Manmohan vs Modi

Disclaimer: I know I might get shit for this post (from the five of you reading it) so here goes – I do not condone Modi’s actions during the Gujarat riots, and very sincerely hope that he never becomes the Prime Minister. 

Comparing Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi is not an easy task, nor is the comparison fair.

On one hand we have PM Singh, the man who ushered in economic reforms in India, and led us to the path of growth which got us to where we are today. Yet for the past seven plus years, so terrible has been the management of the country that some even wondered if PM Singh actually does anything. However, through all the muck, PM Singh hasn’t had a single direct accusation of corruption against him.

PM Singh has allowed the country to be so magnificiently plundered by his party members (in name of coalition adharma) that it might just turn out to be India’s lost decade of growth. The situation is such that the CAG unearths a scam almost on a daily basis, and people rose in unison to the call of Anna this summer even though his demands weren’t the most democratic ones. Plus the epic mishandling of the situation betrayed the competence of such a qualified man. From CWG to 3G, billions of dollars have been siphoned off by politicians. Money that could have pushed development. Money that could have saved lives. Money that belonged to us, the people of India.

Just like the scams, terrorist attacks have become a regular event. Mumbai, which has been the location for most of these, has witnessed 3 major attacks since 2006, claiming the lives of more than 400 people. Delhi, Pune, and other parts of the country have been similarly affected. I remember the year I spent in Mumbai, and how I would eye every unattended bag on the trains with suspicion. No one feels safe anymore. Plus we have politicians (read idiots) in Tamil Nadu who believe that the killers of Rajiv Gandhi (an 14 others) be not given a death sentence. While Indians die on a regular basis, we keep delaying the execution of two known terrorists, as sentenced by the Indian judicial system.

One the other hand is Narendra Modi. The man who bungled in epic proportions in 2002, but since then has unleashed such a wave of development work that (at least) some believe that he should be the next PM.

He watched, and some say even instigated, as violent mobs swept through Gujarat killing innocent Muslims in one of the worst riots India has seen over the last couple of decades. I do not believe that anyone who allows the citizens of the country to be killed should ever be allowed to lead it.

However, he mended his ways since then, and such has been the development and growth of Gujarat, that The Economist said – “So many things work properly in Gujarat that it hardly feels like India.” On the security front, Gujarat hasn’t had a single incidence of terrorism since the Akshardham attacks – attributable to good policing, considering Gujarat would have been high on almost all terrorist organizations targeting India.

We live in a democracy, and all said and done, we do place our faith in the election process, and Gujarat has given him a mandate, twice.

So here is the dilemma – who would you choose, and why. Manmohan did good work, and then allowed India to be looted, and its citizens to be killed (even if through inaction). Modi allowed people to plunder and kill, and then did good work.

PS: I know that “coordinated” riots and terrorism are not the same thing, but the root cause of both have either been deliberate inaction (in both cases) or mismanagement. A PM can’t wash his hands off the responsibility of keeping people safe. 

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Patent Wars!

I am back. After almost four months. And lots has happened in the meanwhile. Baba Ramdev, Anna Hazare, India in England, Wimbledon, and much more. On a personal front, I have changed jobs and cities, and am back to Gurgaon.

Amongst all the other noise, one of the most fascinating, and disgusting, events has been the patent wars. From Lodsys to Nortel to Novell and now Motorola Mobility. If the 80s was marked by the Cola Wars, the current decade will be marked by fierce patent wars. The Google-Motorola deal has been analyzed to death over the past couple of days by people way more knowledgeable than I am. The value of key patents, the impact of the deal on Android handset manufacturers (Samsung and HTC), the regulatory approval, the breakup fees, will it actually be a deterrent, and much more.

Some have even gone on to analyze winners and losers. That is where I have a problem. This was a simple analysis.

Winners: Motorola/Jha/Ichan.

Losers: Everybody else.

Warning: If you don’t want some boring speculation on tech, please stop reading now!

Here’s why. People now think that making money of patents is easier than slugging it out and making products. Case-in-point: HP. The once poster child of Silicon Valley wound up its touchpad business and thinks it can make more (and easier) money just licensing patents! This is such bullshit man!! And Kodak. And Nokia. And many more to come. What people don’t realize is that eventually everyone is going to stop making things. Then you will be left with trolls and no one to sue.

Over the past couple of months, Google, MS, and Apple have spent close to $20 bn in byuing patents to gaurd themselves against each other, and I don’t think that the spending binge has come to an end. Let’s analyze each company in detail.

Microsoft:

The company has nothing to show for, in any domain other than OS, Office, and Gaming. Its web presence is almost negligible, however much Bing-ho they are about it. And its mobile OS and deal with Nokia, a footnote in the mobile chapter. It also has one of the largest patent arsenal amongst the key players. It knows it can’t deter trolls using the patents – it doesn’t work. Also, its existing patent portfolio should have helped protect itself (and key sources of revenue – OS and Office) from other companies. Also, not too many company can sue MS for large amounts in these two areas.

However, the Nortel patents was almost a pocket change for a company the size of MS. What it does destroy is the notion that MS would only use its portfolio defensively. Its a clear signal of MS’ growing ambition of generating revenue from IP – which it already does from Android manufacturers. Maybe MS can spin off an entity to do this for it. Maybe it can be named, I don’t know – IV?? Since then, MS has expressed a passive monetary interest in the Mosaid-Nokia deal, another IV in making.

Its a shame to watch a company as big as MS doing this. Money that could have been better spent on development. On XBox. On Office. On Windows. Wasted. And a bad signal being sent to developers. The company doesn’t have better development projects to spend the money on. #FAIL

Apple:

The company that single-handedly changed the smartphone scenario. The company that changed our expectations from our phones. The company that has almost $80 bn in cash.

Did Apple panic at the pace of growth of the Android OS? They shouldn’t have. Apple should have learnt from MS and Intel (and Google in search recently) that monopolies are not good for business. A good competitor not only keeps the regulator away, but also keeps the company on its toe on the tech front. Example, the malaise that set in MS OS development when it had no competition. The rebirth of the Mac OS changed that.

The logic of trolls doesn’t stand here either. So the only reason for Apple to buy patents was to sue the ass off Google Android. Not a smart strategy. What it has done now is pushed Google in to a corner, and forced it to do something stupid. A pissed off, and technically and financially well-off, competitor is not what you want.

Additionally, time, money, and focus that would be spent on developing new products will now be wasted on litigation. Not prudent according to me. The problem is Apple doesn’t have much else up its sleve other than iPhones, iPads, iTunes. If Google goes for a “scorched earth” strategy, a ruling against Apple’s handheld devices business would impact its main revenue source, and it would still have nothing to hurt Google’s search business – so far as I know.

Google:

Stupid. Plain stupid. Brave, yet stupid.

You just spent $12 bn (and another billion on IBM patents) on protection you could have had (or made more expensive to Applesoft) for say $5 bn. We all agree with your commitment to Android, but this is just insane. We know mobile web is the future and that your ad revenue will be based on your ability to play in that field, but why not team up with HTC, Samsung, and other partners to do the same. That would have given them more confidence in your support for Android. Buying a handset all on your own will just scare the shit out of them. Or you could keep the patents and sell off the rest of the company to your allies – call Ichan.

Will you go offensive – defies your “do no evil” motto, or just use it as a defense – in which case its a helluva price to pay.

Asides:

In this age of legal outsourcing, do you know what a billion dollars would have gotten you? At the very least 10,000 man years of patent searching time from some of the best talent looking to invalidate a lot of the rubbish that has been patented in the name of software patents. And believe me that is at least enough to invalidate close to 50,000 patents, if not more.

And I wish Google had the balls to do something like Fark did.

Interesting infographics on patent wars: One, Two.

The Best of Coke Studio

The long standing dream of an Indian version of Coke Studio is finally coming true. The only glitch, MTV (which has long stopped standing for Music TV) is associated with it, and that sends shivers down my spine.

Anyway, last night was spent listening to a lot of it, and I thought I would try and rate my faves from it.

The best one, Aik Alif by Saieen Zahoor and Noori. There are three distinct phases in the song, and Saieen Zahoor brings the sufi charm to it.

Next up, Alif Allah by Arif Lohar and Meesha Saafi. Actually Arif Lohar is so damn good that Meesha is reduced to a background singer. His singing, his chimta, and his expression. One word – awesome!

Allah Hu, by Ali Zafar and Tufail Ahmed is next one. There is this very hallucinogenic feel to the song. Is especially awesome during late night psenti sessions.

Durr by Strings and Ustad Gullu. Awesome mix, and love the extended vocals.

Rona Chor Diya by Zeb & Haniya and Javed Bashir. How can one not like this one?? Javed Bashir is brilliant, and so is Zeb.

Titiliyaan by Strings. Can’t think of a more melodious song.

Husn-e-haqiqi by Arieb Azhar. The lyrics. The performance. The crescendo!

Dastaan-e-ishq by Ali Azhar. The emotions. The choking. The flute.

Honorable mention: Saari Raat by Noori.

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The Victory!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way. ~ Charles Dickens

To say that past year or so has been the year of scams for India would be a gross understatement. From the CWG to the 3G, we watched in a state of suspended belief as scams got unearthed with Sachin’s consistency. The once teflon coated Manmohan Singh is in the center of such a muck that some of it is bound to stick. In fact, so numbed were we with the state of things that a new scam does not surprise anyone any more. India is getting more and more recognition around the world as a super power, both economic and political, and yet there was something missing.

In such a state of disillusionment, this World Cup victory gains a different meaning. Many see the victory as a validation of India’s growing stature, in the game and also outside it [must read], and not without reason. However, to me, this World Cup victory will be symbolic of the fact the something in this damned country works. Some Gods don’t fail us.

I distinctly remember 1996 and how much I cried as a child, along with Kambli on the screen, wishing that the idiots at Eden would at least let them complete the match. 1999 was a farce with the stupid Super 6 rule. 2003 was a heart break. I sat there, front row in the Audi, cheering so hard that I felt that my veins would pop. But after the first 3-4 overs something in me gave up hope and I went and slept. I haven’t still watched that match – not a single ball. It felt like fate had cheated us out of the cup then. 2007 was a blink and miss. And add on this the disillusionment with the politicians, the feeling that we were being cheated out of everything. We needed something to restore our faith in the country. There had to be someone who would make you believe. For the past couple of decades Sachin had been that man who had us believing.

Sometimes, truth isn’t good enough, sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded. ~ Batman, in The Dark Knight.

You had this distinct feeling that it would be now or never. The one God we have might not win this cup – and its not that we care – its because some idiots would consider him a lesser batsman because he hadn’t won this one.

As the tournament progressed, the team took me on an emotional roller coaster ride, winning and losing at will. I did not know if we would win, or fall apart at the key moment. The quarterfinals restored some calm. India had chased down a decent total against a decent attack. The semifinals saw us defending a decent total (respect for Afridi – you rock! Why you ask? Here.).

And then it was the time for the big one. The final. We begun like never before. Zaheer – you beauty. Sree – you jack ass! Yuvi – you rock! Gambhir and Dhoni – respect!! People throwing themselves around. We conceded a little more than we would have liked in the last 10, and the momentum was with Lanka going in to the break. And then Sachin (did you see the straight drive??) and Sehwag got out cheaply, and I thought we would unravel quickly again. TV was switched off (I am superstitious – when I watched wickets fell), and turned on every now and then and I could see India building a few partnerships.  Maybe we could win. Thanks to Anubhav for making me watch. From then on it was a display of serene batting – except that one run – and we reached home quite comfortably. And the final shot by Dhoni, as Rahul put it, “”Uses it well, his bat he does.. hmmmm” – very Jedi like.

This victory will re-instill the much needed faith in a country bereft of heroes. There are some people we can still look up to. The ’83 World Cup gave us Sachin (and Sourav, Dravid, Laxman, and Kumble). Can’t wait to see what the ’11 World Cup brings us!!

We won!!

PS: In this entire media orgy, please don’t forget the Leander and Bhupati are also again the best in the World! Good going you guys!!