Thursday, April 4, 2013

eBay Now and Google Shopping Express will ensure you never have to leave your house

When it comes to getting you hands quickly on the stuff you bought on the internet no e-commerce company can match the quality and efficiency of Amazon Prime, the shipping service provided by Amazon that delivers products in 1-2 days. Well now it seems like some of Amazon's rivals are testing the waters with same day delivery service.

eBay Now

eBay Now is a new mobile iOS app and local shopping service from eBay. It makes shopping at eBay simpler than it already is. Once the user downloads the app in his phone and logs in with the eBay user account, he can browse through 1000s of local retailers(Babies R Us, Best Buy, Free People, GNC, Guitar Center, Home Depot, Macy's, Office Depot, Radio Shack, Target, Toys R Us, Urban Outfitters, and Walgreens) and add items to his shopping cart. Finally hit "Bring It" and laze around on your couch while a valet goes to the store, picks up the items and delivers at your doorstep within an hour! You can then pay with Paypal or any other major credit card. This service is currently available in San Francisco, San Jose and New York city. eBay is now charging a flat fee of $5 for each order. Don't like what you just got, don't fret; the valet will come and pick it up from your house and return it to the store.

Google Shopping Express

Close to eBay Now's announcement, Google has rolled out its own same day delivery service called the Google Shopping Express. Google calls this service a "new experiment" and is inviting San Francisco Bay Area residents to take part in the trial. Interested users need to sign up for the service and will be intimidated if they are selected. Google has enlisted a number of national and local retailers for the initiative, including Target, Walgreens, Staples, American Eagle, and Toys "R" Us, plus San Francisco's own Blue Bottle Coffee and Raley's Nob Hill Foods. And when you think it cannot get any better, Google is offering the testers a free 6-month membership for unlimited same-day delivery! There are no plans yet about long-term pricing for this service. Perhaps Google wants to check out the response and then decide about getting its feet wet.

Apple iPhone now ships in a day
Well, technically Apple is not a e-commerce company and sells only its electronic products online but that has not stopped Apple from announcing a free one-day shipment for all iPhones. Currently a user can order a maximum of two phones at a time. Such services are generally announced by Apple during the holiday season. Wonder if this move is in response to the recent Samsung Galaxy S4 release which has received some rave reviews.

These services seem like the next logical step to e-commerce evolution -reduce our need to step out of our houses completely so we may enjoy watching more cat videos online and shunning human contact to a bare minimum!

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Monday, April 1, 2013

What's the time? Ask Firefox

If the past two years of the electronic industry was about getting shiny touchy rectangles in every person's hand, 2013 seems to be the year where electronic manufacturers want to get even personal; get on user's wrists. Ever since the Pebble watch was announced on Kickstarter there has been a lot of excitement among the fatigued tech users to own a 'smartwatch' that will relieve them from the vicious circle of pulling out the phone, unlocking it and checking out the notification updates every couple of minutes. The initial batch of Pebble shipments coupled with the Apple's intentions to work on its own iWatch have added to the euphoria and now everyone wants a piece of the action. Apart from established players like Samsung and Google planning for their own smartwatches, Guoke, a Chinese manufacturer is also planning to launch the Bambook Smart Watch running Firefox OS according to CNet.

In the recently concluded Mobile World Congress where Firefox OS was unveiled to the world, a lot of critics mentioned it was a bit rough on the edges and not yet ready for prime-time usage.In fact, the Ubuntu OS pipped Firefox OS and won the Best of MWC award. So whether or not, Firefox will be ready to tell the time by the end of this year remains to be seen. If the speculated watch ran Firefox OS it will be a 'mini smartphone', syncing all the bookmarks, user passwords and other data stored on the cloud and the HTML5 based interface should be enough to get the basic things done.

So the question that looms large is why has the battlefield shifted from user's pockets to wrists. For starters, the first true smartphone - the iPhone announced in 2006 was revolutionary. Nobody had seen or used such a seamless interface until then. Then came Android which created the market for budget smartphones. Though both iPhones and Android handsets have received significant upgrades in terms of processing speed, memory, battery capacity, display, etc all these features seem 'evolutionary' rather than 'revolutionary'. Despite having it all, it's human tendency to expect the next big thing and the humble watch seems to fit the category perfectly. Though smartphones help us stay connected all the time, sometimes we are inundated with more notifications than we care and have developed an obsessive compulsive disorder to keep checking the phone every couple of seconds . This needs to stop and that is what a smartwatch promises to deliver - display only the 'important notifications' and filter out the noise. As to how each speculated watch is going to handle it, remains to be seen.

It is quite clear that this year we are going to see a lot of smartwatches from various electronics manufacturers - known and unknown. Will Apple be able to repeat its success in this category?

May the best watch win!

Image credit: CNet

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Roundup of the latest Facebook and Google+ changes

Facebook and Google Plus seem to be churning out new features every day in a bid to keep users from abandoning the social networking sites. This is the roundup of all the latest features rolled out by both.

Facebook gets Reply button
Despite Facebook's huge user base, brands and public figures have trouble leveraging Facebook to engage with their followers. Currently comments on a post are sorted chronologically and by the time you reply to a particular comment, there are already few more in between; resulting in a chaotic mess. Finally Facebook has realized that it is power users like brands and public figures who keep the social network buzzing and has  added a Reply button for pages and people with more than 10,000 followers for now. The Reply button sits alongside the Like button and lets a person to respond to a particular post and carry on a separate sub-threaded conversation. This is a much better way to have a meaningful one-to-one conversation than the typical Comment option.

The Reply feature is currently available only in the desktop site and maybe rolled for mobile users hopefully soon.

Google+ gets some retro filters
Lately photos are taking the center-stage in all the social networks(as was seen in the recent Facebook Timeline update and Google+ Profile update) and Google+ doesn't want to be left behind. In the recently unveiled Facebook timeline change, users are provided an option to sort their Feeds based on various filters and an option to see just Photo updates from friends. Now Google+ has a similar option to sort the search results that contain only photos.

Not to be left behind the Google+ mobile app too gets a few goodies - retro filters(Warm, Cross, B&W, Cool, Contrast, Retrolux, and Drama) and a few basic image editing options courtesy of the Snapseed acquisition by Google. You also get adjust saturation, contrast, brightness and lots more by sliding your fingers up-and-down, then left-and-right. Why should Instagram users alone have all the fun. Go on, click some snaps and apply some crazy filters and keep sharing!

Image credit: ZDNet,GPlusProject

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Launcher8 brings some Windows Phone goodness to Android

Platform: Android

Rating: 4.5/5

Bottom line: Brings together the best of both worlds - Windows Phone and Android

Love your Android phone but wish you could have the tacky tile interface found in Windows Phones. Well don't wait any longer; Launcher8 does just that by delivering a tile based homescreen found in Windows8 devices to Android. Once the app is installed, the next time you press the Home button, you will be prompted to select the launcher - the stock launcher that came with the device or Launcher8 and you are all set.(On a personal note, it is better to restart the device after this step, since pressing the back key from some apps lands you in your phone's stock homescreen. Probably just a minor bug but it goes away once you restart the device)

Windows Phone OS has been lauded for the slick response even on low powered handsets and this launcher does justice to it by being slick and as fast a Windows Phone would have been. The app not only changes the default homescreen but also the lock screen, so now you have to scroll from bottom-up to unlock the device. The default homescreen has quite a few live tiles for all the necessary functions. Each tile is mapped to a particular application like the Messages, Email, Contacts, etc. There are also options to add more tiles, customize the existing ones by changing the text, background color, icon, animations, the app to be launched when it is clicked and a plethora of various other goodies.

Normally Windows Phone homescreen has an arrow on the right corner to guide the users to the list of installed applications. That arrow is missing here but nevertheless swiping to the right brings up the list of installed applications sorted alphabetically. There is also a search icon to do a start menu-esque search for an app. Personally I found this an easier way to locate an app as compared to a typical Android homescreen  which becomes a nightmare to navigate when you have lots of applications installed.

Overall the app runs smoothly and it hasn't crashed in the past one week that I have been using it. The only shortcoming I could find in this app is notifications are not updated on the lockscreen. This can be a bummer at times when all you want to do is just peek at the messages or emails you have got. Also the Android's notification tray is accessible only after the device is unlocked.

People bored with their existing launcher or those who want to check out the Windows Phone user interface can give this app a spin.

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Monday, March 4, 2013

Yahoo takes out some trash this spring

The furore over Yahoo's decision to ban work from home is not yet over but CEO Marissa Meyer is already ruffling some feathers by killing off over half a dozen apps including the Yahoo! app for Blackberry as a part of the 'spring-cleaning' process. Ouch! Marissa Meyer earlier said in one of her interviews that "Yahoo needs to cut down the number of apps from 60 to 12 to better focus on its users needs and "daily habits" of checking sports, news, stocks, and email" and looks like she is right on track. Over the past few years Yahoo has had trouble making out if it was a technology company or a media company, but Marissa has made it clear that Yahoo will be once again be known as a technology company.

The most high profile app that will be axed is the Blackberry app. While the app will no longer be available for download from April 1st, it will continue to work for users who have already installed it. Some of the apps sound familiar but some like the Yahoo! Clues or Yahoo! Avatars don't ring a bell at all. It makes a lot of sense to drop support for the apps that are rarely used and don't bring in any revenue for the company and instead focus on providing a better experience for the Yahoo! services that are more widely used.

When companies grow, they try to get into every business and end up in a messy situation like Yahoo currently is. So it is now time to trim the fat and get going.
Here is the complete list of products that will be axed soon:
Yahoo! Avatars Effective April 1, 2013, we will no longer support Yahoo! Avatars across our properties. If you like your existing avatar and want to keep it, please go to the Avatars download page, pick a picture size and format, and click the appropriate download button. Similarly, if you want to edit your avatar, you can download the image and then use a photo editing service of your preference. If you want to continue using your avatar with our products, go to Yahoo! Profile and upload the avatar you downloaded. For more details, please click here. Additionally effective April 1, we will no longer support the Avatars YQL table.
Yahoo! app for BlackBerry Effective April 1, 2013, the Yahoo! app for BlackBerry will no longer be available for download. For those of you who have already downloaded the app, you can continue to use it but it will no longer be actively supported. 
Yahoo! Clues (beta) Effective April 1, 2013, Yahoo! Clues (beta) will shut down. 
Yahoo! App Search  Effective April 1, 2013, Yahoo! App Search will shut down. 
Yahoo! Sports IQ  Effective April 1, 2013, Yahoo! Sports IQ will shut down. Your final lifetime Sports IQ score and rank will be automatically transferred to and preserved within your Yahoo! Fantasy Profile.
Yahoo! Message Boards website Effective April 1, 2013, the Yahoo! Message Boards website will shut down. Our message boards on individual properties (like Yahoo! Finance and Yahoo! Fantasy Sports) will remain active. We also encourage you to ask and answer questions on Yahoo! Answers, and discuss issues in the comments section on Yahoo! News.
Yahoo! Updates API As of April 16, 2013, we will no longer support the Yahoo! Updates API.
Image credit: Tech Blog

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Friday, March 1, 2013

Google finally launches eBooks in the Google Play(India) store

Google has finally started selling e-books via the Google Play store in India after rolling out the Play store to purchase books, movies and songs in US and certain other countries a couple of months back. Google is quite late to the market, coming three months after Apple opened the iTunes store in India. This is ironic considering the fact that Android phones have a high penetration in India compared to the iPhone. However Apple currently sells only music and movies and not books and guess Google is just testing the waters with the e-books.

There is a wide variety of books available and books by almost all the famous Indian writers are listed on the Play store. The prices are listed in INR, as is done in the case of purchasing apps. Once a book is purchased it can be downloaded on any number of Android devices through the Google Play Books app, which is quite similar to the Kindle app by Amazon. The one interesting  feature is Google allows users to read the book via the browser too. The recently released Oath of Vayuputras(the final part of the Amish Tripati's Shiva trilogy) was available for a nice deal. Once you start reading a book on the phone and then open in a browser, it automatically opens in the last page you read on the phone!

The Android app has options to adjust text size, theme and other display options. There is also an option to 'Read Aloud' but the voice sounds so mechanical, you wish you didn't choose it. There is also an option for 'High-quality voice' which is slightly some human. But it requires internet connection and slows down even when connected via WiFi network.

Finally the Indian consumers seem to be getting some choice for consuming digital media. The market is still in its infancy. Apple is still taking baby steps and ative players like Flyte(owned by Flipkart), Gaana, Dhingana, Saavn, etc are also coming out with interesting contents . Now is the time to go and get that popcorn.

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Marissa Meyer wants all Yahoo! employees to work together...literally

Image credit: CNet
Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer made yet another ballsy move to get the company back in shape by eliminating Work-From-Home(WFH) option for all Yahoo employees. The memo circulated to the employees by HR head Jackie Reses reads “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.” This move shouldn't come as a surprise considering the fact that Marissa Meyer took on the role as the CEO of Yahoo! when she was five months pregnant and bounced back into her role after just two week of maternity leave.

The move to stop WFH option is expected to mostly affect employees who work from home full time and NOT employees who wish to avail the facility for a day or two in a week as being reported in this quora thread. Ever since Marissa Meyer took the helm at Yahoo! she has been keen on building employee morale by giving out free food, iPhones but the policy to revoke WFH is generating strong opinions both within the company and on Twitter. Well you cannot expect life to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. Tough times call for tough measures.

The changes comes into effect from June and employees who do not cooperate will have to quit. Looks like a good strategy to fire employees without actually firing them. Let us just hope that Yahoo workforce will shed only the slackers and not the bright ones.

The complete memo from AllThingsD:
Over the past few months, we have introduced a number of great benefits and tools to make us more productive, efficient and fun. With the introduction of initiatives like FYI, Goals and PB&J, we want everyone to participate in our culture and contribute to the positive momentum. From Sunnyvale to Santa Monica, Bangalore to Beijing — I think we can all feel the energy and buzz in our offices.
To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.
Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.
Thanks to all of you, we’ve already made remarkable progress as a company — and the best is yet to come.

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).