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Monetizing the Social Platform

By on February 13, 2013

How to make money off the very popular platforms

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How many people do you know who don’t use Facebook or anyother form of social media platform – Xing, Google+, Instagram…etc? I think you can count them on your fingertips, and I can’t discount parents and grandparents because my folks are on Facebook too!

Over the last few years, these platforms found a way to integrate into our social scenes, and I find them to be BRILLIANT tools. A bit intrusive at times, but mostly very useful. I recently found out through Facebook that one of my favorite professors from my business program was visiting Dubai. That was a reunion worth a million bucks. Thank you, Facebook. And I’m not the only one who believes that. Daniel Kirkpatrick’s book about Facebook is littered with success stories of how people have met or found each other after several years.

But this blog entry isn’t about general social media reunions. Instead I thought I’d discuss how companies are moving beyond setting up these platforms – more specifically, the monetization of social media and how to make money off the very popular platforms.

It is akin to the government first providing us with roads and then installing toll gates to monetize them. Another potential example could be of how some hotels provide Wi-Fi to differentiate but then charge for it at a later stage. As a frequent traveler I expect Wi-Fi to be a utility like water and electricity – included in the room rate.

Facebook (used as an example purely) introduced several new features since its IPO that seek to make money from the platform. I was both amused and disappointed when I found out about the Pay to Promote mechanism where corporate FB pages have to pay for a message to cover 100% of their existing fan base. Amused and disappointed because companies spend a lot of money advertising to build a fan base only to learn that they have to pay several times to reach out to the same fan base.

Games by Zynga and other developers have become a very popular pastime (I find it quite irritating to see my newsfeed littered with play requests from my friends) and they embody the monetization of the platform spirit. Initially the games start as free-to-play, but once addicted, players are asked to fork out real cash to get extra bonuses or advantages.

I recently read about Facebook testing a system where users pay $1 to message people not on their friends list – as a trial, users could send Mark Zuckerberg’s inbox a message for $100!!! But isn’t Facebook about messaging YOUR Friends, i.e., the existing ones? Maybe there is a business sense in messaging strangers?

This is similar to Linkedin’s Inmail service, which I profess that I use as a valuable business tool, but I wonder if Facebook will start charging to even see the profiles of people not yet in my friends list. Or ask users to pay to download high res pictures from your friend’s profile to print on a 4×6 inch photographic paper. The funniest thing would be if Facebook (or any other platform) started charging for every time you login. I bet that would be a natural dampener for anyone using office time to log on to check his/her FB status.

Manish Punjabi, Marketing Manager (MENA) at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied


Five tweaks that BlackBerry should make to the BB10 Hub

By on February 11, 2013

With the new Z10 in our hands, it’s time to think how to make it better.

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The more I play with the recently released BlackBerry Z10, the more I like how it works. When I’m not using the Z10, I have found myself unintentionally swiping up whatever device is in my hand. As I mentioned in my review, I think RIM BlackBerry has laid out a great foundation with BB10. However, as their CEO Thorsten Heins mentioned, this is just the start for them and there is still lots of work that needs to be done. I completely agree with that and thought I’d highlight five changes that I’d love to see implemented on the messaging Hub in a future update.

1) Shrink messages to fit screen

On the iPhone and very recently on Android device, you have the option of opening an email in a zoomed out view so the entire message fits the screen. With BB10, the default view is expanded and you can pinch the email to fit in its entirety on the screen. I would very much like an option that lets me set that as the default view as I can always double-tap to zoom into an area.

2) Move between emails and chose what to do

Right now you cannot move between emails. If you’re looking at an email, you HAVE to go back to the list and open the next emails. From what I have heard, this will be implemented in an upgrade to the software so lets keep our fingers crossed.

3) Allow customization of soft buttons

When you open an email, the soft buttons across the bottom show Reply, Reply All and Forward. Instead, I would love to see just ONE button that you could set as the default action (holding it would bring the other options.) The extra two buttons could then be used for a “delete” button and a prev/next button split diagonally to move between open emails. That would solve #2 as well.

4) Swiping actions on the list

The latest update to GMail on Android allows you to delete or archive your emails by simply swiping horizontally on that email from your list. This makes dumping emails quickly very fast and easy. Mailbox app for the iPhone uses a similar concept and takes it up a notch. Something similar would work wonderfully on BB10 which is all about swiping.

5) Power scrolling

Getting back to the top of a list might not seem like a very time consuming job but if you have a Universal Inbox with hundred of messages, it can become a bit of chore to continuously swipe up. While there are buttons on the side menu to do just that, I think using two fingers for power scrolling would make it more efficient.

So there you have it- my list of five updates that I think would be a welcome to the current BlackBerry 10 Hub. Hopefully BlackBerry is in the listening mode and we’ll some some, if not all, sooner rather than later.


Blog: Why I still use a BlackBerry and want the Z10

By on January 31, 2013

Confessions of a BlackBerryaholic

You’re still using a BLACKBERRY?

I’ve heard this one more than one occasion. At press conferences, nights out with friends, even from family members as they whip out their shiny iPhones to take photos of my phone (#relic). Granted that the BlackBerry is not longer the status symbol it used to be, but I’ve hung onto mine for a good number of years.

Don’t get me wrong, my smartphone evolution has been an interesting one. I hopped from the ancient 8-bit Nokia phones on to the Nokia 6500c before finally succumbing to an HTC Hero followed by an HTC Desire. The move to the Android system took a bit of time to master, but once I was in I loved it. In fact, I still do – I frequently review Android tablets and phones and it’s amazing to see just how far the platform has come.

But a few years ago, I did the unthinkable. I left the safety of the Android fold and dived headfirst into BlackBerry. At the time it was the BlackBerry 9800, which I still continue to use today. I’ve long been tempted to swing back to Android, but I held out knowing that BlackBerry was cooking up something with BlackBerry 10.

So now that the phone is out (read our review here), it’s somewhat of a no-brainer that I’m going to be lining up to get it as soon as it’s officially available. Why, you may ask?

I’m long overdue
My 9800 is ancient. It’s certainly seen better days, as the barrage of scratches and minor dents in the case will tell you. It’s also running version 6.0 of the BlackBerry OS, which is a really slow thing to try and navigate around at times. Having played around with the Z10 I forgot what it was like to have a speedy and seamless mobile experience, and it left my 9800 in the dust.

Messaging means nothing to me
Whether you’re in the BBM or WhatsApp camps, I don’t care. I’ve got a grand total of 10 people on my BlackBerry Messenger contact list, and sadly four of those people I work with. I often just prefer sending an SMS or actually calling the person up rather than having to put up with the constant “ding” noise as we furiously message each other.

I’m not a mobile paparazzi
I admit to taking the odd photo or two with my current BlackBerry, but I really don’t use my phone for serious photography (unless you include photos of cupcakes as serious photography). I’m certainly not an Instagram user or enjoy posting an endless stream of photos of what I’m eating, so for me smartphone cameras aren’t a deal-breaker. From what I’ve seen, the camera on the Z10 is seriously more than what I need.

Clouds are for rainy days
Get it on the cloud! Back it up on the cloud! Sync it to the cloud! These are some of the things I hear when people yammer to me about dumping your files onto the Cloud for a seamless backup. If my BlackBerry should die, I just pop the microSD card out and pop it into a new BlackBerry to access all my media, and then just re-sync my emails and contacts. I don’t have to worry about running out of or paying for extra space (like my sister recently experienced with her 2,000+ baby photos on her iPhone), and everything I need remains on the phone.

Goodbye buttons
For reasons unknown when I jumped from Android to BlackBerry for the first time, I was adamant that I get a device with a physical keyboard. I don’t know why, but maybe I was under the delusion that a physical keyboard meant that I could type faster. For some people, that’s true. For me, it’s actually become cumbersome for me to type on a QWERTY keyboard, since I used to enjoy the on-screen keyboard of my previous Android devices. The brief time I spent typing on the Z10 showed me a keyboard that made typing much more comfortable (even without flicking words upwards), and easier than trying to squint at the keyboard in the dark.

It goes where I go
The biggest asset for me with a BlackBerry is that it just works wherever I go. I travel frequently, and I really can’t depend on spotty airport wi-fi points or spending hours in a Starbucks accessing my emails. I need connectivity pretty much anywhere I go, and in this regard having a BlackBerry is a huge bonus. I’ve attending countless press conferences where hundreds of journalists have overwhelmed the lone wi-fi hotspot that’s available, while I just pull out my BlackBerry to tweet or email photos. I’ve got friends who have iPhones with roaming packages, and they regularly complain about how expensive it is to use data packages when they travel. Of course, you could always get a local SIM card, but then you’ve got to whole new phone number to work with, not to mention keeping an eye on your usage.

Having said all this though, the BlackBerry Z10 is certainly not without its flaws. The software is new and already there are plenty of changes that can be made to it to help refine the user experience. But as someone who has been holding out to see what BlackBerry was cooking up, the Z10 is going to be a well-deserved upgrade for me, and I’m looking forward to when it hits retail stores in a few weeks.


Samsung shows us a peek into the future

By on January 16, 2013

Foldable and flexible screens pave way to the future.

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We recently posted a news feature about Samsung showing off high-resolution flexible screens at CES that I highly recommend watching. The demonstration by Samsung is followed by a concept-video where you can basically unfold your phone into a tablet or vice-versa showing us a glimpse of what our devices will look like in the next few years.  I also remember reading about convergence of screens in a blog post by AMD’s Manish Punjabi on tbreak a few weeks back.

When you think about it, as popular as tablets are, they’re really just a stop gap solution as our personal device until foldable LCDs become the mainstream. The biggest thing that the tablet might be credited for is for getting us used to typing full-fledged on glass surfaces. We started doing that on phones with the launch of the iPhone a few years back and it won’t be long before we’re very very used to it on larger form factors. In fact, it was recently reported that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook ditched the physical keyboard in favour of the iPad in an interview he conducted with NBC last month.

At the moment, there are only two things that really separate tablets from smartphones besides the larger screen. The first is a better/faster processor and the second one is a bigger battery- both possibly because of the larger form factor of the tablet compared to the phone. Processors will continue getting smaller, faster and more power-efficient and while that will help us get better battery life out our devices, we really need to focus on an alternate way of powering our devices that keeps them going for days and weeks and not just hours.

I doubt we’ll get to see such battery technology by the time foldable LCDs become mainstream so we might have to wait until the idea of one screen that becomes our phone/tablet/laptop is realised. But it’s one that I’m very much looking forward to. Exciting times ahead.


2013: World Wide War in the Tech sector

By on January 9, 2013

Here are some of the trends Mr. Vishesh Bhatia saw going into 2013.


At the tbreak awards 2012, Jumbo’s CEO Mr. Vishesh Bhatia gave some predictions for 2013 and I tend to agree with most of what he said. If you weren’t present at the event, here are some of trends Mr. Bhatia saw going into 2013:

1) Tablets will continue to eat into PC Sales

I think this one is quite obvious given the insane popularity of the iPad. While the iPad will continue to sell really well in 2013, the overall market share for the iPad (in terms of percentages) will predictably drop because of the sheer number of Android and Windows tablets entering the market.

With Android, we’ve seen the Nexus 10 tablet from Google/Samsung priced very competitively on the higher end, while tablets from the likes of axtrom will continue to attract the price-conscious buyer curious about tablets. On Windows side, it is expected that Nokia and HTC will showcase their devices. You can also expect giants like Samsung and Sony continue to take a bite of the tablet market.

2) Smarter and more 4K TVs

In 2012, Sony was pretty much the only company selling the ultra hi-res 4k display but we will see a lot more players enter the market in 2013 if CES is anything to go by. All of the major players, Sony included, have announced a large number of models ranging from 55″ to 110″ and this will certainly bringing prices for these stunning displays lower.

As rightly pointed by Mr. Bhatia, the TV interface is still clunky and best used with a remote designed 40 years back. While we’ve seen gesture and motion based remote controls, I don’t think anyone has gotten it quite right yet. Will a certain fruit company show us how it’s done?

3) Android will continue to dominate on Smartphones

Google’s Android decisively won the race as far as numbers are concerned in the mobile phone space. While I see them in the lead in 2013, like the iPad, I think their overall market share will drop with Windows Phones gaining more ground and the new BlackBerry 10 based devices launching.

It will also be a somewhat tricky year for Google as Samsung has pretty much been responsible for the great success of Android and they have shown that they’re not committed to just making Android devices by releasing the Windows Phone based ATIV as well showing support for the upcoming Tizen OS. Samsung is also going to increase the usage of their Apps (Calendar and Notes at the moment) that replace Google Apps while Google is supposedly working with their acquired Motorola division to create a killer Google phone.

So there you have it. If you thought 2012 was a year that provided some great entertainment as Apple and Samsung battled it out, be prepared with even bigger showdowns in 2013.


Google vs Microsoft – fight!

By on December 16, 2012

Google drops support for Activesync in Gmail.

Recently Google announced that it will no longer be supporting Activesync on Gmail accounts. Activesync is a Microsoft technology that lets you sync your contacts, calendar and email wirelessly to your mobile devices in one easy step setup. I’ve been using it for quite a few years and it has worked well for me from device to device. However Google needs to pay Microsoft for using Activesync and for a long time this made sense. But with the popularity of GMail and Android devices, Google now feels that it’s time to switch ActiveSync off and use their preferred method of syncing through CalDev and CardDev with IMAP- all of which are open Internet standards.

So what exactly is the issue you ask? Well, Microsoft has intentionally left out support for CalDav and CardDav in their new Windows Phone 8 and has instead decided to support ActiveSync exclusively. What this would result in is that users of GMail will not be able to sync their contacts and calendars wirelessly on Windows Phone 8 devices. They will either have tto use a PC to act as an intermediatery syncing device (and have their contacts and calenders synced when connected to that computer) or switch to another email account like outlook.com for wireless synchroniation of their calender and address book. Considering the popularity of GMail, I doubt many people will be switching their email accounts to an alternative solution.

I think this is a smart and calculated “business” decision by Google. They are not stopping paid Google Apps accounts from using ActiveSync which is what most businesses use but only the free @gmail.com accounts used mainly for personal emails. So paying business users continue to get ActiveSync support and can continue using it on whatever device they are carrying while users of gmail.com will think twice before purchasing a Windows Phone 8 device that will not easily sync their address book and calender. With Windows Phone 8 at 5% or less market share and Android and around 70%, this works out well for Google.

What Microsoft needs to do is wisen-up and add support for CalDav and CardDav in Windows Phone through an update. Afterall, every other phone such as the iPhone, all Android and BlackBerry devices support this open protocol so there is no reason for Windows Phone 8 to not support it- especially since it’s in it’s infancy stages and wants to grow.


Convergence of Screens

By on December 12, 2012

Will there ever be one screen to rule it all?

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It was at GITEX Technology Shopper week in Dubai a month back when my wife, like every other bargain hunter, decided to use GITEX as an opportunity to look for the best deals on TVs. The demands from our ideal TV were very simple: a 46 inch LCD at around AED 2,000. Interestingly enough, all of the GITEX salespeople had a different take on “ideal”. They started bombarding her with all these sheets and brochures, trying to upsell her to a LED TV for AED 4,000 or better yet, a SMART TV so we could potentially surf the internet and watch YouTube and with a price tag of AED 6,000.

Looking for an opinion, she found me in the venue and asked – ‘Between the two of us, we have two Smart Phones, two Tablets and three Laptops and yet, why would I want to surf the internet or watch YouTube on the TV??? I just want a TV for the occasional desire to watch a TV show or a movie on a big screen from the comfort of my couch.’

It was this question, which upon reflection formed the basis of this blog. Our activities have become increasingly visual – we surf the internet, read the news, watch videos, look at photos of friends, update our social media status, play games etc. And we find ourselves immersing in all these activities on a variety of screen sizes.
Furthermore, our smart phones have all our contacts with whom we communicate with on a frequent basis. Our tablets have all our apps and games that we enjoy either when in the metro or for an hour before bedtime. Our laptops store all our work related emails and numerous worksheets and presentations. And finally, the TV is to watch our favorite sitcoms and movies.

The cumulative cost of the 4 separate screens is around AED 8,000 (assuming AED 2,000 per device) but I would be happy to pay around AED 4,000 for just one device that combines it all – the screen that rules across sizes. But what would that device be called? The term Phablet, coined from the combination of a Smart Phone and Tablet, is common place and there are a few brands in this space. But will the Phablet replace the phone, laptop, PC and TV?

In my ideal world, this single screen or device would connect to a dumb keyboard and screen at work for me to create content, i.e. make presentations and worksheets and store them in the cloud. At home, this Single Device would connect to a dumb TV terminal and transform into a media hub for when we want to read the news, play casual games or stream TV shows from the internet. It would simultaneously serve as our communication device for when wish to talk to friends or send a SMS.

I imagine a screen size of around 5 inches for the Single Device that I envision – one might say that current smartphones are already there. However my counter argument would be that the existing crop of smartphones is not powerful or standardized enough to be used to create content. The current range of smartphones and tablets are primarily for consuming content while the PC remains the de facto device to create content.

Manish Punjabi, Marketing Manager (META) at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.


What Google needs to learn from Apple

By on November 28, 2012

Keeping buyers informed.

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Last month, Google officially announced their new Nexus phone. The Google Nexus device offers a pure Android experience without any interface tweaks or apps added by manufacturers such as Touchwiz from Samsung or Sense from HTC. While these added UIs add a bit of flare to Android, they also add some bloat which can slow the device down. Another advantage for Nexus devices is that they’re the first to receive an Android update from Google. Thus many consumers, myself included, prefer the Nexus as their preferred choice of phone.

The new Nexus 4 has been pretty well received in the media and the number of end-users anticipating the product has been higher than any previous Nexus device. You can see this by visiting popular Android forums such as xda-developers. Considering the resources that Google has, you would think that they would have had a smooth launch for the Nexus 4. Sadly, it was anything but that.

The device was announced by Google on the 29th of October and was put on sale on the 13th of November. The first mistake Google made was not making the device available for pre-order. This would have allowed Google to measure the demand for Nexus 4 and accordingly allocate and inform their consumers on the availability status. As a result of no pre-orders, the traffic on the Play Store on the 13th of November was extremely high causing the website to fail when consumers wanted to order the device. I tried ordering as well as for the first few times, the product would automatically disappear from my shopping cart when proceeding to checkout.

When I finally managed to get my order in, I was left in a state of guessing as to what happened. While my order was acknowledged as received by Google and the amount of my order was blocked from my bank account, I received no communication from Google for days. Eventually I had to email them and got a response that my device would be shipped within a day or two. The next morning, I got an email saying that I might not receive my device for another three weeks. Radio silence after that.

The ordering of the Nexus 4 left a bad impression of Google on myself. This is a complete opposite of an order process from Apple where the buyer is informed every step of the way. Take the iPad mini for example. During the pre-ordering phase, I could see the shipping dates change and when I was ready to order, I knew that it will be about two weeks before I get one shipped. After I placed the order I was once again reminded by Apple on the shipping dates.

While Google didn’t disclose the number of Nexus devices they sold on the first weekend, I’m pretty sure that it would be less than 3 million- the amount of orders Apple received when they started taking orders for the iPad mini and iPad 4. Apple has the consumer experience nailed. From the moment you place the order to the one your product is delivered, you are always informed and about your purchase. Google needs to learn from Apple on how to treat eager consumers as they’re the ones that are most vocal about their product.


Computing at the Speed of Thought

By on October 31, 2012

From punch cards to facial recognition. Whats next?

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Recently I was listening to Walter Isaacson’s audiobook book on Steve Jobs and the third chapter briefly mentioned Steve Wozniak’s attempt to use the keyboard to display characters on the screen. It seemed like sheer coincidence when, a few days later, I read about Valve (the company behind STEAM) echoing a similar sentiment by saying that keyboards and mice had not seen any major innovation over the last several years. This got me further intrigued of how little things have changed for the PC Interaction aspect over the last 30 odd years, i.e. the keyboard continues to be the primary interaction interface for PCs.

But before the keyboard, there were punch cards that had physical holes to indicate 1s and 0s – binary, the official input and output language. Then in the 1970’s, the typewriter layout was adapted for the new input method for PCs and since then QWERTY has ruled our lives – or AZERTY if you are French. There were attempts at voice software . I tried one several years ago but couldn’t quite consider it as a replacement to type out emails. And recently Apple offered Siri in the iOS 4.0 which put voice recognition back on the map.

Gestures and joysticks have been the domain of game consoles but these haven’t come up as potential keyboard replacements. Or rather should I say the “keyboard killer”. I shouldn’t miss the mouse which found a place in our computing lives when Xerox came up with the Graphical User Interface (GUI) – yes, apparently, according to Walter Isaacson’s book, Steve saw the GUI idea first while visiting Xerox’s Palo Alto location but then perfected it for the Apple OS. Apple’s iPad, though not the first attempt at a tablet computer, brought the concept of touch to the masses.

Display units on the other hand are probably facing the same dilemma or even worse off – What resolution is enough? As a budding engineer in the ranks, I studied the cathode ray tube (CRT) technology which offered a maximum of 640×480 resolutions. But the CRT has since been replaced with Plasma, LCD, LED, and 3D technologies which offer as much as a 7680×4320 resolution. Will this increase to 16K resolution?

Source: Jayse Hansen

However, coming to the essence of my 500 word limit – How will interaction between humans and computing devices change? What is beyond the keyboard and display screen? Mark Papermaster, AMD’s CTO, recently delivered a vision of ‘Surround Computing Era’ at the Hot Chips convention, saying “Surround Computing imagines a world without keyboards or mice, where natural user interfaces based on voice and facial recognition redefine the PC experience”

This is definitely in line with what is hopefully coming in the immediate future and I am excited to imagine interacting with my PC using facial recognition. Haier, the Chinese home appliance maker, launched the Eye Control TV at IFA 2012 where the TV that can be controlled using facial features such as movement of the eye and blinking. That is a step in the direction of Surround Computing but I am thinking of beyond Surround Computing – Will we ever come to a stage where we communicate with computers using thoughts or our brain waves?

Imagine wearing a hat with 2 interface points – one for the left hemisphere or the logical side of your brain and the other for the right hemisphere or the creative side of your brain. Put on the hat and boot the PC, draw a picture that the right hemisphere of your brain imagines while simultaneously doing spreadsheets and writing emails using the left hemisphere. The response is communicated by the same hat directly to your brain – Computing at the Speed of Thought, Literally.

Manish Punjabi, Marketing Manager (META) at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.


Amazon adding fuel to the (Kindle) fire?

By on October 29, 2012

Worried much about the iPad mini amazon?

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Here is a picture you will find on Amazon’s home page today if you are visiting it from the UAE or, I’m assuming, anywhere else in this world.

Amazon is pointing out that the Kindle fire HD has a higher resolution screen than the iPad mini, the ability to watch HD movies and a pair of stereo speakers along with Ultra-fast MIMO Wi-Fi. To provide a quote, they have chosen Gizmodo, the website that paid for the stolen iPhone 4 that was lost in the bar before it was officially releases, and, from what I know, doesn’t gets invited to Apple events any more.

What they don’t point out is the higher resolution screen is smaller in size than the iPad mini (look at the comparison picture above) and that there is no option for 3G or LTE connectivity making all that HD content pretty much unreachable when you’re out and about because it’s 16GB is nowhere near the 64GB capacity that the iPad mini can go upto. They obviously do not mention the 275,000 apps available for the iPad or that it’s thinner, lighter and much better built.

Best of all, I’m not sure why I’m seeing that ad on Amazon’s page from the UAE where we neither have a Kindle available officially or any of the HD movies and TV content that it brings along with itself. Amazon should at least Geo-target their ad based on locations where they have a product to sell. Or maybe they didn’t want to compare the 7 countries to the 90+ that the iPad sells at.

It’s a shame that Amazon went down this route as it is a company I have great respect for and consider the pioneer in ecommerce. And that too after they reported record sales for the Kindle fire HD a day AFTER the iPad mini announcement. To me it looks like that the “record sales” for the Kindle fire HD probably only lasted for a day and some additional fuel was needed for the fire.


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