Google advertising on Yahoo?

Well, not exactly, but what I saw drew in a few chuckles :))

Was just going through my Yahoo mail and noticed this BIG banner ad from Buy.com encouraging the use of Google Checkout for a 20 dollar discount! Interestingly, Google had more space on the ad than Buy.com and it almost looked like a Google ad :P. Google with it's deep pockets (almost endless now) is encouraging people to use it's Checkout product and is pitching it as a competitor to Paypal (Paypal is owned by eBay and 80% of it's transactions come from eBay). To really compete with Paypal, Google would probably have to work on their turf which I am sure eBay will try to avoid as much as possible. But, if Google Checkout becomes so madly prevalent that it becomes the de-facto standard of payment on internet, every merchant would have to provide it as a payment option. So, get ready to see Visa, Mastercard, PayPal & GoogleCheckout under card options in the future..With the rate at which GC is being adopted, we are not very far from that day.
For now, take a look at this ad and chuckle :)


DRM again!

MPAA Lobbying for Home Theater Regulations : The MPAA is lobbying congress to push through a new bill that would make unauthorized home theaters illegal. The group feels that all theaters should be sanctioned, whether they be commercial settings or at home meaning that you can no longer rent/buy a DVD and watch it on their home theater system along with your friends. You would have to pay a nominal tax to have that privilege....

For a moment, this news from BBspot almost sounded true. I realised a little later that BBspot is a satirical website that goes by "News for you, satire for smart people" :). Well, I really liked the satire here, but I think they are not far away from the truth !! MPAA, RIAA imposing all kinds of restrictions under the name of copyright protection, under the guise of protecting the works of an artist and many other such philanthropic objectives. Agreed, ripping is bad, distributing ripped stuff even worse, but restricting a user who has paid for the content is the worst. How else can you explain expiry period for a downloaded song (Eg:- napster allows u to listen to your music as long as you have an active account with them!), how else would you explain restrictions because devices have different DRM codes (songs downloaded from iTunes play only on the iPod and on no other devices)..What's makes it funny is the fact that Microsoft's Zune is incompatible with it's own "Play for Sure" media. How wild can it get?

Is DRM really necessary? That's a question on atleast a million lips right now? I feel it is necessary to an extent, but the way it is set up currectly, it is targeting the wrong set of people with a bag of restrictions. Restricting people who really buy music is not right and encouraging incompatibility of media between players makes it a nightmare..If I have 4 different players, I wouldn't want to purchase the same song 4 times! And think about it, it really makes it very difficult for any new media player to come into the market..If current consumers had to shift to a new player, they would have to purchase all their current music again which I don't think is right and sometimes it is just not viable. DRM is discouraging competition, acting against an open market..iPods are great, but I think DRM is giving them a larger lease of life...

And people who are "really" misusing media are finding more and more ways to get their music. They will get it no matter what! Your target segment is mainly teenage-20-30s crowd and most of them are rebellious when restrictions are forced upon them...So, in such a scenario, will all this really work? Maybe, MPAA/RIAA has to target the root problem here which is ..hummmm....higher prices..Maybe somebody should do a thorough research and find an optimum price and a good price model for music and movies and we will possibly see the end of this!


New Lamborghini

I am in peak holiday mood now and have given away all my eyeballs to it(2 2b presize, isn't this how kids write these days! Acronyms are a part and parcel of life now, not limited to software any longer :). They are used so much that simple spellings have become difficult to remember).

Coming back to the case in point, there is a new Lamborghini in town...How about calling it a LG? Ugghh, that removes all class from it! This new Lamborghini is affordable and it can actually be driven without a license. Believe that? I am sure you don't..but if I tell you that this new Lamborghini is actually a laptop and not a car, you will and you will be disappointed too. Lamborghini and laptops? What a combination! Ferrari did something like that sometime back, don't know if it was widely accepted..but to think that the world's sportiest car(almost the costliest?) is getting into computers is just not acceptable to me..and their ads on Buy.tv are even more preposterous..

The ad says that this new Lamb embraces all the qualities of a Lamborghini that include speed (dual core processor), power (2 GB RAM) and looks (same colors, sleek finish including the Lamborghini signature at the back of the laptop) and reliability (good warranty). Every laptop worth it's salt offers this today, nothing special in this Lamb. Maybe some racy design with sleek features like a touch panel screen, outstanding audio, video quality (how about bose integrating some speakers into a laptop..speakers from it's stable seem to be getting smaller and smaller every day) can possibly give it "that" distinction..

Oops, in my excitement to share this with you, I forgot to mention some important details to you. This Lamb is called a ASUS Yellow Lamborghini VX1 and it is currently priced at around $2500. Take a look at ad here.
Lamb computer ad


Ask Google.com or Google Ask.com

Remember AskJeeves.com, our good search engine from yesteryears that we had all abandoned when Google entered the search engine fray? Remember all those queries that you had entered and the results page with almost nothing relevant in the first page?

Well, Interactive Corp (IAC) acquired it sometime last year and it has been on a constant innovation drive. What it now has is infact amazing! Has it carried nothing from AskJeeves???...nah, it still has the red color and the butler elegance. Jeeves, the butler is no longer visible, but the whole website smells of his elegance. Infact, it is so good and so relevant that I think it might/will provide some very stiff competition to our revolutionary Google. For me, it hasn't replaced Google yet, but it has become my alternative search engine. Old habits die hard. I don't if my google habit will ever die. Ask.com is a search engine with character, an ample display of which is seen right on the first page.

Ask.com : Google.com :: A-4 bond paper : Normal paper.
Basic look and feel comparison is as simple as that. Differences just start here..On the first page, Ask.com displays a list of things that you could do with search and it even allows you to edit, re-order the list and all this very, very elegantly. Search results are comparable and sometimes better than Google.com. I actually found something on Ask.com that I couldn't on Google!! I really cannot state that more solidly because my comparisons are really not that thorough. There are a few nice things Ask does with the results. It "categorizes" them and places the categories to the right side of the page. Picking a category carries your search forward, but makes it more focussed. An obvious advantage is that you wouldn't have to spend tons and tons of time gleaning through the results if you can follow categories!! Apart from categorizing, Ask.com gives you page previews by just pointing your mouse to the links displayed in the results. Very neat and very useful!! I would never have to open a junk website again! Try it, you will definitely like it..Add just 3 ads to a page and it looks even more compelling!!

Ask.com also has a mobile search engine@ m.ask.com and it is equally rich and elegant and the focus is again on saving time for the customer with an elegant and easy search interface. Unlike other mobile search engine products, ask.com has all it's offerings in one place and takes the user to each offering by the click of a number! Navigation has been made easy and the whole thing is a pleasure to use..

Ask.com has also resorted to some very clever advertising campaigns and can be seen almost all over the web, has made interesting tie-ups and is just surging forward. I particularly liked the way it retorted back to the Google campaign where Google opposed that the use of "google" as a verb would actually dilute it's brand equity!! Ask.com wanted people to ask ask, ask google, but not Ask google ;)
Ask.com campaign

Anyways, enough about me bragging on Ask's, try it out for yourself and you will be singing the same tune. Competition is always good. It ignites creativity!!


Clever annotations

Amsterdam-based Fleck, which is scheduled to launch today, is another new web annotation tool. I found this tool and the concept very interesting, useful and very powerful. We use annotations to generate configuration files and helper classes in our applications here, but using annotations to collaborate like this is truly innovative. Collaborating on the web makes it extremely useful.
I can already think about a few uses with my limited vision..I am sure it's uses are not limited to this...I would use this for

1) Writing notes and comments to webpages, articles I read similar to what I do with the articles that I print.
2) I could exchange this article and my comments with my peers and get some feedback on it. Having your comments and feedback right next to the line that you are talking about makes it very very convenient.
3) Elicit customer/marketing feedback on web GUIs with their comments right next to text/control they are talking about. Think about it...how many times when we had to comment, haven't we said "that grey button on the left of the textarea next to the text that says blah blah blah", to exactly tell a designer/developer what we are talking about. With this tool, you can put in a note exactly where you would want to and not bother about mentioning any other details!
4) Customers leaving trails on your blogs

Fleck doesn’t necessarily require you to install a browser extension to start adding annotations to web pages - you can start adding notes by entering a URL on the site itself, or just drag and drop a bookmarklet into your browser. Once you start Flecking, you can add notes and bullet points to a page, save it to Fleck, blog it or share it via email. You don’t even need to create an account. Fleck almost seems to have saved them right into your browser :).

Take a look at this..You will know what I am talking about.

My Google Flecked Page

For more information on Fleck, check out Fleck.com. I believe they are going to make a formal product launch today.


India moves forward

For those of you that still think that India has a long way to go as far as using the Internet as a business model, braze yourself for this! We are doing a lot already. Infact in some cases, much more than some companies in the US! Long strides have been made in various sectors ..

Google,Yahoo and a bunch of other companies see India as a market with a lot of potential. Yahoo already has around 800 employees in India including a couple of VPs who moved to Bangalore from Sunnyvale, California. They already have tools, features specific to the Indian market!

Companies, both indigenous and external are all trying to establish a whole new world on the internet. Attempts are being made not only to enable businesses to run/use the internet, but also to establish internet core as the core of their business. Take a look at some of the below..

FlightRaja And Hutch Launch Mobile Booking Via SMS. You can book your tickets by just sending an SMS. Agents call you back with the booked tickets! Speaking of convenience..this surely is it! I am not aware of any product here in the US that can do it for us. Travel sector has been booming in India and we already have numerous travel agencies on the web. Some that I can think of are yaatra.com, makemytrip.com, cleartrip.com, travelguru.com..

Mobile is surely hot. If FlightRaja is doing something for travel, Reliance Communications is planning to launch a mobile video streaming service. The company has made strategic alliance with UTStarcom for this offering.Reliance plans to make money by tying up with event organisers and the like by broadcasting events on the mobile phone.

Media is another hot topic. Rajshri Productions is one of the largest content owners in the film and entertainment business in India, and Rajshri.com is their newly launched broadband video portal Rajshri.com and are showing their latest movie "Vivah" online. They aim to be the industry platform for video. With the vast repertoire of content and their relationships with other content providers, they are set for success.

We have Gaming portals like Zapak.com (with Indian games(versions of games) like saamp seedi :)), social networking sites like yaari.com, job-networking sites like connexions.com, video sharing websites like apnatube and more..

Every attempt to expand the scope of internet is being accompanied/followed by an attempt to expand infrastructure that it will run on. Goa To Connect The Entire State With High-Speed Broadband By End-2007
State government has signed an agreement with United Telecom Ltd for setting up Goa Broadband Network at a cost of Rs 150 crore. It will connect the state, district and taluka headquarters with 10Gbps bandwidth. Each taluka headquarters will be connected to every village panchayat with 1Gbps bandwidth, while every village panchayat will be connected to homes with 2 to 100 Mbps bandwidth depending on demand by the household. Dial-up forgotten, broadband embraced and lines that are only getting faster. Combine all this with a population of 1 billion+ (with an average age far less than what it is in the US) and you will dollaraa, dollaraa, dollaraaa :)


Live Maps Rock!

Microsoft came up with it's own version of "Google Earth". They call it "Virtual Earth 3D". Visuals are rich, colorful and aLIVE. Going through the streets in Las Vegas almost made me feel that I was a part of a video game!

Users can choose between the two-dimensional views, aerial or birds-eye views, and the three-dimensional interface. They can use the existing map services, such as business listings, white pages, traffic information and driving directions, on any of the interfaces. Virtual Earth 3D includes fixtures/virtual billboards that are not present in the real world. Companies can air (earth) their advertisements here. This is a new way of making the internet a visually enriching experience for the user and advertising through it. This virtual billboard functionality comes from Massive, an in-game advertising company that, in May, Microsoft said it was acquiring. Massive technology enables designers to render a graphic on top of any surface in a 3D environment.

Aerial view

Watch NewYork at a distance

Watch NewYork up close

As a user, I love a few things about it already. Virtual Earth 3D has a click wheel capability (similar to the iPod wheel) which one can use to zoom-in, zoom-out, circle around a building. I had fun going around the Pyramid in Vegas :). I looked around the New York building as you can see from the pictures. The visuals are so rich that I can almost read/see what's going on the billboards. I love the virtual billboards (inline advertising as I see it) concept, which makes me feel that internet can be used to advertise in a less jarring fashion without affecting the experience for a user. Google and YouTube must be thinking on the same lines..Advertising without annoying users.

Unfortunately, just as every silver lining has a cloud (assuming a reflexive relationship between a cloud and a silver lining), there are a few deficiencies with Virtual Earth 3D. The biggest one being that it can be used only from IE6/IE7 and on
Win XP SP2! Mozilla, Firefox, Opera, Linux, Mac users will surely be disappointed with this. Their browser integration is very good, but memory consumption is real bad. Virtual Earth 3D was running at 474MB! when I last checked my task manager. Right now, it can be used only for a few cities (around 28 I think) which is quite a small set. But again, it's just been a day. It will only get better.

Road View

Microsoft gets all it's map information from Navteq and since Google does the same, we might soon end up seeing Google Earth do something similar or even better. For now, all glory goes to Microsoft! Need more information, just go to live.com and try it out for yourself.


Amazon Clickriver

There is so much money to make in the online advertising business, that everybody wants a share of it. Amazon has been doing all kinds of things lately...Apart from launching unarguably, the most successful e-commerce website, it added an affliate program that gave the capability for affiliates big/small to sell their merchandise through Amazon.com. It even got into the business of making portals (Target, ToysRus etc), and then went about leasing out the enormous hardware that it had created(while building it's big e-store), apart from making it's software re-usable, all through a set of very well-defined webservices. This move has decreased entry cash barriers for start-ups as they no longer need to "invest" in technology, hardware or waste their time worrying about these frills during the initial phases plan inception, execution. Amazon reduces their head-aches by giving them a pay per usage model that can just scale, scale and scale!

The latest by Amazon has been it's entry into the Google Adwords area with it's Clickriver product allowing businesses to place sponsored links on Amazon.com.. There are already a few players here, Yahoo with Panama, Ask.com with it's ad program, Google with Adwords etc.

With Clickriver, a wide range of complementary products and services can be advertised at the precise moment that someone is interested -- as they shop, browse, and search on Amazon.com. For example, ads from banks can display on pages for finance and investment books, such as on the "Road to Wealth" product page. Ads from photo printing services can display next to search results for cameras and tripods. Ads for hotels, car rentals and travel agencies can display on pages for travel books, sunglasses, suitcases, portable DVD players and other travel accessories sold on Amazon.com. Clickriver is driven by Amazon's A9 search engine.

A9 would compete with Google not on web search, where Google has a strong advantage, but on advertising, where Amazon has its massive catalog and experience selling products to leverage. Looks like that is exactly what A9 is doing..
This whole online search, shopping, advertising business seems so vibrant!