Google


City as platform

Posted by on February 24, 2018  /  0 Comments

We’ve been writing about smart cities for a while. Many of the plans for the design of these complex organisms have fallen short of expectations. But now some are taking a new approach: Sidewalk thinks of smart cities as being rather like smartphones. It sees itself as a platform provider responsible for offering basic tools (from software that identifies available parking spots to location-based services monitoring the exact position of delivery robots), much as Google does with its smartphone operating system, Android. Details are still under discussion, but Sidewalk plans to let third parties access the data and technologies, just as developers can use Google’s and Apple’s software tools to craft apps.
Google’s core competence is search. But the millions now joining the Internet in India and similar countries do not appear to value search as much as the early adopters, according to company research. So Google is offering other products specifically designed for the Indian market, according to NYT: Many of the new Indian users have basic phones, which make it difficult for them to run certain apps or to store big files like videos. Data plans are limited, and despite a telecom price war that has cut the price of a megabyte of data by as much as 97 percent, some customers are unable to afford more data when they run out. Google’s Android software and apps like the Chrome browser, Maps and YouTube are often included with smartphones.
Serious efforts are being made in India to move people away from cash. When I was changing money at Chennai airport for a two-day visit, they foisted a debit card on me. But tourists are a minuscule part of the Indian market. It appears there will be a lot of innovation and competition in that space: The launch of Tez sees Google compete with payment services already available from mobile operators, traditional finance providers, e-Commerce companies and mobile wallet specialist firms including Paytm – which so far has 200 million users. Additionally, chat apps with huge user-bases are at various stages of entering the fray.
In the first iteration, the benefits of MVNOs were marginal. Different brand, perhaps better customer service . . But it appears Google is offering a new model where your handset would jump to the best available signal. Google purchases capacity on multiple networks making this possible.
As is common with people in this line of business, all the emphasis is on technology, not on business case. Mundane stuff like revenue streams, customer care, etc. are ignored. Also bad reporting: no one in Sri Lanka has “seen” Internet service over Loon in 2016. But hey, there’s about 40 days left.
Various players are speculating about and trying to come to terms with the “pause” in Fiber initiatives by Google. Hopes that Google would establish a nationwide model for fiber Internet service were dashed last month, when the company suddenly declared a “pause” in its plans to lay fiber in as many as 18 municipalities, beyond the eight metro areas where it already is building or has completed its system. The disappointed suitors will have to wait for this strategy to play out or move ahead on their own. They would be well advised to keep an eye on San Francisco. What of its developing world counterpart, Loon?
Looks like I did not get it exactly right with my parable. I thought joint ventures. Instead Google is building a parallel track. In recent years, content providers have outpaced carriers in terms of their capacity demand on major routes. Considering the scale of their bandwidth deployments, it increasingly makes sense for them to collaborate on new systems as part owners rather than as customers.
When governments do it, it’s called censorship. But when companies do it, it’s only problematic. Back in 2007, Verizon declined to give Naral Pro Choice America a short code so their supporters could receive texts (this was long ago, before smartphones). Verizon was a common carrier. It was licensed.
It’s difficult to understand how Google’s mission could have been achieved, if the US authors’ union had prevailed. But the US Supreme Court has declined to hear the final appeal. The justices did the right thing. The legal fight over Google’s effort to create a digital library of millions of book is finally over. The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge from authors who had argued that the tech giant’s project was “brazen violation of copyright law” — effectively ending the decade-long legal battle in Google’s favor.
This may be realistic, but somehow disappointing. Google India boss Rajan Anandan thinks 50 percent of Internet use in the future will not be interactive. I wonder what the people who campaigned against Free Basics and access to the “full” Internet think of this. While some people make the case that cost of data in India is among the lowest in the world, Anandan pointed out that you had to look at it in terms of the overall income. In the US, the cost of data is 0.

The dragon’s bigger byte

Posted by on February 8, 2016  /  0 Comments

After cannibalizing the hardware businesses – may it be phones, laptops or network equipment – the Chinese Internet outfits are breathing on their western counterparts’ neck. Alibaba has greater reach than Amazon: Chinese are happier to buy online than Americans. Ecommerce accounts for about one-tenth of all retail sales in China compared with about 7 per cent in the US. Tencent’s WeChat messaging and calling app has more than 650m active monthly users and is catching up rapidly with Facebook’s WhatsApp, which has just passed the billion-user mark. Facebook is blocked in China, which has allowed microblogging website Sina Weibo to amass more than half a million users who not only post but use Weibo as a social media site similar to Twitter.
To me, Google Loon has always been just another backhaul option. And one in the early testing stages. It fitted with Google investments in undersea cables and O3B. Couldn’t quite understand what people were getting their knickers in a twist about. This is now confirmed.
A noted writer on technology who was quite supportive of our stand against efforts to assert strong national controls over the Internet through resolutions approved at the WCIT 2012, tagged me on a tweet about this alarmist piece about the Sri Lanka government’s MOU with Google to test Loon over Lanka that included the para below: The real effects of this deal will be seen after Sri Lanka’s citizens have tasted universal Internet access: how can Sri Lanka’s political parties be expected to formulate and push through strict legislation on issues such as local data storage, privacy and search engine neutrality when the party that will be affected the most (Google) is the one responsible for the country’s Internet coverage? While there may be no outright arm-twisting – which is not Silicon Valley’s style – Sri Lanka’s legislators will undoubtedly think twice before coming out with legislation that would require Internet companies to retain Sri Lankan data on Sri Lankan soil; a controversial notion that has seen countries such as Brazil flip-flop in the face of intense lobbying. It’s possible that my friend did not read to the end, but simply thinking that he would outsource the response to this […]
Having been regaled on the wonders of non-geostationary satellites by various delegations seeking licenses for Iridium and ICO and other systems that ultimately fizzled out, I was originally skeptical about O3B. But they answered my questions well (despite a messed up presentation at PTC a few years back) and I have been promoting this solution ever since. Happy to know they’ll break even on cash flow by middle 2016. Away from the headlines, Google — an initial O3b backer — has not raised its 5 percent equity share in the company but has kept up with the capital raises to avoided share dilution. What matters to SES shareholders is the money, not the technology, and at SES’s June 17 investor conference O3b Chief Executive Steve Collar gave a snapshot of the company’s current status.
The Deputy Mayor of New York City under Bloomberg and Google are launching a new initiative, presumably for cities in the developed economies, that will take an approach different from the sensor-intensive centralized models promoted by IBM and the like, according to NYT: Major technology companies, like IBM and Cisco, already have large businesses that apply information technology, to improving the efficiency of cities. IBM has used its researchers and technical prowess in projects like traffic management in Stockholm and microlevel weather forecasting to predict the location of life-threatening mudslides in Rio de Janeiro. Sidewalk Labs, Mr. Doctoroff said, planned to work in “the huge space between civic hackers and traditional big technology companies.” While big technology companies take a “top-down approach and seek to embed themselves in a city’s infrastructure,” he said Sidewalk Labs would instead seek to develop “technology platforms that people can plug into” for things like managing energy use or altering commuting habits.
The conventional telcos were complaining that the Googles and the Facebooks of the world (labeled by them as Over-the-Top or OTT players) were unfairly getting a free ride on the expensive, difficult-to-maintain last mile access network. Bharti Airtel went as far as unilaterally seeking to identify such uses by their customers and to impose additional charges on them. They backed off in the face of widespread protests, but they said that they expected the regulator to “level the playing field.” Now it looks like their complaints may be getting a response from a different quarter. If the Googles and the Facebooks of the world provide connectivity directly to their users, the old boys will have nothing to complain about.