I have been with Forbes India since August 2008. I like writing about ideas, events and people at the intersection of business, society and technology. Prior, I was with Economic Times. I am based in Bangalore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amazon's New Kindle Fire, and the Road Apple Almost Took
The new Kindle Fire HD that Amazon unveiled yesterday is larger than its previous version, its display is almost as good as Apple's retina display, and it's priced much lower than the iPads. Amazon even brought down the price of the lower-end, non-HD version, after doubling its memory. "We want to make money when our customers use our devices, not when they buy our devices," Amazon's Jeff Bezos said during the launch of the new devices. So, the price of Kindle Fires ranges from $159 to $599. Compare that to Apple. The new iPad starts at $499 and the iPad 2 at $399. The new 32 GB iPad with wi-fi cellular option is priced at $729. Its closest equivalent from Amazon costs $599
Amazon is keeping its price lower, thanks, in part, to ads. The ads will be displayed when the screens are locked, as it does in Kindle 'paper white' e-readers, and at a corner of the homescreen. It's tempting to imagine that Apple will never compromise its design by doing something like that. Yet, many years ago, Apple seriously considered including ads in its operating system (OS). When Apple was about to launch an upgrade to its OS - that was Mac OS 9 - Steve Jobs considered shipping two versions. The regular upgrade will cost $99. The second version will be free, but will carry relevant ads.
Ken Segall, a long time partner of Apple, writes in his book Insanely Simple: "Steve’s team had worked out the preliminary numbers and the concept seemed financially sound. It was a shockingly new idea for Lee and me, but the software people in the room had obviously been wrestling with it for a while. Steve provided some details about how the advertising would work. At system start-up, the user would see a sixty-second commercial. This ad could be regularly changed via updates from Apple’s servers. Throughout the rest of the OS, ads would appear in places where they had the most relevance."
But, somewhere along the road, Jobs decided against the idea. And Apple continued to be pricey. It's amazing how close companies often come to taking a road they end up not taking.
Infosys: PR excursion
The top management team at Infosys have been on a PR overdrive during the last few weeks. They first met business editors in Mumbai, and followed it up by visits to media offices. Its CEO SD Shibulal spoke to Bloomberg journalists at their Mumbai office. He then accompanied executive co-chairman Kris Gopalakrishnan to The Hindu office in Chennai. Kris went to Economic Times office in Bangalore. And Shibulal visited our office in Mumbai late last month.
If there is a single message that they wanted to send across, or at least, the one big takeaway that reporters managed to wrestle out of them, is that they are not being complacent, and that we can expect some action at Infosys. What could that be? Any big restructuring is ruled out, because they underwent one just recently. Top management change is also unlikely, even though analysts / journalists / investors are trying hard to read between the lines to see if there will be one. The most likely activity will be around acquisitions. It's sitting on a cash pile of $4 billion, and there have been hints that it's looking for one in the product space. They might just follow up their PR excursion with an announcement. Let's wait.
Nasscom wants to give BPO a new name. So what?
Around this time, in 1948, there was one issue that occupied the political elite in Delhi more than anything else: How to deal with Hyderabad? Its ruler, Nizam Osman Ali Khan was adamant that he will not join Indian union. He was mobilizing an army. One of his men, Qasim Razvi, an ambitious lawyer, had organized the local militia. This group, Razakars, were terrorizing people who thought Hyderabad should become a part of India.
No one in Delhi liked the idea of an independent Hyderabad right in the middle of the newly formed nation. Sardhar Vallabhai Patel had a solution. Use the force of Indian army, and make the Nizam accede.
But, that posed a problem. If India considered Hyderabad its own, is it even right to use armed forces?
At that time, C Rajagopalachari, probably one of the brainiest leaders of that era, was India's Governor General. He came up with a solution that was both simple and shrewd: Send the military, but call it 'police action'.
I was reminded of this story when I read Nasscom's attempt to rebrand BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) as BPM (Business Process Management). According to Som Mittal (as reported in Times of India) the industry has matured and understands its clients' businesses better. "It has become more of a partner to the customers , doing increasingly complex work and taking responsibility for the business outcomes of its services. And the services are no longer delivered only from low cost destinations like India. They are delivered from different geographies, depending on the clients' requirements and the skills of people in those geographies. Most major BPO, or shall we say BPM, companies now have delivery centres around the world."
The fact is we have been hearing the 'moving up the value chain' story for at least seven years. So, why change the name now?
The answer, I think, is in this video
Outsourcing now has bad connotations, thanks mainly to the ongoing election campaign in US. When Horsesforsources did a survey to find out what people thought about the term, this is what they found: Two thirds of managers in US would rather not use the term outsourcing.
I have nothing against the term BPM. In fact, the word 'management' sounds a little less jargonish than 'outsourcing'. But there is big lesson to learn from such attempts at name changing. And that is to look beyond what something is called, and to find out what something really does. It's difficult, especially while covering business, an area so rife with jargon.
So, it helps us to turn to a master, again and again. Here's Richard Feynman.