featured, Technology

Qwiki – The Information Experience

How many of us have come across an interesting subject or are researching, looking for a short quick introduction to the topic but have found lots and lots of technical or detailed information? Sure Wikipedia helps but that is only text. Most of the time, related images or videos need to be searched for separately. Now there is a way to look up information in a very well presented manner along with images and videos, Qwiki.

A lot of us prefer a brief explanation or description of a topic, expecting something similar to a teacher’s response to our query. Qwiki aims to deliver exactly that. And my first impressions of it are extremely positive.

Qwiki is simple to use with a standardised search box at the top and a data presenter underneath. Just like Wikipedia or Google or any other search engine, users can simple type in the reference term of their interest and a list of close and exact matches is shown. Selecting a topic presents you with a short “video” with the most important and relevant information. Usually this video (presentation) is under a minute long. This presentation is accompanied by an audio description. Currently the audio description is a standard text-to-speech style voice, although I have hopes of it improving as the technology matures.

The data they claim is small (2 million terms) yet it has topics ranging from cities to music to current affairs to physics, engineering and history. Being the geek that I am, my first search was “BJT”, the Bipolar Junction Transistor, which returned very good description of the component and in the related topics even presented some detailed explanation of how it works. I say detailed but it was again about 40seconds of information describing the basics of it. Another random search was done on the Higgs Boson particle. It presented a quick history and that the search is going on at CERN. It had related information on W & Z Bosons.

This was like one of my childhood fantasies from Star Trek where the captain speaks to the computer asking “Computer, what is a BJT?” and the computer responding with a brief description. This is an exciting technology.

Qwiki presents various visual media for reference dependant upon the reference term. For a location search, it presents a map in its presentation which is clickable and the user is able to explore it. For maps Qwiki uses embedded Google Maps and for videos related to the term, it presents YouTube videos. The presentation of these various media is cleverly packaged in its presentation. It will show a map or a video (video usually playing muted with commentary) and the user can just click it while the presentation is playing and the video or the map will replace the presentation. Simply closing the media returns you to the presentation. At the end of the presentation, apart from showing related topics, it presents links to Wikipedia, Google, fotopedia and YouTube.

This new manner of data presentation is efficient but imagine this on a mobile device like you smartphone. A smartphone is already able to access the web, Qwiki on a smartphone would, in my opinion, revolutionise data lookup. Combine this with voice recognition technology present in most if not all smartphones, Qwiki will be a create storm in the search space on mobile platforms. The team at Qwiki have promised a mobile version, I eagerly await it.

Although the creators say that this is an alpha release, there is a lot of content and so far it has performed without a hitch for me. Now since this is an early release technology, some of you *may* expect some hiccups in performance or may not find the subject of your interest but bear with it. It is developing fast and improving, expect it to get even better.

Source: Qwiki

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featured, Technology

TAT @ RIM

You may be aware RIM acquired TAT (The Astonishing Tribe) infamous for its creativity with user interfaces. When Blackberry OS6 for phones came out, there was expectation that TAT would contribute to a newly designed OS and interface. Then later the Blackberry PlayBook was announced.

Initially, there wasn’t any sign of TAT contributing a lot to the PlayBook’s interface. Now Blackberry has released a demoed a ScrapBook app, designed by TAT, at MWC 2011. The app looks slick. Performs well and the interface looks excellent, easy to use and visual feedback imitates real life behaviour. This app was built entirely using HTML5 and CSS web technologies and goes to show the power of the web and the Playbook. But more importantly, the four finger gestures. Be sure to check it out.

Scrapbook wasn’t the only app demoed. Aura which is a demo of the Webworks Platform. The aim was to show the power and flexibility of the platform. What is impressive about Aura is that it was built-in only 1 week using Adobe Air. It seems to utilise some powerful graphics and the accelerometer.

Both examples are impressive. You can download the WebWorks SDK here.

Source: Inside Blackberry (1), (2)

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Business, featured

Elevator Pitch

An Elevator pitch is described as a summary of you, your business and your proposal. While this being true, there is more to it. It is about gaining the trust of your audience in your ability to run your business successfully and more importantly gaining interest.

If you meet a potential investor, your pitch should aim to gain the investor’s interest in your business and proposal. If it a skilled person, the aim would be gain his/her interest in your activity and project. Depending on your audience, the pitch needs to be adapted.

Remember, an elevator pitch isn’t a pitch to actually gain investment or gain a resource, its about gaining and generating interest within the appropriate circles. Its supposed to be quick, 1 minute or two at the max. So keep it short, punchy, and jargon free.

I hope you got some tips. Feel free to post your questions.

Source: BNet.

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Business, featured

NOKIA’s Future

Engadget recently interviewed Stephen Elop, Nokia’s CEO. It is interesting to find out about Nokia’s focus certainly the migration from Symbian to Windows Phone 7 but their continued development with MeeGo as the future industry disruption.

Follow the source link to see the interview.

Source: Engadget

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Business, featured

Microsoft sending Trojan Horse in to Nokia?

Recently at Mobile World Congress, Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop was delivering a speech, was asked a very short yet controversial question. “Are you a trojan horse?” Elop quickly defended himself and denied the possibility.

It was common knowledge that Elop had been at Microsoft prior to joining Nokia in September 2010. Four months later he pulls in Microsoft with Windows Phone 7 and scraps most of Nokia’s software efforts. I am not suggesting whether this was an intentional move or not but simply stating what occurred.

Before this journalist questioned Elop, there was little or none discussion on this. But only a day later, Nokia hires Microsoft’s Corporate VP of US Enterprise & Partner Group, Chris Weber (left) to become President of Nokia Inc USA and head of Markets in North America.

Surprising move? A strategy by Microsoft? You decide.

Source: TechCrunch, Gizmodo.

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Business

Aptitude

There are a lot of clever people out there topping some of the top exams and institutions. But what makes them different from anyone else? Its the ability to think in a different manner to others. The level of verbal and logical ability is higher. Often the simplest and most obvious explanations are the correct ones (Occam’s Razor). People generally tend to over think things. People perceive every question and problem as having some elaborate complex solution.

I recently got forwarded an email with some simple questions but with some simple answers. Some of these are from the IAS/UPSC examinations. (Indian Administrative Services/Union Public Service Commission).

Q. How can you drop a raw egg onto a concrete floor without cracking it?
A. Concrete floors are very hard to crack! (UPSC Topper)

Q. If it took eight men ten hours to build a wall, how long would it take four men to build it?
A. No time at all it is already built. (UPSC 23rd Rank Opted for IFS)

Q. If you had three apples and four oranges in one hand and four apples and three oranges in the other hand, what would you have?
A. Very large hands. (Good one) (UPSC 11 Rank Opted for IPS)

Q. How can you lift an elephant with one hand?
A. you will never find an elephant with one hand. (UPSC Rank 14 Opted for IES)

Q. How can a man go eight days without sleep?
A. No Probs, He sleeps at night. (UPSC IAS Rank 98)

Q. If you throw a red stone into the blue sea what it will become?
A. It will Wet or Sink as simple as that. (UPSC IAS Rank 2)

Q. What looks like half apple ?
A: The other half. (UPSC – IAS Topper )

Q. What can you never eat for breakfast?
A: Dinner.

Q. Bay of Bengal is in which state?
A: Liquid (UPSC 33 Rank)

One of the most well known examples is from a University of Oxford Philosophy exam from 1987.

Q: What is courage? (50 marks)

Usually, this kind of question would require pages and pages of essay writing with evidence from source material, quotes and analytical reasoning. However, this particular candidate wrote the following, demonstrating exactly what the question was asking.

A: This is courage.

These kinds of simple yet powerful answers are not restricted to examinations, but roll over into interviews. Have a look at the example below: (interview for admission to IIM, Indian Institute of Management)

Interviewer said “I shall either ask you ten easy questions or one really difficult question. Think well before you make up your mind!”

The boy thought for a while and said, “my choice is one really difficult question.”

“Well, good luck to you, you have made your own choice! Now tell me this. What comes first, Day or Night?”
The boy was jolted into reality as his admission depends on the correctness of his answer, but he thought for a while and said, “It’s
the DAY sir!”

“How?” the interviewer asked.
“Sorry sir, you promised me that you will not ask me a SECOND difficult question!”

This kind of on the spot thinking and being aware of the situation and reacting accordingly is what sets these toppers apart from anyone else.

An ending note and Thought for the day:

Technical Skill is mastery of complexity, while Creativity is master of presence of mind.

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Business, featured

NOKIA + MICROSOFT = MICROKIA

Elop Ballmer

On February 11th, 2011, Nokia announced that it will be entering a strategic partnership with one of the Software industry’s giants, Microsoft. This may have been great news for Microsoft but it certainly was a shock and in some cases disappointment to fans and employees of Nokia.

Lets not forget, early in February Nokia announced that it would undergo some major organisational changes. Nokia’s CEO took a stance by sending an internal memo to all employees saying how and why Nokia is dropping through the ranks of a phone manufacturer.

Its obvious to anyone who is aware of the market that Nokia does not have a single handset in the market that stands out. Well, it may stand out but for all the wrong reasons.

I remember back in 2000 and the early years of the last decade, Nokia’s handsets were the only one anyone wanted. Nokia was a symbol for reliability, standard and cutting edge in mobile phones. I remember my first handset, a Nokia 3310. I used to call it the brick. It was and felt solid and durable. And best of all Snake, the most loved mobile phone game at the time. The screen was black and white LCD although it seemed like dot matrix 84 x 48 pixels. The menu was clean, easy to use and understand, just intuitive. Now of course those phones did not have features like a colour screen, expandable memory or even Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, but those Nokia phones were a world class standard.

As technology developed, microchips got more and more powerful, handsets started packing more and more power, displays got denser with huge number of colours. New players entered the market later in the decade. Right about now, Nokia had various handsets with different features video, gaming, cameras, Bluetooth, all the flash. But some how it felt like they couldn’t get the right mix. Symbian evolved to have applications and lots more features.

Players like Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG were jumping on the wagon and producing some great phones. I particularly remember Sony Ericsson K800i, one of the best camera phones of the time. A 3.12MP camera with auto-focus and more importantly a Xenon flash. Delivered great results with speed too. Even now less than handful of phones have Xenon Flashes. But the hardware now a days is similar. They all have similar performances; the only differentiator now is the software.

Software is where Nokia failed, I believe. Symbian was open sourced in hope for better development by the community with all the features that are required. That was shut down soon after. Its venture with Maemo in 2005 up till recently was aimed as a new OS for smartphones and tablets. It was a Linux based OS but didn’t pick up any momentum until Maemo 5 was released on the N900. This was one of the flagship products for Nokia in 2009. You could say at this point in time, Nokia really was experimenting. The development didn’t really go any further. MeeGo was another attempt at a Linux platform for handsets by Nokia, which also unfortunately was unsuccessful. All other Nokias were released with its Symbian S60 OS.

Nokia didn’t really understand the touchscreen experience. Although the OS features were good and features were on par with most of the competitors (minus Apple) the user experience was below par. It was felt that the experience felt clunky, if u can say that for soft keys on a touchscreen. the UI was not optimised for the touchscreen.

Apple and Google then entered the scene. Apple with the iPhone and Google with its Android OS. Both these companies had no previous experience with mobile handsets. I think this made it easier for them to enter the smartphone market. They didn’t have the trouble and complexity of transition from traditional handsets to touchscreen smart handsets.

Microsoft on the other hand, realised that its Windows Mobile OS was not really a mobile OS. With its tiny taskbar and start button, using it felt like using Windows on a extremely tiny screen where everything was cramped together. Although it had great features especially a very mature development environment with hundreds of applications, it was unusual without a stylus and fairy high resolution touchscreen.

Microsoft’s mobile division started from scratch and developed Windows Phone 7 only 2 years ago and released to the public in 2010. Still based on Windows CE, it radically changed its UI and market. It looked great, has a tiled interface and some great apps like the Office app. Unfortunately for Microsoft, only a couple of handset manufacturers adopted it, while Android was still the first choice.

Back to Nokia now. Nokia says 2011 & 2012 are going to be transitional years. I think its better late than never, but Nokia needed to take a radical step early on. Although WP7 is a promising OS, adopting it so late won’t result in a recovery.

In announcing its partnership with Microsoft. it has completely scrapped Symbian and MeeGo upsetting most of its employees. Around 1500 employees walked out in protest for slashing Symbian. Taking Nokia in this new direction is going be a bit of a challenge. In some ways, it is like starting all over again. Although it will have to keep some staff dedicated to Symbian and MeeGo for support purposes of its current ecosystem. Morale will be at an all time low and adopting a completely new OS will be a challenge.

Let’s say Nokia make this transition to Windows Phone 7 by 2013, how are they going to differentiate themselves? Learning the new business will take time in which its output will be low and the market will still be racing ahead, taking on board new technologies. First Nokia need to catch-up with the market and the technology, then it needs to innovate on top to stand out and sell. However, standing out is now even more difficult as Nokia is now dependant on Microsoft for its software and thus potentially its USP. What is under Nokia’s control is the hardware and UI for WP7. Microsoft has said explicitly that Nokia will be able to customise almost anything in WP7 but Nokia’s CEO says it won’t be changing everything.

Two huge players in a strategic alliance should result in a great product. I wait to see the results.

Sources: Engadget, Youtube, Nokia, Microsoft

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