Monday, April 27, 2009


Seattle, April 26, 2009
The Economic Times

Microsoft Corp said that a version of its long awaited Windows 7 operating system will be made available from next week.

The version, known as a 'release candidate', or RC, essentially means the world's largest software company is in the final stages of completing the operating system, the successor to the unpopular Windows Vista.

Microsoft said the RC will be available for download by programme developers and IT professionals subscribing to the MSDN and TechNet networks on April 30 and available more broadly on May 5.

The company has still not said when the finished version would begin to be installed on PCs or available to buy in shops, but the company's chief financial officer said that it could be as early as July.

That would allow Microsoft to capitalise on back-to-school sales and set it up for a strong holiday shopping season. Microsoft's operating systems, installed on the vast majority of the world's PCs, are still the backbone of the company, providing more than half of its $4.4 billion profit last quarter.


Seattle, April 27, 2009

Microsoft Corp’s quarterly profit fell 32%, but its shares rose as investors welcomed continuing efforts to cut costs and news that the release of its Windows 7 operating system is on track.

The world’s top software maker offered no profit forecast on Thursday, after withdrawing its outlook in January, but did say it expected the personal computer, server and hardware markets to remain weak for at least another quarter.

“While we would all like to think that our recovery will be soon and painless, we unfortunately believe that it will be slow and gradual,” Chief financial officer Chris Liddell said on a conference call.

“I didn’t see any improvement at the end of the quarter that gives me encouragement that we are at a bottom and coming out of it,” Liddell added, contesting comments last week from chip-maker Intel Corp that the PC market was over the worst.

Microsoft’s report, following strong earnings from Apple Inc and Google Inc this month, broadly pleased analysts, some of whom braced for worse.

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Microsoft shares rose 3% in after-hours trading to $19.48, after closing at $18.92 on Nasdaq. The stock has risen over 30% from a more than 10-year low of $14.87 in early March. However, it is still essentially flat for the year after ending 2008 at $19.44.

Curtis Shauger, an analyst at Caris & Co, said Microsoft’s stock has been “pretty cheap” and investors were expecting profit margins to be hit.

“Some of the cost cuts they have done are having positive impact,” he said. “People were fearing far worse.”

Microsoft said it was targeting $26.7 billion to $26.9 billion in operating expenses for the fiscal year, which ends June 30. That is below the $27.4 billion target it gave three months ago.


Washington, April 27, 2009
The Economic Times

Computer scientists at UC San Diego and Microsoft Research have created a device that will put computers in a doze, which could mean energy savings of 60 to 80 percent.

The experts have developed a plug-and-play hardware prototype for personal computers that induces a new energy saving state known as "sleep talking."

Normally PCs can be in either awake mode-where they consume power even if they are not being used, or in a low power sleep mode-where they save substantial power but are essentially inactive and unresponsive to network traffic. The new sleep talking state provides much of the energy savings of sleep mode and some of the network-and-Internet-connected convenience of awake mode.

UC San Diego computer science Ph.D. student Yuvraj Agarwal presented this work on April 23, 2009 at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 2009). Computer scientists at UC San Diego and Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington and Cambridge, UK collaborated on this project and the NSDI 2009 paper, "Somniloquy: Augmenting Network Interfaces to Reduce PC Energy Usage."

"Large numbers of people keep their PCs in awake mode even though the PCs are relatively idle for long blocks of time because they want to stay connected to an internal network or the Internet or both," said Agarwal.

"I realized that most of the tasks that people keep their computers on for-like ensuring remote access and availability for virus scans and backup, maintaining presence on instant messaging (IM) networks, being available for incoming voice-over-IP (VoIP) calls, and file sharing and downloading-can be achieved at much lower power-use levels than regular awake mode," said Agarwal.

Following the realization, team built a small USB-connected hardware and software plug-in system that allows a PC to remain in sleep mode while continuing to maintain network presence and run well-defined application functions. It supports instant messaging applications, VoIP, large background web downloads, peer-to-peer file sharing networks such as BitTorrent, and remote access.


Anshul Dhamija, April 27, 2009
The Economic Times

Bangalore continues to be the number one destination for IT/ITeS companies in the country.

For all those who thought Chennai and Hyderabad were eating into Bangalore's status as the IT capital of India, here are some facts.

The annual year-end report by global real estate consultants Cushman & Wakefield shows that Bangalore witnessed the highest commercial space absorption in the country of 10.4 million sqft — the highest in the country for the fifth consecutive year. Of that, IT and ITeS companies absorbed 88 percent, followed by automotive, telecommunications and other sectors.

Leading the way was i-Flex Solution, which absorbed 1,100,000 sqft of commercial space in Whitefield, followed by 350,000 sqft of space each by ABB and ANZ IT in Whitefield and the Marathalli-Sarjapur belt.

Chennai absorbed only 4.1 million sqft of commercial space of the 9.8 million sqft of supply this year, as against its absorption of 6.5 million sqft of space in 2007.

Hyderabad witnessed a whopping 67 percent drop in commercial space absorption --from last year's figure of 4 million sqft to only 1.3 million sqft this year. The total supply in the city amounted to nearly 3.8 million sqft.

Mumbai and the National Capital Region (NCR) absorbed 8.5 million sqft and 8.6 million sqft of commercial space in 2008 respectively.

"Bangalore & Mumbai were the only two cities that showed an increase in absorption from last year," reads the C&W report.

Meanwhile, commercial rental rates in Bangalore appreciated between 4 percent and 9 percent in the peripheral areas and by a whopping 18 percent in the central business districts


Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan, April 27, 2009
The Economic Times

Thirteen-year-old Connor Mulcahey from Connecticut in the US is a very happy boy. Heck, I would be dancing on the streets, if Apple sent me a $10,000

iTunes gift card, an iPod touch, a Time Capsule and a MacBook Pro. All, because I nonchalantly downloaded an application (app) called ‘Bump’ from the iTunes Appstore and it so happened that exactly 999,999,999 apps had been downloaded till then.

That’s a very big number and it’s a symbolic salute to ailing Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who’s changed the course of consumer technology yet again. Remember, Apple is not celebrating the number of iPhones sold, but the fact that a billion applications have now been downloaded.

As all the initial hype about the iPhone and its features was about the ‘cool stuff’ that one could do with the ‘multi-touch’ feature, no one really paid much attention to the fact that you could download software applications from an online store.

Apple’s real success with the iPhone is not the fact that it made a superb mobile phone, or pocket Internet device, there were a hundred rip-offs that followed and many of them possibly had more features than the iPhone.

Their success was in getting people excited enough to do more with their phones. Not just to surf, but to keep exploring new things everyday and shockingly in the internet era, to pay for them! Of course, the fact that the most downloaded paid app till date is a game involving bandicoots racing souped up nitrous go-karts and slamming into each other, is disturbing as far as the future of humanity is concerned, but that’s another debate altogether.

The point is that iPhone + iTunes = magic and it’s the formula that the entire consumer tech industry wants to replicate. Whether its the Amazon Kindle ebook reader that plugs into the world’s largest online bookstore or the fact that the Blackberry is now not just a ‘phone that does email’ but a ‘platform’ with an app store of its own, everyone is onto the bandwagon.

So even as Apple pops the champagne, Nokia is putting the finishing touches on it’s very own Ovi Store, expected to be launched next month. When the world’s largest maker of cell phones decides to transform itself from just a telecom device manufacturer to an ‘Internet services company’, it’s a big deal.

Sure, the cynics could say that they’re late to the party that Apple started, but with entrenched positions in most of the world’s fastest growing markets, Nokia can’t be ignored, even though I personally think they should take a cue from Apple and call the upcoming N97, the ‘OviPhone’ to give the store some mileage.

And then, of course, there is Google, whose Android operating system, will soon find itself on phones and even laptops around you. Hey, if my phone is wirelessly synced with my Gmail, including contacts, the moment I turn it on, its a winner immediately.

There’s a big collision around the corner and considering the Large Hadron Collider is still ‘offline’, we’re not talking particle physics!


Paramita Chatterjee & Ravi Teja Sharma, New Delhi, April 27, 2009
The Economic Times

It’s a case of a law firm finding itself at the receiving end of a trademark battle. Reed Elsevier Properties (REP), a US-based publishing house that owns and controls content provider LexisNexis, has received an interim relief from the Delhi High Court, which restrained a Mumbai-based law firm from operating under the name Lex Nexus. The law firm was earlier known as Hathi & Partners.


New Delhi, April 27, 2009
Mint Financial Chronicle The Economic Times

The government is learnt to have sought certain clarification from HCL Infocomm, an arm of IT firm HCL Infosystems Ltd, on its proposal for a joint venture with Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia Oyj. to sell handsets and accessories.

Sources associated with the process said the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), which clears all major foreign investment proposals in India, has sought shareholding pattern of HCL Infocomm, which the company has provided. The matter came up for discussion on 20 April at FIPB sitting but was deferred.

Nokia will hold a 51% stake in the venture while HCL Infocomm would have the rest. When approved, this will be the first single­brand retail JV in the mobile handset space in India. The venture will set up flagship Nokia handset stores and virtual Nokia Music stores. It will also sell Nokia’s luxury Vertu handsets and consumer services under Ovi brand.


New Delhi, April 27, 2009
The Economic Times

Anti-virus software maker Trend Micro expects to clock about Rs 16 crore sales in the current fiscal from its recently launched consumer business in India.

The USD 848-million (about Rs 4,207-crore) firm expects to sell about 16 lakh anti-virus software licences in this segment this fiscal.

"We launched our consumer software in January this year... We expect to sell about 3-4 lakh licences every quarter," Trend Micro Country Head (India) Amit Nath told media.

The average cost of the antivirus pack (containing three licences) is about Rs 1,000 and translates roughly in sales of Rs 16 lakh in the first year.

Trend Micro is also in discussion with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for offering bundled software with laptops and desktops.

"We have appointed distributors for our product and are also talking to OEMs for bundling offers. We know the consumer segment is very big and are looking at the segment contributing up to 10 percent to our business in the very first year itself," Nath said.

While the focus of the company remains on the consumer segment, US-based Trend Micro is also looking at the small and medium enterprises segment for business.

SMEs are challenging as they often use pirated software for whatever reasons. For us, our price points and the security features would be the driving features for this segment," Nath said, adding this segment currently comprises about 50 percent of its business.

According to IDC India Manager (Software and Services Practice) Saurabh Verma, the India Secure Content and Threat Management software market for 2008 was estimated to be USD 60.6 million, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17.6 percent over the period 2008-2013.

Anti-virus software is also covered under the SCTM category.


Writankar Mukherjee, Kolkata, April 27, 2009
The Economic Times (Kolkata edition)

Cellebrum, the mobile VAS arm of Spice Group, has decided to set up a new R&D facility in Bangalore to develop solutions targeted at the enterprise segment. The facility will develop technology around Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) and towards integration of ERP systems on the mobile phone. The unit will initially employ around 100 people.

This will be Cellebrum’s fourth development centre. Its three existing centres are in Singapore, Noida and Himachal Pradesh. The Singapore facility is into 3G VAS solutions while the other two centres are involved in developing VAS applications across all categories, be it GPRS, SMS or voice related.

Cellebrum plans to kick off the first phase of the Bangalore facility next month. In step with this, Cellebrum plans to target the enterprise segment as one of its future growth drivers.

“We have decided to focus on enterprise solutions since several companies in sectors like FMCG, banks and airlines now wish to adopt mobile solutions to reduce cost and increase productivity. The Bangalore facility will develop both voice solutions and those centred around tracking of inventory, finance and HR,” Cellebrum CEO Saket Agarwal said.

Cellebrum has already bagged two major enterprise segment deals. The first is from Indian Railways, which involves rolling out an enquiry system on the mobile phone across voice, SMS and GPRS platforms. “We also plan to integrate train, hotel and cab reservations under this system,” said Agarwal.

The other major deal is from State Bank of India (SBI) where Cellebrum is developing technology, which will enable SBI customers to access their bank account and undertake transactions on the mobile phone.

“We are currently under discussion with mobile operators to start the service. We hope to rollout this service over the next three to four weeks,” said Agarwal.

Cellebrum also plans to expand its international revenue over the next three years.

“We have overseas marketing and support offices in Singapore and Bangladesh with plans to open the third office in Dubai. International markets currently account for 5 percent of our turnover and we plan to grow this to 20 percent by 2012,” Agarwal said.

The company has 550-odd people on its rolls with over Rs 200 crore turnover. “While we have been growing our turnover by near 100 percent, this year we expect a growth of around 40-50 percent as consumers have reduced their spend on VAS. Even operators are seeing a fall in the ARPU levels,” said Agarwal.

Anjali Prayag, Bangalore, April 27, 2009
The Hindu Business Line

Employees at Infospace India may never have played rugby but they all have the expertise to get the ‘ball back into play.’

Scrum, a term borrowed from the rugby field, is an iterative incremental process of software development and is practised by everyone at the Bangalore-based Web design and applications company.

“It has been a full-blown practice here for the last three-and-a-half years and we have seen 200-300 percent productivity improvement during the period,” says Srishti Sofat, Country Manager, Infospace.

In rugby, scrum is where the whole team acts together with every member moving with everyone else to push the ball down the field. In a software company, the whole process is performed by one cross-functional team across different phases of a project — meaning evaluating the team’s process and changing its tactics if one method isn’t working.

Scrum follows the agile development principle and provides a seamless methodology to bind not just the processes but also the team members. The priority here is customer satisfaction through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. Agile processes use change for the customer’s competitive advantage, incorporating changes, even late in the development process.

The main roles in a scrum are the scrum master, who maintains the processes and works as a project manager; the product owner who represents the stakeholders; and the ‘team’ consisting of developers.

At InfoSpace, the team involved in a project does a 15-minute scrum before resuming the day’s work. Apart from the regular updates, the meeting enables the team members in understanding about “not how one has worked but how much he or she has lagged behind.” This will help team members take measures to keep pace with the rest of the team.

“This puts pressure on employees to perform as they have to announce what they did the previous day,” according to Sofat. This methodology is especially relevant for Infospace because it is an Internet-based company and fast moving processes work well for the company, she explains.


April 27, 2009
The Hindu Business Line

Xerox India has announced the launch of Phaser 3435 laser printer, designed specifically for the SMB segment of customers. The printer supports automatic two-sided printing and printing speed of 33 pages per minute for A4 size prints, says the company. “It occupies less office space because of smaller footprint, can be set up in five easy clicks and is available at Rs 35,272 along with a one-year onsite warranty,” it says.


R. Dinakaran, April 27, 2009
The Hindu Business Line

How often do you sleep with your mobile phone by your side? Do you keep it under your pillow?

Not only mobiles, all electronic gadgets emit electromagnetic waves. Newspapers and magazines constantly publish `studies' on how mobile phones affect our health - mental and physical - with scary reports of brain tumours.

Surprisingly, my wife seems to have an uncanny ability to home in on such stories and display them to me as warnings. She is naturally worried as she thinks I am surrounded by electronic gadgets - and my bag is full of them. Being an `insider' I also keep telling her that newspapers publish such items because we have a lot of space to fill in the slowdown.

This worked till last week when I brought a book on energy healing from the British Council library. Page after page in the book describes how electronic goods affect energy levels. The author, Seka Nikolic, is emphatic that we should not keep electronic items in the bedroom. I ran an Internet search. Each and every Feng Shui or energy healing site had something to say on how electronic items in the bedroom caused `disturbing vibrations' and affected your sleep.

The site had a collection of articles on how mobile phones affected us.

Though I had never felt my mobile was evil enough to disturb my sleep, I got scared enough to decide to get rid of my mobile from my bed. This was worse. I woke up at least six times in the night to go to the other room to check whether I had any `missed calls' or a waiting SMS.

Now I have decided to keep my mobile near my pillow. I now sleep peacefully. May be the electromagnetic waves aid my sleep.

Friday, April 24, 2009


San Francisco
The Economic Times

Yahoo Inc is shutting down GeoCities, a free service that hosts personal home pages for consumers, which it acquired for more than $4 billion 10 years ago during the heyday of the dotcom boom.

A posting on a Yahoo Help page for GeoCities on Thursday said the service was no longer accepting new customers and that it will be closing later this year, with more details about how individuals can save their data coming this summer.

The move comes a few days after Yahoo said it would lay off nearly 700 workers, or 5 percent of its workforce.

Since Chief Executive Carol Bartz took the reins in January, Yahoo has pruned various products and properties to cut costs and focus on fundamentals, as it seeks to revive growth in a tough economy and fierce competition from Google Inc.

Last week, Yahoo said it was shutting down Jumpcut, an online service for editing videos.

Yahoo acquired GeoCities in 1999 in a stock deal valued at roughly $4.6 billion, Reuters reported at the time.

GeoCities was among the first companies to build online communities, with more than 3.5 million websites hosted on its service in the late 1990s.

But GeoCities fell out of favor in recent years, as a generation of social network sites such as Facebook and News Corp's Myspace have become popular among Web users.

"We have decided to discontinue the process of allowing new customers to sign up for GeoCities accounts as we focus on helping our customers explore and build new relationships online in other ways," Yahoo said in a statement.


The Economic Times

International Business Machines Corp plans to launch cloud computing services this year, taking on companies such as Inc, Microsoft Corp and Google Inc.

Company spokeswoman Kelly Sims said on Thursday the first of these new services will enable developers to write software that works with the emerging new technology.

Cloud computing systems run software and store information in remote, large-scale data centers that users and programmers access over the Internet.

In addition to the service for developers, the company also plans to introduce clouds that allow businesses to run business applications and virtualize personal computer networks, Sims said.

Much of the technology was developed using know-how that IBM developed through a partnership with Google to develop cloud services for academic computing that dates back to 2007, she said.


The Economic Times

Apple Inc. pulled a 99-cent iPhone game called "Baby Shaker" from its iTunes store Wednesday after its premise — quiet a crying baby with a vigorous shake — prompted outrage.

According to screen shots posted on several Web sites, "Baby Shaker" displayed black-and-white line drawings of a baby. The iTunes description included the line, "See how long you can endure his or her adorable cries before you just have to find a way to quiet the baby down!" Once the iPhone owner finishes shaking the device, the on-screen baby is depicted with large red X's over its eyes.

Public outcry ensued, with organizations including the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome and the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation condemning Apple for approving the game's sale.

The application was designed by Sikalosoft, which also makes a 99-cent "Dice Mosaic" iPhone program that converts digital photos into black and white mosaics made from dice.

Sikalosoft did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment, but "Baby Shaker" was deleted from its Web site Wednesday afternoon.


Deccan Chronicle

Scientists in Britain have created lip-reading computers that can differentiate between different languages, a development that could have practical uses for deaf persons and for law enforcement agencies.

“This is an exciting advance in automatic lip-reading technology and the first scientific confirmation of something we already intuitively suspected — that when people speak different languages, they use different mouth shapes in different sequences,” said Prof Stephen Cox, who led the study along with Jake Newman of Britain’s University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich.

The ground breaking technology, which was developed by statistical modelling of the lip motions made by a group of 23 bilingual and trilingual speakers, could have practical uses for deaf people, for law enforcement agencies, and in noisy environments, the Science Daily online reported. Though computers that can read lips is nothing new, it is for the first time the machine has been “taught” to recognise different languages. The system was able to identify different languages, including English, French, German, Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Italian, Polish and Russian, by an individual speaker with very high accuracy.


DNA (Bangalore edition)

Scientists from University of California, Davis have developed an ultra-small chip that provides breakthrough speeds for a variety of computing tasks. The 167-processor chip, known as AsAP, is fully reprogrammable, extremely energy-efficient, highly configurable. It can be widely adapted to a number of applications.


DNA (Bangalore edition)

Logitech Notebook Riser N110 elevates your notebook to improve your comfort. You can use the Notebook Riser N110 with your favourite external keyboard and mouse and arrange each peripheral individually to enhance your typing posture. It also features an adjustable tilt and a rubber- soled swivel base, so you can choose the position that feels best to you.


Ravi Teja Sharma
The Economic Times

Have a bias that rural youth cannot match up to those educated or trained in urban areas? eJeevika is trying to change that by training the rural folk for high-growth sectors. Richa Pandey Mishra, founder of the venture feels they are addressing a very important problem in rural India. “Even after being educated, there are no jobs for these rural youth. We are working from ground up,” she explains.

The model is interesting. Here, the placement precedes the training. After an initial screening by eJeevika (where they test communication skills typing speed, sales skills etc), candidates and clients talk using various platforms (video conferencing, phone etc) and after selection, the training starts. Candidates get a blended training module (70 percent online, run by the local kiosks and 30 percent done offline by clients). The accuracy levels here are close to 90 percent because of the prior screening by eJeevika.

The candidates do not need to go to urban areas to get trained. The training is imparted at the block and taluk levels where the company has tied up with various kiosk owners. “We make them our franchises or have a revenue sharing agreement with them,” says Mishra.

Mishra worked with various media groups for over eight years in marketing, including at The Economic Times and then decided she wanted to start something on her own. Her search took her to the Rural Technology Business Incubator (RTBI) at IIT-Madras. “A vocational training programme for rural youth was already running at RTBI and I joined them for the pilot on retail sales,” she recalls. They trained two batches of candidates in Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore and Tiruvalluvar districts during which they tied up with 20 kiosks and tested the software. IIT Madras and NIS Sparta jointly developed the retail sales module.

This was in July 2008. And in a month, Mishra formed her own company in partnership with RTBI, which owns close to 15 percent of the venture. Mishra heads a growing team of 12 and eJeevika has already trained and got jobs for 200 candidates. One of their biggest clients is HOV Services, an international BPO which does work for the US government and has offices in Chennai, Trichy and Salem. Her future target is very aggressive. As things have stabilised and partnerships have been formed, she expects to have trained close to 5,000 candidates by March 2010.

For clients, it is a win-win. She claims that her model helps reduce the cost of recruitment by up to 90 percent for the clients. “The biggest cost involved is the payment to the placement consultant. We charge one-fourth of what a regular placement consultant does,” she says. What the client gets is a trained employee, who, in most cases, does not require any additional training.

Mishra and her team are busy identifying pockets in each state to source candidates from. “Rural youth do not want to migrate. They would prefer to get jobs close by or in their own state. Understanding this fact, we are trying to tie-up with companies wanting to hire local language staff,” explains Mishra, adding, “they will stick for longer if they get a well paying job closer home.” eJeevika is speaking to BPOs in Pondicherry, Trichy, Chennai and other areas. Another IIT-Madras incubated venture, a rural BPO has picked up five candidates; Tata’s Westside too has picked up a few.

She calls eJeevika a social enterprise, but for profit. “Without profit, the venture will not be scalable,” she adds. For the initial trainings, the company did not charge the candidates but the team soon realised that they too had to pay the kiosk and computer centres. Now, every candidate pays a nominal Rs 1,000 for the process.


Sudhir Syal
The Economic Times

At 25, IIT Mumbai engineering grad Gagan Goyal had already founded Rhizo, a startup clean tech venture that aimed to harness heat generated from air-conditioners. This venture however had to be shut down, and like most Indians, young Goyal fell back on the ‘secure’ environs of a public sector oil firm. “But I was not enjoying myself. I had a fetish for robots. I thought why not launch a business around robotics,” he says.

Through his engineering, Goyal had displayed a keen interest in robotics with him also being selected to represent India in the ASME Student Design Contest in New Orleans, USA. The workshop at the contest was to create a robot which could test a Baseball ball and see if it was ready for play. He reminisces: “What I realised was that the effort was more focussed on integrating parts rather than creating them.

Ready-made parts gave participants enough time to focus on programming the robot to make it do intelligent things.” With this in mind, he pooled in Rs 2 lakhs from his personal savings and set up ThinkLabs, which created individual robotic parts and conducted robotic workshops primarily targeting engineering students with an interest in robotics.

The big change in the model came when he approached SINE, (Society of Innovation and Entrepreneurship) the incubator at IIT Mumbai. As Goyal remembers, “the meeting with SINE enabled us to completely change our business model. They helped us realise that robots could be used to help students appreciate and understand science and technology. We subsequently changed our path to become completely education focussed with customised workshops for college and school students.”

What followed was the launch of, a series of workshops designed to make students interact with robots and programme them to carry out different functions. The basic program is one named ‘SCORE’ (Starter Course on Robotics Education) which is a 24-hour workshop which costs Rs 10,000 and is designed for students in the 11-17 year age group.

At the workshops, students work with a software interface and an associated hardware to programme the robots to move in a certain direction or create a video game. This interactive format enables students to not only learn software but also learn physics, electronics and mathematics. Today, apart from teaching children, Thinklabs also sells its robotic kits to educational institutions and students.

In 2007, his IIT-Mumbai classmate Abhishek Biswal joined Goyal as a partner and now looks after the marketing function. “Initially, educational institutions were quite sceptical of the value of our courses. But we soon re-structured our courses in a way that it meshed well with the understanding of the school and college syllabi,” says Goyal. Thinklabs has trained over 30,000 students across 200 educational institutions in 35 cities.

“The key for us is to look at training others who can carry out our method of training. We are looking at a franchising model wherein we train other training institutes to conduct our workshops.” The future growth plans include raising another round of funding over the next three months and a long-term plan an IPO over the next three years.


Arati Menon Carroll
The Economic Times

In December the RP Goenka group sold its stake in mobile and laptop retail chain RPG Cellucom to focus on “higher margin retail categories” . The metals-to-telecom Aditya Birla group is in negotiations to sell its electrical insulators business.

The go go years

During the bull run of 2000-2005 , amid increased global interest in the ‘India story’ and astonishing GDP growth, companies went on a high-octane drive of diversification beyond their central businesses. If in the days of the license raj it was the big business houses like the Tatas who could absorb the huge fixed costs of navigating the licensing system , the 21st century economic climate threw up business opportunities for all. “We mustn’t forget that Indian entrepreneurship, in the post-reform , free market environment, is still a nascent phenomenon that is less than a few cycles old,” says Chandra.

Some companies stayed focused: Infosys and Bharat Forge have been praised for their ability to stay invested in core operations. Others were lured by the high valuations in sunrise industries — like IT in the 90s, retail in 2000, and real estate and private equity recently. This kind of diversification is what Chris Zook, partner at Bain & Company and author of Profit from the core, describes as chasing the next “hot” topic.


The Hindu

Kodak India has inaugurated its state-of-the-art digital camera service facility in Noida. This is the first facility in India and only the second in Asia for Kodak to be equipped with the latest calibration and setup equipment for digital cameras and can handle complex servicing and repairs. Kodak’s national distribution partner HCL Infosystems will manage the back-end repairs and service at this centre says a release


New Delhi
The Economic Times

As small and medium businesses in India struggle to stay afloat during the global economic slowdown, they are opting for cheaper computing services, and a Boston-based entrepreneur is here to promote his solution, cloud computing, in which software is shared over a wide network of computers.

Sumeet Sabharwal, senior vice-president of outsourcing and IT hosting firm Navisite Inc, says cloud computing is a viable Internet model for small and medium businesses across India, especially in the technology hubs in and around the capital and in Bangalore.

"The demand for having a reliable hosted infrastructure has increased over the years in India as businesses are shifting to the Internet from off-line facilities. At the same time, users do not want to burden themselves with the cumbersome processes of installations and hardware specifics. They look for solutions that are flexible, to scale and automated from the deployment standpoint, to maximise profit and output," Sabharwal said.

He said cloud computing was "still in a nascent stage in India and users need to be educated. Demand will grow as medium and small business owners realise its financial upside. I think it is the technology of the future for a country like India".

"Cloud computing," explained Sabharwal, a Cornell University alumnus, "is a computer paradigm in which tasks are assigned to a combination of connections. It operates on three basic principles - computer, bandwidth and storage.

"It eliminates the manual tasks of shipping the software to the user and allows users direct access to the software from the net. This network of servers and connections is collectively known as 'the cloud', which is a kind of a platform."

Computing at the scale of the cloud, said Sabharwal, allowed users to access supercomputer-level power. "Using a thin client or other access points like an iPhone, BlackBerry or laptop, users can reach into the cloud for resources they need. For this reason, cloud computing has also been described as on-demand computing."

Cloud computing, where the "intelligent network acts as the supercomputer", is a way to increase network capacity or add capabilities without investing in new infrastructure, new personnel or licensing new software.

"It is a pay-per-use service and cuts business cost by at least 40 percent depending on how the businesses leverage it. At the same time, one can scale up or scale down on the network itself, going by the number of visits to a business site and its growth," Sabharwal said.


R. Ravikumar, Chennai
The Hindu Business Line

Betting big on mobile gaming, Indiagames Ltd is currently developing games based on sports and movies, and also has tied up with biggies such as EA, Disne and THQ to distribute their games in both mobile and online verticals in India.

The company, which has 60 percent share of the Rs 200-crore (in terms of gross revenues) mobile gaming market, is all set to launch its first 3D game – Cricket Super Sixes, in the US market. “As the size of the software requires 3G, we are launching it in the US market,” says Vishal Gondal, Founder CEO of the company.

According to him, the new game has been developed on the iPhone platform, and hence can be played only on iPhones.

Indiagames distributes over a thousand mobile-based games, of which around 150 have been developed by the company and the rest, bought from other developers. UTV has a 51 percent stake in Indiagames. Another 30 percent is with the promoter and employees, the rest is held by Cisco Systems and Adobe.

Talking about the Indian mobile gaming industry, Gondal said currently four million games at an average rate of Rs 45 each, are being downloaded each month.

As only less than 6 percent of the country’s mobile subscriber base of over 350 million, there is a great scope for growth. When the country opens up for 3G telecom, the higher technology will “greatly enhance the pleasure of gaming on mobile”, Gondal said, adding that the market size could then rise to Rs 1,500 crore in four years.


The Hindu Business Line The Hindu The Times of India (Chennai)

Odyssey Technologies Ltd, the Chennai-based software company, has launched a new software toolbar that help users to visit ‘trusted’ Web sites for online transactions. Called ‘Snorkel Toolbar’, the new software tool will be available first to HDFC Bank, which in turn will give it its customers for doing online transactions with the bank. The company will also provide the tool to its other clients, including IOB and Karur Vysya Bank, according to B. Robert Raja, Chairman and Managing Director, Odyssey Technologies.

The toolbar lets the user create a list of Web sites he/she normally uses for transactions. For each of those sites, the toolbar acquires the digital certificate associated with the Web site and stores it securely. For instance, if a person visits the HDFC Bank, the toolbar will identify whether it is original or fake, and alerts the user accordingly, he told newspersons.

The software tool will be available for free to users to help Odyssey increase trust among users. The tool will be available in the company’s Web site in another ten days, he said


The Asian Age

Virtualization pioneer VMware announced VMware vSphere 4, the industry’s first operating system for building the "internal cloud", enabling the delivery of flexible IT as a service.

Ganesh Mahabala, regional director, India & SAARC, said: "As the complexity of IT environments have continued to increase over time, 70 percent of customers’ IT budgets are spent on simply trying to ‘keep the lights on.’ Leveraging VMware vSphere 4, customers can take pragmatic steps to achieve cloud computing within their own IT environments. With these internal clouds, IT departments can dramatically simplify how computing is delivered in order to help decrease cost by 30-50 percent, increase its flexibility, enabling IT to respond more rapidly to changing business requirements."

VMware vSphere 4 brings the capability to aggregate large number of virtual machines and large amounts of physical infrastructure into a single logical resource pool or "compute plant" on a cloud scale — that would create the mainframe of the 21st century, the firm said.


The Times of India (Delhi edition)

The Oriental Insurance Company Limited (OICL) has completed the implementation of its core software (Inlias) in all its 1,018 branches and extension counters. To celebrate the deployment of the software OICL organized an event, which was chaired by Arun Ramanathan, finance secretary. The new software will enable the customers to pay their premiums, or lodge their claims, at any of the offices of OICL through out the country.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Washington, April 19, 2009
The Economic Times

Ultra-thin ferro-electric materials used in smart cards will soon make computers more efficient by enabling them to switch on instantly.

Smart cards rely on ferro-electric materials to instantly reveal and update stored information. For example, in ATMs. A computer with this capability could instantly provide information and other data to the user.

Researchers led by Darrell Schlom at Cornell University took strontium titanate and deposited it on silicon, the main component of most semiconductors. Schlom and his team then integrated circuits in such a way that the silicon squeezed it into a ferro-electric state.

For computer users, it could mean no more waiting for the operating system to come online or to access memory slowly from the hard drive.


April 19, 2009
Financial Chronicle

Microsoft confirmed on Tuesday that it will not open Office 2010 beta testing to the general public, but will instead limit the preview to a large group of invite-only users starting in the third quarter of 2009.

The technology preview, as Microsoft will call the beta program, will involve "thousands of users," a company spokeswoman said. But it will be a closed group, in that Microsoft will not post a beta version of Office 2010 to its site for just anyone to download.

"At this point, there is no plan" to offer the beta to the general public, she added when asked whether Microsoft would release a preview to any and all.

Office 2010, the moniker Microsoft announced today for its next application suite, the bundle had previously carried the code name "Office 14", will be issued in beta form to workers in Microsoft's largest corporate accounts as well as run-of-the-mill consumers, the spokeswoman said.


San Francisco, April 19, 2009
The Economic Times

It's been more than a year since Microsoft Corp's unsolicited bid to buy Yahoo Inc ended in tatters and acrimony. Now the two companies are talking again, with the less contentious agenda of forging an Internet search advertising partnership having replaced the notion of an outright merger.

Analysts say that co-opting Yahoo's search assets represents Microsoft's best hope to turn around its money-losing online business and to challenge Google Inc's dominant and growing share of the U.S. search market. But handing search over to Microsoft would be fraught with risk for Yahoo, which would cede what is believed to be a profitable and increasingly vital plank in its online business.

Search data is increasingly used to custom-tailor display advertisements for Web surfers. "You don't walk away from search unless there's some ridiculously huge number in front of you," said RBC Capital Markets analyst Ross Sandler.

Yahoo Chief Executive Carol Bartz and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently talked about various partnerships, possibly with Microsoft managing Yahoo's search advertising business and Yahoo handling display ads across Microsoft's websites, according to a source familiar with the situation.


New Delhi, April 20, 2009
The Economic Times Mail Today

After deferring it earlier, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) will again take up Japanese two-wheeler major Yamaha's proposal to transfer its Indian sales business to a new entity - India Yahama Motor Pvt Ltd - tomorrow.

The FIPB will also consider Nokia Corporation's proposal to enter into a joint venture with HCL Infocomm to set up exclusive retail outlets for selling handsets and services to Indian consumers.

If approved, this will be the first single-brand retail JV in the mobile handset business in India.

Yamaha Motor India Sales Pvt Ltd (YMISPL) is seeking FIPB approval to transfer its business to India Yamaha Motor Pvt Ltd (IYMPL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yamaha Motor Co, Japan.


Ritwik Mukherjee, Kolkata, April 20, 2009
Financial Chronicle

Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), created by the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 to oversee auditors of public companies, has announced plans to upgrade the standards for confirming information on a company’s balance sheet from a third party, such as a bank or customer.

It may be mentioned that in the case of Satyam, its auditors from Price Waterhouse (PW) are under scrutiny on why they signed on what turned out to be fabricated sales invoices, bank statements and bank confirmations.

Over 100 countries, including India, are moving toward uniform accounting standard, IFRS, by 2011.

According to an announcement on PCAOB official site, the board, on April 14, sought public comments on possible revisions to the standard on audit confirmations—‘AU Sec. 330-The Confirmation Process’, written over 15 years ago. The board has sought comments from chartered accountants, audit firms, companies and individuals within 45-day period.

Confirmation is a process by which an auditor obtains and evaluates a direct communication from a knowledgeable third party in response to a request for information regarding account balances, transactions or other items that comprise a company's financial statements. Confirmations are an important source of evidence that auditors obtain.

In Satyam’s case, PW has been saying that their auditors had relied on the management’s information. Interestingly, the current standard doesn't address issues such as how an auditor should respond if a company management asks it not to confirm certain accounts.

Now, PCAOB has proposed that, in general, evidence obtained from a knowledgeable source that is independent of the company would be considered more reliable than evidence obtained only from internal company sources.

The board is also considering expanding the definition of confirmation to include direct access to information held by a third party in response to a request for information about a particular item affecting financial statement assertions.

Amiti Sen, New Delhi, April 20, 2009
The Economic Times

Real estate developer DLF will not be allowed to get its four special economic zones (SEZs) denotified or cancelled till the government carries out inspection of the zones to ensure that all duty exemptions enjoyed by the developer during implementation of the project are refunded. It must also be ensured that there are no units in these zones which could get affected by the denotification, a government official said.

“We have already asked our field organisations to start the inspection process. The Customs department will also carry out its own investigations,” a commerce department official said.

DLF recently asked the commerce department to denotify four of its IT/ITES SEZs in Bhubaneswar, Gandhinagar, Kolkata and Sonepat. The company, in an official statement, said the decision to get the zones denotified was due to a slowdown in demand for office space and an overall slump in the IT sector.

According to the commerce department, a developer can get a SEZ denotified as long as it is not operational and there are no units there, provided he refunds all the duty exemptions enjoyed because of the SEZ status.

A SEZ developer is exempted from paying local duties like excise and sales tax on materials purchased from the domestic tariff area (area outside the zones) for building and other activities within the zone, besides state government levies such as stamp duty and value-added tax. The developer is also exempted from paying Customs duty in case he imports inputs. “All these exempted duties have to be refunded to the government in case a SEZ is denotified,” the official said. Once the government officials deputed for the task certify that there are no units in the zones and calculate the duties to be refunded, the denotification can take place.

Interestingly, while the commerce department is of the view that there won’t be a problem in getting the DLF SEZs denotified, the same is not true for the three notified SEZs in Goa which the state government wants to be denotified. The denotification of SEZs has not happened yet as the developers are not in favour of the move and there are several units which have set up operations in these zones.


New Delhi, April 20, 2008
Financial Chronicle MintThe Hindu Business Line Business Standard

3i Infotech, the software company in which India's largest private sector bank, ICICI Bank, holds a majority stake, is hopeful of meeting the revenue guidance of Rs 2,200-Rs 2,300 crore for 2008-09 fiscal, banking on its transaction based business model.

"We feel we can meet our guidance level of Rs 2,200-Rs 2,300 crore as our revenue comes from transactions based activities. Our two-third revenue comes from banking and financial services and we don't see that changing despite the slowdown," Anirudh Prabhakaran, ED and President of South Asia business for 3i Infotech, said.

ICICI Bank holds 39 percent stake in the firm, LIC has seven percent, Emirates Bank has four percent stake, while the rest is held by MFs and public.

The company's scrip was down marginally at Rs 39.50 on Friday. He said many of 3i's business are long-term in nature and it is not a people-based IT company which saves it from facing the cyclical nature of economy.

For the third quarter ending December 2008, 3i Infotech reported a net profit of Rs 70 crore on revenues of Rs 616 crore. On April 24, it will announce its Q4 result. It earns about 45 percent revenue from the US and 27 percent from India.

The company had upped its outlook for 2008-09 to Rs 2,200-Rs 2,300 crore topline and sees earnings per share between Rs 14 and Rs 14.50.

Its original guidance estimated earnings at Rs 13-Rs 13.5 a share, while revenue was seen rising 40 percent to Rs 1,700 crore. Recently, the IT company repurchased a part of its foreign currency convertible bonds.


Bhubaneswar, April 20, 2009
The Financial Express

Luminous Infoways Pvt Ltd, a Bhubanswar-based software company has bagged a major engagement contract from world's third largest winery, Gray cliff Winery, to completely manage their sales, purchases, trading, retail operation in Bahamas and USA.

Luminous Infoways managing director Tanmaya Mohanty said the software company would provide services of content creation and content management for the winery. The engagement contract also involves maintaining the gift shops of Gray cliff Winery in all major US airports.

Mohanty said Luminous is now managing the national portal of India for three states—Orissa, Jharkhand, and Arunachal Pradesh. The company has developed and highly innovative and user-friendly Web Geographis Information System Solutions for National Rural Health Mission, Orissa, he added. The managing director said that the company plans to focus on e-governance, health domain, expansion of CSP to other states of the country.


Chennai/Bangalore, April 20, 2009
Business Standard

PC shipments across the world including India declined quite significantly during the last two quarters, an offshoot of the global financial meltdown. However, that has not dampened the spirit of the PC vendors regarding the opportunities that emerging markets like India still hold.

A report by MAIT, the apex body that represents the hardware sector in India, the total PC sales between October and December 2008 were 1.4 million units, registering a decline of 19 percent over the same period last fiscal. This included both the desktop computer and notebooks segments. The report had stated that given the current macro-economic conditions and the buying sentiment in the market, overall PC sales for 2008-09 are expected to remain at the same levels as in the last fiscal at 7.3 million units.

A recent report by analyst firm Gartner says that the PC shipments worldwide have declined 6.5 percent to total 67.2 million units in first quarter of 2009. The report however said that despite global meltdown the Asia Pacific region was relatively less affected as the home market was comparatively less affected as vendors were “aggressive in stimulating demand by adjusting prices downward, bundling promotions, and conducting road shows targeting the market.”

During the first quarter of 2009, PC shipments in the Asia Pacific region saw a decline of 5.5 percent, said the report. Major international PC vendors including HP, Dell and Lenovo have increased their focus on the Indian market by launching products suitable for the Indian consumers and the enterprises.

Despite being under pressure due to the fall in demand of PCs, Indian players like HCL and Wipro have launched many a new products targeting specific segments in the Indian market. The strategy is expected to help them in the period of recession and ven when the revival happens.

Anticipating softness in the demand in its tradition markets, world’s second biggest computer maker Dell has now increased its focus on emerging markets including India, China, Brazil and Russia. Last quarter, the company had rolled out its first brand campaign in India roping in real life business heros and entrepreneurs to endorse its products, targeting the SMBs.

This is in a slight change in its marketing strategy which was earlier largely focussed on the large enterprises. According to Mark Jarvis, chief marketing officer, Dell, the company feels that despite the softness in demand, the economic slowdown can also be an opportunity for the company.

“Dell is a well-known brand in India, but among the SMBs we are not the brand leader. Our campaign will convey the SMBs the stories of real life Indian business heros who have used IT and have become successful in their own business,” said Jarvis.

Wipro for example, has recently launched their e.go range of cheaper but stylish notebooks what the company is expecting to find good acceptance among the Indian users. The company said that even though they knew how the global meltdown has impacted every walks of life, they did not change their plans to launch the notebooks.

HCL Infosystems, the hardware business of HCL Enterprise, has recently launched a new range of laptops under ‘Leaptop Series 39’. The laptops are designed for Indian climatic conditions, where the ambient temperatures are higher and the surface temperature of laptops tend to become uncomfortable.

Gartner expects that the PC market globally will be driven by low-priced mobile PCs going forward. “Low priced mobile PCs continued to be the growth driver for the PC industry in most regions,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “However, we anticipate a sharp decline in industry revenues due to the lower average selling prices (ASPs) of these devices,” he added.


Janani Krishnaswamy, April 20, 2009
The Hindu Business Line

Recession or no, companies in the consumer technology space appear to be going ahead with R&D and new product launches. eWorld talked to the players for more on their plans. Here's a snapshot of the action:

More flat panels coming

If there is one market that seems unaffected by recession, it is the flat panel display segment. Samsung and LG are betting big on this space this year. LG India plans to launch 35 models of LCDs, eyeing a 33 percent market share by year end.

Talking to eWorld, Amitabh Tiwari of LG says the company plans to launch LED and OLED display options in the next couple of months. "OLED should be here by end of 2009." Commenting on prices, he says, "LED-backlit displays might be 1.6 times the cost of present generation LCDs, whereas OLEDs might cost 2.1 times the price of an LCD." As part of its marketing strategy, LG attempted to prove that the In-Plane Switching technology has the advantage of a touch screen. When it was compared against an existing VA panel (of its competitor), the display remained stable after our touching the screen, while we observed that the latter offered an image of lightning when tested for the same.

Samsung will also be launching ultra-thin LEDs in the next couple of months. An array of Blu-ray products displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas will mark its presence in India by late October.

Hitachi will soon be coming out with its LED-based Ultra Thin LCD televisions in India. "The product is targeted at high networth individuals (HNIs) and will be launched around August 2009," says Tarun Jain, Country Head-India, Hitachi Home Electronics. Hitachi expects the Indian market to maintain robust growth. The company will be investing in new distribution channels to reach out to its high-end consumers.

However, for Philips India, the LCD business doesn't sound too profitable at the moment. "We have moved from `TV and the wall' to `health and well-being'," says Mahesh Krishnan, Consumer-Lifestyle Head, Philips India. Hinting about Cinema 21:9, he says Philips is working on something that will offer the `real cinema' experience. Philips will be focusing on four dimensions as of now - my body (healthcare and home appliances), my appearance (personal care), my mind (audio products) and my space (ambilight, ambisound products).

Netbook cushion to PC industry

A Gartner analysis reveals that the PC industry will experience its sharpest unit decline in history - an 11.9 percent decline from 2008. Both emerging and mature markets are forecast to suffer unprecedented slowdowns. And global spending on computing products will likely decline nearly 4 percent this year. However, mini-notebooks (also called netbooks) are expected to cushion the overall PC market slowdown. Mini-notebooks are forecast to represent 8 percent of PC shipments in 2009. According to IDC, the global netbook category is estimated to be 8.1 million units this year.

Lenovo India recently launched its range of slimmest entertainment PCs in India. Despite the fact that the desktop market has been facing a downward trend (IDC quarterly PC tracker reveals that, for CY 2008, desktop PC shipments dropped 10.1 percent), Lenovo India has launched the IdeaCentre A600. "This is one of the slimmest all-in-one desktop PCs," says Ramprasad L, Vice-President, Transactional Consumer Sales, Lenovo India. Unlike other all-in-one products, the A600 enables motion sensor gaming, VoIP calling, and also allows remote access to its media centre.

Gartner expects PC hardware to see the sharpest drop, nearly 15 percent compared to a 2.8 percent increase last year. However, Logitech maintains that its PC peripherals division and iPod docks have been an instant hit and continue to fare well even in times of slowdown in the Indian market.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cellular News

3G and WiMax spectrum auctions in Latin America will trigger massive broadband subscription growth, from 9 percent at year-end 2008 to 70 percent at year-end 2014, according to a new report from Pyramid Research.

Fixed broadband penetration in Latin America, which stood at 5.0 percent at year-end 2008, is roughly 30 percent below the global average of 6.5 percent, while 3G mobile penetration, at 3.4 percent, also ranks well below the global average of 7.8 percent, notes Jose Mario Lopez, Research Manager at Pyramid Research and co-author of the report.

"Understanding the link between broadband adoption and economic development, governments throughout Latin America have made broadband deployment a central theme of their political agendas," he says. "Regulators now look to accelerate the award of broadband spectrum, specifically WiMax and 3G, to close the connectivity gap and inject additional competition into the market -- this will, in turn, reduce prices, extend coverage to underserved areas, and make more bandwidth capacity available for the introduction of robust Internet applications," he adds.


The Economic Times

The European Commission started legal action against Britain on Tuesday for what the EU executive called a failure to keep people's online details confidential.

EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said the action related to how Internet service providers used Phorm technology to send subscribers tailor-made advertisements based on websites visited.

Britain has two months to respond to the charges, a Commission spokesman said.

BT admitted in April last year that it had tested Phorm in 2006 and 2007 without telling its customers, the Commission said.

The trials sparked "snooping" accusations from privacy groups and concern from the founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, but found support from UK telecoms regulator Ofcom.

Phorm said earlier this month it was delighted with the trials it had held in Britain and that it was in talks on further international expansion through joint ventures and did not fear regulatory intervention.

Reding said Internet users in Britain had complained about the way the UK applied EU rules on privacy and electronic communications that were meant to prohibit interception and surveillance without the user's consent.

"Technologies like Internet behavioral advertising can be useful for businesses and consumers but they must be used in a way that complies with EU rules," Reding said in a statement.


The Economic Times

Micro-blogging service Twitter was targeted by a wave of attacks by a computer worm over Easter weekend, a co-founder of the Web messaging company said.

"On a weekend normally reserved for bunnies, a worm took centre stage," Biz Stone said in a post on the official blog of the San Francisco-based startup.

Stone said the self-replicating computer worm, which resulted in users of the service receiving and sending unwanted messages, had not caused any damage. "Please note that no passwords, phone numbers, or other sensitive information was compromised as part of these attacks," he said.

Stone said Twitter had come under attack on four occasions from the worm, which the online technology news agency CNET said was created by a 17-year-old New York hacker. "All told, we identified and deleted almost 10,000 tweets (messages) that could have continued to spread the worm," Stone said.

He said the worm was similar to the Samy worm, which recently attacked social network MySpace. "We will conduct a full review of the weekend activities. Everything from how it happened, how we reacted, and
preventative measures will be covered," Stone said.


The Financial Express

The number of computer viruses is growing extraordinarily fast and shifting from phishing e-mails to being hidden in seemingly safe websites such as a local bed and breakfast, says Internet security company Symantec Corp in a new report on Tuesday.

There has been a huge increase in the number of viruses and worms, also called “malicious code,” on the Web with 624,267 identified in 2007 compared with 1.6 million last year, according to Symantec.

“60% of all the (malicious code) threats in the past 20 years came in the last 12 months alone,” said Vincent Weafer, Symantec’s vice president of security content and intelligence, in an interview with Reuters.

Attackers are shifting away from using a spam e-mail technique called phishing to get personal information from users to corrupting legitimate websites, for example a local business, and using it to steal, the report said.

The attackers tend to shy away from big corporate websites run by companies who would quickly repair the site in favor of smaller sites not run by professionals, such as a bed and breakfast. Symantec’s report cited other examples — UN and British government sites — of infected Internet sites.


Supriya Verma Mishra, Mumbai
The Economic Times

The month of March has been very fruitful for the organised retail’s biggest player, Future Group. The company is going in for a complete revamp of its business model. Investors seem to have taken a cue from this, as the company’s stock has zoomed more than 60 percent in the last one month.

Pantaloon Retail’s monthly sales grew 32.4 percent year on year against 31 percent in February. Its value retail format grew 25 percent, while lifestyle retail grew 17 percent. Same store sales growth stayed at the same level as last month with VR growing at 5 percent, LR at 4 percent and Home retail (HR) seeing a 10 percent dip. Other retailers are going in for similar strategies to beat the downturn.

In order to keep costs under control and to derive the most out of their economies of scale, a lot of retailers are revamping their supply chain, closing down unviable stores, concentrating on IT infrastructure and also consolidating stores.


Rituparna Bhuyan, New Delhi
Business Standard

Demand for special economic zones (SEZs) appears to be reviving even as realty developers are shying away from developing these tax-free enclaves due to liquidity crunch, according to experts who are tracking SEZs.

Recently, DLF requested the commerce ministry to derecognise at least five of its nine notified information technology SEZs. Parsvnath, another real estate developer, put its plans for developing 12 SEZs on hold and stopped land procurement for most of them.

However, market experts say that this does not mean that demand for such SEZs, especially aimed at the IT sector, has crashed. “In the past two weeks, I have got many queries on IT related SEZs as well as some engineering zones,” said Tapan Sangal, Senior Manager, PricewaterhouseCoopers, an audit and consulting firm.

Simultaneously, investors are also doing some due diligence on SEZ projects to see whether some projects are bankable, Sangal added.

According to the data available with the commerce ministry, there are 274 notified SEZs in the country which are eligible for tax benefits under the SEZ Act of 2005. However, many of these notified SEZs have been witnessing muted development activity, due to lack of funds as well as absence of interest from prospective clients.

Experts say they have also come across some immediate demand for the SEZ space in the National Capital Region in the past few days.

“We see a demand and supply mismatch for SEZs, at least in North India. While demand is there, developers are now looking at bridging their present cash flow requirements and have put SEZ projects on hold,” said Rajiv Chugh, partner, Ernst and Young.

Analysts feel that good infrastructure and talent pool in North India could be a possible reason for the immediate requirement of certain foreign companies in setting up base in SEZs.

Overall, the new queries, as well as the demand for space, experts feel, has resulted out of the new business strategies that are looking at cost effective business locations.

“Companies abroad, especially in the US, are undertaking cost benefit analysis of outsourcing in the wake of the local tax benefits offered to them to retain jobs in the US. However, the cost arbitrage would still make these companies realise that it is still economical to outsource certain processes to India,” added Chugh.

In a region like Chennai, of the 5.8 million square feet of SEZ space available, only 0.6 million square feet is vacant. “This is not a bad vacancy. Developers have put SEZ projects on hold. Hence, existing players, with ready available space, should do well,” said Ramesh Nair, Managing Director, Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj.

SEZ denotification to improve cash flow management: While experts see some renewed interest in the SEZs, real estate developers are tuning their business interests to suit their immediate cash flow requirements. Analysts point out that a SEZ project means back-ended revenues.

According to government officials, the Board of Approvals on SEZs under the commerce ministry will take a look at DLF’s plea for denotification, once the model code of conduct is lifted after elections. Notification is the final clearance, after which a developer starts enjoying tax benefits while developing SEZs.

“The Board will look if there has been any development at the sites where the notified zones are located,” the official added. A DLF spokesperson said the company would not comment on the issue.

Experts say liquidity crunch combined with low demand for developed projects leads to cash management problems for realtors. “Therefore, developers may be inclined to free up the SEZ land and use the same for other projects or purposes,” said Vikram Doshi, Executive Director, KPMG.

In this scenario, options for real estate companies include shifting focus to residential projects, where time to develop and realise the money is less.

“Residential projects do not have such cash flow challenges since the classic model prevalent in India matches the development of the project with the cash collected from the customers to some extent. But of course, there is always the challenge of finding the customers,” he added.

Moreover, plots that have been derecognised as SEZs can be used by developers as collateral to get the required funds. “These are business decisions and does not reflect on all SEZs. In fact, if companies are getting buyers for freed-up SEZ plots, it is a good sign that there are buyers,” said Sangal.