Reviewed

If there is one progressive benefit of internet, I would unequivocally state that it has given millions of people all around the world, a voice. Over the years we have seen how the voice metamorphized into a roar as more and more people are exposed to the power of this amazing medium. One of the most important aspects of internet is that, you can find answers to your most pressing questions with the help of an array of ‘experts’ from around the world — the prominent one being online reviews. Let’s consider that you want to buy something from online — the first feedback that you would seek to ensure that the purchase is a sensible one, would be to check how well is it rated; 5 stars vs 4 stars vs… The next stop likely would be user comments. By relying on these two sources, the mind naturally starts to develop an opinion. This generation of opinion today has been manipulated heavily to such an extent that one can be really unsure of what is actually happening.

I do Google Rewards surveys regularly, where I answer few non-intrusive questions for paltry Google Play credits which I can use later for purchasing movies, eBooks etc. I regularly check the Google surveys of establishments that I frequent to get an indicator of how well they are performing. Recently I discovered to my aghast, the power of how these reviews can conversely result in bloody consequences. One of the establishments I frequent, on one occasion had a receptionist who was having a particularly bad day. The next day, I received a notification of a new review for that establishment completed by one of Google’s empowered local guides. The receptionist was blasted with the unkindest words in this review by reviewer who even went far to blame the former’s callousness to a spate of mishaps happening external to the establishment, that had affected its patrons. The receptionist was soon let go from their job based on this one review since the corporate office had zero tolerance to negative reviews. As I witnessed this farce, I was flabbergasted at the sheer impunity of ruthlessness — one that takes the human away from the equation and allows livelihoods to be trampled based on some John Doe’s opinions formulated from behind a screen.

To add to this facade, I came across a news article that showed how competitors in the world’s largest online marketplace employs fake reviewers to promote one’s products and demean competitors’ products — including the extent to which these companies stoop in these efforts. These disturbing tendencies have only increased in a commercialized and increasingly competitive world. I have heard that AI provides the employers of today with sophisticated tools that vet people based on their online presence (or even lack of) and develop highly intelligent virtual models of them on which variables can be applied to measure responses. Based on these responses, significant insights on personalities and how they are a ‘best fit’ to the organization can be developed.

To summarize, online reviews has now been reduced an artificial banter of no substance that has been harmful and undermining the purpose of why the internet was established in the first place. It has become a cancer that is slowly devouring online consciousness due to the scale of its savagery. Since this has remained unchecked for a long time and that no one wanted to make the needed efforts, only time will tell what will become of this anomaly.

Be your narrative

However, everyone has the right to script their own narrative. No one should be forced to accept what is notion of how others think about them or their viewpoint on how they should live their life. We are all the Masters of our own destiny. And we cannot allow anyone to dominate that belief.

Does anyone remember the year 1998? It was the time of adolescence and the emergence of a powerful tool called the Internet. I still remember growing up in the Middle East, how this service that seemingly connected you with the world made its way into our lives. It was an expensive service that gave you the latest information from across the world and the ability to chat and see everyone from strangers to loved ones. It was expensive then at 10 AED ($3 USD) per hour that came with a connection using a telephone dial up connection. It was an exciting new technology and showed how computers that were used in those days for making word documents and playing car /cricket games could be used for connecting with people. Those days were famous for breaking news with the last significant one being the OJ Simpson trial that wrapped earlier keeping the whole world in its tenterhooks. 1998 however came to be known for a different reason. The Clinton Lewinsky affair and the Starr report.

Bill Clinton was a very successful president. He had a fabulous first term where he rescued America from post Gulf War recession onto the path of prosperity. He was rewarded handsomely with a second term and the future of the U.S looked bright like never before. Then came the sex scandals. It hit him hard with revelations from every nook and corner from various women who had sexual flings with the president. One of them stuck on to him like a blood thirsty mosquito-the Lewinsky affair.

What happened next was simply a tsunami of news. People were talking everywhere on how the most powerful man on Earth used the respected White House to have a fling with a intern. It was the topic on the newspapers, radio, television, friends, coffee shops, and even religious places where voices were heard on how absolute power corrupts. Even in this strange new medium called the Internet, we had chat rooms where you could hook up with any random stranger online and discuss the Clinton Lewinsky affair. It was the topic of discussion everywhere. Even though both of them were criticized heavily, however the narrative went against Monica Lewinsky.Then came the grand confession from Clinton that he had lied under oath to the American people. It was hard for the people to forgive the president but he did escape impeachment. During that time till 1998, this issue was the staple diet for news media across the world. Bill Clinton was heavily insulated from many of the criticism because of the immunity he enjoyed as the president. But Monica Lewinsky totally disappeared from public light. She was ridiculed for years and no one heard of her or even spoke of her.

It all changed last week. In the TED talk held in Vancouver last year she came as a keynote speaker to speak about her life and the harassment that she faced. During her hiatus, the Internet developed itself into a mammoth of information including its presence in toppling governments, spearheading change, discussion and also a place where people who freely express themselves without limits. The world of 2015 has shrunk itself into a village place where millions of people have discussions over the color of a dress to choosing the name of a celebrity kid. It is into this world where Monica has resurfaced herself as a champion against online bullying or in some words trolling. She aspired to get hold of her life’s narrative back and also help others script their narrative in a world where you would be booed, jeered and even insulted by strangers before you can take a single step.

Online bullying or trolling depicts the brutal nature of human hypocrisy. It facilitates easy mudslinging in the guise of an online identity to tar individuals and the hard earned reputations. I have seen bullying in both real and virtual worlds. Though it is easy to stand up to real life bullying, it is however not entirely easy to do it in the same way online. Last year during the Indian election, yours truly supported a nationalist candidate for the position of the Indian Prime Minister. Any post if posted on social media drew fierce debates from people misinformed by a corrupt Indian media narrative. Friends quickly turned foes and any difference of opinion was construed as betrayal and was shunned by either blocking or losing of the online friendship. But eventually when my favoured candidate won, many friends were never seen after.

I am not saying that no one has a right to their own opinion. Maybe many of the friends might have felt that by having a different opinion and boldly broadcasting it to their timelines, I am also being a bully. It is hard to say is there a fine line segregating them. However, everyone has the right to script their own narrative. No one should be forced to  accept what is notion of how others think about them or their viewpoint on how they should live their life. We are all the Masters of our own destiny. And we cannot allow anyone to dominate that belief.

Microsoft: Through the years

This is a company that has failed as much times it has succeeded. Over the decade, it made some good choices and many bad choices. It had always played the role of a follower than an innovator. But it is in the DNA of this company that once it has followed others with so much passion and an unbelievable drive, it eventually becomes a leader.

Let me start with saying that I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Microsoft and it’s Windows OS. From time immemorial, I have used both the Macintosh and Windows platforms alternatively. I remember starting my computing voyages with Macintosh, but it was during the beginning of 90s and as Mac was slowly becoming irrelevant with crass programs and hardware, I began using Microsoft Windows. I started with Windows 3.1. I loved everything about it then and was hooked from the word go. It dint have a start button and it had minimum programs. It was this minimalism that made this system really memorable.

Personal computing changed with Windows 95. It was an awesome computing leap. Even today I still get goosebumps of fond ‘nerd’ nostalgia when I speak about Win95. Everything about it was outstanding. It brought the now famous Start button and all the programs loaded smoothly. With Microsoft Office, it was a productivity nirvana. Microsoft followed it up with Windows 98, another blockbuster of a software OS. To me it was also the beginning of the internet age with the freaking awesome but ill fated Netscape browser. Slowly but steadily, Microsoft attained the ultimate monopoly with almost all the computers in the modern world at that time with its services.
Then Microsoft just became greedy. Innovation was sacrificed in the altar of economics. Multiple versions of Windows started creeping in with Windows NT, 2000, ME etc., all of which were just mere cosmetic updates. One lousy product after another, the monopoly behemoth began to be hated by one and all.
Microsoft dint just give up. They came out with Microsoft XP which became the gold standard but by that time people were beginning to show signs of fatigue. An old foe, Apple just reemerged in the horizon. They started challenging the status quo with some of the most dauntingly beautiful marriage of both hardware and software. Things were just beginning to get interesting.
Then something happened. Microsoft began a series of massive mishaps. The much publicized Windows Vista became a huge resounding flop. By that time the customers were beginning to get tired of Microsoft’s ‘old wine in a new bottle’ strategy. Apple became aggressive with some excellent hardware, software and also commencing the transition to a post PC era with iPods. Google that started off as a mere search engine began a quest to harness all the available knowledge and information in the world and repackage them as services for many of their web offerings. Even though Microsoft ruled the web with the gateway of choice-Internet Explorer, the email of choice- Hotmail, the web service of choice-MSN and the chat client of choice-MSN Messenger, Google began successfully challenging and making it irrelevant in almost all sectors where it had a monopoly.
With the post PC era fully on, Apple started an unassailable onslaught of hits with iPods, iPhones and iPads. Google began its successful onslaught with Chrome browser (later a cloud OS) and Android. Microsoft started burning itself with Zunes (it’s extremely unlucky iPod challenger) and Kin (it’s delayed and much hated iPhone challenger that it shutdown within a week). It’s buggy Windows Phone OS 3.5 was virtually decimated by the iPhone despite the fact that it had a head-start much earlier in the smartphone category
Due to its successful placement in almost all of the computers in the world, Microsoft still made tons and tons of money. It owned such a good deal of patents in mobile technology, that it even, to this day, makes money from Android phones! But the warning signs were beginning to show as Apple surged ahead to become the most valuable computing company in the world.
Microsoft then began a much delayed but a calculated response to this onslaught with Windows 8 platform and a radical new interface. With Windows Phone 8 and deft partnership with Nokia it began challenging iPhones and Android. It started challenging the web hegemony of Google with bing, Skype and Onedrive services. It began manufacturing it’s own hardware with Xbox and the Surface. It underwent a major restructuring, yanked out dominating yet powerful leaders who owned fiefdoms in the company including its CEO. Slowly and steadily it transitioned into a devices & services company.
The future of Microsoft from now on will be very interesting to industry pundits and observers all over the world. It is a mammoth company with a huge stake in the personal computing interests of the world today. It has massive cash reserves unlike any company in the world. It has the talent (remember Microsoft Certified Software Professional and how arduous it was), it has the best productivity suite ever developed by man (Microsoft Office), it has the most advanced cloud service (Azure) etc.
Even though being an Apple fanboy, I have to admit I’ve equally loved Microsoft for all it’s imperfectness. I had a Zune player which I still use till date and I still feel was reasonably good. I once owned a Nokia Lumia, which I felt was an elegant but incomplete piece of software with huge potential. I had to return it quickly as it had poor and meagre number of apps. This year I purchased and returned a Surface which was buggy as hell, but was again an incomplete yet fascinating piece of hardware.
All these experiences prove one thing. This is an incredibly amazing company which has lots of potential. Yet it still struggles to release ‘that perfect product’. When Zune was released, it never had an iTunes-type store. When Windows 8  was released, it never had apps. When Xbox was released, Microsoft made some compromises that would enable it to beat Sony for the holiday season, which it did at the cost of quality.
But still I feel this company has an insane drive to succeed. The new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 hardwares especially the spin off projects like Remix etc., look really promising, the Xbox One really exciting and the beautiful integration of Bing, Office 2013 , OneDrive and Skype integration on Microsoft Windows 8.1 absolutely exhilarating. There is no single software UI out there currently that can pull this off in desktop, tablet and phones simultaneously.
This is a company that has failed as much times it has succeeded. Over the decade, it made some good choices and many bad choices. It had always played the role of a follower than an innovator. But it is in the DNA of this company that once it has followed others with so much passion and an unbelievable drive, it eventually becomes a leader.
Image Courtesy: http://www.xgn.nl/images/articles/original/2012/40270-microsoft-legt-patent-op-draagbare-controllers.jpg

Chrome OS: The Future

The world of technology is changing very rapidly. Due to the stupendous success in miniaturisation of integrated circuits (IC), the computing devices are getting smaller and smaller in size. Add to that the immense potential of cloud computing, you have modern devices with a physical hardware. software user interface and all the services stored far away in what is called the computing ‘cloud’. The sudden explosion in the use of portable handheld devices of these days is mainly due to these developments. Into a world filled with PCs. Macs, iPhones and iPads, a small but simple innovation is slowly making waves. Enter: Chrome OS.

During the years of my undergrad education, Google was the main goto place for all things information. I still remember with pride the days when rumors of Gmail first surfaced and how it was an invitation-only service. When I first got my Gmail invite, I was overjoyed to setup an account and could see the potential in this different take of email by Google. Without any delay, services were added on top the platform beginning with Google Talk, Orkut then slowly Google Docs & spreadsheets, Google Labs, Google Wave etc. These developments were contrary to the rumors that surfaced in those days regarding the emergence of a Google OS which was spoken of, and yearned for in high regard.

Those were the days of an over bloated Microsoft and its Windows platform which dominated the entire computing world. How much I hated that ecosystem in those days is beyond words. It was so prone to virus and malware attacks that there a system formatting at least once in 6 months. Add to that the ugly Internet Explorer which couldn’t even be deleted from the system and the notorious blue screen of death. Even though Mozilla Firefox came as a redemption, it couldn’t successfully dislodge the notorious Internet Explorer.

Enter Chrome browser, Google’s bastardised version of the Firefox browser. It became so popular quickly due to its many quirky features. It was well received. But the users were still waiting for the OS messiah that would rescue them from the evil clutches of the evil, fat and stubborn Microsoft Windows.

Apple came into the scene with the OSX platform for their iMacs and Macbooks. The success of these devices were limited by their lack of availability elsewhere in the world apart from North America and Europe and add to it the exorbitant costs with owning a Mac. The Mac vs. PC campaigns of those days did dent Microsoft’s reputation and they resorted to copying many of the features in OSX which made its way to the much reviled Windows Vista and later the respected Windows 7. Apple quickly moved to aggravate the demise of the PC era by concentrating on iPods, iPhones and iPads which quickly became mainstream and popular.

Google after accumulating all the information in the world, quickly realised that the future was in cloud computing. They aggressively developed the Chrome browser and its capabilities in addition to providing value added services in productivity, leisure, entertainment etc. by developing webapps for the purpose. Due to the inherent power of cloud computing it was simply easy to accelerate the progression to a hardware-free and software-based solution to today’s computing needs. Partnering with all the industry leaders, they developed Chromebooks which were dirt cheap and a better alternative to the extinct netbooks.

Due to the rapid development in Internet connectivity in schools, these Chromebooks were quickly introduced there. Especially in North America, they became quickly popular. This success was bolstered by the power to communicate through Google Hangouts, productively collaborate through Google Drive, access to the world’s information by Google search, entertainment and knowledge by Youtube etc. The potential of this OS is breathless, especially in the field of education. Add to that these devices are so dirt cheap, the OS is hardware independent and updated constantly; all that one needs is a Google account and he/she can access his/her work/data anywhere on any device with access to an Internet connection. Since the OS is device independent, there is no question of virus or malware attacks of any kind.

This to me is the power of modern computing.  The ability to transcend all the barriers that prevent effective generation of content using modern computing tools is highly necessary. Chrome OS has been highly successful in enabling the users with these abilities. If any of you haven’t these tools today, please do so immediately so that your content is available for consumption by the world.

This article is in no way endorsed by Google and the views are entirely of the author only.

 

Am I an Apple fan boy?

Absolutely yes. In today’s world, where a majority of its citizens are finding new ways to interact with each other using the powerful medium of internet, Apple has indeed pioneered a monumental shift in the way we interact with devices.

Today people are connected with each other in insane ways that has never happened ever since the Tower of Babel. The advancement of technology has been quite rapid in ways such that once you blink your eye, a new technology has already arrived. This leapfrog advancements has made distances negligible, communications quicker, political revolutions faster, humans as Facebook profiles and their lives as Google’s ad data.

One of the main drivers for this progress is the power of internet. From a secret US military based project, the internet or the world wide web has been the cornerstone of this sudden awakening within just 3 decades. Among the main companies behind this paradigm shift is Apple. Since 1984, from the time the first Macintosh computer was released, the single handed focus of this Cupertino based company has been to sell premium products that aim to bring the power of computing to its users with mobility.

These days, the competition to win the hearts and minds of people have become intense. Many companies including the search engine company Google to the once trading company Samsung are in the fray to have a piece of this trillion dollar market. Due to rapid lowering of the prices, these gadgets are now in the hands of many. The company with the best supply chain management strategies often win at the end of the day.

Apple has been extremely fortunate to be the pioneer in 3 mobile markets: mp3 players, smartphones and tablets. What sets them apart from other companies has been the beautiful marriage of both hardware and software. Normally companies first build hardware and then mostly uses licensed software to work on the hardware. Apple is unique as it builds both the hardware and software inhouse. Additionally they try to keep their products highly intuitive and simple to use with a unique interface that marries finest of technology with an exquisite artsy outlook.

Having said that it is unfair on my part to say that the competition is nothing but crapware. Having tried almost all the software platforms out there, I have to say that except the the Nokia Lumias, all the other main manufacturers are in the fray just to sell phones-rather than bother about user experience. Many of them including Samsung are highly successful in this strategy. The volume of sales matter for most of these manufacturers that they release products in varying sizes in every available categories. Apple with its minimalistic approach produces high end products that provides maximum profitability due to intelligent value added premium pricing.

I am proud to be an Apple ‘fan boy’ or whatever term is used today to refer to people who use only Apple products. The latter part of the statement is not entirely true as I regularly purchase, use and sell the competitor products-the last one being a Surface RT, Nexus 7 and a Chromebook. I did like the latter though as it is a cloud based initiative and one that I personally have a lot of belief in.

People can call it a hypocritical company or a selfish gigantic monster of a firm that litigates the soul out of its competitors- but there is a reason why millions of people all around the world buy an Apple product or Apple leads in making huge margins in all of their product category: they know what their customer needs and they always think different in ensuring that this experience is not compromised. I can write a million things about Apple here, which I am not going to do. All I can say is just one more thing about what I believe in Apple and what its late founder once said…Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets. Our goal is to make the best devices in the world, not to be the biggest.

Image Courtesy: http://scm-l3.technorati.com/10/09/04/17667/Apple-Fanboy-250×250.png

The iRevolution

Recently yours truly had a chance to buy the iPad. The revolutionary new device that seems to have taken the world by storm. Selling 2million units just into two weeks of it’s release is not a mean thing, but the ingenuity behind it’s very design, the guts to create a market for a device finally the incessant ability to create value from nothing is meant to be appreciated.

At this time, like millions of people who are awed by this device and the magnitude of what it can do, yours truly decided that a blog entry this time should be using this device.

Like many out there of my generation, I myself began my journey years ago riding the bandwagon on a Windows 3.1. How I loved that OS with it’s simple layout that included windows laid out in a linearly fashion. Windows 95 was a stunner which was quickly followed by Windows 98, both impeccable pieces of software. Windows I remember in the wake of the Internet revolution was the tsar of creativity. Though the Windows me and 2000 models failed to excite, Windows xp till the coming of Windows 7 remained my favorite os ever.

It was during this time I came across Apple as a company, tired of Windows and it’s clones topped with a never ending sense of corporate greed. I had seen the earlier iMacs and it’s colorful design but I was least impressed with the software. With my first job however, I decided that I would buy anything other than a Windows laptop, after getting confused with Linux, settled on an Apple and it’s Tiger OS.

In software, the biggest risk one can take is to try to be different. At that time when I brought my fiesta MacBook, though it looked like a toy, fancy in design and glossy in it’s functioning, compatibility issues raged. Either the softwares were highly priced or it was incompatible. Got lost would be the apt word with it for sometime before resigning to the very fact that Windows is the undisputed ruler of the desktop and laptop market, mainly because of the Goliath productivity suite-MS Office which is best always on a PC.

Apple went a different path. It brought out iPods, iPhones, MacBooks etc. However, they all seem to be focussed on one particular area or the other. Then came the AppStore with the iTunes store and a new developer ecosystem was created.

The power of any device is fully exposed and tested when it’s functionalities are fully stretched. All the devices in the market for playing music or calling were closed to outside developers. I am not sure whether Apple is the first one in this area, but to bring value to people for their creativity was first ensured by Apple.

For a long period in my life, I believed in free software, ultimately Linux. As one grows up we realize the potential for creativity to grow when value can be obtained from it. The power of inspiring someone when value can be created from it is amazing. The very reason why the free software evangelists never had their way was exactly because of that. In a commercial world and a global market, if money can be made from a product, why deny it?

iPad is the culmination of the journey for that ever promising ecosystem where money and content both can be made and distributed. Of Android, I would like to echo the words of Steve Balmer, it’s a freaking cancer and it will meet it’s death and I personally would love to see Google stick on to it’s core area of search and other related applications. The failure of Nexus One, Google Wave is a testimony.

Concluding iPad is nothing short of a revolution; it is an amazing web browser, multimedia device, ebook reader and it’s out there with real genuine interest to chosen our way of thinking with regards to mobile computing technology.

Sent from my iPad