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)

Android: Microsoft’s New Cash Cow

The Rise of Android

Android is, without doubt, one of Google’s greatest successes to date. Millions of Android devices have been sold until now, with over 500k Android devices activations happening daily. It is the number one smartphone OS in the world and it has the second largest application repository after the iPhone App Store; with over 300,000 apps and games in the Android Market. Android is also a large profit driver for Google now. Google is expected to make close to $1.3 billion dollars from mobile advertising revenue on Android devices in 2012.

Patent Wars!

In the most recent development relating to the patent wars between the major tech companies, Microsoft has asked Samsung to pay it $15 for every Android device it sells, as part of a patent licensing arrangement. Microsoft has been going after many Android device manufacturers and has been successful in getting royalty payments from companies like HTC, Onkyo, Wistron etc.

With Samsung being the number one Android phone manufacturer, that may amount to a huge figure. Samsung sold more than 3 million Galaxy S 2 units in the first 2 months itself, which means a $45 million payoff for Microsoft from one handset itself.

A Win for Microsoft

If Microsoft is able to coerce every Android manufacturer into such deals, assuming an average royalty of $10, it may make billions from its greatest nemesis in the mobile arena – Android. Such a scenario would be a win-win for Microsoft, as the only other viable option for device manufacturers except Android is its own product – Windows Phone 7. Whether manufacturers use Android or Windows Phone 7, Microsoft would be smiling all the way to the bank.

Google’s Troubles

Google’s troubles are only beginning. After losing the Nortel patent auctions, it still has only about 700 patents in its portfolio. With Oracle suing Google, demanding billions of dollars up front as well as 15% of all Android ad revenues, and Microsoft gunning for its hardware partners, Google is in a tough spot. Manufacturers may refrain from producing Android handsets and tablets if they fear litigation by giants like Microsoft and Oracle. Google is in a very vulnerable position, and it cannot defend its partners unless it builds up a huge patent portfolio. Microsoft, Apple, RIM and others are spending billions to ensure that it stays that way.

The biggest gainers might turn out to be Windows Phone 7. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Windows Phone 7 and iOS as the major players in the smartphone market in the next couple of years, with Android being relegated to the sidelines, however low the chances of that happening may seem now.

Microsoft Asks Samsung To Pay $15 For Every Android Phone Sold

Samsung is the world’s No.2 handset manufacturer, which sold more than 19 million smartphones during the Q2 of 2011. The Samsung Galaxy S is the only Android smartphone which managed to cross the 10 million mark and its successor, the Samsung Galaxy S II have already sold 3 million units in just 55 days. This might be a great achievement for Samsung, but the company have already started getting into troubles, thanks to the Android Operating System.

samsung galaxy s ii

Microsoft has recently asked Samsung to pay $15 for every smartphone based on Google’s Android Operating System since Google has used a wide range of patents in Android OS, which are held by the Microsoft. Back in April last year, Microsoft has already signed a similar patent agreements with HTC, where the Taiwanese mobile phone gaint agreed to pay Microsoft in exchange for the use of the patented technology in its Android powered smartphones.

Samsung is expected to negotiate with Microsoft and ask them to lower the payment to about $10 in exchange for a deeper alliance with Microsoft for Windows Phone 7 devices. Samsung is also rumored to launched a new variant of its popular Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone based on the Windows Phone 7 OS. Microsoft is expected to get around $200 million a year, just from the sales of Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone.

A Definitive Look into 15 Years of Hotmail

Hotmail, world’s largest free email service with 360 million unique users per month, completed 15 years on July 4, 2011. It was one of the first web-based email services on the internet.

Hotmail was founded by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith, two colleagues at FirePower Systems Inc. in Silicon Valley. The service was commercially launched on July 4,  1996 as HoTMaiL; the selective capitalization referring to HTML. The launch date has a bit of trivia attached to it. July 4 is American Independence Day, and the service symbolized freedom from ISP-based email and the ability to access a user’s inbox from anywhere in the world.

Interestingly, the Hotmail development and operations groups are based in Mountain View, California and not in Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond. When Hotmail Corporation was an independent company, its headquarters were in Sunnyvale, California.


History of Hotmail Logo

An Estonian investor acquired Hotmail from the original creators and continued developing it. In 1997, Microsoft acquired Hotmail for an estimated $400 million to make free email a feature of Microsoft Network (MSN). The Hotmail acquisition by Microsoft turned up the heat on the then online giant America Online, MSN’s main rival.

Shortly after the acquisition, Microsoft rebranded it to MSN Hotmail. Also, Hotmail was integrated with another Microsoft acquisition, Jump, a web-based calendar service.

In 2005, a refresh of Hotmail was announced as Windows Live Hotmail (codename Kahuna), and was rolled out in 2007. Windows Live is a suite of online services and products from Microsoft.


Original Hotmail Homepage

Hotmail quickly gained in popularity as it was localized for different markets around the globe and became the world’s largest webmail service. In its current version, Windows Live Hotmail is available in 36 different languages. According to last year’s comScore ranking, Windows Live Hotmail is the world’s largest web-based email service with nearly 364 million users. Second and third are Yahoo! Mail at 280 million users and Gmail at 191 million users.


Hotmail Homepage in 2007

Hotmail initially ran under Solaris for mail services and Apache on FreeBSD for web services. Although a project was started to migrate Hotmail to Windows 2000,   Microsoft admitted that DNS functions of the Hotmail system were still reliant on FreeBSD. After a while, MSN Hotmail was tied to Microsoft Passport, Microsoft’s web authentication scheme. Microsoft Passport has now been rebranded to Windows Live ID.

Starting in 2004, the Hotmail engineering team completely rewrote the backend system to move it to a system that uses  Windows Server and Windows SQL Server. In 2005, the Hotmail engineering team undertook a similar rewrite of the frontend system, and rebuilt both Hotmail and Calendar from the ground up using C# and and leveraged Windows Server and the latest version of IIS.  The old software was written in C++ and Perl.

Although, Hotmail was ahead of its time in offering and progressively adding email features like anti-virus scanning for attachments, integrated calendar service, built-in reading pane, email rules, and spell checking, there was a period of technological stagnation in the first half of 2000s. Leading webmail services like Hotmail and Yahoo worked on gaining more users rather than innovating in the space in this period.

The advent of Gmail in 2004 as a revolutionary webmail service spurred a wave of innovation amongst webmail services. Hotmail too made dramatic changes featuring greater storage, speed, and interface flexibility. Hotmail initially offered 2MB free storage while today it offers ever-growing storage.  The service has since  been growing at an astounding pace both in innovation and engineering as well as in user base.

Microsoft, Apple, RIM & Others Win the Nortel Patents that Google was Desperate For

Google was desperate to win the Nortel portfolio of patents, so that it could stave off patent trolls and other companies trying to sue it. Nortel’s huge portfolio of over 6,000 patents would have given Google a lot of leverage over its competitors. When Google first made the $900 million bid for those patents, it was expected that it would be very aggressive in trying to win them. The Department of Justice first played spoilsport, but later cleared Google to make the bid, setting the stage for Google to make the winning bid.

Today, Nortel announced that it had concluded the auction of all its remaining patents. The winner, it said, was a consortium consisting of Apple, Microsoft, Research in Motion, Sony, Ericsson and EMC. The consortium won the entire patent portfolio for $4.5 billion.

“Following a very robust auction, we are pleased at the outcome of the auction of this extensive patent portfolio”, said George Riedel, Chief Strategy Officer and President of Business Units, Nortel. “The size and dollar value for this transaction is unprecedented, as was the significant interest in the portfolio among major companies around the world.”

From the looks of it, it seems like all the members of the consortium teamed up against Google. Losing the auction means that it is still vulnerable, with a portfolio of less than 1000 patents. It is currently being sued by Oracle over the use of Java in Android, for damages estimated to be over $2.6 billion.

Many Android device manufacturers are also being sued by Microsoft. If it had won this patent portfolio, it might have been able to fight off its opponents.

via Marketwatch

How Skype Screwed its Employees Out of their Equity Option Grants

Microsoft announced that it would be acquiring Skype for $8.5 billion last month. It was good news for everyone involved with Skype, but ever since the deal was announced, it has been fraught with some or the other problem. Many analysts and bloggers have already bashed Microsoft for spending such a huge amount to buy Skype at a huge premium over its last valuation of approximately $3 billion in 2009.

Recently, Skype came under fire, for allegedly firing senior executives just weeks before the sale was finalized, effectively cutting them off just before a huge payday. Apparently, Silver Lake Partners, the majority owner of Skype stood to make more money, which would explain their motivations. But soon after these reports leaked, many anonymous Skype investors stated on various blogs that the firings were handled by Tony Bates, Skype’s CEO, not any of the investors.

Now, it seems that some previous employees of Skype are getting screwed out of their equity grants by Silverlake Partners, the PE firm which had majority ownership of Skype, and stands to make a huge windfall from the Microsoft deal.

Case in point: Yee Lee, an employee at Skype who quit some time back, just learned that all his vested options had been rendered worthless after Sliverlake Partners secured to buy back the vested options at the grant price, effectively taking away all the profits that Lee could have made by exercising those options.

The point of a vesting schedule is to keep employees working with the company, but once options have been vested, the company cannot take them back. In this case, Skype has done exactly that to all employees who left Skype with options that had already vested, thus screwing them out of their rightful earnings.

Everyone knows, that the currency of a startup is equity, not cash. Equity in a company is what motivates us to join other startups, taking substantial salary cuts to work in a startup, instead of taking up a comfortable job in BigCo, or starting up ourselves. Everyone joining a startup is looking for that big payday which comes when a major liquidity event like an IPO or acquisition happens.

Even if Silverlake Partners is legally in the right, having mentioned the vested option buyback in the option grant agreement somewhat surreptitiously, the point is, that it isn’t a standard practice. This is the first time any PE/VC firm has done anything like this. While they stand to make billions from the deal, acting in this manner taking away a few million from their employees just makes them look petty.

In Lee’s own words: “Now, I’ve seen my share of legal documents for tech companies. I’ve worked in Valley tech companies for over 15 years, have founded startups, done VC financings, and invested in companies. None of that prepared me for the kinds of legal shenanigans that the PE guys at Silver Lake pulled because I had never come across those kinds of terms before, let alone the fact that these clauses were hidden as one-liners in otherwise pretty standard-looking documents”.

I just hope that this doesn’t set a precedent for startups in Silicon Valley or anywhere in the world. There is a certain level of trust that exists in the startup ecosystem, and if there are more such incidents, it would be very detrimental to everyone involved – be it entrepreneurs and early employees who would have to waste more time on their due diligence, going over each and every clause of the contract, before they finalize their funding, and investors who have worked hard to gain the trust of entrepreneurs over the years, who might have to work even harder to regain it.

The whole fiasco can be summed up perfectly by Lee’s statement: “Even as Skypers were celebrating the huge potential of the Microsoft deal, the PE bankers were sharpening their knives and plotting which employees to fire in order to maximize profits and minimize payouts to non-owners. Seriously, how greedy do you need to be to make $5B and still try to screw the people who made that value possible? I mean, Silver Lake is trying to hyper-optimize their returns to the point that they’re trying to deny employee payouts that amount to less than 0.3% of the returns that they’ll get from the deal. Srsly. Really?

So, just be warned: Silicon Valley startup folks may think we’ve had hard dealings with venture capitalists… But in my opinion, VC greed pales in comparison to the level of greed exhibited by the Silver Lake private equity firm.”

IE Team Sends Mozilla a Cake Again for Firefox 5 Launch

The web browser teams at Mozilla, Microsoft, Google and might definitely hate each other secretly, but there are times when all of these come together to set standards or further the future of the web.

Microsoft and Mozilla have had a love hate relationship for a while now. After all, was the web browser which turned the browser industry on its head and gave the dominant Internet Explorer a run for it’s money.

IE Congratulates Mozilla for Firefox 5 Launch Cake

Lot has changed since then, but one thing continues to remain common including Microsoft sending cakes with the IE logo to Mozilla on a product launch. The last time I remember them sending a cake was for the launch of Firefox 3, and with the launch of Firefox 5 today they have repeated the act.

The cake had a similar message from the earlier one which said:

Congratulations on Shipping! Love, the IE Team

The image was posted by @damons, who is the VP of Engineering at Mozilla. This definitely makes for some good rivalry. Here is wishing the Mozilla team a great launch and look forward to some exciting new features in Firefox 6 and beyond.

Microsoft Gets Slammed for Its Hypocritical Stance on WebGL

Last week, I reported that Microsoft won’t be supporting WebGL in Internet Explorer due to security concerns. WebGL is a cross-platform 3D graphics API for the web that enables web applications running in the browser to do all sorts of cool stuff. Currently all the major browser vendors apart from Microsoft (i.e. Mozilla, Google, Opera, and Apple) actively support the WebGL initiative. Microsoft gave a pretty detailed technical explanation of their issues with WebGL, which led me to remark that Microsoft might be doing the right thing for a change. However, I might have been too hasty in giving the software giant, which has built a reputation of not willing to play nice, the clean chit.

One of the things I have long criticized tech-giants like Microsoft and Apple for is hypocrisy. As it turns out, the latest WebGL vs. Microsoft incident is another glowing example of the same. The biggest problem with Microsoft’s criticism of WebGL was first highlighted by Opera Software’s HÃ¥vard K. Moen and later elaborated upon by Google’s Gregg Tavares.

Microsoft: Criticizes something WebGL is doing. Does the exact same thing with Silverlight. Sigh.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

It appears that Microsoft’s security consciousness magically vanishes as soon as it moves away from WebGL, with which it has clear conflicts of interests. WebGL is based on OpenGL, which is the main competitor of Microsoft’s DirectX. Adobe’s Flash and Microsoft’s own Silverlight suffers from many of the same drawbacks highlighted by Microsoft. However, Microsoft has no qualms about allowing these plug-ins to work on Internet Explorer. Tavares, who has been working on Chrome’s GPU acceleration and WebGL features, is understandably furious.

The latest FUD is Microsoft’s claim that they won’t support WebGL because it’s insecure. They might have a little more credibility if they weren’t promoting a technology, Silverlight 5, that provides the EXACT SAME FEATURES with all the same issues. They can’t have it both ways. Either it’s possible to make this tech safe or else it’s not. If it is possible to make it safe in Silverlight 5 then it’s also just as possible in WebGL. If it’s not possible to make it safe Microsoft would have to come out and say (1) They are removing GPU access from Silverlight 5. (2) They are banning Unity3D from running in IE since it also provides access to the EXACT SAME FEATURES. (3) They are banning Flash 11 from running in IE since it also provides access to the EXACT SAME FEATURES.

He also alleges that the research done by ContextIS into the security vulnerabilities present in WebGL was sponsored by Microsoft. If that is true, then this won’t be the first time that Microsoft has done something like this. However, at the very least, the results presented by ContextIS aren’t manipulated like the ones by NSS labs.

Tavares also tackled the main objections raised by Microsoft. One of the objections was related to denial of service, wherein a malicious process can prevent other processes from accessing the services of the GPU by asking the GPU to process something that takes too long.

The simplest solution is to time how long the GPU is taking to execute each task. If it’s taking too long reset the GPU and kill the page that issued the command. Microsoft Windows is one of the only OSes that currently provides this solution. They should be proud of this. They can basically claim the best place to run WebGL is on Windows. The Khronos group is working to bring similar functionality to other OSes as fast as possible and it may already be available in some drivers.
Of course it’s completely unacceptable if your machine gets DOSed. My only point is (1) there are fixes, Windows already support them and they are coming soon to other OSes. (2) it’s not has (sic) bad as your machine getting owned. In fact most likely very soon now, if a page takes too long on the GPU it will be marked bad by the browser. If you try to visit it again you’ll be warned. Similarly using techniques like Safe Browsingwe can warn you in advance while we work on providing the real fixes in all OSes.

The other point raised by Microsoft was that WebGL provides low-level hardware access in a way that is overly permissive. Bugs present in the graphics driver can create serious security issues. Tavares suggests that sandboxing coupled with a multi-process architecture can go a long way towards solving these issues. Google currently parallelizes all WebGL calls. Before anything is passed to the GPU, Chrome performs strict validation and even tries to work around several known GPU driver bugs.

Undoubtedly, the current status of WebGL is far from ideal. However, it’s still a work in progress, and the Khronos group is still busy tying up all the loose ends. One thing that is for certain is that WebGL is essential for cross-platform, cutting-edge, next-gen web applications that will blur the line between native and web applications.

Microsoft Disses WebGL, Calls It Harmful

WebGLWebGL is a cross-platform 3D graphics API for the web that is being adopted by the likes of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera in order to usher in next-gen graphics intensive web applications. However, one major browser vendor has decided to distance itself from the pack, and has announced that it won’t be supporting WebGL. No points for guessing who that browser vendor is. It is none other than Microsoft.

Microsoft has a terrible track record when it comes to adopting new standards. They have been trying to turn a new leaf, but there have been several missteps along the way. They also happen to be the folks behind DirectX, the main competitor of OpenGL, which forms the basis for WebGL. So, its not all that surprising that Microsoft has decided to diss WebGL. However, before the knives come out, Microsoft might actually be right for a change.

Microsoft’s objection is based on the fact that WebGL, in spite of claims to the contrary by the Khronos Group, isn’t really secure. Microsoft explained the technicalities behind its objections in a fair amount of detail in its TechNet blog post. The three main points raised by Microsoft are:

  1. WebGL provides low-level hardware access in a way that is overly permissive.
  2. Even security procedures put in place can be circumvented due to the presence of vulnerabilities in the graphics driver. The onus for ensuring security will fall on the driver manufacturers and not on the browser or operating system vendor. Users rarely update their hardware drivers; and even the manufactures themselves aren’t accustomed to releasing frequent and quick security updates.
  3. Modern operating systems and graphics infrastructure were never designed to fully defend against attacker-supplied shaders and geometry. It might become possible for hackers to crash and reboot systems at will by supplying malformed data.

Microsoft believes that WebGL will likely become an ongoing source of hard-to-fix vulnerabilities, and this is a concern that has been raised before by third parties. WebGL is an exciting piece of technology. It is also something that is required to push the boundaries of what can be done within a web app. Microsoft might be playing spoil sport; however, with the current design flaws in WebGL, Microsoft’s stance also makes a lot of sense. Let’s hope that the Khronos Group will manage to find a way to assuage the concerns surrounding WebGL.

Microsoft Loses Word Patent Battle

The Canadian company i4i has won its patent battle against software giant, Microsoft. On Thursday, the US Supreme Court upheld the lower courts’ decisions stating that Microsoft Word is an infringing product and has ordered Microsoft to pay over $290m in damages to i4i.

Steve Ballmer

In 2007, i4i filed a case against Microsoft, claiming that the Word applications violated patent rights it held to Custom XML technology. And in December 2009, the US Courts found Microsoft guilty and ordered Microsoft to pay over $290 million in damages to i4i and directed Microsoft to stop selling versions of Word from January 2010.

Though Microsoft stopped selling versions of Word as per courts’ orders, it challenged the verdict and appealed in the US Supreme Court in August 2010, stating that a jury should determine a patent’s validity by a “preponderance evidence” instead of “clear and convincing evidence” standard instructed by the judge.

However, the Supreme Court upheld the lower courts’ decisions. Microsoft said it wanted a new trial, but the justices ruled against Microsoft.

Loudon Owen, chairman of i4i, said: “Microsoft tried to gut the value of patents by introducing a lower standard for invalidating patents. It is now 100% clear that you can only invalidate a patent based on ‘clear and convincing’ evidence.”

Microsoft spokesman Kevin Kutz stated: “While the outcome is not what we had hoped for, we will continue to advocate for changes to the law that will prevent abuse of the patent system and protect inventors who hold patents representing true innovation,”

The patent No. 5,787,449, issued in July 1998