Thursday, 22 December 2011

We are the World

As we move into the festive period, take a moment to think of those less fortunate than ourselves.  Christmas isn't all about Santa Claus so let's not forget that.

I've attached a link to the YouTube video from USA for Africa back in the 1980's when they sang "We are the World."

Remember, we're all a part of this world, so let's all do our part to make it a better place.

In the meantime, be safe and enjoy the festivities.


Saturday, 17 December 2011

Making the Switch to the iPhone 4S

It happened.  The iPhone 4S was launched finally in the UAE yesterday and I've made the switch (off my Android device that is, I'll still continue to use a BlackBerry as a second device).

Initial thoughts: I love it.

I was using an iPhone earlier but I'd found Apple was behind the curve when Android 2.3 was released.  All of a sudden, my phone seemed sluggish, I didn't like the notification system, the camera seemed out of date and the phone just didn't have the charm that an Apple product should have given the way the competition had been innovating.

The iPhone 4S in truth is Apple responding back and catching up with the competition.  They haven't moved miles ahead but at least brought themselves back on par.  However the difference with an Apple product is that when it is on par with the competition and you add in the Apps that Apple has as well as the overall interface of an Apple product, it moves itself ahead of the competition.

A few simple examples:

  • Keyboard - As much as I enjoyed the Android devices I used, I never found any of the keyboards to be quite as intuitive as an Apple keyboard.  Even using SwiftKey, Go Keyboard or Swype were at best a compromise.  The ease of use and comfort that you find with an Apple keyboard on a touchscreen device has meant fewer typing errors for me.
  • Multimedia Capabilities - I use iTunes on my computer and I've got virtually all my music on iTunes as well.  I struggled to find a proper solution to play music off my Android devices.  Nothing quite worked as seamlessly with iTunes and the end result used to be that I used to use my iPad in the car instead of connecting any of my smartphones to the car's stereo system.  I'm happy that I can finally connect my iPhone to the car stereo again (or stream the content wirelessly to my Apple TV).
  • Apps - As many Apps as you have on Android, I've always been frustrated by the fact that you can't buy Apps in the UAE from Google Market and that any App developer still has Apple's iOS as their priority when developing new Apps.  I was using several iOS Apps on my iPad but it's great to see how Apps like Zite and Flipboard have made the transition to the iPhone and I can use them on my iPhone as well.  I'm also looking forward to using Apps like Instagram again as nothing really came close on Android to replicating the Instragram experience.
  • Email Interface - Seems like a strange one to mention considering I also carry around a BlackBerry but I've always preferred the e-mail client on the Apple devices over any of those I tried on Android or BlackBerry devices.
Some of you reading this may feel the reason I'm more comfortable on an iPhone is that I'm an Apple fanboy.  That could be true, but also you've got to keep in mind I'm probably hooked onto the Apple ecosystem.  I didn't mean to get so deeply entrenched but things just sort of worked out that way.  The smartphone battles moved well beyond have shiny bells and whistleson a piece of hardware a long time ago so when a company like Apple or RIM come out with news devices, it's not surprising to see hordes of people migrate on their newer devices.  The ecosystem battle is a much tougher one to win because to convert someone such as me totally out of Apple's ecosystem for example, is always going to be a lot more difficult than coming out with a shiny new handset on a rival operating system.

How long can Apple keep this up for?  Who knows but till then, I think I'm firmly hooked...

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Copyright laws, piracy and no iTunes in the Middle East

There was a headline that grabbed my attention in The National this morning entitled "New copyright laws to curb film and music pirates."  While piracy has been a major issue in this part of the world, it's also due to the fact that most content owners haven't given avenues to download or buy digital content legally.

Profits down the drain.
Image: www.mediafuturist.com
It was thus refreshing to turn a few pages into the newspaper and see another headline "Middle East iTunes 'could protect industry'."  The writer, Marie-Louise Olson hit the nail on the head about the region by saying "consumers have to buy CDs in shops or - as almost 95 per cent of the world's population do - download tracks illegally."

The issue in this region is not more stringent legislation.  It's about giving a solution first.  Without a solution, there's really no point for legislation.  We can't be expected to buy CD's, DVD's or paper books only in the future.  There will be a lot of content that will be bought digitally and even though it may seem like a lot of work, content owners have to a responsibility to give us a solution or else, they shouldn't be complaining about piracy.  Consumers want digital content.  Either you  provide it or they will find it from wherever they get it.

Don't watch Senna on Emirates Inflight

Imagine being excited about something, being let down and then getting excited about it again.

That's what exactly what happened for me with the documentary recapping the life of Formula 1 great, Ayrton Senna.  The documentary, simply titled "Senna" was released a few months ago and I'd seen various previews for the film on TV or online.  As a sports enthusiast and someone who grew up watching the infamous Prost vs. Senna battles in the late 1980's and early 1990's, this was a film I simply had to watch.

So I was extremely excited when I was flying with Emirates last month and saw the film was available to watch on the inflight entertainment system.  Before the flight could take off, I 'd plugged in my headsets and started the watching the documentary.

The excitement though didn't last.  As I finished the film, I was left somewhat disappointed.  The footage, the narratives, the battles versus Prost, the car and the F1 bosses were captured brilliantly.  However, I felt like I literally missed something in translation.  The problem with the movie as it was shown on Emirates Inflight was that the narratives from those interviewed or sound bytes that the documentary captured from the time were in various different languages.  Some of it was in English but there were bits that were in French, Japanese and Portuguese.  Courtesy of my GSCE French class, I could understand most of what was said in French but I was at a loss for what was said in Japanese and Portuguese.  Considering that Senna was Brazilian, a lot of the sound bytes of Senna himself, his family or those in Brazil, was difficult to comprehend.  While you have a sense of what is being said, you somehow feel you've understand about 40-50% of the dialogue.

I found it strange as to why a film maker would produce a movie that most people won't understand completely.  Then a few weeks later while talking to another industry executive about the movie, I realized the problem was not with the film maker but with Emirates Inflight entertainment.  It seems Emirates has shown a version of the movie without subtitles and if you watch the film on DVD, you've got subtitles to everything that was being said in French, Japanese and Portuguese.  This same executive ended up lending me the DVD and I really loved the movie as a result of that.  In fact, I was always a pro-Prost fan growing up but after watching the DVD, I realized I should've been supporting Senna all along.  There was so much politics involved in F1 racing and I was perhaps too naive to understand it at the time.

If you haven't seen Senna yet and you're flying Emirates, avoid watching it.  Download it or buy it on DVD if you have to.  It's a great documentary, I highly recommend it but don't get yourself disappointed for no reason by watching it on Emirates.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Did the Kindle Fire Light my Fire?

Back in early October, when Amazon announced they were throwing their hat into the tablet race, I rushed to Amazon.com and booked my Kindle Fire, with the anticipation that this was going to be one tablet that could actually stand up to Apple in the tablet business.  In fact, in my mind, ever since Jeff Bezos announced the launch of the Kindle Fire, I've had a song stuck in my head that I thought would define the tablet.  The song is from The Doors and is called "Light My Fire."

Image: longshutsblues.wordpress.com
Did I expect Amazon to overtake Apple?  No.  I did though think that Amazon had what it took to worry Apple because they had they had the following things going for them:
  • A rich media library (books, music, movies from most leading publishers)
  • An App Store (we all need our dose of Angry Birds)
  • A proven operating system (the Kindle Fire runs on Android, though Amazon have heavily customized the skin)
  • A track record with hardware (Amazon did of course champion the e-reader category with their Kindle readers)
  • A Cloud of their own (apart from Amazon's Cloud storage solution)
  • Infrastructure (Amazon has got their own hosting service and they manage the hosting requirements for many major websites)
Most of these points were what most tablet manufacturers that have tried to compete with Apple lacked and I was of the opinion that if someone were to rock the boat, it would be Amazon for just these reasons.


The Verdict?

I've been lost honestly since I got my Kindle Fire in the mail a few weeks ago.  Did I love it or did I hate it?  I wanted to really like it because I've had a Kindle e-reader for several months now and it's made reading so much more enjoyable for me.  There was though, something missing for me.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it and even though the Kindle Fire will sell well, I wasn't quite sure how to describe my feelings about it.  

A lot of that changed though when I saw an article that appeared in All Things D over the weekend and a headline that read "Kindle Fire, the netbook of the tablet market?"  It was as if the author has found the words I was looking for as this seems to me to be exactly where the Kindle Fire should be positioned.


What I like about the Kindle Fire
  • The 7" form factor is nice if you want to read a book
  • The integration with your Amazon account and the fact that you've got access to most of your Amazon content that can be synchronized is a major plus, especially if you're halfway through reading a book on another device, you can start where you left off on the Kindle Fire
  • The touch screen technology is well implemented.  There were no major lags that I found and even the on-screen keyboard does the job.  Not all touch screen keyboards are friendly on the fingers but Amazon seems to have found the right one here.
  • The E-mail client seems pretty functional as well.  Though this is probably not what you associate the Kindle Fire with, the fact is a tablet vendor, Amazon had to cover most of their bases and they've done a decent job with this.
  • Web Browser - Amazon seems to have gotten a lot of grief for their browser but it worked fine for me.
  • Magazines - The one criticism of original Kindle was that it was terrible if you wanted to browse anything in colour or read a magazine on.  The Kindle Fire is way better than the original Kindle e-reader for downloading your latest edition of Men's Health, Cosmopolitan or whatever else you plan to read.

What I didn't Like about the Kindle Fire
  • Apps - even though Amazon boasts a moderately sized app-store, you can't buy or download (even free apps) on the Kindle Fire if you're based outside of the United States and don't have a US-registered credit card.  Amazon allows you to buy books from the Kindle bookstore but apps is a different story.  I wrote to Amazon saying I had a US address registered and was out of the country for the moment but they responded back that until I did have a credit card with a US-address, buying or downloading Apps wasn't a possibility.  The alternative Amazon gave was to use Android Market but this re-directed back to Amazon's App Store when I tried to access it.
  • Amazon Prime - Amazon's Prime service is supposed to be a money saver and when you buy the Kindle Fire, you get one month free access to Prime.  This means that you have access to a media library of TV shows and movies that you can start watching off your tablet without any charge.  While this is in theory great, in reality it's a problem if you live outside the United States.  I found myself unable to access to stream anything inspite of testing this on various WIFI networks.  
  • 7" Form Factor - While this was great for reading, it seems a bit small to me when watching a movie or TV show.  I much prefer the larger screen on the iPad.  Without the ability to wirelessly broadcast to a larger screen (like you can using AirPlay on the iPad 2), you may find it difficult to watch a movie on this device with a partner.
  • Backlit Screen -  Since my Kindle Fire has been largely restricted to reading books, I must say, I prefer the e-ink technology that's in the conventional Kindle e-readers over a backlit LCD display.  It is much easier on the eyes using e-ink and since I have the Kindle App on my iPad, I can probably read on that where needed instead of carrying around the Kindle Fire especially.

Concluding Thoughts...

As much as I wanted to like the Kindle Fire, I find myself torn away from it.  Had I lived in the United States or had Amazon worked out a solution for me to access content more readily outside the United States, I may have had a different opinion.  The fact is, the Kindle Fire doesn't aim to replace an iPad.  It doesn't need to because the fact of the matter is that not everyone needs an iPad.  Since the Kindle Fire is priced at half the price of most iPad's, it's meant to serve a segment of the population that's only really looking for a multimedia device.  I use my iPad for so many things but that's only I've got that sort of requirement.  I look around and I see friends or family members who don't have that sort of demand from a tablet and probably for them, when the adequate services are available in the region, the Kindle Fire may be the perfect solution.
Having said that, every time I do think of the Kindle Fire or use it, I still can't  get the voice of Jim Morrison out of my head and I still start humming to the tune of Light My Fire.


Sunday, 4 December 2011

Happy Birthday Dear Blog

It's happened.  My blog turned one this week and I didn't even realize it.

Before starting this blog last December, I had a few thoughts flowing through my mind which were reasons I felt I shouldn't start a blog.  They were:
  • I may not have anything interesting to say (which some could argue is still the case).
  • I didn't have a specific topic I felt I could write about all the time.  Many blogs focus on specific domains such as technology, sports, fashion, politics, etc. but I didn't really feel I could justify an entire blog to just one topic.
  • I didn't think I would have the time to maintain a blog.  This has still been my biggest challenge and there are some months where I've been posting regularly and some months where I seem to have disappeared.  Apart from work commitments, it becomes a matter of how I choose to use my free time and many times I've willingly decided to spend time with the family instead of the blog. 
Image: miahs-party-store.com 


What has the blog meant to me?  

Well, it is has been a good way of venting when I've been frustrated or sharing my views on topics I'm passionate about because as great as Facebook and Twitter are, there are times when you want to say much more.  Starting this blog also gave me the confidence to start a second blog (which is mainly tech-related on http://blogs.jackys.com).

Since I'm also celebrating my first year of the blog, I've decided to make a subtle change to the name of my blog.  In February, I had re-christended my blog, "Blogging with Training Wheels" as I felt I still had a lot to learn and understand about maintaining a blog.  I don't think by any means I'm perfect or fully understand yet what goes into making a blog really successful, but I think it's time I set free without the training wheels.  Therefore, I've decided to rename the blog as "Blogging sans Training Wheels."

The best way to learn is from your mistakes.  Without the training wheels, I'll surely fall over a few times but that should make the blog better in the long term.   If you've got any inputs on what I can do better, please do share them and I'd be glad to hear them.

In the meantime, I'll keep doing what I've been doing and hopefully, you find a post or two interesting enough along the way.


Friday, 25 November 2011

You'll Never Walk Alone

Whoever knows me, knows I like a few things.  Good food, good music, gadgets to play with and football.

So it was too tempting an opportunity to not share this video link of the team I'm so passionate about.  Elvis Presley singing "You'll Never Walk Alone."  This is dedicated to all the Liverpool fans out there.

P.S. My two kids and I are all dressed in our Liverpool shirts today.


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Eminem: This Generation's Dylan?

Having just read Steve Jobs biography, one thing comes out as straight out obvious: Steve Jobs was truly and deeply inspired by Bob Dylan.  There are numerous examples of this that the book's author, Walter Isaacson, mentions and this prompted me to actually buy Bob Dylan's greatest hits on iTunes over the weekend.

I can understand where people of the Steve Jobs generation found the sentiment of Bob Dylan's work inspiring but I don't think I've truly appreciated it mainly because I've grown up in a different age.  Jobs quoted lyrics from Bob Dylan during various times in his career as he found a lot of what Bob Dylan said relevant to what was happening in the world around him.

For this generation, I think we see a lot of that in Eminem.

This may sound ridiculous but if you've ever sat down and paid attention to the lyrics and actually heard what Eminem has had to say in his music, you start to realize this man is a poet at heart.  He may be a bit extreme, he may throw in more four-letter words that are required but that's also been because he's been so emotional about whatever he's rapped about.

In a day and age where you don't truly get a sense of a story in music these days, Eminem has been one of the few exceptions.  Nearly every track of his highlights a journey he's gone through.  As a father, you can hear the pain in his voice.  As a husband who's done wrong, you can hear the anger he holds towards himself.  He's represented himself in multiple personas at various times in his career because like most of us, he's also trying to figure out, which of those persona's is actually him.  He's been open enough to talk about battles with race, drugs, depression, poverty and friendships.  He doesn't paint a rosy picture because life isn't all roses but he does help paint the bigger picture.

I can't think of many other artists in this day and age who actually address as many social issues as Eminem does as a mainstream artist.  I wouldn't expect Eminem to show up at too many events celebrating literary greatness like the Sharjah International Book Fair (starting this week from November 16 - 26, 2011 - click here for details of the event) but I think in years to come, hopefully his literary qualities will get appreciated much like we appreciate that of Bob Dylan today.

Whatever your biases are towards his music, keep it aside the next time you hear his music.  Listen to the story in his lyrics and maybe you'll start to see where I'm coming from.


The Blog and I

"What's happened to your blog?"

This is a question I've been asked quite a lot lately because it's obviously been a while since my last post.  After I got this question again last night, I decided to respond this morning.

The blog exists though admittedly it hasn't been as active of late.  I've had a busy few weeks with various events and travels which has meant very little screen time in front of my computer and increasingly I've been using my tablet for managing my e-mails, but haven't found it quite as comfortable when it has come to working on the blog.

I've also been a proponent of the fact that if you write something, it should be somewhat meaningful, even if it means you write less often but when you do write, it should be appreciated.  I haven't had as much from a personal perspective to probably share of late hence I didn't see the need to rush in front of my computer and put out a post.

The good news is that I should be around in front of my computer a lot more often over the next few weeks so you will probably start seeing more posts from me (including one later today if I can complete it), so don't fret and thanks to everyone for their feedback, both positive and negative thus far.  The blog will continue and hopefully my random ramblings continue to make sense occasionally. :)

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Closure: Steve Jobs & Freddie Mercury's Queen

I woke up this morning to the news of Steve Jobs' passing and wasn't quite sure how to react.  A few minutes later, I could feel a few tears strolling down my cheek and then I realized, that even though I never knew the genius that was Steve Jobs personally, I was mourning for someone who felt near and dear to me.
Image Courtesy: apple.com
Without wanting to sound like an episode of Glee, I got in the car and instinctively had the urge to listen to a few songs from Queen this morning.  Freddie Mercury was a genius in his own right and died fighting an  illness that he'd kept hidden for years.  Steve Jobs did the same.  Different illnesses but the fighting spirit remained in both of them.

Listening to a few songs from Queen, it seemed like every song I was listening to related to Jobs.  A few examples below.

A King of Magic - A classic from Queen was the first song that came to mind.  What Jobs did was magical in so many ways, whether at Apple or at Pixar.  He re-did what was already done and knocked our socks off.  The lyrics from this song also seem apt (see below).

It's a kind of magic,
It's a kind of magic,
A kind of magic,
One dream, one soul, one prize,
One goal, one golden glance of what should be,
It's a kind of magic,
One flash of light that shows the way,
No mortal man can win this day,
It's a kind of magic,
The bell that rings inside your mind,
It's a challenging the doors of time,
The waiting seems eternity,
The day will dawn of sanity,
Is this a kind of magic,
There can be only one,
This rage that lasts a thousand years,
Will soon be gone,
This flame that burns inside of me,
I'm hearing secret harmonies
It's a kind of magic,
The bell that rings inside your mind,
Is challenging the doors of time,
It's a kind of magic, 


We Will Rock You - Steve you did indeed rock our world.  In the last couple of years, we've seen a World Economy and an Apple Economy.  The Apple Economy has probably helped save the World Economy.

I Want it All - In the chorus, to the song, the words "I Want it All" are repeated three times and then Queen sang, "and I want it Now."  This epitomizes what Steve Jobs believed in.  He had a vision, a passion, a desire to get things done and to dominate the way it was done.  What made him stand out though was the belief that it wasn't a product of the future but something that could be done today.  It makes me think of the launch of Siri, the talking assistant that was demonstrated by Apple just the day before Jobs passed way during the iPhone 4S launch.

I Want to Break Free - May seem like an odd-choice for a song to remember Steve Jobs by but there are a few powerful lyrics in this song that summed up the passion Apple products created for a first time buyer that often stayed with them for life.  The lyrics from the second verse are below and see if you agree with me.

I've fallen in love
I've fallen in love for the first time
And this time I know it's for real
I've fallen in love, yeah
God knows, God knows I've fallen in love 


Radio Ga Ga - Seems ironic that the iPod may have killed radio at one time before Apple again revived it by spreading the concept of podcasts (that virtually most talk radio stations rely on today) and Apps to listen to your favourite stations on.

We are the Champions - Jobs came back to Apple when they were down and made them into one of the most enviable companies out there.  The fact that he managed to defy the odds during a recession, made Jobs and Apple true champions.  What's more, they've inspired another generation of champions along the way.

The Show Must Go On - Tim Cook and the rest of the team at Apple have been entrusted with the job of continuing where Jobs left off.  The culture and the mindset has been instilled by Jobs but as most of us know, companies outlive individuals in many cases.  Let's hope the same continues here with Apple.

I know there many be many other songs that may have been relevant and I grappled with whether I should include them in this post or not but felt these summed up the loss of Steve Jobs probably best.

Steve, you will be missed but the lessons you've left behind will inspire generations to come.  Thank you.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Will Whitman Outwit the Competition?

"Messenger Down! He's finally been shot!"

This is how I imagined the situation in the HP Board Room last week when it was confirmed that HP had just fired their CEO of less than one year, Leo Apotheker.

While I personally felt Apotheker was the wrong man for the job, it was shocking to see how HP's Board failed to take responsibility for actions that they were also responsible for.  The last twelve months have been rocky for not only HP but the rest of the industry as they've all struggled to grow while Apple has moved ahead of the pack at record pace.
HP's Board missing in action when their CEO needed a hand

In firing Apotheker, HP's Board washed their hands of any responsibility of whatever's transpired for them since he took over, including their decision to exit the tablet & smartphone business, separate their PSG division and acquire Autonomy.  Most of these were actions that we would've thought unthinkable a year ago before Apotheker took charge but for him to take these decisions as CEO, there must've been some consent or agreement on this direction from the Board at HP.  It is inconceivable to think that all of this would've happened with Board endorsing it and as a result, it was in essence part of their strategy as well.

The way Apotheker managed these announcements had a left to be desired for and his ability to chart out a direction for HP seemed flawed in my opinion but to strictly put the blame on him is wrong.  Having personally seen Mark Hurd speak previously, my guess is that had he been in the same position, he would've I'm sure been able to handle the situation a lot better. Hurd had a sense of charisma and respect that he gained which would've made you think that any decision being pushed through by him was well thought through.

With HP now deciding to appoint Meg Whitman, an HP Board Member, as CEO can be seen as positive step forward given her track record in the consumer space at eBay but what we have to remember is that she still is part of the Board that went ahead with Apotheker's strategy for changing HP.

Will Whitman outwit (sorry for the pun) everyone and bring HP back to the leadership position it deserves to be in by doing something revolutionary in HP or will she serve as a captain of a ship that's already set sail?  We'll wait and see but whatever she does decide to do, I hope HP Board's learns their lesson as they next time around they can't ask why the CEO screwed up.  It's been their own doing and they have to take responsibility for themselves going forward.

Please note all thoughts mentioned on this blog are personal views and not given by me in any official capacity.  If quoting from this blog, please quote me in a personal capacity only and not in my official capacity.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Typing Centres: What's the Point?

Anyone who's lived in the UAE knows the story about typing centres.  For those not familiar with them, they are basically institutions that exist for the sole purpose of typing documentation for anyone requiring a government service.

While the UAE has been talking extensively about e-services, the job of a typing centre attendant has been thriving.  I saw an example of this when I decided to renew my Emirates Identity Card (EIDA).  With all the hoopla that's surrounded applying for EIDA (click here to read an earlier blog post on this), you'd think that renewing it would be easier as the powers that be would have everything they require from you from the first time you applied for the card.

How wrong I was.  Apart from the obvious of supplying them with a photocopy of my passport, updated UAE visa and presenting them with a copy of my old EIDA card, I was told, this all had to be sent to a typing centre and re-typed onto a form and then it has to be re-submitted to them.

Why?

I have no idea.  The bureaucracy that surrounds a simple step like renewing a document can actually serve more as a deterrent in the long term.  Prior to coming to the UAE, I'd never lived in a country where I had to approach a typing centre to do anything for me.  With advancements in technology, I'd always assumed the role of typing centers would diminish in the long term as most typewriters start to suffer from old age and rust.  That though doesn't seem to be the case here in the UAE and if you're looking for a new business to start up, I'd suggest you enroll yourself in a secretarial course and get your typing speed up as you stand to rake in the dough.

P.S. In case you were born after 1990 and are wondering what a typewriter is,  have a read through this Wikipedia link.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

APPLE BUYS SONY...in my dreams

APPLE BUYS SONY

Call me a dreamer, call me an idealist, call me crazy but this headline doesn't seem all that ridiculous to me.

On this very same day in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech and while I have no intention of ever comparing myself to Dr. King, I can't help but day dream about what an Apple-Sony marriage would look like.
Image Courtesy:
 http://www.takdangaralin.com/english/oratorical-pieces/oratorical-piece-i-have-a-dream/

With the recent spate of mergers we've seen in the industry, the troubles that traditional Japanese manufacturers have faced and the threat of competition coming from non-traditional hardware players like Google, Amazon and Facebook, something drastic has to happen.

Why does Apple and Sony make sense?

1. DESIGN - Sony and Apple fundamentally both are companies that lend their origins to being on the cutting edge of design.  It is hard to argue that Sony in its heyday had products that looked just fabulous and Apple is legendary for their design elements today.

2. WHAT NEXT? - Sony has had a troubling few years and various questions have been asked for Sony regarding what it can do to improve itself going forward.  In a post Steve Jobs era, Apple will also have the same questions asked of them and combining their strengths like may mean they can be a formidable powerhouse going forward.

3. TELEVISION - Apple's attempts to make a foray into TV haven't exactly been what they expected.  Apple TV has been demonstrated at various Apple events but somehow has never left anyone really excited.  Sony at their core knows televisions but has lost their way with the onslaught that they're facing from various Korean (and possibly in future Chinese brands).  An Apple television powered by Sony makes sense.  With stories starting to circulate that Sony could look at moving out of the television business by even possibly selling this unit to a Chinese brand, it could be something for Apple to look at.

4. APPLE STORES - Apple has been the envy of the industry with their retail roll-out strategy.  The experience of an Apple Store is unparalleled and although Sony has many of their own retail outlets, they could do with an Apple makeover.  Further, Apple could definitely sell a lot more products from their own stores which are manufactured by Sony.

5. COOL FACTOR - This is something again that both brands share.  Buying Sony was cool in the 1980's, 1990's and early 2000's.  Buying Apple is today cooler.

6. THE CASH FACTOR - With the recent revelation that Apple has got more cash in its reserves than the US Government, we know that Apple can in true Jerry Maguire fashion, "show Sony the money."

7. SONY MUSIC & PICTURES - Apple is the largest seller of music in the world today through iTunes.  Sony has a formidable music and movie library that could give Apple the edge over other competitors in the industry today.

8. ACCESS JAPAN - The desire of every American brand has been to make it big in Japan.  Some could argue Apple has already done this but how much deeper could Apple entrench themselves in the Japanese domestic market by leveraging on the Sony relationship?  Can Apple succeed where the American automobile industry failed?

9. WICKED PRODUCTS - One can only imagine what the combined R&D strengths of Apple and Sony could produce.  Apple is creative, Sony can be creative.  Together they could be a tag team that rips the competition to shreds.

10. SAMSUNG - Apple's biggest threat these days is Samsung.  This is clear from all the legal juggernaut we've been seeing in the press.  Sony's biggest threat in consumer electronics is also Samsung.  If the cultural differences that divide Apple and Sony threatened to derail such a deal, the strength they could derive from each other in the battle against Samsung could neutralize any such differences.

11. GAMING - Apple has with the iPhone changed gaming.  Sony had at one time changed gaming with the the PlayStation and PSP consoles that they had.  If Apple and Sony can work out a way to combine this know-how, they could give the likes of Microsoft, Nintendo and Google, more sleepless nights going forward.

I know what I've just said is crazy.  I just want to create a stir and make a thought provoking statement or two.  With everything that's happened in the industry of late, you can't help but wonder what could happen next.  Apple has made it a habit of keeping us guessing and with this write-up, may be I've got you guessing on what Apple could be next as well.

Please note all thoughts mentioned on this blog are personal views and not given by me in any official capacity.  If quoting from this blog, please quote me in a personal capacity only and not in my official capacity.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

No comment - Steve Jobs

Image Source: http://thetweetermama-becausemamasaidso.blogspot.com
NO COMMENT


It was strange.  The news of Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple CEO was all over the Internet and every social media network when I touched down in Dubai early this morning.

Given all that we've seen in tech sphere in the last two weeks and the fact that I've been responding pretty quickly with a blog post on either my personal or work blog, I thought it would be no different this time.

Then I saw the flood of Steve Jobs stories flooding my Twitter timeline and decided against writing anything.  Anything more I would say would only be repeating something that was already said a few hundred thousand times over.

I therefore decided in true Apple fashion, to keep it simple and say nothing.


Monday, 22 August 2011

HP: Where does the ink spill next?

In the last week, we've seen a series of announcements in the IT and mobile industry that were earth shattering but what we've not heard about is what still makes me curious.

First let's take stock of what was announced and what is left to speculation:

  • Google-Motorola - Is this a marriage of convenience (for patents) or is Google going to start rolling out their own branded stock Android devices?  Will Samsung, HTC and LG get short-changed in the process?
  • HP-WebOS - HP has shut down all efforts for developing their own smartphone and tablet devices after a number of failures over the years.  Even buying Palm didn't help them.
  • HP-PSG - HP wants to separate their PC business from the mothership.  Will they spin it off, sell it or look at a management buyout?  No one knows.  Who could align with this is still speculation.
  • HTC-Beats - This was the first announcement that came out last week and sadly for HTC, it was forgotten because of everything else that was announced.  In case you didn't hear, Dr. Dre sold a portion of his company to HTC.  Do we need to prepare for an HTC device with a Justin Bieber ring tone standard or a Lady Gaga-esque crazy smartphone?  
So next we expect to hear something from Dell and Samsung as they've obviously got an eye on Apple, HP and Google.  HTC's announcement seems inconsequential in the grander scheme of things so maybe they may think of something.  Will Acer continue it's tablet / smartphone strategy?  Where does Microsoft fit in with everything going forward?

Will HP compare the consumer IPG business to 1990's
boy band "Color Me Badd?"
What seems to have slipped under the radar though is the future of HP's IPG division.  The IPG division is the portion of HP that's responsible for the printers that HP markets and the lucrative ink / toner business.  It's known that a printer manufacturer like HP makes most of their profits from consumables.  However, at the low end of the market, profits on printers can be difficult because of the number of third-party ink solutions available.  Many brands have withdrawn from this and decided to focus on the enterprise or corporate market (think Xerox, Lexmark and Brother).  

With HP saying consumer grade PC's are very low profit, could they say the same for their consumer IPG products and focus then on the high-end market where there is less competition on consumables?  If they did, who would be able to fill the vacuum left in that segment of the market?

Of course, what I'm talking about is all based on speculation and a creative mind.  I don't have any insight or inside knowledge on this but when you hear announcements of this sort from HP, you have to think, where does the buck stop?  

Friday, 12 August 2011

DJ, Play that funky music

From the title of this post, you can tell that I seem to have been inspired by the music listening to when it comes to blogging.  Music has always been a good way to express yourself or convey your sentiments but also powerful in that it can transcend age groups, gender and cultures.  

My question then is, why are we so restricted in Dubai in terms of the type of music we get to listen to?

I'm talking specifically about the English language radio stations here in the UAE.  We have one talk radio station, two which play adult contemporary and the rest all seem to focus on Top 40, R&B / hip-hop and pop.  Even two adult contemporary stations seem to play the same sort of the music as the other mainstream stations except they probably stuff that's been off the playlist at the other stations for a couple of months or years.
When did you last hear Metallica on the radio here?
There are so many other types of music that one forgets about when living in the UAE and it's only when you randomly hear a station suddenly playing rock, metal, classical, soul, jazz, reggae, folk, country or just simple chill-out music that you remember there are other things we could be listening to.

I'm not saying that every station should focus on one type of music only but at least if they've got a couple of shows during the week that focus on these different genres, it would make for a pleasant change and even though you may not be a fan of every genre, I'm sure many would learn to appreciate it for what it is.

It's sad but we have some brilliant events that happen in Dubai like the Jazz Festival but honestly they're under-appreciated because most people here have never heard of the artists who perform.  The only way the organizers can make these events a success is by bringing a headline act who barely qualifies as a jazz singer or musician but is in many cases better known as a hip-hop or R&B act just to get the crowds in.
Paul Taylor is currently on top of the Billboard Jazz Song
charts but chances are, no one in the UAE has ever heard
of him.

Radio stations have to realize that ever since the invention of the iPod, iPod transmitters and audio jacks in our cars, people have started listening to the music that they want.  If you can provide them the same choice, they may listen more to you.  I know radio has been booming here in the Emirates from an advertising revenue point of view but there is so much more revenue that could be gained if radio stations did something different.  Internet radio is a trend that is catching up in the United States where you have stations that play all sorts of music, some of it so obscure, you'd probably never come across it even if you tried to search for it, that it could just be a matter of time until we see it emerge here.  Why would it do well?  Only because it would differentiate itself from the usual Katy Perry and Lady Gaga type music we hear here normally.

There was a time when radio in the Emirates had shows that focused on specific genres but that seems to have disappeared.  I do hope the guys who run the radio stations read this and do start changing up their playlists with shows that embrace the diversity of genres that are out there.  I for one would be grateful and I'm sure there would be many more out there who would agree with me.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Imagine, do we really have to?

While driving into work this morning listening to The Dave Matthews Band, a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine" that I'd forgotten I'd uploaded onto my iTunes playlist started playing.

Even though Lennon recorded and released this song 40 years ago, the lyrics and sentiments are just as true today as they were then.  The vision he had still seems like a fallacy unfortunately.

Looking at all that's happening in the world today.  Somalia's famine, London's riots, Libya's ruthlessness, Syria's atrocities, Japan's tsunami, Haiti's devastating earthquake.  The list could go on for pages and pages and we still wouldn't do justice to it.

Lennon was a visionary, an idealist and as we started to grow numb to everything that's been happening in the world around us, read his lyrics below from Imagine or listen to the cover version recorded by the Dave Matthews Band in the video below and let's hope we don't need to imagine this in the long term.

Imagine, John Lennon
Imagine there's no heavenwonder you can
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
It`s easy if you try
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one 




Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Google+, Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre

BBM.
SMS.
WhatsApp.
Twitter.
Email.
Facebook.
Blogger.
Tumblr.
LinkedIn.
Quora.
Instagram.


I'm sure there are a few more I've forgotten but last month I added Google's G+ to the list of mediums I'm on.  I've listed out the different mediums in priority of how I access them.  My problem a month ago as it is till now is where I do place G+.

I've had this conversation with a number of people, whether it be on Twitter, G+ or in person and I'm still finding it difficult to justify moving G+ up the rankings.  Moving it up means moving something down or off the list.

On the list I mentioned, everything after Facebook has started to take a back seat (yes, including this blog though I'm trying to keep it active). Apart from the fact that you need the time to manage all of this and do justice to it, you also need to see what can be managed most efficiently.  Twitter is easy, you can do it off a smartphone.  Facebook became easier once I started Flipboard on the iPad.  LinkedIn is slowly moving onto that list as far as reading information but actively engaging in conversation on there, it hasn't quite roped me in.

For me, G+ will only really become entirely relevant when a common aggregating tool can be used to manage it efficiently.  I can use various tools to manage multiple Twitter accounts, Facebook and LinkedIn from one application or screen but this isn't the case yet for G+.  For now, TweetDeck, HootSuite and Flipboard have no G+ integration capabilities. I'm sure this'll come in time but until then, whenever I keep hearing G+, my keeps wandering over to the early days of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.  Dre and Snoop have done well for themselves in the long term and I hope for Google's sake, the same is true for G+.

It's like this and like that and like this and uh
It's like this and like that and like this and uh
It's like this and like that and like this and uh
- Lyrics from "Nuthin but a G Thang" Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg



Monday, 18 July 2011

News Corp & WikiLeaks: What's the Difference?

I'll admit it, I haven't been playing particularly close attention to News Corp story that's been plastered all over the press but while chatting about it last night with a friend, it got me thinking, what's really the difference between what News Corp has been involved in and WikiLeaks?
Who's inspired who?

News Corp's publications like News of The World have admitted to various wrong-doings which ultimately led to the demise of the publications and lots of heads rolling whether it be in the newspaper, in Rupert Murdoch's empire or even within the UK police.  What News Corp did was wrong.  There's no two ways of looking at it.  Morally, ethically, socially, they've been in the wrong here.

However, how was WikiLeaks much different?

Keeping aside the secrets that WikiLeaks uncovered, their methodology is dodgy.  Most likely they've been uncovering the information they have through a series of underhanded techniques, utilizing technology exploits that exist today or enticing people at the right places to get the information they want.  The end result though is WikiLeaks has been lauded (by many except the governments they've embarrassed).

It could indeed be argued that the methodology of the News of The World was indeed no different to that of WikiLeaks.  We don't know who else's privacy WikiLeaks has intruded upon and while all the uproar is about who News Corp and NOTW targeted, we don't know really know who else WikiLeaks may have been going after int heir quest to uncover the "truth."

Like I said, I haven't been following this story closely enough to know whether there are indeed differences in WikiLeaks and News Corp, but if there are, please do educate me.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Humanizing the Petrol Crisis

With the silence continuing over the petrol crisis in Sharjah and Northern Emirates, the statement that appeared in Gulf News today by an ENOC spokesperson is a real classic.  The quote from Gulf News, the person literally said:


"I cannot give a statement now, don't ask me questions I cannot answer," he said. "I agree that we should be more transparent, I agree 150 per cent, but we have directives not to talk about this issue now."
Pressed for answers, he made casual comments on the weather to change the subject.
Enoc's silent spell lasted for about two weeks while the spokesperson was on holiday after the trouble started. Repeated attempts by Gulf News to contact the company were unanswered.

Get the last drop while you can.

Inspite of everything that's transpired in the last one month, ENOC make it seem like a non-issue and it really undermines the pain and suffering that those who've been stuck without petrol have had to live through.

I know personally of a case where a mother and an infant were stuck in a car in the blistering heat outside a petrol station for hours because it ran out of fuel.  Their son was at a birthday party and the father drove in from Sharjah, picked up the son and then went on rescue the mother and baby.  What type of city are we living in?  I'm sure are thousands of such stories but we don't hear about them unfortunately.  The press won't cover such this in this part of the world so the officials who govern policy sit around twiddling their thumbs and act as if its business as usual.

There is a human element to this story which the country has to be made aware of.  Had the human element been highlighted much earlier during this crisis, I believe we would've seen possibly some answers or a solution transpire much quicker.  Now to sit around and wait till someone fixes the problem in Ramadan leaves us with a sense of hope but as is the case often, it's a a chance of hope that we take with a pinch of salt as promises have been made earlier as well as the residents of Sharjah know only too well which didn't quite pan out.

With the summer holidays coming, one can only hope a lot of families will be away from the torturous summer period and many parents won't have the school pick-up and drop-off's to worry about, but even then, how long can they stay indoor and do nothing until this crisis is resolved?

To read the whole story in Gulf News, click here.  Local blogger, Alexander McNabb has also been writing extensively on this crisis and I'd encourage to have a read at his blog here as well.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Hangover, ENOC and Abu Dhabi

With everything that's been happening in Sharjah and Northern Emirates in the last few weeks with the petrol shortage and the announcement yesterday that Sharjah was shutting down all branches of ENOC / EPPCO for good, it got me thinking about how Abu Dhabi had come to the rescue again.

ADNOC had said they would fill the void left by ENOC in Sharjah earlier in the week which was in itself an admission by Dubai that Abu Dhabi was again fixing a problem that was essentially Dubai's.

Then this morning there was a series of Tweets by Dubai-based journalist, Tom Gara (@tomgara on Twitter), who is one of the most hilarious journalists out there on Twitter.  He started sending out Tweets about how different the movie, The Hangover, could have been if shot in different locations in the Middle East (click here to read a summary of his Tweets).  He was of course pulling reference to the fact that the original Hangover, which was based in Las Vegas and the sequel, which was shot in Bangkok, was essentially the same movie but based in different cities.

Well, the story of ENOC in Sharjah sounds like the one of Dubai World and their debt repayment.  As different as they make the plot, the end result has been that Abu Dhabi has come to save the day.

As much as we say it shouldn't set the precedent going forward, you can't help but think it has in fact been what we've come to expect.  Hopefully The Hangover III has a different story line and those of in Dubai will hang on to a thread of hope that the next time around, we see Dubai as the superhero that comes to the rescue. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Double Standards: Petrol & Consumer Rights

While reading this morning's  Gulf News Business section, I saw a photo caption on the continuing fuel shortage in Dubai and Northern Emirates which said "The fuel crisis in Sharjah continues as Emarat, Enoc and Eppco petrol stations faced shortages yesterday...Representatives of petrol retailers were unavailable for comment when contacted yesterday."

On the page facing this, there's a huge headline that reads "Consumer rights on DED radar."

Just look at it these two statements and you see clearly the double standards that exist.  The Department of Economic Department (DED) is quite rightly promoting their consumer rights campaign and ensuring all retailers adhere to a set of standards with regards to exchange policies, etc. for consumers and to also act a policing body when there are consumer disputes.  However, when major petrol retailers refuse to comment or give any sort of clarity, there is silence and we're supposed to accept that as the norm.
Image courtesy: nonprofituniversityblog.org

Something is seriously wrong here and if as expatriates we are to feel comfortable or if Dubai as an Emirate hopes to rope in more international investment, there has to be a certain sense of transparency.  Such headlines and lines outside petrol stations send the wrong message to potential investors in the country and despite all the progress that the country has made, a few negative headlines like this, tarnish the reputation of Dubai and the UAE internationally.  Lines outside petrol stations is something that you expect to see in third world countries and the UAE is definitely not a third world country.

There needs to be an end to the double standards that exist.  If as consumer we are to have rights, then we have the right to demand an explanation from the petrol companies.  If the existing petrol companies can't operate profitably, then open the market to competition and let petrol retailers enter the market and let market forces operate.  At the moment we're seeing clearly that protectionist policies aren't working.  This protectionism seems to be a lose-lose game at the moment.  Changing all of this is something that can happen in the long term but in the short-term, please open up, make a statement and stop acting as if it is business as usual.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Why ban what's already not allowed?

There have been a flood of headlines that came through my Twitter feed today such as that in The National, which read "Shops banned from stinging customers with credit card surcharge."

This was a message which came through the Dubai Media Office as a directive that was passed down which said retailers can't charge a surcharge if you decide to pay by credit card.  This may sound like a victory for consumer rights advocates but as per the merchant agreements that major credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard have with retailers, they don't allow you to impose a surcharge anyway.  As a result, this practice has been under control for years and anyone caught doing this, risks having their credit card machine being yanked away by the merchant banks that represent Visa and MasterCard.

This is the reason the petrol stations stopped accepting credit cards a few years ago as they got into a dispute with the credit card companies as they said they couldn't sustain the commission that had to be paid for accepting credit cards and knowing they'd be in violation of their merchant agreements if they charged a premium, they decided against accepting credit cards going forward (click here to see a Gulf News report on this in 2007).

No Petrol if you pay by credit card.
Image from gulfnews.com

With a statement like this being issued by the Dubai Media Office, you then have to wonder, what was the point of it?

It sounds like positive PR that's supposed to leave you feeling warm and tingly inside.  If you don't feel warm and tingly now, I suggest you write back to The National, Gulf News and anyone else who carries this story in the newspapers tomorrow morning to tell them just that. Their column inches could be better used to tell us something that is more newsworthy. 

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Was FIFA inspired by WWE Wrestling?

After writing my last post on Dictatorships & Sports: FIFA & F1, I got to thinking if there can indeed ever be a clean sport if the administrators who run them seem to be corrupt.
Sepp Blatter preaching Fair Play. Who is he kidding?
We've seen or heard stories of matches being fixed or results being pre-determined by bookies in sports like cricket, tennis and football for years now.  There have been all sorts of enquiries made into these allegations over the years and occasionally you find a player or two suspended but that's about it.
Did Vince McMahon and the WWE set the trend for how
sports should be run?

With corruption at the top level of these sports becoming increasingly more evident, you have to wonder how much of this roots down from them to the playing field.  Could they be encouraging this?  If the people who conduct the enquiries into match-fixing are also the same people appointed by the same set of corrupt administrators, is there really any true independent enquiry into match-fixing?

I don't know about you, but I've gotten more disillusioned with sports in general in the last couple of years.  Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy my sports but somehow at the end of the day you have to wonder if it was entertainment or sports. WWE Wrestling may have set the precedent for the rest of the sporting world to turn around and say it's OK to fix the results and call it "entertainment" instead of "sport."

Friday, 3 June 2011

Dictatorships & Sports: F1 and FIFA

At a time when dictatorships around the region have been questioned and shaken to their roots, a funny sort of dictatorship has been challenged; that is one in the sports world.
The Sepp Blatter Comedy of Errors still continues.
Picture courtesy: cdn.worldcupblog.org

With the cartoon show that was FIFA's re-election of Sepp Blatter or the re-instatement of the F1 race in Bahrain, it's clear to see that despite these organizations are being run like dictatorships no matter how they may appear otherwise.

Enough has been said of the FIFA saga this week so I won't delve further into that but the F1 race coming back on the calendar in Bahrain is a joke.

Yesterday, The Guardian ran a story about how teams would be blackmailed into accepting a decision to have the F1 race in Bahrain go ahead, even if it meant extending the season and cutting the break that teams and drivers get in the close season (click here to read this story).

To quote from The Guardian, they said: "The main reason for that will be financial, given the existence of severe penalties for non-attendance. Bahrain paid £40m for the right to stage the first grand prix of this season, a sum which is split between the teams and the commercial rights holder at 45% (£18m) each. The responsibility for that money would be added to by potential penalties for breaking contracts."

So money talks basically?
Democracy in F1? Dream on.
Image courtesy: overdrivetv.co.za

However, the fact that Bahrain paid a huge sum of money to host the race and the teams benefitted is fine but is it right to blackmail the teams now and threaten them for a breach of contract when Bahrain originally was the one that forced the postponement of the race earlier this year?  Racing calendars, logistics and everything that's involved in F1 is planned well in advance so when a race like this doesn't go ahead, it disrupts all the planning that the teams undergo.

I'm not debating here whether the morality, political situation or human rights record during and after the protests in Bahrain should play a part in determining whether the race happens or not.  That's not for me to decide but to come back and claim a breach of contract against the racing teams when an event is cancelled at the last minute is just wrong.  I'm sure the racing teams would've spent money in anticipation of Bahrain that they lost when the race didn't happen.

F1 racing has always been a sport where the decisions have been in the hands of an elite few.  The same is true of many other sporting organizations and sadly, attempts to break such monopolies have often failed.  Examples of this can be seen in the world of cricket (the ICL was the forerunner of the IPL which wasn't recognized by major cricket boards or the International Cricket Council), rugby (where Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer had a stand-off to control the sport) or even in F1 itself (when a bunch of teams attempted to start their own rebel sport and failed).
Sepp Blatter says we must respect it. He forgets, it has to be earned.
Image courtesy: www.guardian.co.uk

The difference that now comes in political dictatorships and those in sports is that in a political dictatorship, you can go out on the streets and revolt.  In a sporting dictatorship, sadly, the same isn't true.  Standing and demonstrating in Tahrir Square in Cairo isn't going to make Sepp Blatter lose any sleep.  Eventually, money talks, member countries are shut up and everything stays as it is.

How long will this continue for?  Who knows.  In the meantime, the credibility of these sports may suffer in the short term but after an exciting race or a stunning exhibition of the beautiful game (a la Barcelona), we move on and accept it.  Is it right?  No.  However, until a way is worked out to rebel in the sporting world, little will change. 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Gagging Gaga - Why can't we download music legally?


I saw a story this morning that has really bugged me (click here to read it).  Amazon and Apple have been battling it out in world of MP3 music downloads and seeing stories like this really bugs me.  


Living in the Middle East, we don't have any real sources to download music from legally and I don't see when we can expect this either.  
Gaga with a Gag order in the Middle East


As much as we talk about progress in the Middle East, we seem to be moving backwards as far as progress in music publishing rights go, which as a result only encourages music piracy.  Creating a source for legal downloads would eliminate go some way to eliminating the problems that the big record companies complain about.  If record companies want to complain about piracy, they should first give us an avenue for downloading music legally in this region as asking us to buy CD's from our local record store isn't the solution.


I'm not saying all of this because I didn't get to take advantage of Lady Gaga's US$ 0.99 download promotion offer for her latest album but as much as I like my gadgets, I'd like to see the content available for us to enjoy it.


End of rant.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Like a Kindle the Wind

Amazon's announcement this week that it's sold more e-books for its Kindle platform than it did regular paper books is nothing short of amazing (Amazon's official PR can be seen by clicking here).

Are paper books gone with the wind?
The winds have changed course and its blowing in the direction of e-books.  Despite the fact that e-book readers are still a rarity in the UAE and that there aren't many avenues to download e-books, the fact is that once an Amazon (or any other reputable bookseller can get a e-store up and running here), we should start to see the adoption of more e-books.

Having bought my Kindle a few weeks ago, I have to say I've loved it (I've written more about this in a previous blog post).

Show me the Money!

More significantly though, this probably means there's going to be a significant change in the margin structures the publishing industry works on.  Till now, when we bought paper books, there was always a cost of printing, cost of shipping and cost of selling that probably ate up a significant portion of the costs.  Then there would also be cases of obsolete and damaged stocks that traditional booksellers have to manage as well.

In the virtual world that Amazon lives in, most of these costs are variable or don't exist.  The cost of publishing disappears, there is no shipping cost as such, the selling costs are minimal (no landlords or staff salaries to look after) and no excess inventory to manage.  Even if Amazon charges a few dollars less for each Kindle book, it does mean bigger margins for them and significantly more margins than a traditional bookseller can hope to achieve.

Struggling Authors Welcome

For those aspiring authors, the move to e-books could also now make their chances of being published that much more easier as well.  By virtue of the fact that a publisher may not having to think as much of all the prohibitive fixed costs that existed in the traditional publishing sector could mean they go out on a limb more often to promote an up and coming author.

At a time when we've been hearing about the troubles Borders has been having in the United States, it comes as a little surprise that traditional book retailers are finding it difficult.  This is not to say that they'll disappear altogether but the ones that survive are the one's who'll find a way to still engage us going forward.  How they do that, I'm not quite sure but whichever they do work out, I do hope to still see some of them around in my local community mall.  Let's just hope paper books are not gone with the wind.

P.S. Just as I was putting the final touches onto this blog post, I saw fellow blogger Alexander McNabb also put out his post on e-books earlier this morning, which is worth a read (click here to read it)