Wednesday, June 06, 2012

My predictions on the much anticipated Apple iTV

Perhaps, the most difficult thing is to predict what Apple is up to. Over the last 2-3 years, I have become a fan of Apple as a company - driven by its innovative products and management lessons from arguably the best CEO the world has seen. This post is though not about Steve Jobs. Instead, it is about the product legacy he has left behind. As an outside-in observer, I am trying to predict what could be in store for Apple beyond Steve Job's era. I am taking a wild shot at what I think the much anticipated Apple TV could be like. The odds are that I will get it absolutely wrong! Never-the-less, it is still exciting to think how the team at Apple would probably be thinking about possibly the most challenging product to crack - the Television. 

As we start to think about the Television, I would like to firstly make a few base-line assumptions and outside-in observations about Apple's guiding principles when it comes to developing new products:

  • Target to remain extremely focused on a few products only (unlike Google for example) I see a maximum of 1 new product category every 2-3 years and the Television/Apple TV is most likely to be the next big product category.
  • Target to remain in price range that will help them gain volumes - e.g. the iPad wasn't launched for $1,500 but for $500 and the visible cost of iPhone to the customer was much lower due to Telecom tie-ups and resulting subsidies
  • Maintain extremely high margins irrespective of the product - they will target 40-50% gross margins for all products - e.g. when iPad 2 was recently priced down to $399 with the launch of the new iPad, many analysts projected a significant "margin dilution" - but from their latest quarterly results, I see no margin dilution at all. In my view, Apple tracks the margins very closely and maintains the high margins by bringing in new versions every year and letting the ASP decline of components help keep margins of the old products high, despite decline in their overall pricing
So, now to the meat of this post. What would the much anticipated Apple iTV be? Here are my wild predictions about this product, looking outside-in:

iTV or Apple TV

As far as I am concerned, I don't think Apple would launch a full-blown TV alone per se. It doesn't make sense to get into a low-margin LED TV business where other big competitors are struggling big-time. To earn the target higher margins, Apple will need to price it twice that of Sony and Samsung. At these price-points, I wonder if they will get to sufficient volumes, irrespective of how great and intuitive the interface and the product is. 

In my view, Apple would go ahead with one of the following two options:

Option 1: Hyper-enhanced Apple TV box
  • Offer everything that one would want from Apple TV minus the HD screen. 
  • In other words, a significantly hyper-enhanced version of the current Apple TV that could be placed right next to your existing TV in the living room 
  • It would offer all great features with high degree of interactivity - Siri, Konnect-like movement detection, built-in camera for facetime and video-conference, enhanced Video Airplay and similar capabilities (e.g. screen mirroring, etc) from iPad and iPhone, Internet video streaming, remote control being a smart phone/ tablet, etc
  • Further, this Apple TV box would probably have all the elements of a basic PC less the monitor - including storage, games, great Apps and access to App Store. 
  • My sense is that Apple will offer the enhanced Apple TV for about $300-$500

Option 2: Full-fledged TV changing the structure of the Television Industry

  • Offer all the above features under Option-1 PLUS the HD TV screen to make it a "one-product" TV
  • Pricing - 45 inch for $2,000 or so, 55 inch for $3,000 or so, but to the customer it will cost a fraction of this cost while making the purchase
  • Instead, make this TV available by signing up for a 2-year "Cable Television" contract with existing Cable TV Players (e.g. Starhub in Singapore). This would be very similar to the way we all buy iPhones and how telecoms are made to pay the subsidy instead.
  • With the above subscription, all channels that you subscribe to would be on-Demand. You can watch, what you want, when you want and you do not need to stick to the broad-casting schedule of the channels
  • These channels could be "Apps" that one would pay a monthly subscription for
  • As another completely different alternative within this, Apple could offer specific television "Programmes" and Series as Apps, as opposed to specific channels. This would completely kill the television broad-casting industry - instead our favorite programmes would be free or paid Apps and Apple will earn the advertising and subscription revenue on these over the life-time of the television set.
I personally think the above are the only two viable alternatives for Apple. Between these two options where should I put my money? What is Apple more likely to launch in the near future? As excited I am about option-2, I am not sure if Apple would go for it at this stage. I am therefore betting my money on Option 1 - an enhanced super duper version of the Apple TV Box. In my view, option-2 requires Apple to set-up a huge media business as the back-end. More importantly, they would need to go country-by-country and sometimes region-by-region trying to get sufficient content before you and me decide to buy the product. And even if they get all this going, TV is a costly product with much longer life-cycle of 4-7 years. It would be too long a battle to fight and I think at this stage, they might be better off sticking to Option -1 and gradually start offering "Television Programme Apps" to step-by-step bye-pass the broad-casting industry.

I am eagerly waiting for WWDC Conference next Monday where we might get a view on where things are headed. Till then, I stick to option-1, though I remain optimistic about being pleasantly surprised! :-)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

India Road Trip Update 9th September

A quick update from us - sorry for not blogging regularly. First 7 days of the road trip have been very hectic leaving me with little time to blog.

We are doing good, having covered more than 4,500 kms on the trip. However, we are a day behind from our original schedule - a number of factors have contributed to this. We knew that first 4-5 days would be tough, but congested highways in Kerala really did put us behind by a lot and we are now running a day late.

Will try to update the blog again if I can. We are currently in Jaisalmer and there is tons of planning required tonite. Heavy railfall and chances of Yamuna flooding have added some logistical complexities for us. All ritee... btw, Swift rocks! :-)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

10,000 Kms Drive

Hi All,

We are just about to leave for a 10,000 kms road trip.

Starting from Chennai, our planned route is:

Chennai - Rameswaram - Kanyakumari - Kerala - Mangalore - Pune - Dwarka - Jaisalmer - Amritsar - Manali - Agra - Kanpur - Dhanbad - Gangtok and places in Sikkim - Kolkata - Puri - Vishakapatnam - Chennai.

As much as possible, we will try to blog about the trip and post snaps and updates from our end. As for now, the car has been repaired and serviced and the drivers are gearing up and landing in Chennai tomorrow.

Wish us luck and we promise to keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tossing between 9 and 81 :-)

Glad that we made it to top-100, the next stage is a lot more competitive. Though we do think, we are probably just as good as anyone else, it finally comes down to luck here, I guess.

The jury is fair - they are clearly not picking 9 names from a lucky draw. However, this is the stage where the criteria used, the preference of individual jury members, what they consider good, etc start to become a lot more important. From our point of view, we have given our best and we have absoluely no regrets as far as our application is concerned - the eventual quality, the effort that has gone in to it and more than anything else the enjoyment we have had in this process.

Top-9 is a tough call - and we will be extremely glad if we make it. If we don't, we have the option of doing the same drive all by ourselves! OR plan a drive to Leh, which was not possible within the rules of this competition.

Choose your pick - is it 9 or is it 91? :-)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Our travel plan for The Great Driving Challenge

Summary of our plan

Our plan for The Great Driving Challenge is to create what we call the “Mitsubishi Constellation". Just as our forefathers saw the stars in a dark starry night and joined them by imaginary lines to form shapes and symbols and called them constellations, we intend to visit various places in Dakshin Bharat which when joined by imaginary lines across the map transform into an insignia of Mitsubishi. The route plan is: Mumbai-Goa-North Kerala-Alleppy-Munnar-Coimbotore-Mysore-Bangalore-Chitoor-Hampi-Belum Caves-Pune-Mumbai. The whole itinerary maintains the maximum limit of 350 kms and minimum of 300 kms on all 12 days. And to top it all, the “stars” on our constellation have been painstakingly chosen to bring out the best perspectives that India has to offer… (We will be exploring India from 15 different perspectives to give you a complete package!)


Route : Mumbai-NH-4a-NH17-Chandoli National Park
Key attractions : Chandoli National park, Mumbai Sea Link
Perspectives : National park, Modern Infrastructure
Distance travelled : 300kms + a few kms inside National Park, easily within 350 km limit

On the first day, we plan to drive from Mumbai to Chandoli National Park, covering a total distance of 300 kms (50 spare kms left to explore Chandoli National Park and buffer for Mumbai travel). We will start off in the morning, driving across the new Sea Link in Mumbai and then head towards Vashi, going through Panvel creek to join NH-4c. After traveling for about 10 kms on NNH-4C, we will take the Pen bypass and join NH-17 to drive down south to Chandoli National park. We plan to visit the following places inside the national park: Kandhardoh, the Kandhardoh Falls, Tanali Falls and Vasant Sagar Reservoir. Would have been a long day by then- we plan to check-in to the guest house inside Chandoli National Park to blog, upload photos and share our travelling experiences on the day-1 of our journey.


Route : Chandoli National Park- NH17-South Goa
Key attractions : Goa beaches
Perspectives : Beaches, Architecture, Cuisine, Education
Distance travelled : 301kms + a few kms within Goa, easily within 350 km limit

We will get up relatively earlier (i.e. before 9am!) to explore Chandoli National Park a bit more, before heading off to Goa. The idea today is to get to Goa as early as possible to give ourselves maximum time to enjoy the beaches at Goa. We will head south from Chandoli National Park on NH-17 all the way to Goa. We will explore the key spots in Goa – e.g. Arjuna beach, Mapusa, etc. Other than the beaches, we will look to explore the cuisine of Goa and understand the intermingled Portuguese architecture and remains in Goa. We will be staying at one of the resorts by the beach in South Goa. We will also visit the BITS-Pilani Goa Campus – a testimonial to modern India’s education systems. As an Alumni of BITS-Pilani, Anupam is really looking forward to visiting Goa campus.


Route : Goa-NH17-NH 206 to Jog Falls from Manki-get back on NH-17-Bhatkali
Key attractions : Jog Falls
Perspectives : Waterfalls,
Distance travelled : 320kms includes travel to and from Jog Falls, easily within 350 km limit

After strolling on the beach in the morning, we will get into our Mitsubishi Cedia, fasten our seat-belts and vroom we go J We will head down South on NH-17, passing through Nagorcem, Karwar, Ankola, Kumta to Manki. At Manki, we will take turn left to NH 206, driving to Jog Falls (at a distance of 50 kms or so). After enjoying our time at Jog falls, we will head back on NH-206, reach Manki again and head southwards on NH-17 to Bhatkali for the night stay.


Route : Bhatkali-NH17-Mangalore-Mahe
Key attractions : Cannore beaches, Bekal Fort
Perspectives : Beaches, Forts
Distance travelled : 325kms

We will drive down from Bhatkali on NH-17, passing through Mangalore. Our first point to visit would be Bekal Fort - spreading over 40 acres, Bekal Fort is the largest and best preserved fort in Kerala with an alluring view of the sea shore. We would then drive down south further to visit Muzhappilangad Beach which is a long clean beach. Its Kerala’s only drive-in beach, one could drive the entire length-4 kms. Driving Mitsubishi Cedia sports model on a beach, would be yet another innovative way to test drive the car! J The next place to visit would be another beach nearby called the Meenkunnu Beach. This beach is a tourist’s paradise with golden sand & surf. We will continue driving south on NH17 to reach Mahe for our night stay.


Route : Mahe-NH17-Kozhikide-Kodungallur-Join NH47 at Cochin-Alleppy
Key attractions : Kodungallur (first Mosque, Church, temple), Cochin, Alleppy
Perspectives : Secular India, Back waters
Distance travelled : 320kms

We will start from Mahe and head south wards on NH-17 all the way, enjoying the green beauty of Kerala, along the coast. We will visit Kodungallur – which has the first mosque and church in India and has a temple also in close vicinity. This stands as a true testimony to “Secular India”. After that, we will drive further south on NH-17, joining NH-47 at Cochin. We will visit key attractions of Cochin (e.g. Fort Cochin) and then head to Alleppy. We would stay in a houseboat at Alleppy (Aditi is damn excited about it!). There will be plenty to blog today – though it will be a tough balance to strike – should we blog and update for the benefit of the avid followers of GDC or enjoy the scenery around, which would add to the overall experience for everyone! Can’t wait to get there!


Route : Alleppy-NH47 to Cochin-right turn on NH49-Kotamangalam- Munnar-Udumalaipettai-NH209 to Coimbatore
Key attractions : Munnar, Eravikulam National Park, Indira Gandhi National Park
Perspectives : Hill stations, water falls, National parks
Distance travelled : 300kms – enough room to visit places in Munnar

Its time to get up early again, Day-6 has a lot in store for us! We will start from Alleppy and head northwards on NH-47 to Cochin. We would need to turn right on NH 49, at Cochin and then head all the way to Munnar – enjoying the fabulous drive on the serpentine roads all uphill. At Munnar, we will visit waterfalls, the highest peak in South India, tea plantations and other key attractions. At around 3pm, we will head out of Munnar all along NH49 to Udumalaipettai through the lush green forests of Indira Gandhi and Eravikulam National Parks, where we will take left on NH 209 and drive down to Coimbatore for night stay.


Route : Coimbotore-NH67 to Gundalpet - then NH 212 to Mysore- Bangalore
Key attractions : Mysore Palaces (e.g. Ambavillas, etc), Brindavan gardens
Perspectives : Palaces, Gardens
Distance travelled : 335kms

We will drive down from Coimbatore, taking NH67 to Gundalpet, where we will join NH 212 and drive down to Mysore. At Mysore, we will visit the key attractions of Mysore – Ambavillas Palace and other palaces of historical significance. The theme at Mysore will be “Historical Heritage” as we explore the great forts and palaces at Mysore. Towards the evening, we plan to visit Brindavan Gardens, and see the fountains post sunset. Later, we will head off to Bangalore for night stay.


Route : Bangalore-NH4 to Chitoor- then NH 18 to Rayachoti
Key attractions : Bangalore, Koral Mines, IT Park
Perspectives : Mines, Information Technology
Distance travelled : 310kms – room to go around Bangalore

On day-8, we will start with exploring the great attractions of Bangalore, the garden city of India visiting one of the key gardens (e.g. Lalbag). We also plan to visit ISKCON - A blend of modern and traditional south Indian temple architecture, the ISKCON temple houses a multi-vision cinema theatre, computer aided presentation theatres, vedic library and a preaching library. We also plan to visit one of the IT Tech parks in Bangalore – (e.g. International Tech Park) to showcase the IT industry of Bangalore. Any perspective to Bangalore would be incomplete without mention of IT industry that has transformed India in general and Bangalore in particular. We will then drive down on NH-4, visit Kolar Gold Mines (just in case, we don’t win the gold medal in this competition, gold dust from Kolar is all we will need to be content with J ). We will further keep driving down on NH-4 till Chitoor (which is one of the vertices of our Mitsubishi Constellation). From there, we will take NH-18 to drive down and halt for night at Rayachoti.


Route : Rayachoti-NH18 to Mydukur, then turn left and head to Belum Caves continue and join NH 63 to Bellary
Key attractions : Belum Caves
Perspectives : Caves, Natural Beauty
Distance travelled : 320kms

On day-9, we will start from Rayachoti and drive up north in NH-18 till Mydukur. From there, we will take left on a less important highway and drive through Proddatur, Gollapalle and then reach Kolimigundala. This is where Belum Caves are located. It is the 2nd largest cave in the Indian sub-continent with a length of 3.3kms! We will spend a major part of our day-9 exploring Belum caves. After exploring the caves, we will drive through Tadpatri, towards Gooty and then take NH-63 to Bellary. Bellary would be our night stop.


Route : Bellary-NH63 – take detour to Hampi and join NH63 at Hosapette – NH 13 to Hungund, Left to Pattakadal and then to Bagalkot
Key attractions : Hampi, Tunga Bhandra Dam, Pattakadal
Perspectives : Temples, Monuments, Dam
Distance travelled : 300kms – inclusive of detours

On day-10, we will start from Bellary and our first stop would be Hampi to explore various monuments of the mighty Vijaynagara empire in ruins. This is a UNESCO world Heritgate site. Our next stop would be at Hosapette, where we will visit Tunga Bhandra Dam – which is the largest dam in Karnataka. From there, we will get back to NH-13 and head towards Hungund. At Hungund we will take a left to Gudur and then reach Pattakadal. Pattadakal is another UNESCO world Heritage Center, it has 10 major temples representing early Chalukyan architecture. From there, we will drive to Bagalkot for the night halt.


Route : Bagalkot-NH218 to Bijapur- NH13 to Sholapur-NH9 to Indapur
Key attractions : Bijapur (Gol Gumbuz), Kollur (Malik-e-Maidan), Sholapur
Perspectives : Architecture, Palaces, Canon
Distance travelled : 300kms

On day-11, we will start from Bagalkot, take NH 218 to Bijapur. The key attraction at Bijapur is Gol Gumbuz which is the 2nd largest dome in the world (nearly 44m in diameter). The other attractions at Bijapur include Malik-e-Maidan, which is the world’s largest medieval canon, Jumma Masjid and Ibrahim Roza which is said to have inspired Taj Mahal. Clearly, we would have a lot to do in Bijapur and we look forward to covering as many of these great structures as possible. Bijapur is famous for hand woven sarees as well. After spending nearly the entire day in Bijapur, we will head off to Sholapur and then to Indapur for night stay.


Route : Indarpur-NH-9 – Pune – Expressway- Mumbai
Key attractions : Expressway, Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, NDA
Perspectives : Museum, Modern India Infrastructure, Defence
Distance travelled : 320kms

The last and final day of the trip, we will start with a visit to Ujani dam in Indarpur and then head off to Pune. At Pune we plan to visit Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum. We also plan to visit National Defense Academy – the only academy in the world where all three forces are trained together. We will then drive through on Mumbai-Pune express way, a testimony to India’s great infrastructure. We plan to reach Mumbai at a time preferred by the trip organizers for the closing ceremony of the drive.

Why we are the best? - 5 key reasons!

Typically, it is sufficient to have one of the following to succeed at a task: Skill, passion, dedication, experience, great idea, support from friends and relatives. What if we try and combine all these factors? The resulting combination would be unbeatable. This is precisely the reason why we are the best candidates! Lets us describe each of the above reasons to you:

  1. We have a great idea and a great plan – our route plan “Mitsubishi Constellation” is not just an innovative idea, but also our unique way to highlight the myriad threads that form the richly interwoven tapestry that's India. Yes friends, we have managed to pull through the toughest route challenge! We have made a route plan that showcases India from 15 different perspectives, is all within the daily limits set by the TGDC guidelines and still manages to draw a Mitsubishi insignia when plotted on a map! Please refer to our travel plan and the google map for more details. What’s the point we are making? Well…it proves beyond doubt that when you are in India, it just doesn’t matter what direction you decide to travel in, coz India is sure to surprise you with its beauty at each corner! Nothing else could have brought out India’s richness any better! To be honest, to design the route within the parameters of the daily kilometers limit plus the self-imposed constraint of forming the “Mitsubishi Constellation” was like solving a complex puzzle- the moment you increase or decrease the kilometers here, there goes the aesthetic appeal of the insignia, and the moment you pin down the end-points of the constellation, you realize suddenly that the kilometers got exceeded! Phew! Despite the constraints, we designed the route (a whopping 50-60 man-hours spent on that!) and as is evident from the testimonials, the efforts haven’t gone in vain!
  2. We're Traveloholics! We have visited 17 countries worldwide and enjoy traveling immensely. So much so that we’ve decided to set up home at one of the world’s favourite tourist destinations- Singapore! The last we heard, the visa offices of the world (and environmentalists the world over) have been pretty unhappy with us…thanks to the rate at which we’ve been using up the pages in our passports! That’s why we believe that this contest is tailor made for us- an exact fit with our travel passion!
  3. Driving, Driving, And Driving!! We love driving and we love cars, and also anything and everything that comes with being in love with driving and cars. We have driven across 4 different continents, and been on several long road trips world over (in 8 countries). In fact, saying that Anupam loves cars is an understatement- he lives them! What else would you say about the guy whose Mom asks her prospective daughter-in-law if she is prepared to live out of a car after marriage! And Aditi? Well, she has decent driving credentials too although she prefers to enjoy watching the scenery and contemplating on life’s philosophies while Anupam drives! ;) But despite what writers Allan & Barbara Pease may tell you, this woman is out to prove that “Women can read maps”! For us, driving is not just about passion, but it is something that needs the right mix of technique, experience, endurance and passion! Check out our blog for more details on our driving trips
  4. We love to Jog… err…we mean Hog….oops…apologies, we meant We love to Blog! We’ve been blogging since 2004- about travel, driving, auto, cricket, self improvement, and everything else under the sun. But humour is our forte (or so we like to think!!) and we derive immense pleasure out of unleashing our PJs on the world! Check out our latest attempt at doing that- The Car-toon series called “Puncture ke Car-namey!” on our blog, which we intend to continue publishing while on the drive as well, deriving inspiration from the life-on-the-road. Please also see our Flickr album to get a flavour of our photography skills. Aditi is an artist at heart and some of her shots portray just that- an eye for detail and an eye for beauty in the mundane….
  5. They say rolling stones gather no moss, but it seems rolling stones do gather a lot of votes! We’ve gathered almost 750 votes so far and we are seriously overwhelmed with the support that our family, extended family, friends and even people who don’t know us have extended to us. It feels really nice to have 750 odd people backing up your application…and we can’t wait to thank each and everyone of them by sharing the stories from our experiences on the drive!

All-in-all, we are not just the best candidates with required "skills and experience", but we will also ensure that all the avid followers of Great Driving Challenge have fun reading our blog posts, photo essays and updates. In short, Entertainment Guaranteed!