Features Interviews

Tanmay Bakshi at 12, A Prodigy who not only Codes, but Inspires.

Last week at the IBM developer Summit, I had a chance to chat with a young champ called Tanmay Bakshi. Tanmay is 12 year old and he is the world’s youngest IBM Watson Programmer. He isn’t just a software developer but also an Author, Keynote Speaker and a Honorary IBM Cloud Advisor. Tanmay had his first iOS app, tTables, accepted by Apple when he was just 9 years old. Let us read Tanmay Bakshi’s Interview.

What got Tanmay to Technology and Coding?

He started coding when he was 5 years old. I was amazed when I heard him say that; For a moment, I couldn’t even remember, what I was doing at 5. Today, Kids have great access to Technology and Gadgets. When groomed well, it empowers you to do something super awesome!

Like it does for many of us, Technology excites Tanmay as well. He didn’t just stop at being amazed, but took a step to learn and create something which is phenomenal. At first, he was super excited to first see his name on screen and whatever he types on screen. It was just a magic for him.

He couldn’t stop laughing while he explained about how he helped fix his teacher’s computer in his senior kindergarten.

His first app, tTables was primarily designed for children: You answer multiplication questions and, depending on your knowledge, you hear applause or the ominous buzzing of bees.

Tanmay says, Swift is his most favourite. Scripting languages aren’t very powerful with Syntaxes. However, you end up using them because performance matters. Swift is a perfect mix of everything. You can either use it like a full fledge programming language or you can use it like a scripting language like Ruby or Python. Swift is even cross platform now and that gives it an edge among other programming languages at this moment.

How should Kids approach Programming?

According to Tanmay, Dedication and never give-up attitude is what matters than anything else. One has to solve problems and learn new things. Start with one language and others will be easy to pick up. Coding isn’t all that difficult, he says! Tanmay has also written a book called “Hello Swift!: iOS programming for kids and other beginners”.

This year’s Apple WWDC also saw the company showcasing Swift Playgrounds, an interactive app for iPad which helps kids and aspiring developers to learn Swift Programming easily through activities and games.

Tanmay Bakshi's Interview

What does Tanmay like to do?

While I asked, if he loved creating games or tools? His answer quite amazed me. He says – “I like making open source tool which can be useful for the developer community and also general public. Something like AskTanmay, where you get answers to questions asked and not just documents like Google does”.

This documentary on IBM Watson: Smartest Machine ever built influenced Tanmay on his research; and his tool, AskTanmay is a web based NLQA system built of IBM Watson’s Cognitive Capabilities in the NL Field.

Tanmay has learned most of the coding on his own, playing on his computer and online tutorials after school. Learning from Videos has definitely helped him and he believes in giving back to the community. He runs a YouTube channel which has over 89 videos on technology learning and he spends time with his subscribers to solve their problems related to programming, Watson, Maths and Science.

Role of Parents, How did they really help him?

Tanmay’s parents do encourage Tanmay’s ambitions and are a part of his efforts in problem solving. While many parents are worried about the screen time their children get, Puneet says – Tanmay isn’t using computers aimlessly; He has a motive and we would always support him for what he does. As a parent, you need to understand kids. They have open minds and lots of time. They can think fearlessly.

Tanmay-Bakshi-ParentsPuneet further added in – we adults have a fear of losing; whereas with kids, thats not the case. Tanmay doesn’t even care if his program is going to crash the computer. He just plays with his code and his machine. He loves doing that.

“Provide the right set of resources to your kids, and while you give, you also monitor if they are using it right. That’s a very important thing to do. If it is heading in the right direction, provide even more resources so that, they can excel in what they are doing”, says Puneet.

What next for Tanmay?

Tanmay is currently working with his mentors from IBM on creating various IoT enabled devices. He wants to continue making videos for his YouTube channel and build more and more applications. He also wants to write more books on Swift, Cognitive Computing, Machine Learning, IBM Watson and more. Tanmay is also a huge Amitabh Bachchan fan and hopes to get his book autographed by the legendary bollywood actor.

While we were having this conversation, his hand gestures and confidence was worth admiring. I wasn’t getting a feel of talking to a kid anymore. All I could see was an App inventor sitting beside me, explaining about technology and how it is going to touch lives. Yes, I was inspired as well.

Hope you enjoyed reading Tanmay Bakshi’s interview. Let us know your thoughts.

Features Interviews

Meet Shankar Parasaram, Head of India Operations at Nextbit

Last week, San Francisco based Nextbit launched its flagship smartphone ‘Robin’ in India. Priced at INR 19999, the phone was available for pre-order on Flipkart. The smartphone brings in an unique cloud-based smart storage feature. This Feature enables Robin to free up space by backing up apps and photos to the cloud ahead of time. The smart storage feature combines 32 GB local storage and 100 GB cloud storage.

Today, we chat with Shankar Parasaram, the head of India operations at Nextbit to know more about the company and their plans in India.


Hello Shankar. Thanks for taking time to talk with us. Good to see you in Bangalore. Could you give us an introduction about you and your background?

Basically, I am from Chennai, I did my masters from IISc Bangalore, that was way back 1993-1997. Then I worked for a year in Bangalore for Digital Equipment Corporation where we were making all the UNIX servers, then I moved to Chennai and worked at HCL for few years and then, I went to the US, worked there for a few companies; later,  I joined QualComm in early 2004 at San Diego.

While I was at Qualcomm, I was initially working in the audio team; and then I did some work on the graphics side. I moved to Android, where I managed android software on snapdragon chipsets. I then started managing the Android OS transitions from Kitkat to Lollipop and Lillipop to MarshMallow. I led the worldwide team for QualComm. There were teams in San Diego and Hyderabad. That is what, I was doing recently.

I have done a lot of work with Qualcomm in Hyderabad – established a few teams, in 2005 when they started here. I used to manage them from the US. Work used to involve a lot of early morning-late night calls and traveling. Later, I joined Nextbit in September last year.

Thats an interesting journey.  Can you share the story of Nextbit with us? About the company and how did it shape up?

Nextbit was founded by Tom Moss and Mike Chan. Tom is the business guy; Earlier, he was the business development lead for Android at Google and established all the business relationships. For a while he was also leading and managing the Google team in Japan. Mike Chan is the CTO. Mike worked in the android engineering team at Google, where he had done lot of work on power management.

After the initital days, Tom and Mike quit Google and started a company called 3LM – They were doing some sort of corporate security stuff on Android something similar to the “Android for work”. Motorola bought 3LM, and Google bought Motorola and they were back at Google. They felt that, they enjoyed work more in small companies than in bigger ones. By the time they came back to Google, the company was way bigger than how they left.

So they left Google again and started Nextbit. The initital goal of Nextbit was to advance Android OS. So they were doing a lot of development work, and making it easy for people to migrate from one android phone to another. One cool feature is Baton which is still available on PlayStore. The way it works is that, say, you have an Android Phone and a tablet. You’re playing a game on the phone, you should be able to migrate the game from the phone to the tablet without losing any of the context. So with a few gestures, you can move the game to the tablet and continue playing on the tablet. They also had few solutions to solve the storage challenges which was there in Android then, and some of them got licensed to the OEMs.

Probably, around end of 2014, they thought it would be better to have their own device,as that gives them the control; also helps them towards the goal of advancing android experience. Otherwise, you are always dependent on the OEM; you can develop whatever you want, but then you have to license it to the OEM and then the OEM has to use it without destroying the underlying idea behind the things. That was a challenge. Having their own device would make it easy for them to innovate on the OS side. And at the same time they, roped in Scott Croyle.

Scott is currently our Chief Product officer. Previously, he was a senior VP at HTC and he led the design aspects of HTC one M7 and M8. He is well known in the phone design world. He is the one that pioneered the Metal unibody design at HTC which is now being used by pretty much every OEM right now. At HTC, Scott was also leading the visual design aspects for the HTC Sense UI. He is an industry design professional, but he was also leading the visual design.

And in addition to innovating on the OS, the other thought process they had was to change how the phone looks. If you look at the Android phones in the market today, every phone pretty much looks similar. There is nothing great that differentiates one phone from another. You have a phone in your hand, the other person can guess it to be probably a Motorola or a Samsung, or a OnePlus etc. They all look very similar. You can’t pin point and identify a phone and say, that’s a Motorola. Even if you take an iPhone, many other phones look like an iPhone now. There wasn’t much innovation happening on the design side of devices. People were taking a very tried and tested approach to design. So they wanted to create a phone that stands out, that is bold, has a fresh look design and solves some real world problems of phones running out of space. That’s how it all started and yeah, we have the Robin now.

Btw, Why the name Robin?

We had an internal code word for the phone. But then at some point, we had to start the marketing aspects of the phone and were looking for names. We wanted the phone to have a close to human name. A name that people can relate to. Not some random numbers or Sci-Fi names. We wanted something that has a life to it. A name that is easily pronounceable, people shouldn’t mispronounce it and if that gives a different meaning it is still a problem. Also, the name should be close to be gender neutral as possible. Thinking about all these constraints, the suggestion of Robin came up. It fitted all the criteria. You can take it as a bird or a person; this brings life to it. And in every geography, people would pronounce it similar.

What got your interest in NextBit? How did the move happen? Considering that you were working for a real big company.

That’s little bit interesting. Around June last year, I felt that, I have been in QualComm for a long time and I should start looking out. Qualcomm is a great company, it gives you lot of stability and even in the industry, it is still a king in the space of mobile processors. At the same time, things were getting a little boring for me. Being a big company, there are only few things that you could do. If you want to do something out of the box, you don’t have much options. I felt that, I should probably join a startup. Because, if I want to go for a big company, then there is no reason why I should leave Qualcomm. Its probably as good as it can get in any big company.

I started doing research, and somehow I stumbled upon Tom’s name in LinkedIn. That’s when I looked at his company – they were doing something in the android space, I felt good because I had something in Android. At that time, they hadn’t published on the website that, they were making a phone. They were working on the Android software stuffs like I described earlier. It sounded interesting and then I felt, there is a company which is doing some innovation in the android space, and probably that’s something I can contribute to. Later, I reached out to the company through a mutual friend, and then I got into a phone interview. They were very interested in my profile, they found it fitting because they were looking at someone to look at the Snapdragon and Android aspects.

So Mike was the android expert, he was spearheading all the innovation in the company. It was difficult for him to manage the product innovation and also look at the other aspects of smartphone development like understanding how Qualcomm works and with Foxcomm being our ODM, managing all that was getting difficult to Mike. So he was really looking for someone, who could help in managing all aspects of phone software, Foxconn and other 3rd party relationships that we have. So they found me to fit the bill really well.

At that time, they also had a challenge. They had started the development for Lollipop, and they knew that, they had to migrate to Marshmallow. I had managed the OS migration at Qualcomm as well, so that aspect also helped in being a right fit. So only in the first phone interview, I got to know that, NextBit were indeed looking at making a phone. I was very surprised that, with so many OEMs around, how does this small company have the guts to make a phone. But I had just started with my job search, I thought let’s go through the process and then see how it is.

I had a phone interview with Scott and Mike. Post that, they called me for an onsite interview at San Francisco. Scott spoke to me, He had a neat white box with some phone mock-ups in it. He wanted to show me the mock-ups but he was teasing around and talking about other stuff. I wasn’t paying any attention to what he was saying. I was just curious to see, how the phone looks. I was thinking, If the phone looks like any other phone in the market, I am out of here. He finally opened up the box and showed me the phone. Coincidentally, I was wearing a shirt of the same color that day.  The phone impressed me. I don’t really like curved edge phones. That’s been my preference. Even when I wanted to buy a car, I was quite clear to buy something that has a nice sharp design. When I saw the phone, I really liked it. Even if the edges were sharp, it was comfortable to hold it in the hand. It doesn’t hurt because of the softness to it. I liked it and felt, this is something I should try.

It’s little bit difficult to switch to a small company, coming from a big one, but I felt that, its now or never. If I don’t take the plunge into a startup company now, I would probably never do it. For me the biggest challenge was travelling from San Diego to San Francisco as my family is still in San Diego. Other than that, there is lot for me to do here, and way more than what I could’ve imagined. I am getting my hands into any technology that gets into the phone. Talking to partners, signing agreements, India Launch – the last 9 months have been the best in my career so far in terms of learning. Its been a real fun ride for me except for the fact that, I stay a lot away from my family these days. They are still in the US. A lot needs to happen before I move them here to India. Taking one step at a time.

I have a problem with the Android Device market today. They are primarily specs driven. Every company just places the tech spec card and a budget price to gain attention. What’s your thought on this? Do you think the timing was right for Robin in India?

I think the main problem is lack of choices. There are no real choices that differentiates in other aspects of the phone. People naturally gravitate towards spec oriented buy. For example, in Robin, the looks really standout. When that attracts people, the spec becomes secondary. So we need to create a differentiating factor outside of the specs.

At Robin, we don’t differentiate with other phones saying that phone has a 2GB RAM and we come with a 3GB one. We don’t speak about that. We emphasise about how our phone looks different, and how it is more beautiful and elegant. And when these kind of differentiating factors come out, the perspectives changes. There is a good enough hunger in the market, and there is a good enough market segment that values other things than specs. I think, people will start paying attention. Because, people are bored with what is there in market today – “Why this, why not that. If all are same, that has an extra GB of RAM, I will take that“. That will change when more options come out.


You definitely need to have good specs. If you don’t do that, no matter what experience you build it, its not going to show up. But you don’t have to micro-compare yourself with other’s specs, show your innovation. Even spec-wise, the 808 is a good processor. Even though we talk about Cloud, the phone still has a 32GB of onboard storage. 3 GB of RAM, 13MP/5MP camera, 5.2’ inch LCD, USB Type C, Finger print Sensor and dual front speakers. Of-course, 808 can’t compete with 820. It isn’t an old phone. I don’t think, we are late for this processor.

I like the design on your phone. To be honest, I even found the touch very impressive. Almost close to what an iPhone gives.

Thank you for the feedback. I am proud about that comparison. Apple creates incredible quality products. If you benchmark our phone with iPhone, its good in a way!

There has been a lot of reports online about Robin being a cloud phone; and with Bandwidth Speeds like what we have in India, would Cloud Storage be an ideal option that would encourage an user to go and buy a robin? What’s your take on this?

nextbit-storage-dashboardFirst of all, it’s a big misconception. We are looking at people like you to kind of help us dispel this wrong notion. To begin with Cloud (smart) Storage is completely optional. Like I said, the phone is a fully spec’ed phone – even if you don’t sign into the cloud storage, its as good as any other phone in the market.

The second aspect is that, the smart storage can be used completely on Wifi. There is no dependency on cellular bandwidth at all. Here is how it works – you buy the phone, you start using it normally; when you connect the phone to the wifi and power, it will start backing up your pictures and APKs on the cloud. The default configuration is that, the backup would run only when you are on Wifi and Power. As a user, you can configure it to not backup, backup only apps or pictures etc. Everything is configurable. If a user wants to backup using cellular data, he can still do that. So this backup happens from the day one.

6 months or 1 year down the lane, if you fill the phone with apps and pictures – the operating system will see that you’re running low on memory, and it would’ve also learnt about what apps pictures you haven’t used or seen in a while. Then when it needs to make a space for you, it will archive those applications and pictures that you have not used in the long time to the cloud. When the backup happens, it does on Wifi. Any application that is archived, will turn grey. A skeleton information is still maintained on the phone. Similarly, a lower resolution of a picture will be saved. You can still view it. When you pinch and zoom, it will start downloading the full sized image from the cloud. At that time of restore, you will have to be on a network. Its in your hands, you can choose to get that application via Mobile Data or Wifi.

For example, its like if you want to install an application, you are generally careful about it right? You may not install an application via Mobile Data all the times. You would choose either a home or an office Wifi Network to do so. Its pretty similar to it.

How is India in Nextbit’s Radar. What’s your plans? Where would the first office be?

We first need to sell phones, satisfy our customers and support them. We know that, we need to have an office here in India. It would mostly be Bangalore or Hyderabad. We don’t even have a legal entity here here. I am also in conversations with few customer support organizations for product support. That is a very important part of selling phones and we understand that. For the immediate time-frame, it would be a combination of online and email support. Flipkart will also provide phone support to begin with. We also have a community to help people when they have issues. We are certainly looking at walk-in customer support as well.

To give you an idea, we may be looking at some roles like Engineering support, Community Management, Social Media etc. But that’s two steps away. Our first priority is to get a legal entity here.

How has the registrations on Flipkart been so far? Can you share any details on the sales?

The initial demand was beyond our expectation and all the phones were sold out. The pre-order started last Thursday and ran out of stock. We are expecting the next batch to come in within a week. I am sorry, I can’t disclose the numbers at this moment.

Alright Shankar, It’s was great talking to you. All the very best for Nexbit in India. Hope to see you guys explore and innovate to make Android device market a better place.

Thanks Vijay, we are definitely working towards it. It was nice talking to you. Will look forward to read your review.

Interviews IT News, Tech Information and Analysis

OnePlus: Story behind the Company, Strategy and Directions

I am one of the biggest fans of OnePlus One. Its been over 2 months I have been using the phone now and I have been in total love with it. I was really keen to know more about the company and how could they make a product which is so premium and yet affordable. Last week, we had the first OnePlus fan meetup in India; and I did request Carl Pei, one of the founding members of the company for an interview and he obliged.

We did talk quite a few stuffs about the company, its strategy and the directions ahead. Read on to know more.

Thought of OnePlus and the Culture of the company:

Like most of the startups incubate in a cafe, this bunch of people were sitting in a cafe talking about smartphones and experiences. Though they were working on android, most of them were using an iPhone. When they started discussing on why they didn’t opt for an Android Phone, the reasons were many – Bad build quality, Software not intuitive and a lot of bloatware which comes along. That’s when they saw an opportunity to make a device with a good build quality, attention to detail and a beautiful design which was missing in the market. Price was never a point of focus then. They just wanted to build a great android device which they themselves would use.

They announced the company, and then started to work on their first product and thats OnePlus One. While getting to the prototype, they realized, they can create a flagship killer device at a much affordable price. That started the journey for them.

The culture of the company is dynamic and its changing on a daily basis. The entire company has been growing really quick. In the beginning, they did have some challenges hiring people; as people were reluctant to join a brand new company. So they had to be liberal on who they hire. But now-a-days, since the launch of the device and the traction, they are getting a lot more qualified hires like people who have left high-paid positions to join a startup and build this culture together. They are slowly evolving into a more formalized structure where the roles are more clear-cut so they have people responsible for business, research, product management and support.

Market Research:

For the OnePlus One, it was largely done through the community. Even before the company had announced the phone, they made it public on their forums about the idea to make a best possible phone together. They technically started discussing on the forums, on the kind of screen which people prefer, What battery would they like, etc. They used it as an indicator; and did not just take the user requests and put into a phone because, sometimes user requests do conflict with each other.

Quoting Henry Ford, Carl said, “If you asked the users what they want, they would want a faster horse”. So we used the user requests as inputs and then put the data points into designing this phone. So the primary reason for the phone was the fans, community.

He also spoke about the contest Phone Smash, which they did early this year, where participants, would signup to smash their current flagship phone. If they got chosen, they could smash it on YouTube, and in exchange they could buy a OnePlus One at 1 USD. They saw a lot of people, who were ready to smash their Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC M8 and other phones which were much expensive than OnePlus One. So this contest gave them confidence that, OnePlus One was not just the price, but the product itself is more premium than the competition.

Why Cyanogen:

OnePlus team had a clear focus on making a phone which runs a very intuitive software with no bloatware and a fast OS. The default choice for them was Cyanogen. With Cyanogen, they are staying pretty close to the stock android experience, which was designed for ease of access. Of Course, they officially support 5 other ROMs as well.

Some of the users did face issues with Apps throwing an error message. This happened because, In the beginning the Whatsapp team didn’t know that, this device existed. They just looked at the software, and since the software was CM, they thought it was a custom ROM. But in this case, CM is actually the stock ROM on the OnePlus One. They are fixing this now.

Further, as this device gets more traction, more and more developers would know about it and make appropriate changes to the authenticating mechanism in their applications.

Invite Model and Pre-Order System:

Carl did admit, hardware involves a lot of risk; and one needs to tie a lot of capital to the inventory, and ensure to sell them. Especially, given their business model, where they have no margin. They have no where to absorb these costs, if the supply and demand projection goes wrong.

OnePlus had announced it back in July, that they may consider moving away from the invite system soon. However,  they are still working on the system. They originally hoped to roll out in September, but looks like there is going to be a delay in it, as they didn’t have enough time to make it happen due to the software platform limitations.

They are quite certain, they will face problems when they come in to India later this year. However, they will continue to have the invite method at least to begin with in the market. That way, the fans are 100% sure that, anyone who has an invite can be sure to purchase and receive the product. Later they may try a pre-order model.  This is far better than registering a product online and waiting to hit the Buy Now button which lasts for just few seconds.

In terms of sales, they have already sold 10x times more than what they had initially predicted for this year. Also, OnePlus has a 15 day return policy in the US. When asked about the return rates of the phones, Carl said and I quote,

“The return rate is really really low. It’s somewhere between 0.1 to 0.3 % is what I would say. Its a no question asked Return. To be honest, its pretty hard to get the phone; so once you get it, you don’t want to return it.”

Biggest Concern:

With the buzz the product is getting in the global market, I really thought production rate was their biggest concern. However, when I spoke about the same to Carl, he explained that production speed was not their main bottleneck now. Thier primary focus is to get their operations and customer support teams right. They in fact are not producing at their full capacity at this point. They infact think, If you sell too many phones, and your support staff is not enough, users will have to wait for long time when they have issues with their phone. So they are currently scaling other areas of the company and not just production.

Revenue Generation Model:

According to me, the price seems to be a killer deal. You are getting a premium build and specs at a much affordable price. Infact, if we are doing a tear down on the Phone, I think, we will still come close to what it is priced now. On discussion, I realized, the costs are higher than the established players because their volumes are so low. Generally, Big Players get a much better deal on components due to the volumes. However, they are currently not focused on the price. Like every startup, they are mainly concerned in getting their name out to the people and get them to use OnePlus products. So in that sense, you first create a good product and gain the user base; and when you have users, its going to be easy to figure out the revenue model later.

OnePlus, when compared to other Chinese Companies.

On the global side of the OnePlus the company does not really see themselves as a chinese company. if you look at the team composition, 1/3rd of them are North Americans, 1/3rd are from Europe, and only a third are chinese. So from the very first day, when they announced the brand, they made an effort to talk on their global forums and believed in having no cultural barrier to our fans and users. Also regardless of the region, they always have someone to talk to their fans and that’s why they felt an importance to set up a local team here in India, before even launching the product in the market. Although they have started in China, they are clear enough to build a global company. That’s really impressive.

Carl further said, a lot of people put us in the same basket as a lot of other chinese companies. but I think, as we grow along over the years and execute our strategies, people will see and understand the differentiation.

Workforce in India

In the beginning its going to be about Customer Support, Operations, and Handling fans. Those are the three primary things, they spoke about. By handling fans, they mean, communicating with them on the social media, meeting them in real life, hosting fan gatherings etc.

At some point of time, we can expect some more detailed technical work to be done in India. At least in early stages, we can see some scope on device repairs; which are technical in nature. They are looking at different locations for the first OnePlus office in India, and are still listing on the Pros and Cons. A part of which will also depend on who they actually hire as the General Manager and which partner they decide to work with for product support. The support team is going to include both, someone in-house and also vendors to help us with Support in different regions. At least the majority of the users will have a service center closer to them, when fans need help.

Bamboo Covers:

The bamboo covers have been on the OnePlus store for a while now listed as Coming Soon. It’s just beautifully crafted wood.



When asked about the availability of these covers, Carl said, the OnePlus One covers fit very snugly and its very hard to remove it. The sandstone black and bamboo covers were made in different factories. Although they were made with the same 3D model, the exact fitting ended to be slightly different. When you replace the back-panel with the bamboo cover and press really hard, one could hear some squeaky noise. That wasn’t impressive and hence, they did not want to deliver a faulty product to their fans. They are now re-designing the bamboo covers so that, it does not have this noise. They did feel bad about delaying this much, but at the same time, they didn’t wanted to ship a squeaky product in the market.

This was indeed a smart move, considering that, there are companies looking around every single step of OnePlus. The moment, you fail in one it would get magnified.

OnePlus Two:

Edit: Aug 2015 – The company announced the OnePlus 2. Read the review here.

They are pretty much planning one flagship killer phone a year. The company still doesn’t have any pre-defined model or specification details for the OnePlus Two. Like mentioned earlier, they are going to start talking to people on their forums for the next device, OnePlus Two and get user requests and feedback. So everyone who is interested can join the discussion and share their requests. In the end, they want to make the best choice for the consumer. I would like a IR booster, some options for MHL, and a replaceable battery. The display can be even more richer as well.

Well, honestly, I love the way how this company give attention to details w.r.t hardware and design. It has been top-notch when compared to other big players. I really wish, Google talks to them to have OnePlus make their next range of Nexus phones. That would be a great deal if it happens.

Roadmaps for Tablets and other Wearables:

The company is not keen in getting into the tablet business at this point of time. They feel that, the nexus 7 is a pretty solid device and is priced really well. and so is iPad. They do not see a fit in this segment as its very competitive and there isn’t lot of margins in this. So , their primary focus is on doing Smartphones as of now. However, they do believe, the smartphones are only a starting point, if OnePlus One and Two can be really successful, they will evaluate other form factors starting next year.


It was already 22:30 IST by then and It wasn’t good on my part to take more of his time. He had an early morning flight back as well. I just ended the conversation on a personal note, asking which three people in the industry does he look up to. The first obvious name he took was Steve Jobs. Obviously, I think, he has made a really big impact in the entire consumer electronics industry. Creating a good product needs a great product person and Apple has fantastic product managers, and this entire product focuses DNA comes down from their founder Steve Jobs. A lot of us should really thank him for starting the smartphone revolution. Two other people whom he named was Jeff Bezos from Amazon for his long term thinking & customer centric focus; and Elon Musk for his big bets which always benefit the human race.

He said, some day, maybe OnePlus can also have higher ambitions in making a smartphone which are top-notch. I think, they are already heading in the right direction. I really look forward to see them grow and create much bigger impact in the smartphone industry. As we all know, this is just the beginning and I wish them all the very best.

…and yes, Welcome to India, OnePlus.

General Interviews IT News, Tech Information and Analysis

Interview with David Kirkpatrick, Author – “The Facebook Effect”

This article is the continuation of my converation with David Kirkpatrick. In the earlier article, we spoke about the Importance of Cloud Services. If you are interested in that area, I would recommend you read that conversation here

For Folks who have landed directly on this page – Last week I was there at the NASSCOM Infrastructure Management Summit here in Bangalore, where I was invited to have a chat with David Kirkpatrick in the evening.

David KirpatrickDavid Kirkpatrick – David for many years was the senior editor for Internet and technology at Fortune magazine. While at Fortune, he wrote cover stories about Apple, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Sun, and numerous other technology subjects. He created the Fortune’s Brainstorm conference series. More recently, he organized the Techonomy conference on the centrality of technology innovation for all human activity. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and appears frequently on television, radio, and the Internet as an expert on technology. He is also the author of the book – “The Facebook Effect: The inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World”.

Over to the interview –

Vijay – I was a big fan of Orkut, when I was out of college. I found a lot of my friends there. I used to go to their scrapbook, write comments, join communities, discuss in forums etc.., and then there was this paradigm shift for me towards Facebook. After being here for a while, I really do not want to get back to Orkut now. I guess, that’s the case with quite a few people. Why do you think, Facebook was able to create this kind of an Impact on a user? What are the reasons for its success to reach 50 million users in such a short span?

David – There is a whole lot of answers to that. I think the single biggest answer, why Facebook has stolen the thunder from Orkut, MySpace, Friendster and other services is that, it’s more a technologically sophisticated service and evolves itself as a product more rapidly. It’s only the paranoid survive approach. Andy Grove is the one who said that and I think Zuckerberg absolutely operates that way. He really believes that, if Facebook remains static for very long, someone is going to come up its tail-pipe and eat it. Orkut despite been owned by Google has not had that kind of aggressive evolving mentality. I think, even though people complain about the changes on Facebook, the quality of the Facebook product has remained the state of the art from the beginning. I mean, today it’s most seen in the platform, which now extends to the entire internet. Orkut does not have anything like that. Facebook says that, its ‘Facebook Connect’ and ‘Open Graph API’ – has been implemented in over a million sites. That’s after that, it was just launched in April, 5 months later, it’s over a million sites. The other sites are trying to copy those things, but Facebook is just more sophisticated as a product and leverages as a platform.

Vijay – I agree on it David. In fact, even I have a Facebook widget on my weblog at the end of every article and It really works. Well, I have been hearing Zuckerberg more times from your mouth; can you talk about him a little? How does he work? Is he planning for an IPO for Facebook?

David – Fundamentally, beside all the platform benefits which Facebook offers, I think all of that flows from Zuckerberg’s basic mindset, and he has the absolute control of the Facebook. He has an absolute dictatorial control, unlike any other social networking company. His mindset has always been that, we want to make Facebook for everybody, everybody on the planet. Everything he does and all of his decisions are based around that long term vision. “Make it to reach more people and making it more stable, how to market it and how to position it and virally extend it”. I don’t think, any other social network has that kind of passion and intensity about growth. And because of that, they have this software centricity, this simplicity of interface design and all these other features.  The fact that, Zuckerberg has been so dubious about advertising has kept Facebook feeling relatively non-commercial and it’s simple. It’s kept its interface quite clean., and that’s something he believes in very deeply.  The Google Success was built on top of the most bare bone interface you’ve ever seen, and Facebook came along with somewhat similar approach, with far more complex architecture in reality but still kept it look simpler. Kept the ads to the bare minimum, and what i think that did is, not only made it look cool and clean, it made people feel that, it could be for anyone and everyone. So it didn’t have the feeling of just being for kids, it was so neutral that, anyone felt that they can use it and that has been the key to its growth. I think, he is also kind of acknowledging the idea of an IPO, in order to give the employees more liquidity….but not right away, may be in 2012.

Vijay – What would be the business model for Facebook? Where and how do you think, they can make money from?

David – I think the long term business model for Facebook will arise from distributing ads as a part of the platform, as a part of the Facebook connect social API, and open Graph APIs. When you think about it, Today in your blog, you have a like button, there is no reason why, Facebook couldn’t come to you and say, “Hey we know the people, who are coming to your site and liking the contents, we know their gender, their geographic location, why not you let us sell ads for you and target them to those people with a percentage revenue sharing model?”,  With around a million sites having implemented it, it would be almost impossible for you to refuse this offer. You might now probably use Google AdSense or any ad network; I think, Facebook ads might be more effective, especially when you have the like button or a fan page widget. That to me is the biggest business opportunity which they haven’t even started to take the advantage of, they haven’t even done it yet.

Vijay – I am really amazed of the way, how Twitter and Facebook has pushed all the companies towards social Media. I am not aware of any company now, which doesn’t have a Twitter handle or a Facebook page.  Their interaction with the people has just changed.  The feedback mechanism and support is getting too easy these days. It’s nice to see Nestle and other folks, interact to people via their fan page.

David – Oh yeah. Indeed, Nestle got into some kinda trouble earlier, until they realized and came back soft on their Facebook page. So I agree. This is changing the way, people think about business and communications.

Vijay – I see that, we can have more than one pages for the same brand or product, are you aware of any process that, Facebook makes it a Verified Page? Pretty much similar to Twitter Verified profiles.

David – I am not aware on any process of that kind as of now. However, you can always go to the company’s website and see what link they point to! Also, Facebook only approves canonical URLs for pages which has an embed code or widget added to a website/blog. So that could be one way to find the right one. I will post this feedback to them.

Vijay – Sometimes, a feature which comes in very handy and helpful for me is Facebook Chat. Though it’s not a highly sophisticated chat engine, it does the job for me. Now, are my chats stored somewhere? Few days back there were some issue regarding the Blackberry chat option, being used for terrorist activities. What is the Facebook’s Standpoint on this, as I don’t see these chats saved somewhere?

David – Well, Facebook is not saving the chat history and is not making it available. However If police has a proper legal channel to ask, as the platform and architecture is more extensive and open for changes, Facebook can give that data to the Police and Government if needed. But they don’t give routine access to Government as it is contrary to the company’s general law. But they must re-think about it, if Zuckerberg targets on entering China.

Vijay – What do you think, would be a nice feature to add on Facebook?

David – Friendgroup is something which Facebook needs. Sometimes, you tend to add people whom you meet. But, you want to see updates only from few. For example,   More about families and friends, and less about people whom you added.., just because you didn’t wanted to tell a no. Also this group must be easily manageable. Kavitha also popped in with an idea of having a dislike or thumbs-down option for the people who put nonsense status message would be a nice addition.  at least it would cut a lot of crap!

Vijay – What do you think if Twitter comes up with Promotional Tweets as one of their business model? Would that work?

David – That could be offensive, we don’t perceive twitter to be a kind of place where we get unsolicited message. I think, it should be done with caution and I think they would. The features which they just announced last week are really nice. It needs to be much more a web portal. Like I said earlier, it also needs to introduce a group control. One of the reason, i don’t follow many people is that, most of the interesting things gets lost when you follow many people. I think, twitter is for the people who want to sell something. May be a product, idea or something else.., because, you are not a person to them…you are just a follower! The marketing folks have started to realize how hard it is to reach the people, because you tweet a message, doesn’t mean your followers read it. However the story is different in Facebook, where there are algorithmic tools, which gets your page view analytics and when you spend more time on a page or a person.., you tend to see them on your newsfeed, which absolutely makes sense.

Vijay – What is the message you would give to the developers and readers?

David – Well, do not expect the Facebook to stop growing. Make the best use of the Facebook and Open Graph APIs, and instead of just having a fan-page create apps which can consume the information and spread it to the people. That way, you nourish the platform and get the best of it for you and your users.

Vijay – I read that you spent over 2 years researching about Facebook, while writing your book. How did you manage to do that?  and., what would a reader get out of your book “The Facebook Effect”?

David – I had the full cooperation of Facebook’s key executives in researching this fascinating history of the company and its impact on our lives. This book will explain how Facebook was created, why it has flourished, and where it is going next. Its successes and missteps, and gives readers the most complete assessment anywhere of founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the central figure in the company’s remarkable ascent. How did a nineteen-year-old Harvard student create a company that has transformed the Internet and how did he grow it to its current enormous size.  It will talk about a company that has changed social life in the United States and elsewhere, a company that has become a ubiquitous presence in marketing, altering politics, business, and even our sense of our own identity. This is the Facebook Effect. This is the Facebook story that can be found nowhere else.

Vijay – Great to hear that. I am sure, everyone will be really eager to read this book. Thanks for your time David, It was great talking to you and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Have a great stay in India and hope to see you again soon.

David – I liked the conversation too. I also got to talk about something else for a change.  You could see, I can think about the other stuffs too. It also makes me feel that, i know other things in technology and not just Facebook.  I would love to come here to India again. Thank you for your questions and this interview!

If you want to buy David’s book, you can buy the same from Amazon here. You would also be interested in joining the Official Fan Page of “The Facebook Effect”. It was a great experience for me to interview him. Do let me know your comments and thoughts. Of-course, the biggest takeaways for me would be the knowledge gained through discussion and this picture which I clicked with him.

David and Vijay

General Interviews IT News, Tech Information and Analysis

Interview with David Kirkpatrick on Importance of Cloud Services

Hi Folks, last week I was there at the NASSCOM Infrastructure Management Summit here in Bangalore, where I was invited to have a chat with David Kirkpatrick in the evening.

This was a jam packed event filled with the presence of all the top notch players in the industry. A quick summary of the event “When it comes to offshore outsourcing, India already has a success story to tell in the application development and maintenance (ADM) space. But another niche competency that has followed a silent march through the years is remote infrastructure management (RIM). Indian vendors, integrated solution biggies as well as niche RIM providers, have been managing critical or core IT systems that include datacenter and network management, end-user desktop services and security for global customers remotely. This has given the space its well-deserved traction, but given the untapped opportunity, it’s time for players to come together and raise the bar a bit. There were few other questions that the NASSCOM Infrastructure Management Summit 2010, held at Bangalore on September 15 and 16, addressed and also establishing the business-vendor connect!”

David KirpatrickWell, for people who have not heard about David Kirkpatrick, David for many years was the senior editor for Internet and technology at Fortune magazine. While at Fortune, he wrote cover stories about Apple, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Sun, and numerous other technology subjects. He created the Fortune’s Brainstorm conference series. More recently, he organized the Techonomy conference on the centrality of technology innovation for all human activity. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and appears frequently on television, radio, and the Internet as an expert on technology. He is also the author of the book – “The Facebook Effect: The inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World”.

This blog post has been broken into two parts, the first part would talk on Cloud Offerings and the second one would be on Facebook & his book.  Let’s begin the interview now –

Vijay – Hi David, it’s great to meet you here today at the NASSCOM conference and thanks for taking time for talking to me. I really appreciate this. Being an author and a technology editor, what has driven you so far?

David – It has a lot to do with the quality of the product, right thing at the right time, and it has to do a lot with the management which I am interested in – I am pretty much interested in the ecosystem in which the technology is constantly shifting, and players never stay still. Successful players will have to constantly change. Those who don’t change instantly start to fail. Intersection of the personalities, product, corporate strategy, corporate structure and technology itself – I tried to take the big picture of the holistic view of the industry and the industrial competition and sometimes it gets me holding to a product that’s definitely interesting. In the case of Facebook, what got me interesting was the meeting which I had with Zuckerberg, because I had dismissed before I meeting him. He impressed me and that’s when I started seriously thinking about it. Before Facebook, I used to write a lot on Microsoft, IBM, Intel and other players.

Vijay – What’s your take on Consumerization of technology? What is the importance of mobiles and Downloadable Apps mentality?

David – I think it’s more of the enterpriza’tion adaptation of technology these days, because everything is coming from the consumer these days. The consumer is in the driving seat for virtually everything that happens.  Even all the stuff around cloud which is talked in this tech conference today is driven by the consumers. The first big cloud service, Hotmail and Yahoo mail has been from the consumers. Even Google mail is the cloud and it has set a benchmark to all others. The companies are now realizing that it makes a lot of sense to move to cloud.  Its lot more efficient and companies are not in support to spend all that money in maintaining those email servers. Well, Consumerization has turned technology into a much interesting industry, since the consumer has taken over. I think the mobile device revolution which was in amidst of is the best example of how that has happened right now!  The iPhone is still relatively esoteric from the standpoint of the global market, but I just think that.., the desire of the individuals, to have the access of everything, everywhere is the single most defining trend in technology. So in that sense, the Consumerization is the only story really..! One of the reason, enterprises is taking about remote infrastructure and cloud services are that Employees have already got used to it in the personal lives. People are just acclimated now. With the mobile devices revolution and the apps around it, the range of capabilities which you can get is just spectacular. Even today in the conference, people were talking about how we bring a sort of downloadable apps mentality into the enterprise? So there is almost nothing in today’s Enterprise computing which did not start from Consumers.

Consumerization of IT

Image credit –

Vijay – Well, one thing which always pops-up in my mind whenever I hear about Cloud email services is “security”.  Though we understand and follow the principles on what goes into an email, I still do not find it safe to save my CEO’s emails in the Google Data Center. What is your thoughts on the security model?

David – Well, I think security is one important point of discussion wherever I speak on Cloud. Google has not had that much of a problem from the standpoint of consumers; the biggest problem which Google had was when the central architectural design of Google security was stolen by some Chinese. It’s the same security model which is used to protect corporate data and their own emails, which was also used for Gmail or anything else. I don’t know if that has caused any hard problems to the individual user, who knows..! But my own opinion is security threats are so genuine and wide spread these days that you cannot count anything on the internet to be secure and the biggest question hanging over the internet is whether it can be made secure for the long term or whether is it something intrinsically porous. Definitely, a lot of people are worried about that. Now that, we have the whole world knit together in one big network, the worst actors are all targeting that network and some of them are smart even though they are evil. It always an arms race with security between protection and assault; The security can bring down anything. Well, it amazes me that, Facebook has never had a major outage ever.. and that’s unfortunately only a matter of time.., but they do seem to have a good security from the stand point of operational and performance integrity. There is no other thing which was down, even Gmail was down, indeed even Google search was down, due to it. Summing up, the whole world is waiting for that solution which would solve this important need of security.

Vijay – The emphasis on cloud is being given a lot these days by the product companies, where they want to move their existing infrastructure services to the cloud; what do you think would be the business impact to countries like India and others who provide infrastructure services to product companies back in US and Europe?

CloudDavid – I don’t think India has a slam dunk, when it comes to cloud services, because I think… the cloud services in general are less labor intensive; therefore India’s primary advantage such as labor costs  does not matter much. Plus, one of the speakers today said.., there is a sort of stay at home mentality, emerging in the IT industry especially in the US.., if you see in Ohio, there is a state law from prohibiting outsourcing to other countries. That’s the mentality in which we are in. Actually cloud can accommodate that political environment, better than traditional outsourcing because you can save a lot of money using a domestic sited cloud service. In fact you also have latency issues where proximity does matter, because most of the times, you want to have the servers as close to the users as you can. so that’s something which you need to think. May be, India can just operate them in US and Europe, owned by an Indian company. There is no reason, why one shouldn’t do it.  I think, one problem which India or any country which provide services might face is on innovation of services. I don’t know if there are any services that have been invented here. There are services which pretty much, you can maintain here. There is no reason whatsoever, why India couldn’t do it themselves. Is it a failure of marketing, failure of innovation, failure of imagination…? I don’t know. But I would say, when it comes to cloud, operating the infrastructure is not that big of an opportunity, the real opportunity is inventing the infrastructure that has a global extensibility. So far, I have not seen any evidence that India or any other country is moving into that dimension, I would be really glad if that happens!

Vijay – How is Facebook operating and looking at Cloud?

David – Facebook is like one of the big cloud services today. It’s interesting that it is just entirely operated out of US. It basically has 2 data-centers – One in East coast and one in the West Coast of US, and the rest of the international services is done by partners like Akamai etc. They buy a lot of capacity constantly, which helps them not to think about having datacenters around the world even though they have this incredible scale of usage all over the world. I think, this is only an interim approach. Facebook should eventually build datacenters of their own elsewhere. At one point, they were planning… but they delayed it because of the economic downturn, and I don’t know what their plans are now. If I was in the outsourcing Infrastructure business, Facebook would be my top target company just because of the scale of the operation and the inevitable need for being global. Because this issue of proximity will go in reverse in US, as their use is primarily outside the US.  Network and its usage are piling up as well, which means the number of users are growing every day!

Vijay – I agree with your David, this morning I was reading a stat which said that, the demographics of the most popular social networking sites are changing quickly and, the team at Flowtown has done a great job of compiling the latest statistics about Facebook users and social network usage in general. The average age of a Facebook user is 38 years old. Even more interesting is that 61% of Facebook users are now older than 38 — the company has come a long way since first launching exclusively to an audience of college students! – Read more on Flowtown’s Blog

The Part 2 of this conversion covers more on Facebook and his book “The Facebook Effect: The inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World”.

One of the Good Takeaways of the interview was this picture, which I clicked with him –

David and Vijay