What Apple Could Do With its Billions in Cash

Ever since Apple declared its spectacular quarterly results, I have been wondering what it could do with the billions of dollars it has amassed as cash reserves. When you have $76.2 billion in cash, and you keep generating cash faster than any other company, you have very little to fear about and can afford to make a lot of bold moves.

Right now, Apple could spend all its cash in the best possible way by making some acquisitions. Even though some of its stock holders are demanding a dividend, I would rather have Apple use it up in some big-ticket acquisition that makes strategic sense rather than distributing it as dividends.


Buy InterDigital ($3.3 billion)

Now that Apple has snatched away the Nortel patent portfolio from Google, it’s desperate to buy a huge portfolio of wireless patents from some other company to protect itself and its hardware partners from getting sued by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and numerous patent trolls.

As we posted earlier, both Apple and Google are already in negotiations to buy InterDigital, which has over 8,800 patents related to wireless technology. It could just buy it for around $3.3 billion.

Buy Motorola ($15.5 billion)

Motorola is rumored to be another acquisition target for those scouting for patents. It has close to 17,000 patents and has applied for 7,500 more. It is easily worth more than $15 billion, if Nortel’s 6,000 patents was worth $4.5 billion.

If Apple acquires Motorola, then besides the patents, Apple could also shut down a major Android device manufacturer.

With these two acquisitions combined, there would be no company which could make a smartphone without infringing on at least one of Apple’s 40,000 patents. Apple could rake in billions in licensing fees and damages every year.

Buy ARM ($8 billion + $13.15 billion)

ARM Holdings is the single most important company which powers almost every smartphone out there. All chip makers license technology from ARM to make the processors and chipsets which power their devices.

While buying ARM may not allow Apple to completely control the smartphone industry, it will definitely give it a lot of leverage over the other manufacturers.

Buy Hulu and Netflix ($2 billion + $13.75 billion)

By buying Hulu and Netflix for around $15 billion, Apple could become the number one player in the digital TV business. These two acquisitions would also fit in perfectly with its Apple TV offering. The TV market is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars in the long run. It could also boost Apple TV sales and make it the next iPod or iPhone.

The total for all these acquisitions comes to just about $55 billion. We still have around $20 billion left, and I’m already running out of ideas.

So here’s one last idea.

Sell iPhones and iPads at Cost

Apple has a huge operating margin on the iPhone and iPad. It takes up a majority of the profits of the entire smartphone industry despite having much lower total sales. Despite its charging a hefty margin, it is still able to price its products (at least the iPad) lower than any Android tablet, due to its ability to acquire components at a much lower cost.

If Apple were to sell the iPhone and the iPad at what it costs it to make them, it would probably be able to completely dominate the market and cut Android’s smartphone market share down to size. It already dominates the tablet market, but if its starts selling iPad at cost, it will obliterate its competitors completely, before they even enter the market properly.

$20 billion would be enough cash to sustain Apple for a few years, and Apple will continue making money by selling its content on iTunes – apps, games, movies, videos, TV shows etc. It should make enough from Hulu, Netflix and ARM to sustain it in perpetuity. I doubt its competitors will be able to claim predatory pricing, even if Apple sells it at cost, as it could claim that it makes money from its ecosystem.

If everything goes as planned, in a few years, Apple could probably be worth more than Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Berkshire Hathaway, HP, IBM and Samsung combined.

Note: In this post, I have just assumed that the current market cap (and not the enterprise value) would be the purchase price of that company. I’m also assuming that Apple would be able to buy these companies without any antitrust lawsuits or other hassles.

Google Chrome the Most Used Browser on Techie Buzz

There is something about which I have not seen in any other browser. It is one of the fastest growing browsers across the world and currently has around 20% usage world wide.

Google Chrome Market Share Techie Buzz

Many tech related websites around the world are seeing that Google Chrome has been overtaking . Last year both TechCrunch and Techmeme reported that Chrome was the most users on their site which prompted me to write the article; Why is Chrome Winning and Firefox Losing Market Share?. Back then, Chrome’s market share was around 10% was constantly growing on our site too.

Recently, I wrote an article on How Chrome is Growing in India and Hurting Microsoft and Mozilla. In that article, I delved upon how Chrome has been dominating Indian markets even though the internet usage there is around 15% of the population. This definitely showed how much impact Chrome has had on the browser market.

Google Chrome Market Share Graph Techie Buzz

Today when I was checking the browser market share for Techie Buzz I saw that Chrome has overtaken Firefox as the most used browser. Last month, Chrome was behind Firefox by 2%, so the month over month growth is pretty impressive. This means that almost 1+ million out of the 3.5+ million users on the site were using Google Chrome to visit Techie Buzz.

One of the reasons for Google Chrome’s growth is the heavy advertising Google is doing for it. I see many ads which pitch users to play Angry Birds on Google Chrome and I can swear that those have converted many users to switch to Chrome including my own brother who is a big fan.

Google is also landing some punches on rival browsers like Firefox and Internet Explorer by stopping development on certain products while providing plugins for them too. Recently, Google has decided to stop development of Google Toolbar for Firefox 5. This has sent Mozilla in a frenzy because lot of users are not upgrading to Firefox 5 from because of the incompatibility of the .

Google also provides Internet Explorer users with something called as Google Chrome Frame to bring Google Chrome’s technology to Internet Explorer. As you can see from our browser stats, we have around 0.13% IE users who have installed the Google Chrome Frame.

Additionally, Google has also been blocking several features in their products on . Our in-house Opera guru Pallab has always been finding problems using Google’s features on Opera including the recently introduced .

So is Google intentionally doing all these things to switch users to their own browser? It could very well be possible, however, they are also backing that up with an excellent browser and I for one have been using Google Chrome as my primary browser since it launched and yes some of the new features in it including the Multiple Chrome Profiles are definitely good.

What do you think about Chrome’s dominance? Is it good or bad? Do you use Google Chrome as your primary browser? If not which one do you prefer to use? Please let me know through your comments.

Google and Apple Slugging it Out to Acquire InterDigital and its Patents

Google is in a very tight spot right now. Being a relatively young company, compared to Microsoft, Apple, IBM etc, it doesn’t have many patents to its name. It has surely been innovating a lot, and has been building its patent portfolio in the past decade, but it is still nowhere compared to Microsoft or Apple, with less than 1000 patents in its portfolio. Its plan to acquire Nortel’s patent portfolio, which had over 6000 patents, failed when it lost a bidding war against a consortium of its greatest rivals – Microsoft, Apple, RIM and some others.

In the meantime, almost every company (well not every company, just Apple, Microsoft and Oracle so far) is bullying Google and its partners which make Android devices over patent infringement related to Android. To put an end to all the bullying and litigation, Google needs to bulk up its patent portfolio, and the only way to do it fast is by acquiring a company which has a huge one, related to telecommunication. Once Google acquires a decent number of patents, it won’t remain vulnerable and can easily defend itself and its partners against patent infringement lawsuits from the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Oracle.

Google obviously knows this, which is why they bid billions of dollars for the Nortel patents in the first place, but it’s hard to win an auction when you are up against heavyweights like Apple and Microsoft, who have billions of dollars in cash waiting to be used.

According to a report by WSJ, it seems like Google has another acquisition target in its sights – InterDigital. InterDigital has almost 8,800 patents related to wireless technology, and is possibly the best option for Google right now. Apple knows this, and with $76.2 billion in cash, it will likely try to acquire InterDigital as well. Ever since word of a possible acquisition got out, InterDigital’s stock has jumped up almost 65% in 3 days. Its market cap is now $3.3 billion, which is still way lower than the $4.5 billion Apple and Microsoft paid for the Nortel portfolio.

InterDigital’s management team knows this very well, and will try to auction itself to the highest bidder. Google is running out of options, and Apple has nearly double the cash that Google does. So, none of them are going to back off easily.

If I had to pick one stock to invest in, right now, it would definitely be InterDigital. It’s priced quite high right now, but I expect to rise even more, however irrational it may seem. Currently, patents are worth their weight in gold, and with Apple and Google’s billions in the game, the prices are very likely to be bid up. Winner’s curse, Auction theory 101.

Disclosure: I have no open positions in any of the companies mentioned in the post.

Apple Can Now Buy Dell. Twice Over. And Still Have $10 Billion in the Bank.

“What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders”.

That’s what Michael Dell, the CEO of Dell Inc. said in 1997, when asked how he would fix Apple, which was in dire straits then.

What he didn’t (and couldn’t) anticipate, was how Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, who was ousted out a few years back, and returned as CEO only a few months before he made the statement, would completely change the computing and mobile landscape, and turn Apple into the juggernaut it once was, and even bigger.

Apple Logo

Yesterday, Apple released its Q3 FY11 earnings results, and to be honest, they were mind-blowing. Apple’s results beat even the most bullish estimates on the street, and of course, its own guidance.

Its market cap is now close to $360 billion, more than 10 times Dell’s market cap. It is very likely that Apple may soon overtake Exxon Mobil to become the most valuable company in the world. My money is on that happening soon after the iPhone 5 launch, assuming that oil prices remain relatively stable.

But here’s the most interesting part – Apple now has almost $76.2 billion in cash reserves. That’s the biggest war chest of cash held by any company, ever. What’s even more interesting is that Apple can now buy Dell (market cap: $33 billion) using just its cash reserves. Twice over. Even then, it will still have $10 billion left in the bank.

Michael Dell may be regretting ever making that statement now, with Jobs having the last laugh.

Could Apple Shut Down Android in the US?

As we all know, Apple has been involved in patent infringement lawsuits with some of the most popular Android smartphone makers, including HTC, Motorola and Samsung. On Friday, a US International Trade Commission judge ruled that HTC did infringe on two patents that Apple mentioned in its complaint. HTC has appealed the ruling, but it is very likely that the judge’s original ruling will be upheld.

Now, there are three scenarios which are most likely to play out.

1. HTC removes the features which infringe on those patents from its Android devices and pays Apple damages for past infringement.

2. HTC licenses those patents from Apple, and pays Apple a patent licensing fee for every device plus damages for past infringement.

3. Apple refuses to license the patents to HTC, and calls for an immediate ban on all HTC devices powered by Android in the US. Well, that, and HTC pays Apple damages for past infringement.

Now the two patents, which HTC allegedly infringes upon are related to a “system and method for performing an action on a structure in computer-generated data” and a “real-time signal processing system for serially transmitted data”.

According to Florian Mueller, both these patents are infringed by code which is at the very core of Android. Given that these patents are central to Android, it is likely that all Android devices infringe them as well. HTC might find a way to remove those features to avoid infringing those patents, but that seems quite unlikely as well.

In that case, if Apple does win against HTC, there is no stopping it from going up against all the Android device manufacturers in the US.

Since the first option seems highly unlikely, we now consider the other two options.

HTC licenses patents from Apple

HTC could just license those patents from Apple for a fee. It already has such arrangements with Microsoft, under which it pays Microsoft $5 for every Android device sold. But I highly doubt this could ever happen.

Apple moves for a ban against HTC’s Android devices in the US

Apparently, Apple doesn’t need any patents from HTC, so with no cross licensing needed, it could easily just shut down the sale and import of HTC’s Android devices in the US.

It obviously won’t go for the money, not when it has a chance to completely ban HTC’s Android devices in the US, thus gaining an excellent competitive advantage against Google.

If it wins against HTC, it has a chance to do the same against other Android manufacturers as well. However unlikely it may seem now, this could eventually lead to a ban of Android devices in the US.

Android is under fire from all fronts. Either Google, or Android device manufacturers are being sued by Apple, Microsoft and Oracle for patent infringement related to Android.

Microsoft has already turned Google into a billion dollar cash cow. Apple has a chance to make much more if it can get a ban on all Android devices in the US. If that happens, Apple could stand to gain significant market share in the US, and become the leading platform. Under these circumstances, the second beneficiary would be Microsoft, which has the only viable alternative to Android – Windows Phone 7.

Android, which is considered one of Google’s greatest successes to date, may turn out to become one of its greatest problems. Everyone else is ganging up against it, case in point: the Nortel patent auctions. Pardon me for sounding sensationalist, but could this be the beginning of the end of Android?

Buying Guide: Android Phones in India [2011]

Android Smartphone Buying Guide 2011: Android Phones in India Under Rs 15000, 20000, 30000

If you are in the market for a new smartphone, the best option would be to buy an Android phone. Symbian is on its way to obsolescence, the iPhone is still prohibitively expensive (at least in India), and Windows Phone 7 devices are available only in the higher price bracket.

In this article, I will give present the best Android phones you can buy, in various price ranges. This post is focused on Indian buyers, but is relevant for anyone looking for an Android smartphone buying guide, anywhere in the world.

Best Android Smartphones Under 15,000 ($330)

Spice Mi-410

Spice Mi-410

Spice is a relatively unknown brand, but its latest offering – the Spice Mi-410 is one of the best budget Android phones yet. It comes with Android 2.2 Froyo, with a Gingerbread upgrade coming soon, and has a 1 GHz Qualcomm processor with 512 MB RAM. It also has a huge 4.1 inch display, comes with a 5 MP camera, and is priced around Rs 14,000. If I had to buy an Android device under Rs 15,000, it would be the Spice Mi410.

Buy the Spice M-410

Samsung Galaxy Ace

Samsung Galaxy Ace

The Samsung Galaxy Ace is like a smaller, budget version of the Samsung Galaxy S. It is now available for around Rs 15,000.

It comes with a 3.5 inch, 320 x 480 pixel capacitive touchscreen display. It also has a 5 MP camera with autofocus and LED flash and is powered by Android 2.2 Froyo. It comes with an 800 MHz processor and 278 MB RAM.

Buy Samsung Galaxy Ace S5830

Best Android Smartphones Under 20,000 ($450)

This particular bracket has some of the best Android smartphones. They are priced reasonably, and offer the most value for money.

Google Nexus S

Google Nexus S

Using the Nexus S, you can experience Android the way Google intended it. It runs vanilla Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread, with no custom UI shell on top. You can rest assured that it will be the first to receive any updates, and it is priced very well, at just under Rs 20,000.

It comes with a 4 inch SLCD display and is powered by a 1 GHz ARM Cortex A8 processor. It has 512 MB RAM and comes with a 5 MP camera. It also has 16 GB internal storage and sports an excellent design.

Buy Samsung Google Nexus S

Samsung Galaxy S LCD

Samsung Galaxy S LCD

The Samsung Galaxy SL is an inexpensive cousin of the popular Samsung Galaxy S. It comes with a 4 inch SLCD display and runs Android 2.2 Froyo, with a Gingerbread upgrade coming soon.

It has a 1 GHz Cortex A8 processor and 512 MB RAM. It also comes with a 5 MP camera and has 4 GB internal storage.

Buy Samsung Galaxy S LCD I9003

LG Optimus Black

LG Optimus Black

LG recently came to its senses and bumped down the price of the LG Optimus Black to Rs 19,990. At this new price, the LG Optimus Black is a very appealing buy.

It comes with Android 2.2 Froyo and sports a 4 inch, 800 x 480 pixel Nova capacitive display. It is powered by a 1 GHz Cortex A8 processor and 512 MB RAM. It also has a 5 MP camera with AF and LED flash.

Buy LG Optimus Black P970

HTC Desire Z

HTC Desire Z

The HTC Desire Z is one of those rare QWERTY sliders powered by Android. It comes with a 3.7 inch display with a sliding QWERTY keyboard. It is powered by an 800 MHz Qualcomm processor and comes with 512 MB RAM.

It runs Android 2.2 Froyo with the HTC Sense UI, but will receive an upgrade to Android 2.3 Gingerbread. It also has a 5 MP camera, and is a very good option if you want something different.

Buy HTC Desire Z

The Best Android Smartphones Money Can Buy

And finally, here are the best Android phones money can buy. Assuming that you are willing to buy an Android smartphone priced higher than Rs 20,000, these are the only options you should consider.

Samsung Galaxy S 2 II

Samsung Galaxy S 2

The Samsung Galaxy S 2 is the best Android smartphone of all time. It was launched recently, and has already sold more than 3 million units in less than two months.

It is priced around Rs 30,000. If I had the money, there is no other phone I would rather buy.

It comes with a 4.3 inch SuperAMOLED Plus display with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. It is powered by the 1.2 GHz dual core Exynos processor and the Mali 400 MP GPU. It also offers 1 GB RAM and comes with Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread with the TouchWiz UI.

It has an 8 MP camera which can shoot 1080p video and offers 16 GB internal storage. It has a very stylish design and is extremely slim at just 8.5 mm.

It is, truly, the best Android phone ever.

Buy Samsung Galaxy S2 I9100

HTC Sensation

HTC Sensation

This is another very good option, if for some reason, you can, but don’t want to buy the Samsung Galaxy S 2 (in which case you are probably nuts).

Jokes aside, the HTC Sensation is a very capable smartphone. It comes with Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread with the HTC Sense UI.

It comes with a 4.3 inch SLCD display and has a resolution of 540 x 960 pixels. It is powered by a 1.2 GHz dual core Snapdragon processor and offers 768 MB RAM. It also has an 8 MP camera with autofocus and dual LED flash and can record 1080p video.

Buy HTC Sensation

Note: If you are wondering why I have not listed any Android phones priced lower than Rs 10,000 ($250), it’s because there is no good Android option in that price range. Most of the phones in that bracket are low resolution, underpowered and generally mediocre. They offer a very bad user experience. If you need to buy a phone under Rs 10,000, I wouldn’t recommend any Android device.

How Google Chrome is Growing in India and Hurting Microsoft and Mozilla [Editorial]

India has had a history of being a tech savvy country for more than a decade now. The adaption rate of newer technology in India has been higher than many other countries, which is why there are around 840 million mobile users (TRAI data – PDF File). However, hardly 10-15% of the Indian population have access to internet.

Indian Internet Penetration

According to public data available in Google, the total internet users in India was over 61 million in 2009. This should be more than 100 million now. However, this is a really small number considering a population of 1.2 billion. Nevertheless, this is still 1/3rd of the population of U.S. on which most of the metrics and measurements are made.

This definitely makes India a very lucrative market and considering the growing economy and purchasing power there it should definitely be. Consider this, when I bought my first mobile phone in 2002 or so (it was a Motorola), I parted with Rs. 4500 (~$115) with a heavy heart. This was a second hand phone with no contracts etc. Coming back to 2011, I see people splurging Rs. 20,000-30,000+ for a mobile phone without blinking an eye. This shows how the spending power has increased in India.

Looking at some of the public data available today, I was intrigued to look at who is dominating the market and guess what, it is none other than good old Google. I did some research and here are some facts on how Google is dominating the browser market which was once the forts of Microsoft and Mozilla.

Browser Growth in India


Recently, there were quite a few blog posts about overtaking 20% market share worldwide in the Internet browser market. In those cases, people were measuring Global traffic (U.S market share is still below 20%). However, one region where Google Chrome is really putting the pressure on Internet Explorer  and is India.

Browser Stats - April to June 2011 India

Take for example the above chart which displays the usage for Google Chrome in India for the past three months. The total usage for IE was around 36%, Firefox was around 33% and Chrome was around 27%.

Browser Stats June 2011 India

The scenario remained the same if you take June 2011 into consideration. No surprises there.

Browser Stats July 2011 India

However, if we now take a look at the stats for July 2011 (which is only for 8 days), you will see a huge jump in the number of users who are using Google Chrome. Of course, this data is premature, but it does reflect a huge jump. What could be the reason? It could be anything any everything including more and more users shifting to Google Chrome thanks to .

The %age gain in the above graph may not look significant, but even a 1-2% jump might mean that around 2 million users switched to Google Chrome in the last 8 days, that is a significant number in itself. The loser was Internet Explorer which shed their percentage. Firefox remained almost stagnant.

Browser Versions in India

Browser Versions India June 2011

In June 2011, was the most used browser in India followed by Google Chrome 12 and . Firefox 5 which launched last month was at 8, followed by Internet Explorer 9 which launched earlier this year. There were several other users who were using outdated browsers, but the growth of the latest stable version of Google Chrome is significant.

Browser Versions India July 2011

However, July 2011 tells a completely different story altogether. Chrome 12 has jumped to become the number 1 browser in India by a huge margin followed by Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 5. The traffic measured during this period might not add up when we see monthly stats at the end of July 2011, but it is definitely surprising that there is such a huge difference.

Looking Back and Summarizing the Future

In 2009, Google Chrome had a 8% market in India even though it was released only in September 2008. This says a lot because it took market share from both Firefox and IE and jumped who have been languishing at the bottom for quite sometime now. A new browser gaining so much traction was unknown prior to that. During that same period, Google Chrome’s worldwide market share was around 2%.

In 2010, Google Chrome had a 10% market share worldwide, whereas in India it had a 18% market share. The growth rate more than double for Indian users. Since January 2011 till date, Google Chrome has a 26% market share in India whereas the worldwide usage is still less than 20%.

All in all, Indian users have adapted Google Chrome at a much higher rate than any other country and this definitely means that they are moving ahead towards newer technology. The adaption rate for Firefox in these periods have either remained the same or have dropped, similar for Internet explorer.

India is definitely a lucrative market for Internet Browsers, Mobile Phones and Operating systems. This goes on to show where these companies will invest in the future. Even if the internet usage in India grows by 20-30% all these companies will be vying for around 300 million users, and that is not a small number by any denomination.

So how did this happen? Money power, sheer brilliance or the power of Google? I will leave that to another editorial I will write in the next few days. Till then, tell me your thoughts through your comments.

(All stats in this post were collected using Google, TRAI and Stat Counter)

How Mark Zuckerberg Acq-Hires Startup Talent and Attracts Rockstar Employees

The Backstory

The battle for developer talent is raging on in Silicon Valley. The average salary of an engineer in Silicon Valley has jumped up by almost 50-60% in the last couple of years. Everyone, ranging from biggies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple, and successful startups like Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and Groupon are on a hiring spree.

Despite offering a very high salary, and bucket loads of equity options, they are still not able to hire all the talent they want. Many of the rockstar developers which Google and Facebook want to hire are working on their own startups. In an economic environment where getting millions of dollars in funding with just an idea and an iPhone app prototype has become quite easy, they would be foolish not to.

Yet, Facebook has been quite successful in attracting top talent and convincing them to work at Facebook. I always wondered how Zuck convinced all these startup founders and rockstars to join Facebook, instead of working on the next potential Facebook or Groupon.

Today, thanks to this article in the NYTimes by Nick Bilton, I now know. Apparently, all it takes is a walk in the woods with Mark Zuckerberg.

The Process

Normally, the hiring process comprises of an online application, multiple interviews and sessions with Facebook employees. But a “handful of rock-star engineers and designers get to leapfrog that entire process.”

“Several people who have been courted by Mr. Zuckerberg told the same story. The 27-year-old chief executive surprises them with the idea of a walk through the woods. A little startled by the invite, people often agree, and are then led across the Facebook parking lot where they eventually end up hiking along a trail that reaches a Silicon Valley lookout. This is where Mr. Zuckerberg delivers his pitch.”

Since Facebook is flush with cash, it can much higher than the standard compensation for the top talent. It also has employee stock options to offer, which will be worth more than their weight in gold, when it finally does have its IPO.

To add to that, Zuckerberg also delivers a very convincing pitch.

The Pitch

“Zuckerberg said money wasn’t an object and that if I wanted the job — and why wouldn’t I, he questioned — the paperwork was already ready to go back at the office,said the person who ran a small start-up Mr. Zuckerberg was trying acquire. The entire experience was totally surreal. I really felt like I was on a date. He pointed out Apple’s headquarters, then Hewlett-Packard and a number of other big tech companies,the individual explained. Then he pointed to Facebook and said that it would eventually be bigger than all of the companies he had just mentioned, and that if I joined the company, I could be a part of it all.

After all that courting, who wouldn’t want to join Facebook. Except the next Mark Zuckerbergs, of course.

What To Expect From WWDC 2011

The Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) is just around the corner. This year, WWDC is scheduled to start from June 6 and will end on June 10th. Like the previous years, the event will be held at San Francisco.

All Apple fan boys and developers eagerly look forward to WWDC every year, since Apple generally launches a new iPhone and an iOS version. The tag line of this year WWDC reads Join us for a preview of the future of iOS and Mac OS X’. This more or less confirms the rumors floating around, that Apple won’t be launching the iPhone 4’s successor at WWDC 2011. Instead, this year the iOS platform as a whole will get a major overhaul.   Perhaps, OS X and iOS will be unified into one OS!


I have already blogged about what all features I expect the next generation iPhone to have.

The major changes I expect iOS5 to include are :

New Notification System

iOS5 must feature a new and better notification system. The current notification system of iOS is being criticized from a long time now. It does not stand a chance in front of Android, Palm’s and WP7 notification system. I am pretty much sure that iOS5 will come with a much better and fully revamped notification system. The final verdict whether iPhone and iPad users like it or not, will depend once iOS5 is publically available.

Widgets/Better Home Screen

Personally, I ABSOLUTELY hate the iOS home screen. Icons, icons and icons. I can get truckloads of info in just a single glance of my Android home screen, while in iOS I need to open up multiple apps for the same thing. Along with a new notification system, iOS is in dire need of a new home screen. A screen full of icons is not only useless, but impractical as well.

Better Integration With Apps/Social Networks

This is another area where Android trumps iOS hands down! In Android, users can simply add their social networking login credentials and the OS will simply pull the details and status updates of your friends and link with their specific contacts. Nifty as well as useful! Hopefully, the next version of iOS5 will feature integration with popular social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, which will allow users to get updates of their friends from just one place.

Improved Multi-tasking UI

The current multi-tasking switcher implementation in iOS is simply useless at best. I *hate* to multi-task on my iPad just because of that multi-tasking switcher. Most of the time when I try to kill some apps running in the background, I end up going back to the home screen. Just because I precisely need to hit the red button at the top of each icon.


WWDC 2011 will be about the next version of OS X as well Lion. Apple has already given us a preview of what all features OS X Lion will bring. This includes Folders ale iOS style, Launchpad, Full Screen apps, more intuitive gestures and Mission Control. Users should also expect the next version of iOS to include share features from Mac OS X.

WWDC 2011 is just the starting point of Apple’s move towards unifying iOS and OS X into one OS.

The Biggest Data Thefts in the Past Five Years

You must have heard by now that Sony’s PlayStation Network and Qriocity services were compromised severely, and sensitive data belonging pertaining to many as 77 million registered users might have been stolen. The full ramifications of the breach will become obvious only in the days to come. However, Sony might have lost the trust and goodwill of millions of customers forever. The severity of this intrusion is mind bogging, both in scope and scale. However, this is not the biggest incident of online data theft. It’s not even close. DataLossDB.org and PrivacyRights.org tracks all data theft incidents of note. Here are the top fifteen incidents of data theft through hacking* in the past five years (2007-11):

  • 2007
    • 1. T.J. Maxx – In a carefully planned and long drawn out operation, Albert Gonzalez stole sensitive information belonging to more than 100 million customers of T.J. Maxx, an American departmental stores chain. The hack was carried out over a period of 18 months, ending in 2007. As many as 45.6 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen. Unlike other entries in this list, this wasn’t an entirely remote operation. Instead, poorly secured in-store computer kiosks were exploited to gain access to company’s networks.

      Albert Gonzalez

    • 2. TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation – In September 2007, Joe Moglia, the CEO of Ameritrade, an online brokerage company revealed to clients that one of its databases with 6.3 million customer records had been hacked. Ameritrade had fallen victim to a backdoor based network. Although the same database contained extremely sensitive information like Social Security Numbers, they were not taken. Other confidential data such as passwords were not violated either.
  • 2008
    • 3. Hannaford Bros. Supermarket chain – In March 2007, another supermarket chain was compromised. Hannaford lost credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates and PIN numbers of 4.2 million customers. The leak has led to over 1,800 reported incidents of fraud. The culprit was once again Albert Gonzalez. This time around he broke in by using SQL-injection attack.
    • 4. Chilean Ministry of Education – In May 2007, Chilean government servers were hacked, and identity card numbers, names, and addresses of 6 million people were posted on public forums. The hacker claimed that his intention was to highlight the lackluster security infrastructure.
    • 5. RBS WorldPay – Four Russians – Viktor Pleshchuk, Sergei Tsurikov, Oleg Covelin and an unnamed guy known as “Hacker 3″ carried out this attack. The hackers managed to gain personal information of 1.5 million users, including sensitive information like social security numbers of 1.1 million users. This was a highly sophisticated and coordinated attack that led to the theft of $9 million from ATMs through a network of “cashers”.
  • 2009
    • 6. CheckFree Corporation – CheckFree, an online bill payment service, fell victim to a DNS hijacking scheme in December, 2008. However, the incident didn’t come to light until January 2009. The company’s website was redirected to a Ukrainian website that hosted Trojan horses that were designed to steal data from customers. Since, CheckFree lost control of its website, the exact extent of the damage couldn’t be calculated. However, an estimated 5 million consumers might have been affected.
    • Heartland7. Heartland Payment Systems – Heartland is chiefly a payment processor, but it also provides a range of services to other merchants. In the single biggest incident of data theft reported so far, Albert Gonzalez, whose name has already appeared twice in this list, reportedly broke in after managing to successfully install sniffing software on Heartland’s network. The software was installed in early 2008 and went undetected for months. During that period, Heartland was said to be processing about 100 million transactions per month. The estimated number of credit card information harvested is above 130 million.
    • 8. pHpBB – The popular free forum (bulletin board) software was hit hard in February 2009, when an attacker managed to gain access to its entire database through a security bug in (an outdated version of) PHPlist, a third party email application. The intruder managed to scrape 400,000 names, email, address, and hashed passwords.
    • 9. RockYou – A severe SQL-injection flaw in the popular developer of social games allowed at least one hacker to gain access to its complete user list, along with information like userid, and password, which was shockingly enough stored in plain text. The number of affected users was 4.2 million.
    • 10. Network Solutions – The webhosting company Networking Solutions has a particularly poor security track record. Between March 12 and June 8 of 2009, hackers broke through its defenses, and managed to install malware that stole name, address, and credit card numbers of more than 570,000 customers. If that wasn’t bad enough, the very next year, Network Solutions was hacked twice in the space of one week.
  • 2010
    • 11. Triple C Inc. – The Puerto Rico Department of Health was breached in a series of attacks spread out over several years. The breach was finally discovered in September 2010. The hackers are believed to have gained access to health information of 400,000 patients.
    • 12. Gawker – In December 2010, Gawker Media blogs were hacked by a group called Gnosis. Not only did this group go on to give interviews to competitors of Gawker Media, but it also uploaded the entire database of 1.3 million registered users (with usernames and hashed passwords), and confidential staff conversations to a torrent website. The breach prompted many other web services (like Twitter and LinkedIn) to carry out forced password resets for affected members.
  • 2011
    • Heartland13. Epsilon – Epsilon is a leading email marketing service provider that has dozens of tier-1 companies as its client. On March 30, a hacker succeeded in gaining access to a subset of Epsilon clients’ customer data. Data stolen included names and email addresses. Epsilon maintains that only 2% of its customers were affected, and hasn’t disclosed exactly how many records were breached. However, given that the affected clients include big names like CitiGroup, Best Buy, and JPMorgan Chase, this breach might turn out to be the biggest ever.
    • 14. WordPress.com – Earlier this month, the hosted blogging solution owned by Automattic suffered from a low-level break-in to several of its servers. All information on these servers could have been accessed. However, it’s unlikely that financial information was stolen. Passwords were hashed and salted, which should make cracking them almost impossible. Nevertheless, the hacker might have obtained information on as many as 18 million users.
    • 15. Sony – Of course, this is the big breaking news of the week. There’s a lot of things that we still don’t know about this incident. However, Sony has confirmed that the hacker could have accessed all personal information, including password and address. Credit card details (excluding security code) could also have been obtained by the hacker. However, the credit card table was encrypted. According to Sony, the total number of accounts affected is in the range of 77 million. However, many of them are probably inactive or duplicates.

As we continue to increasingly rely on online services, it’s imperative that the vendors we entrust our personal information with take the appropriate precautions to protect that data. The frequency of data thefts is alarming. Every year confidential information on millions of web users are exposed through data breaches. I had earlier called upon the Congress to enforce certain minimum security practices upon all entities that store sensitive data like credit card information. Several members of the Congress are already preparing to introduce legislation that will “provide consumers with additional safeguards to protect against such data breaches”. A consensus needs to emerge in order to reduce the probability of such incidents happening in the future.

* Only data-theft cases that involved hacking have been considered. Data breaches resulting due to insider efforts, or lost assets have not been included.