All posts by Pathik

o_O

Google Drive to Offer 5 GB of Free Online Storage

Google’s free cloud based storage service – Google Drive – has been rumored to be in development since years now. However, speculation that it may finally be close to launch has intensified in the last week, after a report by GigaOM stated that it will be launched in April 2012.

While the report stated that it will offer 1 GB of free storage – much less than what Dropbox or Microsoft Skydrive offer, a new leaked screenshot by TalkAndroid suggests that Google Drive will offer 5 GB of free online storage to all users. It also says that it may be launched on April 16.

By offering 5 GB, Google Drive is offering much more than Dropbox officially does, but only a fifth of what Skydrive offers.

Google Drive will work on desktop, tablets, mobiles and also have a web based interface at drive.google.com (which currently throws a 404 error).

It will also offer integration with Google Docs and Google Apps, and will be targeted at individual users, as well as small businesses with multi-user support. It may also be integrated with all Android smartphones going forward, to boost market share and make it the default option for the average Joe.

Google Drive

Amazon Appstore is More Profitable than Android Market (Google Play)

Apple’s iOS is still the top smartphone platform in terms of apps, with over 550,000 apps, while Google’s Android comes a close second with around 400,000 apps in the Android Market.

However, when it comes to generating revenue, iOS is still miles ahead of the Google Play Store. According to Flurry’s research, a top iOS app generates more than 4 times as much revenue than a top Android app on the Play Store.

Surprisingly for us, and humiliatingly for Google, Amazon’s Appstore is much better than the Google Play store in terms of generating revenue from apps. It generates 89% of the revenue generated by iOS apps, and more than thrice the revenue generated by Android apps on the Google Play Store.

Appstore Revenue Comparison

Amazon seems to be having much more success than Google with Android. It has the most popular Android tablet, the most profitable Android App Store. Now you know another reason why Google wants to jump into the tablet fray with its own budget Nexus tablet – it can’t let Amazon milk its Android cow, while it stands on the sidelines.

In the mean time, despite losing the market share war, Apple’s iOS remains the best platform for developers, and hence, users.

Google Planning to Launch Online Tablet Store

Google may be planning to launch its own online tablet store, according to a report by the WSJ.

Google is rumored to be working on its own Nexus tablets, to target the budget segment and capture more share of the tablet market, since it clearly hasn’t been able to do very well in competing with the iPad in the premium segment.

Speculation suggests that it may sell not only its own Nexus tablets, but also other co-branded tablets directly to consumers through its store.

With its Motorola acquisition, Google now has the capabilities to manufacture its own hardware, besides working with hardware partners.

Google has tried the direct online sales model before in the smartphone market, with the Nexus One, but it didn’t do very well in the U.S., where most smartphone sales are driven by carriers. However, the tablet market is quite different, with sales driven by retailers.

Like smartphones, Google doesn’t intend to make money directly from tablet sales, but by mobile advertising on tablet devices. Having an online store will allow it to lower costs, and offer its tablets for even lower.

Unlike the smartphone market, which is currently dominated by Android, Google has failed to capture much market share in the tablet space, which is still ruled by the Apple iPad.

With Windows 8 still months away from launch, Google has a good window of opportunity to capture a majority market share at least in the budget segment.

Has Dell Thrown in the Towel in the U.S. Smartphone Market?

Dell seems to have admitted defeat, and stopped selling smartphones in the U.S. at least for now. Dell has never been a major player in the smartphone space, and most of its offerings have been duds. It has discontinued sales of its Venue and Venue Pro smartphones, and now has no smartphones available for sale in the U.S. It may continue to sell smartphones in other markets, but may exit even those markets soon.

It may focus on selling mobile devices, including tablets, to enterprise customers. Being one of the largest PC and notebook makers, it has a good chance of capturing market share in the tablet space, with the upcoming Windows 8.

It’s funny how the tables have turned. More than a decade ago, Michael Dell commented that he would shut down an ailing Apple and return money to shareholders, and now Apple is the fastest growing player in the PC and notebook market, and a leader in the exploding smartphone market, while Dell is struggling to compete. Steve Jobs did have the last laugh after all.

Another interesting fact: Apple ($560 billion) is currently worth around 20 times as much as Dell ($28 billion).

Why Android Tablet Makers are Screwed and Apple Will Have the Last Laugh

Working title: Why Android Tablet Makers are Screwed and Apple Will Continue to Capture Most of the Tablet Industry’s Profits

It’s clear now that Apple is positioning the iPad as a reasonably priced tablet, which provides the best experience to users. Initially, almost all Android tablets were priced much higher than the iPad, but once that strategy failed, most of them are now focusing on the budget segment to capture tablet market share.

The iPad, which was one of the best priced tablet just a couple of quarters ago, now seems like one of the most relatively expensive ones. However, it remains one of the most low priced Apple products, and the best tablet you can buy. This is why despite the flood of cheap Android tablets, Apple still commands a majority market share, and an even higher proportion of the tablet industry’s total profits.

Apple iPad
The iPad. Being smug. Rightfully though.

Amazon was the first tablet maker to kick off the race to the bottom, with the $200 Kindle Fire. It has been a hit in terms of sales, but has weighed on Amazon’s profit margins, with Amazon taking a small loss on each sale.

Now, almost everyone is competing with each other to launch a cheaper Android tablet. Google itself is rumored to be working on a $199 Nexus tablet, which would force other tablet makers to price their products even lower. Once you start competing on price, with no other differentiating feature, it doesn’t take long for the whole segment to become loss making as a whole.

The only tablet maker which isn’t competing on price is Apple, and they don’t really need to, with iPads selling like hot cakes, and selling way more than all Android tablets combined, despite being priced much higher.

Windows 8 is still at least 6 months away from launch, and Windows 8 tablets will likely be priced higher than the entry level iPad, which now starts at $399.

In the meanwhile, while Android tablet app support remains pathetic, Apple continues to improve the iPad ecosystem, further bolstering its position as the best tablet on the market, increasing the gap between the iPad and every other tablet on the market.

This is why, despite having a lower profit margin for the iPad relative to its other products, Apple seems to be the only tablet maker which can remain largely profitable in the long run, while Android tablet makers fight amongst themselves and bleed each other with losses, with only a few biggies like Samsung and HTC possibly standing till the end.

PS: Even Amazon is positioned well, as it never intended to make money by selling the Kindle Fire hardware, but on digital content that it could sell to Kindle Fire users. Most other Android tablet makers are screwed, because selling hardware is the only way they intend to make money, and that seems to be a game in which the only winning move is to not play at all.

Amazon Kindle Fire
This little guy spoiled it for everyone. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Facebook to Go Public in May

Facebook which filed its S-1 statement with the SEC on February 1, is planning to go public in May, according to a report by the WSJ.

Facebook’s IPO is expected to be the biggest internet IPOs of all time. It is aiming to raise $10 billion at a valuation of around $100 billion. It generated $3.7 billion in revenue in 2011, with a net profit of around $1 billion. Its earnings are expected to continue to grow rapidly in the coming years, as it monetizes its massive user base of more than 845 million users more effectively.

Facebook also halted trading of its shares on the secondary market earlier this week, which sparked off speculation that the IPO may be very near.

Facebook’s IPO is expected to create more than a 1000 new millionaires, with most of its early employees and executives hitting pay dirt. We could see the emergence of the Facebook Mafia, which would spark off the next wave of startups and boost angel investing in the valley.

We should also see more patent litigation activity against Facebook, right before its IPO, from the likes of Yahoo and others looking to make a quick buck.

Here are some interesting facts about Facebook’s IPO – Facebook IPO: Here’s What You Need to Know

Why Facebook Should Buy AOL’s Patent Portfolio

Facebook is in a very vulnerable position right now, from a litigation point of view, as it is now in its SEC mandated quiet period right before its much awaited $100 billion IPO, and also because it hardly has many patents to defend itself against patent trolls and aging internet giants like Yahoo looking to make a quick buck by suing the hell out of more successful, but younger players who don’t have a huge patent portfolio to defend themselves.

It recently acquired 750 patents from IBM, primarily to defend itself against such litigation, but that may not be enough, and it may need to buy some more.

On the other hand, you have AOL, a dying relic of the dot-com bubble. Its market cap has shrunk to a fraction of its market cap in its glory days, and the value of its business may possibly be less than its patent portfolio.

It has 700-800 really important patents according to its CEO, with half of them incredibly important for internet users. This could be the ideal patent portfolio for Facebook, as it has a lot of patents related to fundamental internet technologies, IM, email, webpage rendering, search engine technology etc.

While AOL seems to think that the value of its patents is more than $1 billion, a patent advisory firm has estimated its value at only around $290 million. This could make it a very easy purchase for Facebook, which has around $4 billion in cash and marketable securities, and is set to raise another $5 billion in its IPO.

IDC: Android to Topple Windows by 2016

IDC just published a new research report tracking the growth in sales of PC, tablet and smartphone shipments in the coming years. Smart connected devices, which include these three, saw shipments of more than 916 million units, with revenues of around $489 billion in 2011.

IDC predicts total device shipments to reach 1.1 billion in 2012, with device shipments almost doubling to 1.84 billion units by 2016 – a CAGR of nearly 15.4%.

IDC Smart Devices 2012

Smartphones are expected to account for a major portion of this growth, while tablets will also account for significant growth. PC shipments aren’t expected to grow much in the coming years.

While Windows is currently the top platform on smart devices, its overall share is expected to drop to 25.1% share in 2016, from a 35.9% share in 2011. On the other hand, Android devices will account for almost 31.1% of all smart devices in 2016, up from 29.4% in 2011, and lead the total market. Apple’s iOS devices are expected to capture 17.3% market share in 2016, up from 14.6% in 2011.

The growth in Android device sales is expected to be driven by the propagation of cheap tablets and smartphones, a segment which is currently dominated by Android.

Interestingly, IDC mentions that most Android device makers will find it hard to stay profitable, given the intense price competition.

It also says that iOS will continue to be more lucrative for developers, despite the low market share, due to a higher proportion of users who are willing to pay for apps.

Google Offers Oracle A Small Cut of Android Revenues; Oracle Refuses

Oracle’s patent infringement lawsuit against Google has gone from being outrageous in terms of the money demanded, to being boring in just a few months.

It had initially demanded more than $6 billion from Google, claiming that Google infringed on its Java IP in Android. Following a scolding from the presiding judge, Oracle lowered its damages claims to $2 billion, and finally brought it down to under $100 million last week.

This week, Google apparently offered Oracle a flat fee for past damages for the two patents in contention – $2.8 million. It also offered a cut of future Android revenues, until the patents expire. For one patent which expires in 2012, it offered a 0.5% cut of Android related revenues. For another which expires in 2018, it offered a 0.015% cut of Android revenues.

It also stated that if Oracle were to accept these conditions, it wouldn’t fight Oracle on damages, once it proved infringement of those patents, presumably to speed up the trial process.

However, Oracle, understandably, has rejected the offer. Its cost of litigation alone would be a multiple of the settlement Google is offering. It’s almost insulting for it to accept a few million considering its original demand of more than $6 billion.

Google Drive May Finally Be Coming in April 2012

Google’s rumored cloud storage service – Google Drive – has reportedly been in development since 2006, with rumors of an imminent launch surfacing every 2-3 months. However, according to a report by GigaOM, it may finally be launched this April.

Google’s Gdrive will reportedly offer 1 GB of free storage, and charge for additional space, which is less than what Dropbox or Microsoft’s Skydrive offer.

It will come with a local client for all major platforms, and also support a web based interface which will be similar to the Google Docs interface. It may be integrated with Google Apps and Google Docs, with multi-user support, and sync capabilities across multiple devices.

To maximize its reach, Google may bundle it with Android devices.

Google has been too late to this space, which it could have easily dominated had it launched something a couple of years ago.

While Google Drive may not generate a lot of revenue directly for Google, it may help it gather more data about users, and improve its search results in some way.

With its massive data centers lined up across the globe, it is one of the few tech giants which could provide cloud storage services at a low cost. It will be interesting to see how Dropbox, Box and other competitors respond to Google’s entry in the space.

Rumor: Amazon to Launch 3 New Kindle Fire Models in 2012

Amazon launched the Kindle Fire to enter the booming tablet space in late 2011. The Kindle Fire has been a huge hit, selling millions of units, and is probably the most popular tablet after the Apple iPad.

According to a new report by a Taiwanese daily, Amazon may be planning to launch three new variants of the Kindle Fire in 2012. With the three new Kindle Fire models, it will target different segments of the market.

1. 7 inch Kindle Fire (1024 x 600 pixels)
2. 7 inch Kindle Fire (1280 x 800 pixels)
3. 8.9 inch Kindle Fire (1920 x 1200 pixels)

All three variants will likely have different hardware configurations as well. The low end 7 inch model will likely be priced at $199 and compete with cheap Android tablets, while the high end 8.9 inch one will compete with the iPad and premium Android tablets. All three variants will be assembled by Taiwanese manufacturers like Quanta.

Amazon will have to roll out a better budget tablet soon, if it wants to compete with the rumored Google Nexus tablet, which will supposedly be priced in the same range. It will likely price all these tablets as low as it can, and just barely break even, while making money by selling content on the tablets, like it always has.

Google I/O 2012 Completely Sold Out in 20 Minutes

Google I/O 2012, one of the most awaited developer conferences of the year, opened the doors for registration today, and has sold out completely in aroudn 20 minutes.

Vic Gundotra of Google confirmed this in a post on Google Plus:

Google I/O has officially sold out! It took just a bit over 20 minutes!

The Google I/O event had sold out completely in less than an hour last year. This year, it has sold out in around a third of that. The only other conference that could rival Google I/O in terms of developer frenzy would be the Apple WWDC.

Vic also added:

While we’re overwhelmed with the interest and enthusiasm around Google I/O, we know it can be very disappointing and frustrating when an event sells out this quickly.

So here is what we are going to do:

1) Keynote will be streamed live
2) All key sessions will be streamed live
3) All session videos will be available after 24 hours
4) Google I/O Extended viewing parties will be happening all over the world

One of the main reason why Google I/O sells out so quickly is because it gives away a lot of swag at the event, including free devices. At Google I/O 2011, it gave away a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to all attendees. In 2010, it distributed the HTC EVO 4G, and in 2009, it gave away the Google Ion smartphone. Since the value of the free devices is more than the price of registration, the event attracts a lot of scalpers who flood the event at the expense of developers.

Google I/O 2012 will be held from June 27 to June 29, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Attendees could possibly get the Nexus Tablet, which is rumored to be launched this year.

 

Angry Birds Maker Rovio Acquires FutureMark’s Gaming Division

After Zynga, it seems that Rovio may be the next big game developer to go on an acquisition spree. Zynga has been acquiring gaming studios and startups left, right and center, trying to maintain its scorching pace of growth. While Q4 2011 was good for Zynga in terms of new hits, it cannot continue to grow at the rate it has traditionally been growing at organically. It recently acquired OMGPOP, the maker of the surprise hit – Draw Something – for $210 million.

Rovio seems to have hit the same roadblock in terms of growth. It doesn’t have any major titles to its name except the Angry Birds series. It recently launched Angry Birds Space, which has been a huge hit, rising to the top app charts across the board.

However, to continue launching hit games, it will also need to choose the acquisition route. It has acquired the gaming division of Futuremark. It seems to be a talent acquisition, and will enable Rovio to focus on advanced mobile games with better graphics – possibly targeting the iPhone, the new iPad, and the new generation of Android phones.

Rovio had earlier acquired Kombo Animation Studio in 2011. The specifics of this deal weren’t revealed.

Zynga had tried to acquire Rovio earlier in 2011 for more than $2.25 billion, but was turned down. It seems like Rovio may become its greatest competitor on mobile.

Microsoft Aiming to Bring All Top Apps to Windows Phone

Despite having more than 70,000 apps, Microsoft’s Windows Phone is still far behind Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android in terms of sheer numbers. That is probably the biggest hurdle that Microsoft needs to cross, now that it seems to have figured the hardware conundrum, with its new focus on budget smartphones with Tango.

Microsoft has been surprisingly friendly to Windows Phone developers until now, and apparently has plans to become even more friendly, to attract more of them to its platform.

Nokia and Microsoft will be spending up to $12 million each to fund a new program called AppCampus at Aalto University in Finland. They will fund app developers who build apps for Windows Phone, as well as other Nokia platforms.

More details about Microsoft’s plans to address the lack of top apps were revealed in some leaked slides today. Apparently, Microsoft plans to set aside $10 million and use it to “ring-fence” top iOS and Android app developers who aren’t currently building for Windows Phone. Even if Microsoft isn’t able to match the numbers of iOS or Android, if it is able to get the top apps to Windows Phone, that might do it for most users. It also plans to reduce average app pricing to bring it in line with other platforms, and try to offer more exclusive titles on Windows Phone.

Microsoft plans to bridge the gap in terms of top apps by Q2 2012. We should know how it works out in the next three months.

Asus Wants to Be the Top Tablet Maker… After Apple

Samsung is currently the top Android tablet maker, thanks to its assortment of Galaxy tablets of various hardware configurations and sizes. However, Asus is aiming to become the top non-Apple tablet maker.

Asus has seen some amount of success with the Transformer and Transformer Prime tablets, which have been appreciated for their innovative form factors. It is rumored to be the manufacturer of the upcoming Google Nexus tablet, which will be a budget Android tablet priced at $149 to $199.

With the Nexus tablet, Google plans to regain control of budget tablet market, which is currently dominated by Amazon and Chinese tablet manufacturers who don’t use Google’s official version of Android, contributing to further Android fragmentation.

While Apple dominates the tablet market by a huge margin, there is no other competitor with a significant market share. With the Nexus tablet and Google’s backing, Asus has a good chance of becoming the #2 tablet maker globally.

Microsoft also plans to launch Windows 8 by summer 2012, with devices launching starting October 2012. It will probably compete with Apple in the premium tablet segment, as there is unlikely that any manufacturer will launch $200 Windows 8 tablets, at least initially.

It’s interesting how most tablet makers are realistically aiming for the number two spot in the tablet market. With Apple’s brilliant operational setup and economy of scale, it is almost impossible to beat it on price while offering a tablet nearly as good as the iPad, even if they sacrifice Apple’s generous profit margin.