Monday, 31 December 2012

5 Tech Companies for Whom 2013 Could be a “Make or Break” Year

As I decided to jot down things that I might expect to happen in the technology world in 2013, I ended up writing mostly thinking about Apple, Samsung, Google and Facebook. But what about very popular companies that are struggling? I thought it would be interesting to write down about five tech related companies for whom 2013 could potentially be a "make or break" year.

#1. Research in Motion (BlackBerry)

RIM BlackBerryThe Canadian company has been struggling not just from competition by Apple's iPhone but also Android based phones. Once a BlackBerry phone symbolized the words "smart phone". It is still a very popular phone with office going executives but it has lost out in being relevant to younger buyers. RIM also has seen its tablet offering called Playbook finding very few takers.

RIM will launch BlackBerry 10 featuring the new BB10 OS on 30th January. The year ahead with new BlackBerry phones could possibly mark its big turn around or its fall into the abyss. Forget an about turn, I am not sure it will even manage to keep a status quo in the mobile market. It will face additional competition from new Windows 8 phones that will enter the market in bigger numbers in 2013.

#2. Nokia

Nokia WIndows PhonesNokia has a glorious past as cell-phone manufacturer just like RIM. The company actually failed to get enough app developers on its platform and saw itself underestimating the acceptability of touch-screen phones. While Samsung bet on Android to produce smart-phones, Nokia shook hands with Microsoft.

In the year ahead, Nokia has a well received Lumia 920 running Windows 8. The next iteration of Lumia 920 will be crucial. The real problem for Nokia is that at the moment its destiny is not its own hands. It is in the hands of Microsoft's Windows 8 phone becoming popular. Nokia will not just be working hard in 2013 but also praying hard for success of Windows 8 phone.

#3. Facebook

Facebook App AndroidFacebook had a mixed year in 2012. It launched its IPO, bought Instagram and showed off a newly designed mobile app for iPhones and Android. But these were not exactly signs of great innovation by Facebook. These updates and acquisitions were mainly an exercise of catching up.

Facebook has not really been pushed too much by Google+ in 2012 but expect that to change in the year ahead. Facebook is still struggling to find a way to make money from mobile phone platforms. More people will end up using Facebook as an app from their phones or tablets than their browsers. This would mean the current revenue stream of getting clicks from ads will see a decline. Facebook Gifts is a novel idea which would make Facebook's revenue model as e-commerce instead of advertising. It also has not exactly fixed its reputation on the privacy front.

If Facebook continues to struggle to make money from it's mobile phone platform 2013, it would with some big questions marks on Facebook's future. That said its 1 billion users will make sure it remains relevant despite the health of its revenues.

#4. Dropbox

Dropbox_logoPersonally I love using Dropbox. I have used it for over two years. I love its referral program and also use it as a default service to backup my photos.

But the threat to Dropbox is very real. It faces competition from some seriously big players with some seriously deep pockets. Google Drive and Apple's iCloud services will challenge Dropbox.

The problem for Dropbox seems two-fold. It lacks the financial resources of Apple and Google. Additionally it also lacks having its own mobile phone platform like an iOS and Android or online services like Gmail or Google search. If Dropbox does not hold its own against Google and Apple, it might have to think of a dreaded word called "acquisition".

#5. Microsoft

Windows8_packageI thought more than a few times before putting Microsoft in this list. But it makes sense that 2013 will be the year, Microsoft will make a incredible turn-around or end up further behind the likes of Google and Apple. Microsoft has faltered with its online business with Bing. It has also invested in which is a social network that not one has taken notice of as yet.

Windows 8 as an OS is great attempt by Microsoft. It is a real step forward design wise by Microsoft. The company's big problem is that Windows 8 phone is not exactly getting people very excited. The Surface tablets also have not exactly caught people's imagination and Microsoft has nothing in the 7-inch tablet form factor.

One major issue for Microsoft has been developing a great app eco-system for developers. At the moment is a bit of a ghost town. It is nowhere close to the likes of Apple's app store or Google Play. If Microsoft does not fix these drawbacks with Windows 8 over the year, 2013 could end up being the year which would mark the beginning of the end in Microsoft's history.

What are your expectations from the tech world for the year ahead? Do let us know in your comments. Also as this is the last post before the year 2012 ends, let me take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very "Happy New Year!"

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Show your New Year’s Resolution to the World with Google

All of us just love to make New Year's resolution every year (even if we don't feel like fulfilling them afterwards) and we love to share it with our family and friends. This year you can take it to the next level with Google's 2013 resolutions map and share it not only with your loved ones but with the whole world. You can also read everyone else's resolutions who shared it on Google Zeitgeist.

How to share your New Year's Resolution on Google?

To share your Resolution open the website:

Then click "Add your 2013 resolution to the map". Then type your Resolution in the Box #1, your Postal Code in Box #2 and select your country from the drop down list in Box #3. Finally select the category of your resolution from a drop down list on the same page. There are total 7 categories i.e. Love, Health, Career, Finance, Family, Education, Others; you can choose most suitable category for your resolution. Please note that you can share it in your native language and Google will translate it automatically in different languages depending upon the reader's location. Once submitted, your resolution will be shared with the world in 24-48 hours.

On the same Resolution Page you can read other people's resolution in your native language. To read a resolution rollover your mouse cursor on a dot on the world's map and it will show a bubble with a resolution and its category.

google new year resolution 2013

You can also share your resolution with us in the comments section below. We would love to read them. :)

In case you are from India then don't forget to check today's Google homepage i.e. to see a small candle as a tribute to Delhi gang-rape victim.

Google's Tribute

May Her Soul Rest in Peace…

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Saturday, 29 December 2012

AOL tries a practical approach for E-mail with Alto

This year we have seen two of the popular E-mail clients getting redesigned – Microsoft brought life to Outlook with Metro-esque approach to mail, Yahoo Mail got a cleaner look along with updates to mobile apps, soon after Marissa Mayer has become CEO.

Adding to this, AOL has now released a new E-mail client called Alto. Interestingly, it supports E-Mail accounts other than AOL Mail, which includes Gmail, Yahoo mail, and more.


The most highlighted thing in the app is Stacks – a feature which categorises your incoming E-mail into meaningful groups. So your Twitter/Facebook notifications E-mails are segregated from the daily deals E-mails from Amazon/eBay.

You can create custom Stacks and even make the incoming E-mail skip inbox and go right into that stack – so you have a more cleaner inbox.

It also has a Boomerang-like feature which lets you snooze an E-mail, so you can reply to it after a specified amount of time.

The interface looks clutter free and gives more of a desktop app like look, especially with features like two-column layout for reading E-mails, support for tabbed navigation.

I'm pretty sure it won't grab many users from other web-based E-mail clients, but nevertheless, still worth a try.

Alto is still in beta, but you can sign up for an invite.

Link: Alto Mail

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Friday, 28 December 2012

Instagram Daily Active Users Nosedive by 24%

instagramInstagram has seen a massive drop in daily active users. It had topped up at 16.4 million daily active users around two weeks ago but that number is down to 12.4 million daily users. According to AppData and Instagram has lost over 3.5 million users over the past 7 days as far as daily active users are concerned.

Instagram has seen amazing success in the past year or so. Its big moment was when Facebook shelled out a cool billion dollars to acquire it. Instagram was soon working closely with Facebook. Instagram on 17th December,  updated its privacy policy. It basically gave itself the permission to use user photos for commercial usage.

That started a blacklash from users and it was not surprising that daily active users actually dropped by 24%. Instagram rolled back the new privacy policy update to stop the criticism but it has probably lost the 'trust' factor.

Why Instagram looks in trouble?

Instgram is not really a photo app as much as it is a social app. That means during Christmas week and holiday season over the past week, it should have seen record user activity. It ideally should have seen record user activity and not a drastic loss of active users.

Instagram has also actually become less social but turning off Twitter cards which allowed Twitter feeds to display photos in the stream itself without requiring people to visit the Instagram website. Twitter hit back with its own filters for photos. Facebook itself has sort of canibalized Instagram features in their own photo app for iOS. I won't be surprised in thinking that the best days of Instagram are behind it.

What are your views? Do drop in your comments.

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Bluestacks App Player brings Android apps to Mac

Around an year back, Bluestacks App player was released for Windows, letting users sync and use Android apps. It quickly got popular among Windows users and now they got the beta version of app for OS X.


The OS X version does pretty much everything you'd expect, which includes Cloud Connect letting you sync your Android with Mac. You have access to the gigantic library of over 7,50,000 Android apps from different app stores of Android.

It works as a standalone app and stays in menu bar – so even if you close the window, it runs in background.

I have tried a few reading apps like Flipboard and Pulse, and interestingly, you can set the resolution you like, in settings.

Mobile-only apps like WhatsApp (you can finally send WhatsApp texts from desktop) work well.

Many popular games are optimised, so they should do fine even with a keyboard, Bluestacks seem to have worked closely with developers for this.

A big set back about this app is that, it's very slow – even on my 6-month old Macbook Pro. I had the same experience with the Windows version. This is something the developers should look into.

Try out Bluestacks and tell us what you think.

Link: Bluestacks

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Thursday, 27 December 2012

[Online Tip] Clean Up Your App Permissions From a Single Webpage

There are literally hundreds online apps we enjoy using over time, but in reality we only use a handful of them regularly. For example I give some websites like Opinsy the option to connect to my Twitter and Facebook accounts. This is done by giving the app permission regarding the account. Users can usually review these permission given to apps and revoke them.

The problem for me is that I have to sign-in and check the settings for all the web services I use like Dropbox, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Windows Live ID for managing app permissions on all of them.

I found MyPermissions a very useful tool to clean up the apps I have given permission to connect. The site is actually not very complicated and does not require your ID at all. It simply links to the landing page of app permissions for the popular online websites which are used often to give permissions to apps.

Clean Up App Permissions

MyPermissions also allows you to use your online profiles to give it permission to actively keep a watch on your app permission. It allows clean-up of permission with a single click and also alerts you to new permissions. works with a Chrome extension for your browser and additionally has a mobile app for iOS and Android.

Unfortunately I could not find an add-on for Firefox. Try out MyPermissions and drop in your comments.

Link: MyPermissions

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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Chrome 25: Will Stop Sneaky 3rd Party Extensions

Google's Chrome browser will soon crack down on sneaky installation of extensions. In a blog post, Google has confirmed that the external extension deployment will be disabled by default. This will actually shut off a major security loop-hole in the Chrome browser. Currently, third-party developers can actually install hidden extension to Chrome, without the user's knowledge.

This happens because Chrome uses Windows registry mechanism for extension deployment. This can be used by software developers to install hidden extensions directly into the browser. So once Chrome's version 25 is deployed, users will possibly a prompt to review the extensions being installed.

Chrome 25 - Cleanup Extensions


It will also show a prompt every time a extensions which are not from the Chrome webstore is being installed.

Chrome 25 - Cleanup Extensions

Is Chrome a year late?

This update to Chrome is actually surprisingly late. Currently we are on version 23 so it should a while before Chrome 25 is rolled out. Mozilla had announced something similar almost a year ago. But then Mozilla had also faced a major issue thanks to Microsoft pushing its Skype toolbar.

The toolbar caused many browser crashes for Firefox users. Mozilla finally added the Skype toolbar into the official Firefox block list. A few months later Firefox by default stopped allowing silent installations of add-ons. That was back in August 2011, so it seems Chrome is almost a year and half late.

Well its better late than never. Do drop in your comments.

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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Get Advanced Stats of Your Gmail Usage – Gmail Meter

Gmail Meter is a useful service that helps you get to know statistics about your Gmail account. This tool shows information like how many emails a month you get or send,on which day you send more emails, how many contacts send you emails, who were the top 10 contacts who sent your emails, top 10 recipients, top threads, what was the send/receive ratio, number of people who sent you email previous month and so on.

Once you set up Gmail Meter, it sends you an email on first day of every month containing different types of statistics about your inbox which helps you in analyzing your emailing habits.

Gmail Meter Features

  • Traffic report. It lets you know about email activity in your inbox.

  • Email categories help users understand the volume of email that your are managing and how you are managing them. A pie-chart shows various how many emails are archived, in Inbox, with Labels and in Trash.


  • Volume statics shows the number of starred & important message, how many mails you received, number of people send you emails, what percent of them are directly sent to your inbox and how many email you sent.

  • Word count tells you about the size of emails you are writing. Top senders and top recipeints help you understand who you connect with most.
  • Most importantly it shows time before first response to emails that you receive.

 How it works:

  • Open the Gmail meter and connect it to your gmail account by clicking on "allow acess" link.
  • Then a pop up window will open asking you to authorize. Click on the authorize button to grant access.

That`s it Gmail Meter will automatically send you an email once they prepare your report.You can any time revoke acess to Gmail Meter from `My Account` section. You can also try out Gmail's own account statistics report which is actually a lot less detailed than Gmail Meter.

Link: Gmail Meter

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Monday, 24 December 2012

Google Celebrates Christmas with Santa Claus Tracker

A couple of days ago, I wrote about Google showing off their festival spirit by introducing some Easter Eggs. Today on Christmas eve, Google is taking it a bit further. It has unveiled a mobile phone app which allows users to track Santa Claus dropping of gifts around the globe in real-time.

Google along with the app has also introduced a Chrome extension and a landing page for tracking Santa.

Google Santa Tracker

Is Santa Tracker a waste of time by Google?

At first I thought that a Santa Tracker was just a waste of time by Google. After all what does it really achieve except a few smiles. But then in this day and age when a lot of little kids users tablets such apps can be greatly entertaining. Also Google might also be giving it's Google Maps App and Google Earth app all the publicity it can, now that it has an official one available in Apple's iTunes App Store.

That said, it would be a lot better Christmas for some, if Google had sorted out delays in shipping their Nexus 4 phones instead of tracking an imaginary character across the world.

Link: Google Santa Tracker | Android App | Chrome

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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Write more with less effort using Mou for Mac

I was a Windows user since the day I started using computers, but over a six months back, I switched to OS X. I loved it and prefer it to Windows, but there's one thing which bugged me, and that's there is no good free blogging client for Mac. Sure, there's MarsEdit but it costs over 40$, which I think is really costly.

Windows on the other hand has Live Writer – Microsoft's own blogging client which is pretty good. This is where Markdown comes in, making blogging on Mac awesome.


So what's Markdown?

It's a light weight markup language which converts plain text into HTML.

It started as a project by John Gruber – famous for his blog, Daring Fireball.

The syntax is pretty easy to learn, for example, if you put a # before a sentence, Markdown turns it into a h1. Put ##, it'll be turned into a h2.

To make a word bold, wrap it in two asterisks – **like this**.
These are just a few examples, the full syntax is available on Daring Fireball.

Blogging should be solely about writing stuff and not code, that's why Markdown is ideal for it.

Mou for Mac

Markdown clients are in plenty for OS X (and iOS) and that's apparent as Markdown is made by Gruber himself. I've tried many of them, but Mou impressed me with its minimal interface and features while still being free.

The concept is simple, you write marked text on the left column of app and it shows the live preview on right. After you're done, you can post to Tumblr or if your blog is hosted there, otherwise you can just copy the HTML (that's what I do).

In the preferences, you can change fonts, default CSS applied and theme used.

Mou can also be great for web developers who want to quickly write HTML without any fuss.

Link: Mou

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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Google Search Easter-Eggs for Christmas, Hanukkah and Festivus

Google is well known for inserting some interesting Easter eggs in their search results. During the current festival season, they have introduced three different Easter eggs. If you search for terms like "Christmas", "Hanukkah" and "Festivus"

Chirstmas Google Easter Egg Festivus Google Easter Egg Hanukkah Google Easter EggThe festival of Christmas is the more well known one while 'Hanukkah' is a Jewish holiday and called the festival of lights. Festivus is celebrated by some purists who do not like the commercialization of Christmas holiday.

This is not the first time Google has included Easter-eggs in their search results. Previously users have unearthed a Google query that would display a heart shape graphical design. That one was very popular on Valentine's day.

Another famous one was "Do a Barell Roll" easter egg that would mimic a video game's manoeuvre of the entire search results page on Google.

Last by not the least Google has supports search landing pages for hackers, klingons and pirates.

Do drop in your comments.

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Friday, 21 December 2012

Facebook Introduces Simplified Privacy Options

Facebook has introduced a simplified, easy options to manage privacy. Users will be prompted about the new changes when they visit the site from their browser. The new layout is a lot better than the previous one for privacy settings. On Facebook, users will see a new 'lock' symbol on the top right hand corner. Clicking on it will display the simplified privacy options.

Facebook's Simplified Privacy Options
Facebook's new simple drop-down for managing privacy options

These privacy options are not exactly new options. They are pretty much the same except that they are displayed in a less ambiguous way.

Facebook has managed to rack up 1 billion users but it has to keep growing to remain at the top in the social media sphere. The previous method of showing privacy options was very ambiguous and extreme confusing for people who were very new to Facebook.

You might like to read up on guidelines for best privacy settings for your Facebook account.

Facebook still seems to have some strange quirks regarding settings. One of them is the tagging of users in photos. I have still not figured out how to un-tag myself from photos. If anyone has figured it out, let me know. :-)

Do drop in your comments.

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