Email signatures and Simple pleasures

Want to know what thrills me?

This small thing – my current email signature is the same width in both rich text and fixed-width:

Founder/CEO, Lexity.  Advertising on Autopilot  (408) 555-9694


Founder/CEO, Lexity.  Advertising on Autopilot  (408) 555-9694

Thank god for simple pleasures, right?



Microsoft is missing the memo on Browser-based Office (hint: it’s about collaboration)

It’s not about having the Office suite running in the browser. Or it being HTML5 compliant. Or it working cross-browser.

It’s really all about seamless collaboration with others. If all the collaboration tools Microsoft put into its Office suite 10 years ago had worked well, browser-based or not, Google wouldn’t have been able to eat their lunch.

Sadly, having talked to people on the Microsoft Office team, it doesn’t seem like they are treating collaboration as anything more than a checkbox feature.

At Lexity, at any given time, there are at least 2 or 3 documents with 5 or 6 different Lexiteers editing at the same time. We can’t do this with Zoho, we can’t do this with Microsoft, and we’re not going anywhere where we can’t all work together.

Google, you got our number!


Why is SMS so much more common in India vs the US?

Two main reasons.

First, one random decision made by the Indian telecom regulatory agencies that has really helped: mobile phone numbers are clearly distinguishable from land-line phone numbers. This makes SMS very predictable in India; you instantly know if the receiving number is ‘SMS-capable’ or not. In US, for example, there is no apriori way of knowing if a given phone number is mobile, so there is obvious hesitance in sending SMS’ that might or might not reach the recipient.

Second, SMS is very cheap in India. As is well-known, sending SMS literally costs the telecom operators nothing – the SMS data payload simply gets added to the ‘ping’ that every cellphone sends to the nearest cell tower periodically. For this reason, in India and other countries, thanks to cut-throat competition, the telcos either charge nothing, or very little, for SMS messages. In US, mostly because of implicit collusion, the telcos charge and arm and leg for this highly lucrative pure-profit center.

As a result, even if you know that the phone number you’re calling is mobile, and even if you opted for an SMS plan, you still can’t assume that the other party has an SMS plan. Of course, if you did send the SMS, it would definitely reach the other party; they’d just have to pay for that message on their end. Why bother?

(Of course, I’m talking about the normal citizenry here, most of these are non-issues for the illuminati and the glitterati)

So, an obtuse decision by a governmental agency, combined with private sector greed, has made US much less Text-capable than India.


The Blueprint for the Apple Cloud Laptop (aka @siracusa is smarter than you)

So you think John Siracusa is brilliant. You read him assiduously (well, at least once every 18 months anyway). You don’t know the half of it! In his brilliant Ars Technica review of Lion, in one little throwaway link labeled ‘hmmm’ (here), John masterfully hinted on a Apple Cloud Laptop in the offing.

I think he’s on the money. Lion has introduced a set of OS-level technologies and changes, that can finally make the ‘Apple Cloud Drive’ a reality – and with that, the Apple Cloud Laptop.

Here’s my analysis of his analysis. Let’s go.

It starts with File Revisioning

Continue reading

Yet another post on the ‘mobilization’ of India

Did you know – you can’t even get on the WiFi network at the Mumbai airport if you don’t have a mobile phone that works internationally?

Apparently, it’s inconceivable to Indians nowadays that you’d get off the plane without a functioning, internationally roaming mobile phone. What, are you crazy??

India is well on its way to becoming mobile-first for everything. In fact, the Indian government issued a memo that the age of ‘e-governance’ is passe – get prepared for ‘m-governance’!

I saw this in action firsthand. A high ranking official in Mumbai was seen SMSing with his counterpart in a nearby state, coordinating flood relief operations, possibly flouting a rule or two and debating finer points of public policy in 160 chars or less.

All this while sipping some tea and biting into some samosas.

This is the new mobilized India, folks!


Free WiFi at foreign airports is a mixed blessing (sometimes a curse)

At a recent flight from SFO to BOM, I had an hour long stop-over at the Hong Kong airport. Like all enlightened airports, HKG offers free WiFi for its travelers – excellent idea! Right?

Well, kinda. Because it’s free, everybody and their favorite smartphone, their kids with their iPads, and all businessmen with their chunky laptops – all of them were connected, and I’m sure half of them were streaming something or the other.

And, of course, people like me, who had some very serious business to attend to (for real) couldn’t get through. No emails downloaded, no websites accessed; in fact, I couldn’t even get on their WiFi – even when I was getting a full signal (according to my MacBook anyway).

This definitely made me yearn for the days when one had to pay to get WiFi. I’d think even a nominal charge would weed out people whose devices are merely syncing email because they happen to be connected, and those that can afford a buck or two (no more, please!) would be able to get to whatever they need to.


The almost-Braille cellphone

The taxi driver on my drive from the Mumbai airport to the hotel had a cellphone I had to borrow – and I found to my amusement that the language for the cellphone was set to French.

No, the driver wasn’t French, wasn’t learning French, didn’t care for French much. He probably just changed the interface language at some point by mistake, and didn’t know anyone who could fix this.

And yet, he was pretty adept at using the phone, sending/receiving SMSes and navigating the alarm system. In fact, if the phone could speak out the SMS messages, I suspect he wouldn’t even need a screen on the darn thing!


iPad + Bluetooth Keyword = Best computing rig for Economy Class

I’m on a flight to India, typing this on my iPad, using an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard in my lap. The iPad is mounted on top of the seat in front of me – putting the iPad right at eye level.

iPad + Bluetooth Keyboard = Bliss

Ergonomically, this is a hard setup to beat. ‘Lap height’ is usually the best height for keyboards, and eye-level when sitting upright is best for viewing screens. With this setup, I’m not balancing laptops on clumsy trays, and I’m not bending my neck way down to read small text on a laptop for 10 hour stretches.

As a bonus, I don’t have to constantly worry and adjust laptop angles when the dude in front leans back.

The incredibly long-lasting iPad battery helps a lot, as do the nice Shure in-ear headphones. Perfect companions to really long flights like this one!

Of course, this is also a great setup to watch movies on the iPad, play games, etc – maybe I’ll do that next time.


Quick hits on the Apple iPad – in bite-sized morsels, even!

Much has been said already, so here are a few non-obvious things from yesterday’s Apple iPad announcement.
Underappreciated and revolutionary:
  • OS/Appkit APIs, Controls and Design guidance on building touch Apps – even ones as complex as iWork. (eg: reimagined iTunes volume slider, manipulation of the pie chart)
  • Related to that, reducing the number of on-screen toolbar/menu controls even further (compared to the Mac version of an app, say iWork)
  • Retiring the mouse as an input device, even as an option. Firmly embracing touch as a primary input mechanism.
  • Transitioning the keyboard from a primary input device to an accessory.
  • Treating 3G as an option, a different approach than any other device in the market (including theiPhone or iPod Touch).
  • Making the file system disappear – embracing the app-centric iPhone model, versus the Finder-centric mac.
  • Transitioning even core apps like iWork to the cloud, in terms of pricing, delivery, and presumably file storage.
  • Related to that, rethinking the bundling strategy (iWork) and focussing on individual apps.
  • Acknowledging it’s not sufficient to control the hardware packaging – core components like the CPU/GPU need to be owned too.
Unnoticed but remarkable:
  • Jonathan Ive now wants to be called Jony Ive
  • Reinterpretation of TV viewing – TV feeds as underlays (viz MLB) vs internet as overlay (viz Yahoo! Widgets)
  • New Keynote transitions! The ‘force land’, ‘letters falling off’ and ‘shatter’ effects seem new!

– Amit