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Gizmos of the Year 2005!

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First posted on Moneycontrol.com

2005 was the year that the world went gizmo crazy – absolutely no two ways about it.

On what basis do I make such a grandstanding statement? Well, we had war, terror, natural disasters, historic mergers, demergers and god forbid reality TV fighting for headline space. Yet among all these cataclysmic events, most of the world seemed obsessed with one question:

Will the next cool device be an i-pod phone or maybe an i-pod video or maybe an i-pod refrigerator? (Ok, I made that last one up).

Gadgets filled all the 10 spots on the Froogle (Google’s price comparison engine) list of most searched items in 2005 and back home, they accounted for most of E-bay India’s revenues with a mobile phone being sold every 8 minutes on the website!

We’ve been tracking the latest tech toys on our weekly program The Tech Show and this week we’re compiling our list of the best gadgets of 2005. Here are our picks:

Desktop Of The Year: Apple iMAC G5
Look ma – no CPU! We had puzzled colleagues in the office figuring out where the rest of the computer was, till we convinced them that the whole thing was one slick unit. The fact Apple’s super new OS Tiger comes pre-installed means that there’s never been a better reason to switch to the world of Macintosh.

Laptop Of The Year: Panasonic Toughbook
Panasonic makes laptops? Since when? Well, actually they corner 75% of the world’s defence market but don’t like to advertise that fact because of Japan’s sensitivities towards indirect profiteering from war. However, the Toughbook’s unbelievable durability – it’s waterproof, fireproof and impact proof – and its incredibly lightweight body won us over.

Phone Of The Year: Sony Ericsson W800i
What swung this one for us was the 2 mega pixel camera, the superb sound quality and headphones, an expandable memory slot, easy drag and drop software and most importantly, the ability to use the music player without switching on the phone, giving it an incredible 20 hours of battery life.

PDA Phone Of The Year: iMate Jasjar
The Palm Treo 650 could have won this category if only Hutch had got it pre-configured with a Push-Email solution. However, they didn’t and thus the Jasjar, in spite of its silly name, wins for sheer versatility – it’s a full-blown MS Windows enabled tablet PC in your pocket. It’s also sold as the O2 XDA Exec or if you’re in the US, the HTC Universal.

Gaming Device Of The Year: Sony PlayStation Portable
This could have been a tough choice had Microsoft officially launched the X-box 360 in India, but Sony’s handheld wonder wins this one hands down. Photos, DVD movies, music, games and even Wi-Fi surfing make this the ultimate all-in-one device minus a phone. The screen quality is superb and the gaming experience is top class.

DigiCam Of The Year: Casio Exilim Z-500
They may not have the legacy of a Kodak, Canon or Olympus but they invented the digital camera and they know what’s important. Staggering battery life – 500 shots on one recharge, Anti-shake technology that actually works, huge LCD screen and a super slim body make this an easy winner for us.

Network Device Of The Year: Maxtor Shared Storage Drive
Home networking is getting more popular as broadband comes into homes with more than one computer. However, most such users don’t enjoy configuring IP addresses. The Maxtor SS drive is a stylish looking, auto-configuring 300GB device at a very decent price. We loved it for the sheer simplicity of installation and use.

Written by Abhi 2.0

January 1, 2006 at 1:20 am

Posted in Moneycontrol.com

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Hurricane Ballmer

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First published in the December 2004 issue of Mantram

“We need you, we need you, we need you, we want you, we want you, we want you, come on we can do it, yeah baby!”, bellows the 48-year-old as he smacks his fist with the Who’s Who of India Inc looking on, part bemused, part embarrassed but wholly overawed by Steve Ballmer’s theatrics at a CNBC-TV18 event in Mumbai titled ‘Unlocking Innovation’.

That classic football coach chant is what Microsoft execs are subjected to, when they muster up the courage to tell Steve Ballmer that they’re thinking of retiring. They rarely succeed! The Microsoft CEO was responding to a question from a fellow CEO in the audience, who was curious to know what occupies most of Ballmer’s mindshare. Pat came Ballmer’s reply – “People – I always want to know if we’re getting the best people and whether we’re retaining them.”

That’s terrific news for the 1,600 odd people who will soon be joining Microsoft in India over the course of the next year. Ballmer made the big headcount announcement in Hyderabad as he kicked off his India visit by inaugurating a sprawling new campus that would, within the course of a year house 3,200 employees in the India Development Center (IDC) and the Global Delivery Center, India (GDCI).

Already a favorite recruiter on India’s elite engineering campuses, Microsoft won’t have too much difficulty wooing away the country’s best and brightest from local rivals like Infosys, Wipro and TCS. That however didn’t stop Ballmer from meeting the head honchos of those three firms and signing comprehensive strategic tie-ups with them. After all, if Microsoft soon wants to dominate the world’s enterprise software, it better get the guys who’re most likely to be servicing it, acquainted with its inner workings. While this would mean development of .NET competency it obviously stops short of sharing proprietary Windows source code

That holy grail is only being offered to the Indian government– Ballmer flew to Delhi to meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discuss methods of bridging India’s digital divide. The Indian government has been rather gung-ho about Linux and Ballmer was keen to get the government onto the Windows bandwagon by offering a sneak peek at the source code to clarify any doubts about security. Unlike the governments of Brazil, China and Singapore, the Indian government has not yet taken an official stance on using only Open Source platforms for e-governance and Ballmer’s meeting will probably ensure that it stays that way for a while.

Ballmer’s whirlwind India tour culminated in Mumbai where he spoke to an audience of top Indian CEOs. He was introduced by Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani and after taking the stage was quick to admit that he wasn’t sure whether either he or Ambani had the right to be addressing the august gathering considering that they were the only two dropouts from their Stanford MBA class. After hearing his charged-up and passionate take on innovation being the cornerstone of Microsoft’s existence, it was difficult to suggest that completing his stint at Stanford would have done him any better.

Written by Abhi 2.0

January 1, 2005 at 12:58 am

Posted in Moneycontrol.com

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