Subba’s Serendipitous moments

January 30, 2010

The Nexus One and iPhone – A clash of paradigms

Filed under: Uncategorized — Subbaraman Iyer @ 10:50 am

The media has been agog with news comparing the iPhone and Nexus One. Even before the battle broke out, I alluded to the possibility of they becoming rivals. Some have referred the ongoing battle as the title fight of the decade. It is easy to compare phone features, ease of use, cost of ownership, price, the “cool” factor and maybe even the choice of applications available on each platform and arrive at some tentative conclusions. Such analysis serve as a product comparison guide at best.

I see this as a fundamental clash of business models and a collision of paradigms. It is too early to predict winners.

Let’s begin at the beginning: 

Apple changed the business model in a dramatic way when it launched the iPhone. It wanted to control the user interface– something that the service providers were very reluctant to part with. More importantly, it insisted on a share of mobile subscription revenues which was unprecedented. It worked with only one operator in the US (AT&T) and chose specific  service providers in the rest of the world.

With cool features, it became the phone that everyone wanted. The App Store with close to 100,000  applications and over 2 billion downloads completed the iPhone  partner eco-system propelling it to unprecedented success.

Till date it sold over 55 million phones with high profit margins.

In all fairness, Google didn’t begin to build the Android platform to counter Apple or for that matter any mobile handset player. It started off to protect its core business – advertising and not to make money off either the hardware or the software. To this end, it did the exact opposite of what Apple did – it offered to split the advertising revenues with the carriers. It put the entire code on open source so that as many handset manufacturers can use it. And more importantly, it even ceded control of the user interface.

I would even go further and say that because of Apple’s insistence on strict adherence and its growing clout pushed  both the cellular operators and the handset manufacturers into Google’s arms. Google’s flexibility and “open approach” just made the embrace more warm.

Let’s analyze how this battle will play out:

Will the iPhone users (the 55 million users) switch to Nexus One? Unlikely. Well, that’s not Google’s target market for sure. Google is more likely to target the remaining 3 billion users. Google may well become the choice of the masses with Apple comfortably perched at the top end with its cool design and premium price points.

Apple will continuously leverage on its strength and popularity of its killer apps like iTunes. Yet it may have to re-jig its other native applications like iPhoto or the iMovie for the iPhone environment.

The Nexus One and the Android platform is built on simplicity and completeness of cloud integration and cloud based data applications. The synching applications are all great, happens in real time and the cloud applications will just get better by the day with speech recognition getting ubiquitous for one. Apple’s cloud applications are still in its infancy.

Google will have no choice but to keep its popular apps on the iPhone. Google would not want a Microsoft product on the iPhone and open up another battlefront.

Google would have no choice but to build a partner ecosystem to build applications and services for music, books etc. and hence a Google AppStore is inevitable.


The reason that I call this a collision of paradigms and a battle of the business models is because of the underlying premise of the future:

Is the device primary with the web as the “add-on” – the Apple’s thesis and its reasons for its unprecedented success?


Is the web and the cloud providing robust and rich data services, social network awareness the primary factor with the device as the “add-on”?

That indeed is the title fight of the decade. Not the iPhone or the Nexus One. At best they serve as proxies for their respective constituencies.

January 4, 2010

Looking backward, looking forward

Filed under: Learning,Perspective — Subbaraman Iyer @ 11:34 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Having lived all my life on the edge, I am kind of used to the vicissitudes of life and have taken it in remarkable stride. By all standards 2009 was a very difficult year as I found myself helpless or vulnerable at some very crucial moments. Now, 2010 appears to be challenging — a new environment and a different set of expectations. And since challenge is something that I have always thrived on, it should be exciting.

Last couple of weeks I had no human contact or access to an electronic network. I was practically shut out from the outside world. It was rich solitude barring the chatter and noise from the deeper self. It gave me time to build new perspectives and perhaps shed some old ones.

Clearly, five key passions either individually or some combination has governed my life: the longing for understanding and love, the urge to learn constantly and pass the learning to others, the drive for personal excellence and to build excellence around me, the deep empathy for the underprivileged and finally a sense of fairness to others even in the most intense conflict.

These five passions have driven me to unknown stations in life, thrown me amidst deep chaos, and yet helped me emerge stronger and more rooted to life, growth and humanity.

I longed for understanding and love, because at a deep level, I am a loner despite my extrovert self. I am a solitary thinker and learn independently. Understanding relieved the loneliness and the occasional feeling of love moderated the rebel in me.

Learning came naturally though I despised formal learning approaches. I was always intrigued by the ambiguous and the dichotomous, the interface areas between two disciplines and the process of discovery . That explains the number of posts on learning here. I also cannot contain my enthusiasm to share what I have discovered.

The pursuit of excellence served as an elixir for growth and discovery. I have often got upset when some people routinely chose to be mediocre without even examining the trade-offs.

While the above helped me soar, the sufferings of the deprived and the underprivileged held me to the ground. Their pain often brought tears to my eyes. I could empathize with their state and reach out to them. Whenever I saw them struggle them to break out of their circumstances, they inspired me. I just wanted to be a catalyst in some way to help them in their endeavor.

A sense of fairness has always governed every action even if I have to deal with conflict. Perhaps I am intrinsically cognizant of the law of karma!

As I said earlier I passed through some big challenges last year and in a way felt compelled to review my passions. The solitary sojourn was a great opportunity. I realized that the law of unintended consequences applies to personal passions as well. Delving deeply, I discovered the following:

I have been naive that by discussing people’s weaknesses and/or the system’s weaknesses and showing them a better path, I would contribute to a better individual, community or organization. I have learnt now that people have interests, beliefs, biases and prejudices that, once firmly entrenched, are not easily dislodged– and certainly not by logic or even by evidence. My role is to do my best, understand my boundaries and respect their mental orientation

Yes, people do change their minds, but experience has more influence than even the best argument.

Helping people change their minds is more art than science. As a change artiste, I need to have a lot more tools in my repertoire.

Many people would rather live with a problem they can’t solve rather than adopt a solution which (they think) is risky.

Pragmatism often decides people’s choices. And sometimes the pursuit of excellence is too high a price to pay for pragmatism. The same is true for honesty and sincerity. My role at best is to highlight the tradeoffs and not champion my values.

I just have to accept that the longing for understanding especially the philosophical and emotional dimensions of an issue combined with the pursuit of excellence have led me to be overbearing. Some have benefited, but quite a few have been bruised. I am only fortunate that I managed to keep this streak under control whenever I wore the counselor’s mantle or took on a coaching responsibility.

For me, the passions– no matter how contentious or futile– has a stand-alone meaning. It is called freedom. As I start the new year I hope to improve my awareness and understand the boundary conditions better.

Hopefully the world will follow Kahlil Gibran’s dictum: To understand the heart and mind of a person look not at what he has already achieved (or failed), but at what he aspires to do.