Friday, July 31, 2009

Microsoft and Yahoo -– together at last! Oh well... should Google be scared?

Given below is a comment from Ovum on the Yahoo-Microsoft deal.

While a lot of noise has been made about Microsoft's Bing, I personally don't feel that it is such a great search engine. I've tried searching for various things several times, and haven't been really impressed. All those add-ons, etc. are of little help, if I as a user am not satisfied with the results. Am sure that this is a rule of thumb that applies equally to every other user.

So, I don't really know how Yahoo stands to gain from this deal, or whether Google should be scared!

What's interesting is that, earlier, it was Microsoft that everyone wanted to beat! Then Google happened, and well, left Yahoo behind in the search engine space. And, then, it has taken on Microsoft as well in certain areas!

Now, the wheel has turned a full circle -- the two erstwhile competitors -- Yahoo and Microsoft -- have joined hands to take on the might of Google. Remains to be seen whether two are better than one (Ek se bhaley do!) ;)

What I also don't quite really enjoy is the idea of having Yahoo! Mail, which I've been using since 1997, to be part of Hotmail or something else. Perhaps, time for me to give up those Yahoo! IDs forever! Oh well...

Nevertheless, it is up to the end users -- like you and me -- who search for stuff on the Internet to decide who would go on to lead! Enjoy this Ovum comment!!

Comment from Mike Davis, senior analyst at Ovum

It was a long time coming
UK: Microsoft’s original bid for Yahoo back in January 2008 made the most popular Internet destination in the world worth $47.5 billion. The offer was rejected by then CEO Jerry Yang, resulting in Microsoft walking away from the table.

Yang then attempted to tie up Yahoo with Google and use that company’s search technology. However, that deal fell at the regulatory hurdle. Yang’s subsequent departure and the drop in quarterly earnings resulted in the layoff of 5 percent of Yahoo’s workforce in April 2009 and showed that new CEO Carol Bartz had to do something.

When Microsoft’s new search engine Bing was released in June, with technologies gained from the FAST and Powerset acquisitions, outgunning Yahoo seach capabilities, Bartz knew that that something had to be dramatic.

Microsoft should be happy; Google should be a bit worried
Under the terms of the agreement (and still subject to regulatory approval on both sides of the Atlantic), Yahoo gets to use Microsoft’s Bing search engine rather than its own, and Microsoft gets to pay Yahoo 88 percent of search revenues arising from Yahoo sites for five years -– but of course Microsoft also gets to keep $47.5 billion in the bank.

Microsoft gains exclusive licence to Yahoo’s search technologies, which Microsoft will be free to integrate into its own. It also gains access to all of Yahoo’s long-standing and loyal customers –- this author has trusted and relied upon Yahoo! Mail for over ten years –- and Yahoo’s self-serve advertising will migrate to Microsoft AdCenter. Basically, both companies are playing to their core competencies: Microsoft to the technology and Yahoo to its domain knowledge in advertising and media.

As Ovum has previously stated, Bing is not a ‘Google killer’. However, with the addition of Yahoo’s customer base and its targeting of higher-yield advertising, the new so-called ‘decision engine’ should start to give Google a serious run for its money, and provide better competition on price for prospective advertisers.

Furthermore, as Ovum has previously described, the now bitter rivalry between Google and Microsoft should ensure that improvements to the functionality and usability of the respective search engines will continue apace.

Nothing will happen tomorrow -– certainly not in Asia
Even if it gains regulatory approval, Yahoo’s use of Bing will not start until 2010 –- and then on a geographical basis, with the priority being the US and then Europe.

This will give Baidu, the strong Chinese Internet search provider, and Naver, the most popular player in South Korea, plenty of opportunities to reinforce and expand their positions in that geography. Given the potential size of that market, this could be a missed opportunity.

Yahoo and its shareholders appear to be the losers
While the deal is cited as boosting Yahoo’s operating income by $500 million and reducing costs by $200 million, the company’s shares are currently trading at only half the value offered by Microsoft in January 2008, and fell a further 10 percent after this announcement.

This does give Yahoo’s CEO Carol Bartz a period of time and some money to develop the organisation into its vision of being the world’s “largest online media company”.

However, 10 years is a very long time in the true market that is the Internet, and the use of Bing will not start until early 2010. Microsoft, or others, might still take the opportunity to buy the former Internet search leader at a marked-down price in the near future if Bartz cannot deliver that vision.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is the PR industry challenged by social media?

I came across a very interesting discussion on LinkedIn, titled: A Tale Of PR And Social Media. Apparently, the message is: for many PR agencies, working or even grasping social media is a nightmare.

So, is the PR industry really challenged by social media? Perhaps, yes!

Can it overcome this challenge? Of course!

Business social media, or even social media, surely helps speaking in the language your target audience appreciates and understands.

However, it seems that PR folks haven't really come to terms with all of this. The PR industry should realize that bombarding press releases to bloggers don't help at all and neither do requests to write about specific companies and their initiatives.

In fact, I haven't even seen PR take help of bloggers and other social media platforms immensely.

What I did find some PR folks doing was to try and send media invitations over some social media networks, or even open some specific page for a particular company and then send requests to join that page or group!

Maybe, these will work in the short run, but definitely not in the long run. Friends in the PR, that's definitely not going to help you meet your needs!

On a personal note, I sometimes get tired of PR folks asking me for leads so they can make new clients. I have helped a few in the past, but that's when I used to be part of the media.

Well, would such PR folks pay me -- if I did provide solid leads? No, they would not! And well, would PR agencies share their client details with me? No, unless, I have a particular story to write, which would feature that company, and well, am part of a big publishing house.

A lot of PR folks and even companies get in touch with me daily with some request or the other. However, the moment I speak about some payment, I receive mixed responses. Perhaps, they all are not ready yet to pay bloggers since we are all used to content being available free. However, this free thing won't stay for long... :)

This is also a reason why bloggers like to avoid PR firms and probably, even some companies, for that matter! Why publicize someone when that person getting publicity won't even pay you? Fair enough!

If you also notice, some of the best content is available on blogs. That's the reason why companies are now having bloggers on their payrolls, or have independent blogs! Not only is it cheaper to host content, you are also assured of real quality content from top-notch bloggers.

I'd like to highlight a case here, and this one is not from me, but from a well known blogger covering DAC 2009.

Why are we doing this?
We want to reach out to the press/bloggers at DAC, but not with a traditional press conference. Rather than discuss new product announcements, etc., we’d rather discuss design trends and have a lively debate about what they mean!

A panelist discusses a point of view on the topic for three minutes (and no more). No slides, but strong opinions are solicited. We then open the floor to the bloggers for a spirited discussion.

Wow! I am really elated to even read this! Wonder when we can have such events or blogfests here in India!

Well, how many PR firms, or even companies, would be bold enough and like to do such a thing? Both of them should try to find a win-win situation where they can make full use of social media and bloggers, and also help bloggers make some money too!

I feel that a huge opportunity is out there for companies, PR, bloggers, etc.

So many well known bloggers have their own tweets...those can be made use of so successfully! Why, even placing a Twitter or Facebook link on a print magazine or newspaper would help immensely! :)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Google finds my electronics blog a spam blog!

What an interesting thing to happen!

As usual, I was adding press releases to this particular blog, which only focuses on electronics. The moment I published a post and returned to the dashboard, I get this message -- This blog has been locked due to possible Blogger Terms of Service violations. You may not publish new posts until your blog is reviewed and unlocked. This blog will be deleted within 20 days unless you request a review.

Well, immediately, I sent off a blog unlock review request. On clicking that page, I found this message -- Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. (What's a spam blog?) Since you're an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerely apologize for this false positive.

Brilliant! When and whom did I spam? I don't send out newsletters. And these releases are for my personal consumption, so that I may keep up with what's happening in the electronics industry.

So, how is it a spam blog? Can someone help?

I recently wrote a blog post about a bloggers' survey, where I had indicated that perhaps, it is time that I should close down all of my other blogs -- which I recently started to host all of those press releases that I get bombarded with.

Seriously, after this 'spam blog' thing, I am greatly tempted to do so! Maybe, I should also look at other blogging platforms in future.

P.S.: I must thank Google for taking very quick action and taking my electronics blog off my spam blog within hours of my request. Thanks again!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Can't wait to use Google Chrome OS!

Yesterday, or rather, the day before, there was an announcement on Google's Blog -- Introducing the Google Chrome OS!

This is such pleasant news, especially for folks like me who try out new things all the time! At least, we will have an option against Microsoft Windows, for starters! What I do know is: it is too early to even predict how the Google Chrome OS will overtake or beat the Microsoft OS. Nevertheless, we all will have a choice!

I've been a long-time user of the Google Chrome browser, and that's really light and fast. It is expected that the new Google Chrome OS will be equally light and fast!

According to the blog, the Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. That is really smart thinking! Going open source, perhaps, even better.

Just yesterday, I was visiting the Croma electronic store browsing the various netbooks on display. It won't be that long when netbooks with Google Chrome OS will be available -- by H2-2010, as per Google. Even better, the Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 and ARM chips. Some really very serious thought seems to have gone into this project!

I am also a user of Open Office, along with MS Office. Wonder when will we see a Google Chrome Office! Nevertheless, I just can't wait to get my hands on the Google Chrome OS!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Union Budget 2009: Reactions from Indian IT industry

Several friends in the PR community have very kindly shared some of the comments made by leading captains of the Indian IT industry. Thanks a lot to all those good friends in the Indian PR community. Some of the budget reactions are given below for readers:

Ajai Chowdhry, CEO and Chairman, HCL Infosystems
Overall, this budget is good for the IT sector with certain facets that are encouraging for the sector. However, the ICT industry was looking for more support from the government. We had recommended a 100 percent depreciation on financing of IT equipment, which was not included.

On taxation aspect, the excise/CVD exemption is unclear as it was not stated whether VAT is included in this or not. The government has also put a huge focus on R&D and it is good to see continuity of fiscal stimuli by the government. Various projects and schemes announced by Govt, will require increased role of IT, for example -- the UID project. It is critical now to implement these projects at the earliest.

Other encouraging measures include the ‘Mission in Education through ICT’ which has been substantially increased to Rs.900 crore and the provision for setting up and up-gradation of Polytechnics under the Skill Development Mission enhanced to Rs. 495 crore. More and More should be done to give an impetus to ICT in education and literacy. It was also discouraging to see that the extension of the sunset clause was only for one year, which ideally should have been extended for a longer period.

Naresh Wadhwa, President and Country Manager, Cisco - India and SAARC
On the face of it, the budget put forth by the government is positive and focuses on inclusive development. It is encouraging, especially the fact that there is a thrust on infrastructure development, rural development, education and social welfare. The impetus to infrastructure development –- both urban and rural -- is a highly visible and much welcome component of this budget.

Leveraging technology as a tool for accountability, better governance, in business and administration is a step in the right direction. The allocation of funds for e-governance investment schemes like the unique identity number for every Indian and the formation of a Centralized Processing Centre (CPC) in Bengaluru to process electronically filed tax returns will enable effective delivery of public services through public private partnerships.

The increased budgetary provision for the scheme ‘Mission in Education through ICT’ will help take the benefits of IT to the grass roots in a critical sector like education.

The ‘Aam Aadmi’, i.e., the individual tax payer, will definitely appreciate the abolition of Fringe Benefit Tax and raised exemption limit for income tax.

S. Gopalakrishnan, CEO and Managing Director, Infosys Technologies
The Finance Minister has talked about the creation of 12 million jobs, reaching a growth rate of 9 percent and investment in infrastructure at the rate 9 percent of GDP. From a taxation perspective, increasing the income tax slabs, removal of the surcharge on personal income taxes and FBT stands out.

For the IT industry, extension of 10A/10B exemptions by one more year is a move that is more emotional than of actual benefit since most STPs would have come out of the tax holidays. The government’s focus on IT investment for enhanced governance is encouraging. The move to increase investment in higher education, especially in the IITs and NITs, will greatly benefit the industry in the medium and long term.

On the whole, directionally it is a good budget given the current economic situation. However, I would have liked to see a clear road map on how the FM would bring down the deficit from 6.8 percent to perhaps 3 percent. The second thing I would have liked to hear about is how he intends to enhance foreign direct investment.

Pramod Bhasin, Chairman and Som Mittal, President, NASSCOM
NASSCOM welcomes the budget proposals 2009-10 aimed at achieving the dual objective of enhancing inclusive growth in India and boosting economic activity in the country. The budget recognizes the contribution of the IT-BPO industry to India’s economic progress and has provided the necessary measures to boost the sector.

Som Mittal, President, NASSCOM said, "The Finance Minister’s decision to extend fiscal benefits available to the industry under Section 10A/10B for one year will help the industry mitigate the impact of the current economic environment and help India retain its competitiveness."

Pramod Bhasin, Chairman, NASSCOM said, "Many of the initiatives in this year’s budget recognize the role the IT BPO industry can play in promoting inclusive growth and creating substantial employment opportunities in the country.

"The industry will be keen to partner with the Government in expanding e-governance initiatives, including modernization of employment exchanges, the UIAD project, and smart cards for healthcare services so as to achieve enhanced governance. Increased capital outlays on the education and infrastructure sector will also address growth challenges that the country has faced."

The budget proposals also address NASSCOM’s recommendations relating to multiplicity of taxes on packaged software, creating a dispute resolution mechanism on transfer pricing, abolishing FBT and issues on service tax refund.

The combined effect of these proposals will facilitate the industry and its 2 million workforce to compete effectively and sustain India’s advantage. NASSCOM will continue to examine the fine print and seek clarifications as needed.

NASSCOM would like to express its gratitude to the Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and IT Minister Thiru A. Raja for their unstinted support.

R.Chandrasekaran, President and Managing Director, Global Delivery, Cognizant
The extension of the sunset clause on STPI by a year is welcome. While this will benefit the entire industry, it will specifically benefit the small and medium sized companies in the industry that needed this critical impetus for growth.This is also important in this turbulent global economic environment, in the context of emerging locations such as China, Philippines or Vietnam continuing to offer attractive tax incentives.

A substantially higher outlay for institutions of higher learning such as IITs and NITs should increase the R&D throughput and innovation quotient in a material way. At a time when industries are undergoing structural changes globally, it is innovation that can catalyze the next phase of growth. The support provided by way of subsidy for poor students pursuing higher education should provide the required impetus for enhancing the overall employable talent pool. The modernization of employment exchange under the PPP (private-public partnership) mode will help align skills with available employment opportunities at the national level and on a real time basis.

The abolition of fringe benefit tax is also welcome since the administrative hassle involved in FBT compliance was very high.

The clarity on transfer pricing assessments and the setting up of an independent dispute settlement mechanism is something that the industry sought. That the Finance Minister has announced an industry-specific safe-harbour provision will be notified, will help in resolving assessment issues relating to transfer pricing.