Blue Screen Of Duds

Where the alter ego of codelust plays

Archive for April 9th, 2008

Short Notes: Quantitative Hedge Funds, Google App Engine, DTH, itimes

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I know the Google App Engine just took over the interwebs. We will get to that, but, later. Alpha Magazine has a nice write up (a bit all over the place in terms of direction, but very rich in terms of content) on quantitative hedge funds who marry cutting edge research from various faculties in science and marry them with the normal hedge fund business.

It is quite a long article, but is well worth the time you spend on it, if numbers, markets, arbitrage, learning (artificial and natural), behaviour and systems design are things which make you salivate more than blondes and brunettes. In a somewhat-related topic we have a fascinating entry on search algorithms that also mentions Pareto in the same breath. Most of the math in it flies like a supersonic above my head (confession time, I absolutely suck at math, go figure!), but do stick with him till the point where explains why there is no “best” search algorithm.

On to Google App Engine (finally!). If Google can bless this with the levels of reliability that they are known for, it will have the same effect that Ruby on Rails has had on start ups, by making bootstrapping of products so easy that it becomes absolutely irritating. David Recordon believes that the App Engine will provide apps that use it with a shared sense of a user, which is one of the major problems that face every socially-enabled product these days. Krzysztof Kowalczyk adds to the existing commentary and says it is the first, true internet operating system. But I do wonder about one thing. Everyone is very bullish on EC2 and GAE from the entry barrier point of view, the thing that remains to be seen is the exit barrier and how difficult it would be to leave such a framework, both in terms of cost and effort.

The last word on the GAE launch has to go to Michael Arrington, who can’t ever be expected to sit out a slugfest, especially one that draws traffic to Techcrunch on what is not really its strong ground – technology. He makes a post on the website about how Google has pulled down one of the first apps, HuddleChat, built by one of the Google employees showcasing the technology from a product perspective. He calls it “censorship” and the easily-inflamed community sets itself alight (rather predictably) over it, while the simple reason behind the move has no more logic behind it than avoidance of bad PR karma, which any company would want to avoid during such a major product launch. The move, by itself, does not make or break the world. Get over it (and yourselves, too) guys.

Meanwhile, all is not well in DTH land in India. The two leading players — Dish TV and Tata Sky — are said to be raking in losses to the tune of Rs 1400 crores (combined) in their quest to do a market land grab first and aim for profitability later. The current cost per user is Rs 1600 – Rs 2300 for each new subscription and the newer  MPEG 4 set top boxes that will hit the market soon are expected to increase the costs and losses even more.

Interestingly, Dish TV seems to think the tipping point where the ARPU will start going up, instead of down, is at the 7-8 million subscription mark. Which would mean that with 3 million subscribers, DIsh TV itself has to double its market penetration before margins start working in the opposite direction for them. That could easily see them doubling current losses in the coming years and that alongside other costs could see their current Rs 300 crore loss going up to 700 crores. In short, this won’t be a fun competition to be in, if you wind up being second-best.

In one of the last links for the day, we have David Manners deviating from his usual domain of semiconductors posting a note on how bad T5 at Heathrow is, which should be sent to every person who is fond of doing the customary India-bashing bits under the pretext “this just would not happen it the west.” The price quote from the post is the captain saying: “We’ve landed at Heathrow which is in chaos”.

Lastly, for today’s silly Twitter apps update. Grouptweet is a Twitter application that allows you to send tweets to a group of people. Even better is the blog Twitterholics, which will allow you to track such inane products without having to leave the comfort of your browser tab.

p.s: Oh yes, Indiatimes has launched their social networking website (finally!). Looks like TIL now has two schools of thought: the IIS/.Net based in-house products and the LAMP-stack based outsourced products. Then there is the Java stack that powers the e-commerce offering, the entirely outsourced email offering. Oh well, this is Indiatimes after all.

That said, it is a very clean implementation and if you want to make friends with half of the staff at iWorld Gurgaon, this is the place to be at! Product-wise this looks like something that was put together after cobbling together everything they could find on other products. And for those who are wondering about the email part in it, it looks like a re-implementation of the current whitebox email solution provided by Indiatimes.

I guess the thinking is that there are way too many inactive/spam accounts on the main Indiatimes email framework, this could be a clean/fresh start towards having a better user base that can be sold for more to the advertisers. Let us file this one away in the “social media will buy me lunch (dinner and next day’s breakfast too!) department.” (hat tip: Contentsutra).

Written by shyam

April 9, 2008 at 12:38 pm