Chasing the Mobile Mirage
by Rakesh Raman
Can a mobile device double as phone and TV? Yes, if you do something about its screen size, something about its battery life, something about the shaky networks, something to keep service prices in control, and everything to improve the content quality. Is that all? No, wait a sec!
Also, before I forget, you need to increase the number of hours in a day from the present 24 to give sufficient opportunity to consumers to spare time from their routine local train travels, newspaper readings, office rigmaroles, seaside hangouts, actual TV viewing, and, of course, from online social networks. Then why not? Mobile can certainly become a TV or any other gadget that you want it to become.
Believe me; I’m not against the aspirations of those business honchos who’re hell-bent on converting the poor little mobile phone to a TV, a camera, a gaming device, or sometimes a music player. In this entire mad scramble to overload the device with all types of extracurricular responsibilities, they’ve virtually forgotten that traditionally the device was designed for voice calls. That’s why this is called a “phone.” Some mobile makers have even tried to strip the computer of its functions and have been calling their phones as multimedia computers.
As mobile companies want to live in fool’s paradise, they don’t even hesitate to fool themselves with that unrealistic market research data (I don’t want to repeat the same data here, as it conceals more than what it reveals) that tells them the market will be huge after some decades or so. With the same numbers, they are trying to hoodwink the consumers. But somewhere inside they know it’s not going to be a walk in the park – almost impossible unless they successfully address all those issues – from screen size to consumer behavior.
Mobile players’ frustration, however, is justified. Voice-only mobile markets have virtually dried up. Now, they want to use the only weapon they possess – the mobile device – to infiltrate consumers’ hearts and pockets by offering these content or data services to see high ARPU (average revenue per user) levels. But they have been too careless about technology that has been moving at snail’s pace in the mobile’s case because of small form factor, tired batteries, lack of suitable applications, and so on. Plus, they’ve virtually closed their eyes to really understand consumers’ tastes.
Why multimedia-on-mobile or web-on-mobile demand is not taking off? Let’s take the case of a typical young consumer on whom most mobile vendors are basically pinning their hopes. Now majority of these consumers live with those poor man’s mobiles or feature phones, which are not capable enough to handle the swanky multimedia content including movie clips, games, or even e-mails.
Worldwide, there are an estimated 3.5 billion mobiles in use but not more than one-tenth of them are capable enough to accept modern data services. But for discussion purposes, let’s assume that most consumers own such a smartphone. Will they use it? When they’re at home, say, they’ll watch a TV, read a newspaper, and use their music systems for all their infotainment needs. If there’s more time with them, they’ll check their mails on a computer or flirt with friends on social networks.
An average user won’t have more than 60 minutes a day to do all this after their office work, daily commuting, social chores, family meetings, and so on. Then when will they have time to switch on the mobile and watch a movie trailer or play a mobile game? Plus, continuous mobile use causes headache and irritation because you have to glue your eyes to its tiny screen, which is too stressful.
You can’t have fun under such a stress. Who’d need that kind of mobile entertainment? A mobile phone can certainly be a need for a consumer but movies on mobile can’t be a need. Now, which mobile company has the courage to position multimedia content on mobile as a need? It can’t be. And no consumer is in such a killing hurry to stop on the road to watch a cricket or a football match on mobile.
By nature, everyone wants to enjoy entertainment content from a distance like on a TV when they’re looking toward the ceiling fan or simultaneously reading a novel or their son’s report card along with leisurely watching a TV movie. Mobile device is not fit for that. And the moment you try to increase its screen size, the entire device will be bigger. Then it’s not a pocket mobile. Then it’s perhaps a mini TV or something. You need to carry a bag to carry it along.
It’ll be good for mobile companies to consider all these aspects before taking a plunge in the mobile 2.0 era characterized by multimedia content. Alternatively, they’re free to chase the mobile mirage, as they’ve been doing for years.
Rakesh Raman is the managing editor of My Techbox Online.
This article first appeared in My Techbox Online, at http://www.mytechboxonline.com/mtomob/mobile-rrart01-11.html
Your mobile may always be under your thumb. But do you know it’s sheepishly losing its natural character right under your nose? Today, it’s doing all those jobs that it was not made to do. From maps to movies, from texting to TV, from navigation to networking—you name it. And to taste all these new services, you don’t need to use your ears—thumbs will do.
Mobile marketers’ intentions are clear. They’re eyeing half the world’s population, as over 3 billion people use mobiles. Assuming that a majority of them can be enticed to use value-added services, mobile device makers as well as service providers are packing all the bells and whistles in their offerings.
So what are they up to? Look at Nokia. The device maker is joining hands with a number of players to grab every inch of the mobile marketplace. For instance, it has just roped in Japanese game developer Konami to offer Konami mobile titles—starting with Metal Gear Solid—on its N-Gage mobile games platform. Similarly, Nokia and France Telecom’s brand Orange are to provide mobile services including music, games, advertising, maps, and location-based services on Nokia handsets. To tap the ad market, it has partnered with the mobile content service WidSets through Nokia Media Network (an advertising network having over 100 mobile publishers), saying the tie-up aims to help advertisers reach customers around the globe with a single mobile advertising campaign.
Many other players are trying to pack a crop of services into mobile devices. For example, AT&T and MediaFLO USA have started Mobile TV for handsets. Wireless network operator Verizon—along with a mobile application publisher Vocel—has started offering something called “The Pill Phone” to help its US customers get drug information and dosage reminders on their mobiles. Apple iPhone is already known more as a fun tool than a phone.
But, why this mad scramble to provide so much on your mobile handset? Because the voice-only business model is not really lucrative for the operators. The equation is simple: more airtime, more profits. So they want consumers to use more of their mobile phones—if you’re not using mobiles for voice or texting, then you use them for these value-added data services.
Today, the whole mobile business revolves around average revenue per user (ARPU). And ARPU for data services is low. In the global mobile services market of about $700 billion, the share of data services is just around 15%. That means, for every one hour of mobile usage, consumers use data services for less than 10 minutes.
Now, mobile players want to pull off some ultimate convergence, combining a rich crop of applications available on computers, TV entertainment content, and the roving versatility of mobile devices. But that’s not going to be a walk in the park. Battery is the first bottleneck. You need days and days of battery life to allow people to use mobiles when they’re on the road for several hours in a day. Plus, the tiny mobile screen will continue to be the biggest irritant for consumers. Let alone a TV serial or a movie, you can’t read even a simple e-mail on a mobile screen without getting a severe headache.
If a handful of gullible consumers belonging to the hiphop culture are using mobiles for multimedia content, they’re doing so just for some experimental fun. They’ll soon get bored with this, and use mobiles for calling or at best texting.
Mobile marketers may be bullish today. But they’ll soon realise that they’ve not yet understood the way this new mobile generation behaves.
This article first appeared in The Financial Express, at http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Phones-for-your-thumbs-not-ears/316263/0
by Rakesh Raman
Everyone, you know, may go gaga over Apple’s Macbook Air for the next few days. It’s just 0.76 inches thick and weighs 1.3 kg. But laptops that take gravity-defying inspiration from sports shoes are not representative of the market for PCs. These are machines that came into being in the early 1980s, are twentysomething now, but are already showing signs of senility. While change is supposed to be the only constant in the tech market, it doesn’t seem to hold true of PCs. It’s the same old monitor, same keyboard and same mouse-boring, clunky and old-fashioned. Can it become sexy again? Let’s see.
Today, in a sea of lookalike products, PC makers are darting their eyes all around to find that missing wow factor that could make their products distinct-and smarter. Asian companies like Lenovo, Asustek and Acer are trying out innovative designs. American players like HP, Dell and, of course, Apple are already aggressive on the design front. Coloured cases, hand-embossed leather, jewelled hinges and polished keyboards have all become accomplices in the project to sell PCs as a luxury item. Some PC makers’ focus is on miniaturisation. Norhtec’s MicroClient JrSX, for example, is a desktop PC client machine but of the size of an actual notebook. The 500-gm PC measures just 4.5×4.5×1.4 inches. Another called Space Cube, offered by Japanese firm Shimafuji, occupies just 2x2x2.2 inches of space and is said to be the smallest PC in the world.
Also, of late, to encourage product designers, Microsoft is holding a Next-Gen PC Design Competition, endorsed by the Industrial Designers Society of America. Participating designers are supposed to focus not only on the product’s look but also on software that would fascinate the user.
No doubt, all these initiatives are aimed at keeping the PC market from saturation. The idea is to blend in with the user’s lifestyle. Some spend almost one-third of their daily time, as much as they devote to sleep, with their PCs, be it at home or work. Shouldn’t such a partner have both the look and brains to complement your own personality? What does a dull, boxy contraption say about its user?
That’s the marketing thrust. It’s about fashion sensibility as much as about personality reflection. In the US and European markets, where users replace their machines every 12 months, this approach holds vast potential. While the average PC price is just $600 (about Rs 25,000), the design-sensitive consumer is fine paying almost double for an attractive model. And the US market, which accounted for one-fourth of the 250 million units sold worldwide in 2007, is leading the curve on this.
However, this good-looks-high-price tack doesn’t quite work in price-sensitive markets like India and China. But since India, with an annual offtake of 7 million, and China with 33 million PC units (the former’s installed base is about 20 million and the latter’s is 100 million, against a global figure of about one billion PCs) together hold about 16% share of the world market, global players cannot ignore buyers in these countries. Here, mass customisation will have to take care of demand for sexier PCs.
Dell is selling a desktop PC exclusively for Chinese consumers. It consumes less power and is quieter. In India, Lenovo joined hands with Walt Disney to introduce Power Rangers Mystic Force-themed desktops for children. These are examples of customised design.
Design makes for differentiation. Given the existential crisis faced by PCs, what with mobile phones stealing their functions, the only hope is to defy commoditisation. The PC shouldn’t end up as a potato.
This article first appeared in The Financial Express, at http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Time-to-reboot-your-personal-potato/262204/0
With new Web measurement methodolgy, Microsoft wants to change the rules of online ad market. Will it succeed?
by Rakesh Raman
EVERY tech player wants to change the rules of the game. But Microsoft needs to be taken seriously when it says that it’s all set to define new rules for the online advertising system. Sexily dubbed as Engagement Mapping, Microsoft’s new approach to measure the effectiveness of online ad campaigns came into force on March 1. With this move, the company intends to outmode the prevailing clicks-based standard of “last ad clicked” (promoted by Google), saying that it’s a flawed approach as it ignores all prior interactions the consumer has with a marketer’s message. Engagement Mapping will overcome this flaw, it claims, as it’ll track all online touchpoints and interactions a consumer undergoes before buying a product. It’ll use something called Microsoft’s Atlas Media Console to measure a consumer’s online actions on a real-time basis, depending on recency, frequency, size and ad format. Sounds knotty. But that’s Microsoft.
This apparently iconoclastic initiative may be market driven, but Microsoft’s own interests are clear. It has to quickly justify its efforts in online advertising after its expensive buyout of online marketer, aQuantive, by shelling out a whopping $6 billion, or its bid to grab Yahoo for over $40 billion.
Everyone is agreed that the number of clicks by online surfers can’t be a true metric for advertisers to assess the impact of their ad campaigns. Online publishers have been using this measurement standard just to hoodwink advertisers. And click fraud is rampant. Click Forensics, a watchdog, says that the 2007 industry average click fraud rate grew by 15% over the previous year. And in Q4 2007, the largest proportion of click fraud originating outside North America came from India (4.3%), Germany (3.9%) and South Korea (3.7%). Click fraud is perpetrated through automated computer programs and other tools that act like virtual consumers to falsely boost the click count on online ads. This is estimated to account for $1 billion in global online ad revenues. Few can tell. So much for the “information revolution”.
Is anything straight in cyberspace? Interactive advertising has been a disappointment, too. Last year, advertisers the world over spent just $30 billion on online properties, 6% of the total ad spend. While advertisers are mostly clueless, analysts have been shaky about the metrics to judge site popularity and online consumer behaviour. With over a billion Internet users exposed to millions of sites, it’s chaos out there.
That’s why the page views and click-based metrics are now being challenged. And market trackers such as Nielsen/NetRatings and comScore have started emphasising that consumer engagement should be determined by the time spent on a site rather than pageviews or clicks. Plus, for advertisers, only those clicks are meaningful that translate into sales. Trick devices get clicks, but little else.
Yahoo with Yahoo Buzz and Google with Google Zeitgeist are trying similar new techniques to study consumer behaviour that could be useful. However, Microsoft and others who are attempting to create new formulae know that it’s not quite possible to quantify consumer behaviour. Psychological parameters may be needed rather than only simple numbers. So, it’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft’s Engagement Mapping will study and analyse consumer traits without further confusing online advertisers.
True, marketers are still trying to learn the rules of the fledgling online ad business. But this learning shouldn’t be at the cost of gullible advertisers. It’ll be in the interest of the whole ad ecosystem if a reliable Web measurement practice is in place.
This article first appeared in The Financial Express, at http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Ghost-clicks-at-the-ebanquet/284128/0
It is a 21st century opportunity to combine software development and entertainment skills
by Rakesh Raman
Late last year, it was an ecstatic moment for tech marketers when Halo 3, a video game developed for Microsoft Xbox 360 console, grossed $300 million worldwide in its first week of launch. Even a big Hollywood movie will struggle to do that kind of business. Computer video gaming is a new-generation craze that has its own blockbusters.
Recent big global hits include Enemy Territory, Spider Man: Friend or Foe, Guitar Hero III, Heavenly Sword, and Fracture: Terrain Demolition. These are produced by players such as Microsoft, Activision, LucasArts, Sony, Nintendo and Disney. According to DFC Intelligence, a global digital games market tracker, the worldwide video game market will reach $47 billion in 2009. This includes revenue from video game hardware and software, dedicated portable system hardware and software, PC games, and online PC and console games. And the combined cumulative worldwide sales for Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii systems are expected to be 180-210 million units by 2012.
But these figures hardly make any sense for the Indian market that has mostly relied on low-cost PCs, which are not capable of running high-end games because of their weak graphics/multimedia performance. Of nearly 600,000 home PCs sold annually in India, barely one-tenth can handle processor-burning video games. And sales of gaming consoles can be counted on your fingers.
In India, services like Zapak, Yahoo! Games, and Indiagames are offering digital games—some free, some paid—mostly targeting young consumers. However, the market is in its infancy, as most consumers are interested only in “casual” games like car racing, crossword, sudoku and so on. But global Markets are fast moving up the value chain by offering “epic games” (like Halo 3 and Heavenly Sword) that use high-end technology for development.
Can Indian entertainment companies ignore the promise that video games offer? No. Simply because India has a huge potential consumer base. Currently, the Indian market is in the “casual” games phase. It’s easy to develop these cheaply. But they are rarely addictive, and command low premiums. Indian entertainment marketers should focus instead on lucrative high-end games. And they should be prepared to spend on product and market development. It’s estimated that massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) that are played on dedicated systems in gaming parlours or on expensive gaming consoles like Xbox, PlayStation or Wii consume over $20 million per game (enough to make a couple of big Bollywood flicks) as development cost. And they’re very high priced: $20-60 per game in the retail market. So, if there are not enough consumers for them, it doesn’t make sense to develop such games. Market development, therefore, is crucial.
Thriller film franchises, of course, are the obvious partnership deals to strike. But here, too, one should not assume that readymade character or concept fame via the silver screen will translate into success without any of a game’s own thrills. Global competition is high, and production is a stiff challenge. Top-class “epic” games can take a couple of years to make—the process is even more elaborate than a film, with animation software and special effects to go along with the game’s “script”. Game developers tend to be specialised units, such as Bungie Software (of Halo 3 fame), id Software and Ninja Theory. Microsoft is trying to create an “open ecosystem” by inviting gamers to develop games for its Xbox. The future is big. It is also a 21st century opportunity for Indian developers to combine Indian software development and entertainment industry skills to compete for the big money.
This article first appeared in The Financial Express, at http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Enter-the-digital-playground/290724/0
by Rakesh Raman
Filmgoers will miss the popcorn. But yes, they can now use the Internet to buy a low-cost—yet good-quality—movie for viewing in their living rooms. Welcome the joys of convergence, which is fast making its presence felt. While TV sets and home-theatre systems get smarter each passing day, the Web is ushering in an inimitable new distribution platform for movies. Internet connectivity, barring odd cable-snapping incidents like the one in the Mediterranean the other day, is getting swifter and swifter as well, and consumers want to leverage this speed for better entertainment.
The US-based DVD rental company Netflix has joined hands with LG Electronics to market a set-top box that will let consumers stream movies straight from websites onto TV screens. And unlike the IP-TV (Internet Protocol-based TV) or DTH satellite-TV services that exist in India, there will be enormous choice in film selection. Online movie reservoirs like CinemaNow and Amazon Unbox are packed with titles new and old. Netflix, with 7 million subscribers, offers nearly 90,000 titles on DVD, though initially it’s offering only a few of these movies and TV shows for Web streaming. Later this year, LG’s set-top box will allow direct-to-TV downloads. In India, similar services could emerge, with local online movie rental services like Seventymm getting into the act.
In fact, the movie download business is a logical extension of the currently popular iPod-based music industry, and Apple Computer has already announced Apple TV. Likewise, Archos, a portable entertainment products company, is coming out with a two-way device that will record TV shows and also download movies from online video stores.
Films would be transferable to portable players, too. Wireless Internet (Wi-Fi) devices will be able to download movies at Wi-Fi hotspots available at hotels, airports and so on. Archos TV+, for example, is a Web browser-based set-top box for video recording and Wi-Fi video downloads. Priced up to $547, the 160-gigabyte Apple TV too allows you to download multimedia content using wireless connectivity.
While the home video experience is not new, as theatre owners will say, faster Internet speeds will make a big difference to the business of movie distribution. While an Internet connection like DSL takes about six hours to download a good-quality high-definition (HD) movie, faster connections can do this for you in minutes. Just imagine. For instance, the US cable operator Comcast promises that its higher-speed networks will allow users to download an HD movie in four minutes flat—yes, you read that right. Four minutes. And distribution companies use dedicated content-on-demand and digital rights management systems for online movie sales.
The Internet-led evolution of the entertainment market has been in evidence since the mid-1990s, when Internet TV came into being. Consumers using faster networks are no longer dependent on broadcasters’ fixed programming schedules. They can select channels from a wide array of options at whatever time is convenient to them. Services like World Wide Internet TeleVision provide a Web-based menu of over 2,000 online, on-demand TV channels from across the world.
Agreed, India is not an early adopter of such technologies, despite being the world’s most vibrant market for mass entertainment. But the Internet is the Internet. It has shattered boundaries before, and will do it again. Adoption is inevitable. But are our movie marketers, attuned to archaic distribution channels, ready for this shift? Well, the sooner they devise new sales systems to meet the emerging demand, the better. A cinema outing to the theatre costs a family some Rs 1,000. Home cinema will be one-tenth the cost. This is an opportunity to expand the market, but the revenue systems must be put in place before pirates get a go. There are millions of legal downloads to be sold. Don’t fall behind the curve. And keep watching.
This article first appeared in The Financial Express, at http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Pass-on-the-popcorn/267527/
With efforts like Android, tech players are striving to pack computer capabilities in mobile phones
by Rakesh Raman
Everything in techdom gets obsolete, they say. But what about the gadget of our age, the personal computer? A machine that outlines the man-machine relationship, that is, whatever form it takes. Is it nearing the end of its lifecycle? Not so soon. Even after you’ve seen everything, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
The mobile phone and computer have been in merger mode for many years now. But Google’s Android project, supported by over 30 other tech and telecom firms, including Intel, Motorola, NTT DoCoMo, Qualcomm and Samsung, promises a new experience altogether. The consortium, Open Handset Alliance (Oha), aims to launch the world’s first open and free mobile platform. Android gizmos, based on the Linux operating system, will allow their users to browse the Web, chat online, see pictures and zoom in on their favourite spots on city maps on tiny screens. Android is expected to hit the market by the second half of this year, and the idea is to offer consumers a fingertouch spread of computer applications on their mobile handsets.
But is it all hype? Is there a market for it? Isn’t it a case of déjà vu? Similar mobile computing platforms have been offered in the past by companies like Apple, Microsoft, Symbian, and Research In Motion. Even open-source, Linux-based tools for mobiles have been around. An operating standard called LiMo (Linux Mobile), for example, promised an open hardware-agnostic standard for mobile phones. Yet, mobiles are still used mostly for voice communication, and computer applications on tiny devices have not won many adherents. Is there a usage deterrent? Current mobile phone designs are unwieldy even for regular email and simple calculator arithmetic, let alone more sophisticated work. Imagine using a spreadsheet application on that tiny screen, for example. Also, their low battery life is an irritant. They have to be kept plugged in for charging almost endlessly just for a routine day’s work.
But the big reason for the slow adoption of phone-based computing products is the exorbitantly priced data services. As data applications involve content downloads, they tend to hog airtime, pushing up bills. Of the nearly three billion mobile subscribers in the world, very few are willing to pay for anything other than voice calls or messaging, the must-have basics, despite the grandest of efforts by mobile operators to sell value-added services (Vas). In India, this keeps the average revenue per user (Arpu) within an extremely low monthly bracket of $5 or less. And with voice-Arpu falling further as call charges drop, touching even $5 will soon be enough to call for a celebratory “high five”.
Mobile operators have a challenge at hand to encourage mobile users to consume more airtime. The data services that Android and other such platforms will enable could, in theory, see that happen. So far, argue some, the limited set of available applications had restricted the appeal of such devices. Google’s objective in keeping everything open is to invite software programmers around the world to freely write applications for Android, which, in turn, would enhance its appeal, attract more developers and thus set off a self-reinforcing success loop.
To prod things along, Google has announced an Android Developer Challenge, offering cash prizes worth $10 million to application developers. What mobile operators must bear in mind, however, is that these are but extensions of the basic communication need, which is to talk. And if the special content is not compelling enough for the mass market, Android will end up as just another niche solution. Google, though, wants big numbers. And the Oha consortium is hard at work trying to see off any possible obstacle in this race for your pocket. Android will be breathing down your neck soon.
This article first appeared in The Financial Express, at http://www.financialexpress.com/news/One-and-in-my-pocket/272533/0
There may not be enough takers for Microsoft’s new operating system in a market like India
by Rakesh Raman
After some excessive hype, inordinate delays and probable bugs, Microsoft’s new software sees the light of day – in the US, on the other side of the globe—on January 30, the scheduled date for its consumer launch. Earlier code-named Longhorn, this Microsoft operating system (OS) was christened Windows Vista in 2005, and is now ready to target millions of worldwide PC users. The feature-laden product comes after almost five years of its predecessor Windows XP, and this has been the longest time gap ever between two successive PC-centric Windows products.
Microsoft, the world’s largest software company with over $44 billion in 2006 revenues, promises a rich digital experience with Vista, driven by the ease-of-use that comes with a new graphical user interface (GUI), apart from simplified file management, better visual effects and a slew of other multimedia aids.
Sure, it may have plenty of bells and whistles, particularly for the deep-pocket buyer who likes bells and whistles, but will it succeed in wooing the serious consumer who wants an economical PC for applications as mundane as word processing, Net surfing, e-mail and perhaps a bit of personal accounting?
Therein lies a market problem. While PC makers in developing countries like India are busy trying to introduce low-cost PCs in the Rs 10,000 range, Microsoft wants consumers to shell out at least four times the money to buy (or upgrade) a PC that supports its Vista. This is because Vista expects you to have a top-of-the-line computer—a Windows Vista capable PC or Windows Vista premium ready PC, in technical parlance—with a high-end processor, more memory and better graphics support.
With these pre-requisites, will the Indian home, or even enterprise, buyer be willing to adopt Vista? Let’s check. If you want to upgrade your PC to make it Vista-ready, your computer is supposed to be not more than a year old. And during the last one year, an estimated four million PCs were sold in India (true home users are few and far between) at an average price of some Rs 25,000. If these users want to upgrade, they’ll have to spend almost the same amount all over again. Then, there will be umpteen hardware glitches because of component incompatibility and so on. So, unless one deems Vista a must-have for some special reason that justfies paying an arm and a leg for an upgradation, it makes little sense moving on from a machine that works fine for all your necessary applications. But having the market on a never-ending escalator is part of techdom’s business model. So, vendors will soon start offering Vista pre-loaded PCs. Yet, all things considered, it’ll only be a small fraction of the market—to begin with, excitable and gullible first-time users—that might succumb to the hoopla around Vista.
What does this mean for Vista’s prospects in India? In the immediate future, and in a developing economy with weak PC penetration, it’s not going to be a walk in the park for the software powerhouse, even if it plans a no-frills version for the budget-bound Indian consumer. However, the solace for Microsoft could be a low piracy rate. With so few top-end computers, pirates have no chance.
In the US market, though, Vista fits perfectly into the Microsoft scheme of things. Of late, it has been trying hard to prove its dominance in the imminent world of digital convergence in which the computer, telecom, and entertainment markets are set to merge. Microsoft’s affection for the convergence market is evident from its recent offerings in the fast-evolving markets for digital gaming, Internet-based TV and mobile phones. Zune, its answer to Apple’s iPod, got widespread media attention. Like Microsoft, the focus of most computer and telecom companies is moving from than the traditional base of corporate users to the potentially huge home market. So, a techno-entertainment product like Vista will, perhaps, help Microsoft mark its presence in the living room.
After that, it’s one big rumble. It could take quite a shuffle just keeping up with the an arena of entertainment software in which art, music, football, architecture and everything else seem to be coalescing in ways ever-harder to imagine.
This article first appeared in The Financial Express, at