Galaxy tab – first impressions

Posted in android on May 16th, 2011 by Abhishek Balaria – Comments Off

Being a passionate iPad user, I never gave Galaxy Tab much of a chance. Finally I got an opportunity to actually try out Galaxy Tab as part of a development project ZENTITY is working on. The project is exciting and probably one of it’s kind in this region, but more on that after the launch :-)

So, the Galaxy Tab. I assumed it will be a copy of the iPad in every form, I was quite surprised that except for the packaging and fact that it’s a full-screen device there is not much of a resemblance. The difference is almost like using an Android phone over an iPhone. The UI is reasonably polished. There are a few glitches, e.g. you don’t expect things like an empty Samsung Apps Store. This will never happen on an Apple device, but hey, give Sammy a chance here, it’s version one.

The empty samsung apps store

Rest of it is what you would expect on an Android device. It’s possible to get used to it and be reasonably productive. While using the tab I thought to myself, wow, if Samsung had released something like this back in 2006, I can totally see myself falling in love with it. But, of course, we are not in 2006 and there is the iPad.

There was one surprise though. The Amazon’s Kindle App. It totally blows the iPad version and even the Kindle e-ink reader itself. The magazine reading is not even supported on the iPad and here I was using the full color version with images on a Galaxy Tab! This, coupled with Amazon’s recent announcement makes me believe that Amazon will be a power in the Android space very soon.

The Kindle app on Galaxy Tab

Can’t wait to get my hands on one of those Honeycombs.

Steve Jobs’ best creation

Posted in Uncategorized on May 11th, 2011 by Abhishek Balaria – Comments Off

Apple is one of the companies about which there are not many internal case studies. From the outside, of course, we can see the ways in which they build and market products, but there is very little known in terms of how they can operate like a 50000 employee strong startup. The Kindle Single, Inside Apple — From Steve Jobs down to the janitor: How America’s most successful – and most secretive – big company really works, tries to provide some insight.

Steve Jobs’ best creation is not the iPod, iPhone or even the iPad, but it’s in fact, an organization that can repeat the same process over and over again. As Steve himself likes to point out, “I wasn’t alive then, but from everything I’ve heard, Babe Ruth only had one home run. He just kept hitting it over and over again.” And that’s what it’s about, find your home run and hitting it over and over again.

Apple Org Chart

Two top apps in a week – Novinky.cz and DSL.CZ

Posted in Uncategorized on April 29th, 2011 by Abhishek Balaria – Comments Off

This was a very happening week at ZENTITY. First DSL.CZ launched end of last week and become the top app within two days in the Czech App Store, and then today Novinky.cz, which we built for the largest Czech portal and search engine Seznam.cz, launched and become a runaway hit reaching top position within a couple of hours. The team has shown once again that in terms of application quality and innovation they are unmatched in this region.

Novinky.cz
Download Novinky.cz FREE at: http://itunes.apple.com/cz/app/novinky-cz/id430326937?mt=8

DSL.CZ
Download DSL.CZ FREE at: http://itunes.apple.com/cz/app/novinky-cz/id430326937?mt=8

Active 24 – first major European domain registrar in the app store

Posted in iphone on April 19th, 2011 by Abhishek Balaria – Comments Off

It’s actually been a while and I didn’t get to update the blog. But, it is worth sharing that we launched Active 24′s iPhone app in the App Store and it actually made it into top 10.

Active 24 - domain registration on iPhone

Grab your copy today. It’s FREE! Download now.

On pricing and paywalls

Posted in iphone, Startup on April 19th, 2011 by Abhishek Balaria – Comments Off

The price of books published by indie authors on Amazon kindle store is slowly falling to $0.99. This is very similar to the iTunes App Store pricing. If I remember well, SEGA was the first major publisher to drop the price of it’s hit game Super Monkey Ball to $0.99 and all hell broke lose. Now we had a quality title selling for the lowest price point and it set the standard for most gaming titles to follow. Super Monkey Ball was one of the early success in the app store and in some part due to its “innovative” pricing. The same seems to be going on in the eBook space and the idea of $0.99 eBooks dominating the store is not too far fetched.

What does this teach us? And what does this have to do with paywalls?

The lesson to be drawn here is that in a competitive market with a relatively low barrier to entry the equilibrium price will be near the bottom of the pricing tier. That in itself is not a bad thing. As the saying goes: we will make it in volume. And indeed some have. SMB paved way for Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Cut the rope et al. Having said that, it’s also clear that this price point will not suite every player in the market and force more pricing innovation.

Enter in-app payments. Apple realizes and works hard to make sure that the apps (or more importantly the developer) ecosystem is healthy. They create the conditions for developers to succeed and in-app payments was their another attempt at helping devs monetize their wares. The developers can now charge for additional content and an increasing number do. IAP were followed by iAds. There will be more pricing innovation and we can expect more from Apple.

Both apps and eBooks are content types where paying for content is the norm. This is made possible by controlling the distribution, delivery and consumption medium (iOS devices and Kindles/Nooks). It helps that the payment infrastructure is built into the platform. The price will not go to free because the economics don’t work (yes, there are zero dollar apps, but they are not a significant money maker for most devs on iOS). I will not touch on Android side of the story in this article so let’s keep ad-supported Angry Birds out of discussion for now.

These developments somehow seem to coincide with the rise of paywalls for content on the web. Of the major publications, WSJ has always had a paywall and arguably it works because they provide time sensitive information (Bloomberg has built a vast empire that way), but last month NYT raised it’s paywall as well. It’s too early to say how successful NYT is going to be with it, but I am not counting on it being a significant contributor to their revenue. A long time ago I remember reading somewhere that you can’t charge for news for a simple reason that as soon as you raise a paywall someone else will make it available for free. This happened pretty fast as The Atlantic found a way to link to NYT articles by skipping the paywall. As TechDirt pointed out earlier – Did The NYTimes Just Offload Its Front Page To The Atlantic?
(http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110404/00434713761/did-nytimes-just-offload-its-front-page-to-atlantic.shtml).

Where does this leave us?

The conclusion so far seems obvious: if you don’t control the discovery, distribution and preferably end user experience, you won’t succeed with charging for content.

The Android Openness Delusion

Posted in android on September 6th, 2010 by Abhishek Balaria – Comments Off

Android is on a roll! That’s what we hear every day in the press and it seems to be true. My personal experience seem to validate this. I must, however, take all this anecdotal “evidence” with a pinch of salt because I work in telecommunications sector and it’s not the best sample.

Every time you speak with an Android user they always tell you about the openness. The platform is open source, you can buy it from any manufacturer and carrier you like, Google doesn’t rule the Android Market with an iron fist. The fact that the platform is sponsored by the bastion of openness Google, only reinforces this myth further. On the surface of it, it would seem that Android is indeed the holy grail of a completely open mobile OS platform. The only problem is that it isn’t. So, what is wrong with this picture? Let’s tackle the issues one by one:

The Open Handset Alliance
We have seen a lot of alliances and foundations come and go. OHA is not much different from a lot of committees in most respects. From what we have seen, it’s still heavily dominated by Google engineers and Google sets most of the agenda. At the heart of Android idea and implementation is ability for Google to push more and more adverts. That’s what the whole thing is about. Google needs be where the eyeballs are and it’s clear that they are shifting to mobile devices. OHA is just a front for Google to push it’s agenda.

Open Source
Android is open source and therefore you can take it and do anything you want with it. But can you really? As Robert Werlinger blogged recently, the only truly open components are camera, GPS, WIFI, Sensors, 3D , Bluetooth, and Market. Needless to say those things alone can’t make a smartphone.

Manufacturers
Openness is about choice. Android must be open because you can get it from Samsung, Motorola, HTC, Lenovo and even Dell.
That must be great for consumers, all that competition will drive down the prices. By that token Windows Mobile (or whatever they call it these days) is open too. The problem, though, is that it’s the wrong indicator. How many manufacturers can sell a platform doesn’t make it open. It only means that there will be a price war, lower margins, weird customizations in an effort to differentiate and overall a fragmented user experience and developer platform.

Carriers
They seem be the weakest link in this chain. They would love to monetize the pipe and get a toll on anything that goes through it. Google seem to be their best hope of doing it. They love rev-share, it does sound good on paper that Google will share the ad and app revenue with them. Apple doesn’t let them come even miles near the App Store, so this is their chance to finally get some piece of the action. Only time will tell. But most likely Google will avoid them like plague as soon as Google would not need them. They should be focussed on bringing true value-add and not just try to behave like toll collectors.

Android Market
I must say, I don’t have much experience with Android Market. I have used it a couple of times and in the Czech Republic you still cannot buy paid apps and developers can’t sell the apps. Only free apps are allowed. Android market is indeed open in the sense that it doesn’t require every app to go through a central approval process. I think Google would love to have the kind of control Apple has over the app store, but this doesn’t work for Google right now. They need to attract the devs to their fledgling platform and an approval process will only slow it down. They are losing both on quantity and quality at the moment, and honestly, this is not going to change any time soon. Anyway, on the topic of openness, the remote kill switch for the apps and homing to Google to verify the authenticity of an app doesn’t seem too open. Where is the outrage?

This is not an Android bashing post and don’t get me wrong, I believe eventually Android will have bigger market share than the iPhone (or Blackberry for that matter). I actually use an HTC Desire from time to time (mostly when I need a MiFi network for my iPad). Luckily I was able to update to FroYo as soon as HTC made it available and my carrier allowed it immediately. Most of my friends were not so lucky though, they are still waiting for Samsung or HTC or their carrier to “allow” the upgrade. That too doesn’t sound too open to me.

iPrší – Prší for iPhone and iPod Touch

Posted in Uncategorized on August 16th, 2010 by Abhishek Balaria – Comments Off

It’s been hard to keep up with blogging. There is so much going on at ZENTITY, that we can hardly breath. It’s been a little over a week since iPrší was launched. Our primary markets for this game are Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. The App has some tough competition from other great game launches like DOOM, Dark Nebula and Crazy Machines, but iPrší did made it to #1 App in Top Charts of the iTunes for both the Czech and the Slovak markets. The team has shown once again that they can pretty much win at will at this point :-)

Obviously we are not done yet, the game needs improvement and we hope to launch an update with a complete graphics overhaul very soon. STAY TUNED!

iPrší #1 in CZ and SK markets

Prifacy – the Facebook privacy app launches

Posted in Uncategorized on July 7th, 2010 by Abhishek Balaria – Comments Off

Apple just approved Prifacy, an iPhone app that helps users make complete sense of their Facebook privacy settings.

While testing the app with real users we discovered how poorly understood the Facebook privacy settings are. Users were extremely surprised to find out everything they had been sharing without having any clue if they actually agreed to any of it.

Prifacy swings the pendulum back to users, who in our view should have a complete control over their privacy online.

Prifacy uses simple and easy to understand color codes to denote the level of potential threat depending on the current privacy settings. Users can drill down and on the most detailed level, the user can decide to change the settings by pressing lockdown button.

Prifacy is a first step toward giving users the tools to understand and fill the gaps in all things privacy online.

Grab it from the app store at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/prifacy/id377970403?mt=8.

Here is a sneak peek -
Prifacy - Facebook privacy fixed

Teen Patti – #1 card game in India

Posted in iphone on April 3rd, 2010 by Abhishek Balaria – 1 Comment

ZENTITY announced the availability of Teen Patti for iPhone on 2nd April 2010. The game debuted at #1 top selling card game.

Teen Patti (also known as Flash or 3-cards) is a card game similar to poker. The game is played worldwide and particularly popular in India and south-east Asia. Teen Patti recently featured in a movie of the same name.

Teen Patti can be played with a minimum of 2 players but it’s more fun with 4 or more players. Touch Teen Patti offers games of 4 or 6 players at the table. Touch Teen Patti brings the fun game with a great AI implementation and the best card game simulation.


This is the second in the series of Indian traditional games for ZENTITY having released the classic board game Touch Carrom. Touch Carrom became the number #1 selling game in it’s home market India and made it to top 10 and top 100 in many world markets.

Grab it in the App Store at itms://itunes.apple.com/us/app/touch-teen-patti/id353709014?mt=8

Teen Patti for iPhone

Teen Patti for iPhone

ZENTITY coverage in LiveMint

Posted in Uncategorized on February 20th, 2010 by Abhishek Balaria – Comments Off

Touch Carrom and ZENTITY covered in LiveMint a Hindustan Times and Wall Street Journal publication in India. Here is the article as it appears in print:

Touch Carrom in LiveMint



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