplace by bringing transparency, convenience, and choice to new and used car customers throughout India. Apart from the marketplace to facilitate transactions, MotorExchange also provides dedicated  in-house certification. This enables buying and selling of vehicles conveniently without the requirement of personal physical inspection each time.

MotorExchange was launched in December of 2009 and had raised Series A round of funding in December 2009 from Canaan Partners and other investors and a Series B round in December 2010 from Canaan Partners again and Epiphany Ventures. This week, MotorExchange closed its $13million Series C funding, led by Tiger Global Management with participation from Canaan Partners.

Our goal will be to establish a platform which will bring scale, transparency and convenience to the used vehicle industry.

Vinay Sanghi, CEO and Director, MotorExchange

Interestingly, the company also owns CarTradeIndia.com, a leading auto classifieds site. MotorExchange has brought together a leadership team with vast experience in the auto and internet industry. It is promoted by former Mahindra First Choice CEO Vinay Sanghi and the founder-director is Rajan Mehra, ex-eBay India head.

Amazon Kindle Now Connects Authors and Readers

Amazon has introduced a new feature – @author – in a limited beta release on Kindle and Amazon Author Pages that connects readers with their favorite writers and their books. Readers can ask questions directly from their Kindles or post them to Amazon Author Pages. Amazon is starting with 16 authors, and the feature is available to anyone who has purchased items from Amazon.com. However, all visitors to Amazon.com can read any current question or response.

@author

How to post a question from the Kindle?

  • Place the cursor at the beginning of the passage you’d like to ask a question about using the 5-way controller, and press down to anchor it.
  • Highlight the passage using the 5-way controller.
  • Enter your question about the passage you highlighted; beginning with the phrase @author.
  • Select “save & share” from the options at the bottom of the note window when finished.

Note that questions asked from the Kindle are limited to 100 characters. You can of course ask a longer question from the Amazon Author Page. Also, your messages and the votes cast on them do not impact your Top Reviewer ranking, which are only based on customer reviews.

When you ask an @author question from your Kindle or from the Amazon Author Page, you will automatically receive an e-mail notification when a new answer to your question has been posted. Also, on an Amazon Author Page, you can click the Track this questionlink below other question you’d like to track.

Apart from asking questions about the characters or information in the book, this feature gives a nice opportunity to know more about the authors and ask questions about their writing styles and influences. I have so many questions on Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but alas Mark Twain rests in peace!

Forrester: Mobile App Internet Recasts The Software And Services Landscape

App Internet is a phenomenon that Forrester defines as “specialized local apps running in conjunction with cloud-based services” across smartphones, tablets, and other devices. A few weeks ago, I gathered a few insights on the same by Ellen Daley, Vice President at Forrester at the NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Conclave 2011.

Continue reading Forrester: Mobile App Internet Recasts The Software And Services Landscape

The Holy Grail of Speech Recognition

A Microsoft Research team has been working on a research breakthrough that improves the potential of real-time, speaker-independent, automatic speech recognition. Dong Yu, researcher at Microsoft Research Redmond, and Frank Seide, senior researcher and research manager with Microsoft Research Asia, have been spearheading this work.

Speech recognition has been an active research area for more than five decades. In the current commercially available speech-recognition technology, voice-to-text typically achieves accuracy by having the user train the software during setup and by adapting more closely to the user’s speech patterns over time. However, automated voice services that interact with multiple speakers do not allow for individual speaker training because they must be usable instantly by any user. Therefore, they either handle only a small vocabulary or strongly restrict the words or patterns that users can say. This research suggests using artificial neural networks for large-vocabulary speech recognition in order to achieve the ubiquitous speaker-independent speech recognition delivered out-of-the-box.

Artificial neural networks (ANNs) are mathematical models of the low-level circuits in the human brain. The notion of using ANNs to improve speech-recognition performance has been around since the 1980s, and a model known as the ANN-Hidden Markov Model (ANN-HMM) showed promise for large-vocabulary speech recognition. However, performance issues hindered commercial adoption.

A speech recognizer is essentially a model of fragments of sounds of speech. State-of-the-art speech recognizers use short fragments, numbering in the thousands, called senones. Dong Yu proposed modelling the thousands of senones directly with Deep neural networks (DNNs). This allows for a significant leap in accuracy while achieving state-of-the-art performance. The architectural model is made feasible for neural networks by harnessing the computational power of modern graphic cards.

Using a novel way by employing artificial neural networks for speaker-independent speech recognition, Microsoft Research has brought fluent speech-to-speech applications much closer to reality. The research paper – Context-Dependent Pre-trained Deep Neural Networks for Large Vocabulary Speech Recognition – describes the first hybrid context-dependent DNN-HMM model applied successfully to large-vocabulary speech-recognition problems.

Indian Market in an era of Pervasive Broadband

A couple of weeks back I attended the NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Conclave 2011 at Gurgaon, India. While the event featured several interesting sessions and panel discussions, the keynote by R Chandrashekhar interested me specifically. R Chandrashekhar is the Secretary in Ministry of Communications & IT of Government of India. It is always insightful to learn about government’s perception of the industry and the initiatives it is taking for the sector to foster in an organic manner. Since the theme of the conference was around emerging companies, it made all the more sense. Here are my thoughts on the Indian mobile and internet space based on the keynote session.

Indian economy has seen tremendous growth in IT and ITES sector, and much of it can be attributed to the emergence of domestic market. One would want it to mirror the amazing growth of the telecommunications sector in India. Deregulation and liberalization have been key drivers of the telecom market. With over 850 million mobile users, India has a high mobile penetration with near-saturation of the urban market. What ails the Indian ecosystem is the low broadband penetration with only 12.32 million users. Although, recently there has been initiatives for wireless broadband and 3G rollout, there is a long way forward. In a country with approximately 800 million rural population and 550 million people below poverty line, inclusive development is a huge challenge.

For mobile apps, this ecosystem provides both immense opportunities and some awkward challenges. The growing number of users, increasing sales of smartphones, recent 3G rollout, and evolving VAS users are positive signs. However, the steep VAS prices and hazy revenue sharing models present issues in plenty. Another bummer is that the Indian market is dominated by pre-paid subscribers and ultra low handsets.

image

So what are the development enablers that build the sector and the opportunities around it? While the government has to bring better policies into effect and start initiatives to build the ecosystem, the industry has to serve in product and service creation for existing market as well as work on creation of new markets. The Government of India has already commissioned new Telecom Policy 2011, IT Policy 2011, and National Policy on Electronics 2011 as well as have several initiatives in the works: National Broadband Plan, National e-Governance Plan, UID, Mobile Service Delivery Gateway, National Knowledge Network, e-Education, Skill Development Mission, and e-Health. The National Broadband Plan intends to extend the fibre-optic network to 2.5 lakh panchayats as well as provide last mile wireless broadband to 6 lakh villages. The 3 years plan is a Rs.30,000 crore project.