How Hike, India’s Fast Growing Mobile Messaging App, Is Banking On SMS & Local Diversity To Beat The Big Boys
It’s still practically a newborn but Indian mobile messaging app Hike is already channelling almost a billion messages a month between its five million registered users. Those numbers sound insignificant when you stack them up against the big beasts of the messaging space – WhatsApp claims 200 million+ monthly active users, and some 600 billion in and outbound messages – but Hike’s growth is impressive when you consider it’s only just over four months old. WhatsApp, of course, has been around for almost four years.
Mobile messaging is hot property right now, with tech giants like Facebook and most recently Google bent on owning the messaging space. The reason for all this interest in cross-platform chit-chat is that mobile messaging looks poised to steal social networking’s crown jewels: aka the cool factor, and thus the user engagement (Hike incorporates social status updates and emoji-based moods into its messaging app, to hang on the social chain). But the idea that there can be one ultimate mobile messaging winner — or one player as dominant as Facebook in the full-fat social networking space — seems unlikely. And that’s what Hike is banking on to disrupt WhatsApp and keep Facebook Messenger and its ilk from crashing its just-getting-started party.
There’s no doubt that local market realities intercede much more on mobile than on the traditional social networking playground of the desktop, especially in emerging markets where device, network and carrier variations influence how people communicate based on how they can afford to communicate. Those complexities provide an opportunity for local app makers to triumph over goliath outsiders if they build fixes for the local market, argues Hike.
“Given how competitive this market is we do feel that in about 3 or 5 years from now you will have somewhere between three to five players globally that own parts of the messaging space in the world. You’re already seeing it right now, you have Line in Japan, you have Kakao in Korea, you have WeChat in China, you have WhatsApp in South America and Europe, you have of course Facebook message or iMessage dominating in U.S. and WhatsApp growing there too. In India of course WhatsApp is the dominant player but we’ve come on to be a very strong number two in just four months,” says Hike creator Kavin Mittal.
“We can see that with communication if you solve local problems in the market there is room for a local player to win the market completely.”
Hike is one of the latest contenders to jump into the mobile messaging space, albeit with a few neat tricks up its sleeve that it’s confident will allow it to grab significant share in its chosen markets — namely India, and other similar emerging markets in place like Indonesia, the Middle East and Africa. Some 60% of Hike’s registered users are in India, 40% globally led by the Middle East and Germany (despite its emerging markets focus, Germany was actually the first market to spike an interest in Hike — which its creator puts down to it having 128bit encryption over Wi-Fi and Germans looking for a “much more secure solution to WhatsApp”).
On the neat tricks front, Hike has baked a patent-pending SMS conversion tool into its app to take advantage of fragmentation in the Indian market caused by low distribution of data-capable smartphones. So this is not just about incorporating SMS messages into a unified app — as Google plans to with its Hangouts app – but about making sure a data message can still reach someone who doesn’t have data, via the SMS channel.
Mittal explains that in India, even where people own smartphones they may not have data enabled, or may sporadically turn data off to save money. SMS is therefore still a key comms channel that needed to be brought into the loop. This fragmentation was the problem the app’s creators were setting out to solve with Hike. They have also done this in as low cost a way as possible by building a system that ensures it does not send cross-network SMSes (which incur a termination fee in India) but routes same network to same network.
“The idea behind Hike… is it works free globally. Hike is available on iPhone, Windows, Android S40, S60, very soon BlackBerry now as well. But in case you don’t have a phone than can install Hike, or let’s say you have a phone but you don’t have data, I can still message you from Hike for free. We convert the IP message into an SMS and it’s free for me as a Hike user, to which you can reply back to – and the reply comes back straight to my inbox making messaging very seamless. So I have one app for all my friends,” Mittal tells TechCrunch.
Another future trick — due to launch on June 10 — is something that will allow users who have turned off their data to still be notified that they have a message waiting for them, presumably so they know to turn data back on. “At this point in the market there’s no way to notify you when you have a message waiting on one of these applications. So we’re launching something on June 10th that’s going to solve this problem, so no matter where you are – no matter if you’re online or offline – you’ll be able to communicate via Hike with your friend all the time,” he adds.
Hike is funding the conversion cost of sending the SMSes itself — in the Indian market, with a view to extending it to other emerging markets with similar dynamics — so that is one of its largest sunk costs at the moment, according to Mittal. But its monetisation strategy is based on building off that base in another way. The shift Hike’s creators are ultimately calculating on is the movement of consumer spending in its target emerging markets away from carrier ‘value add services’ — paid for infotainment SMSes and so on — to data-based content and entertainment.
That’s where Hike sees its future profits, by fleshing out its messaging offering to supplement the bread and butter of social comms with “content that’s very relevant to the local market” – much as the Line messaging app is already doing with entertainment content such as stickers and games.
“India is a country of 20 countries. There’s so much diversity, cultural differences, dialects, languages that one has to cater to and given that this is a big entertainment market there is no doubt we’re going to go down the route of enriching messaging around content,” he says. “If you look at why you message it’s around a piece of content, topic, video, something new you’ve found, something funny. And India it’s much more prevalent than other markets so we’re definitely going down that route, there’s no doubt about it.”
Hike is also looking to work with carriers to share some of the SMS conversion cost, with the benefit for carriers being that Hike is acting as an IP pusher, turning mobile owners into data drivers — and data is ultimately where carriers in these emerging will be making their future revenues from too.
“Given the traction we’ve had in the Indian market we’ve seen a lot of interest from the operators who want to work closely with Hike and figure out how to expand and grow the traction with Hike because what we’re doing for the operators is we’re introducing a lot of people to data,” says Mittal. “What one can also do over SMS is send photos, videos and so forth, so if I’m on Hike and do SMS I can send you a picture and you get a link on SMS so you can open it on a browser, so we’re striking deals in the Indian market and the emerging markets like Middle East and Africa where the cost is not only bourn by us but by the operator too.”
Hike is starting out with more resources than most startups, being created by BSB, a 50:50 Bharti Softbank joint venture, that acts as a “quasi-strategic incubator”, as Mittal puts it. Bharti Softbank invested $7 million into Hike about a month ago — a measure of how much traction the app had managed to achieve in a few short months. BSB projects get their first round funded by the parent companies if they achieve enough traction.
Going forward, Hike will likely look outside for funding, says Mittal — assuming it can keep on growing, and reach its goal of at least 10 million registered users (“our internal critical number”), which it views as the baseline required before starting to think seriously about monetisation.
“By the end of the year we’ll be in a positon to raise money from the external market. The reason we’re doing that is the VC market in India has less of an appetite for taking massive risk. Because one of the first questions to ask is ‘hey guys why are you building another messaging app?’ And we were pretty certain that if we did what we did we’d get the traction and so far we’ve proved it,” says Mittal. “We’re in a point where we have the $7 million but we will look outside, even possibly the West Coast for funding.”
Mittal won’t put a figure on Hike’s active user base but says it’s “amongst the highest we’ve seen in the industry and definitely way above 50%”. ”We feel there is a room for a local player to dominate markets like India, Africa and China and so forth, and take care of the local needs, and that is something we’re working on. That’s the big philosophy we have at BSB,” he adds.
India’s technology-adoption stratification poses a huge challenge when you’re trying to build an app that lets people talk to whoever they want. A challenge that, ultimately, gives the local kid a toehold over global mobile messaging players, argues Hike.
“The market kind of splits India into three sort of broad demographics, the top part really mimics the U.S. population — 30, 40 million people – they’re really switched on, they know about the Internet, they have smartphones and so on and so forth; there are about 150 million people that are experimenting with the Internet, but they have a lot of churn there because the Internet is still not a utility for these guys; and then you have a billion people at the bottom of the pyramid that have no clue whatsoever the Internet even is,” says Mittal.
“As you go further down in India, how do you tackle the one billion people? No one knows but we’re in India here, so we’re the guys to figure it out.”Read More →
Myntra Buys Fitiquette, A Disrupt Finalist With A Virtual Fitting Room, As India’s Online Fashion Market Heats Up
Fitiquette, a developer of virtual fitting room technology and a TC Disrupt finalist in September 2012, has been acquired by Myntra, one of the big fashion and lifestyle e-commerce companies in India.
Myntra plans to put San-Francisco-based Fitiquette, led by CEO/co-founder Andy Pandharikar, at the center of a new innovation lab in the city, as well as use Fitiquette’s core product on its retail site to drive more fashion purchases online. For now, that retail site is only in India, where Myntra reportedly made some $100 million in revenue last year.
This is Myntra’s second recent acquisition in the U.S. The first, in November 2012, was of New York-based Exclusively.in and its private label brand, Sher Singh. In both cases, the financial terms were not disclosed.
Fitiquette is in a crowded space — or fitting room, as it were. Others coming at the idea of virtual fitting including TrueFit, MyShape, Clotheshorse, True & Co. for undergarments, Meality and Body Metrics.
But with the $1.5 trillion fashion industry still in its early stages of moving to the web — even in the early-moving U.S. only about 10% of its $300 billion fashion market is online — there is a growing need for technology that helps consumers make accurate virtual estimates of how something will look in real life. One of the big gating factors to growth, Pandharikar says, is “lack of personalization.”
From my experience, Fitiquette’s approach is pretty engaging. You start with a mannequin that you customize to your measurements across specific areas like height, hips, breasts and and so on, allowing for minute adjustments for closest accuracy; this is then used to suggest clothing sizes and looks that would fit your shape. When you try the clothes on, you can view the results in an animated, 3D simulation. Future plans had included even more precise ways of getting a more lifelike appearance by way of photographs and video, and the ability to mix and match more clothing together.
The product had still been in pilot mode when it was purchased by Myntra, but it had already gained some traction: a limited beta of attracted some 20,000 users and somewhere between 2 million and 3 million try-ons, according to Pandharikar. And it had already been in discussions with a number of e-commerce players, some well-known, about rolling it out commercially. He says that Myntra approached Fitiquette almost immediately after TC Disrupt, and while Myntra had some customers nearly closed, “it was a deal we couldn’t resist.”
That’s a great exit story for a startup borne out of a fictional product used in a Cisco commercial for virtualization — Pandharikar and his co-founder Anant Kumar met while working at Cisco, and were inspired, when the commercial about the “future of shopping” went viral, to figure out a way of making a cool virtual fitting room into a reality. (There is more backstory here: Pandharikar also had some exposure to the fashion industry while still an undergraduate in India, when he imported and sold leather accessories to finance his way through college.)
Although Fitiquette had been envisioning its technology as a white-label service, it doesn’t look like it will be developing any third-party deals with other e-commerce sites for now. Myntra says it’s seeing 100% growth every six months, with some 30,000 products from 500 brands online, but the acquisition will give it one more way to help remain competitive against the likes of Snapdeal (which recently picked up a $50 million investment led by eBay) and Flipkart.
“Myntra aims to create the most compelling fashion shopping experience for Indian consumers at par or better than global standards,” Mukesh Bansal, CEO and co-founder of Myntra, said in a statement. “Fitiquette has developed pioneering technology for solving the Fit/Size problem online. This acquisition will not only help us improve the experience significantly but will also enhance our technology team with addition of top tech talent.” For its part, Myntra has raised about $70 million from VCs including Tiger Global, NEA-IndoUS Venture Partners, IDG and Accel Partners.Read More →
When Sequoia Capital India landed in Singapore, the buzz around town was that a big-name US fund being in the country was going to really jolt the market and provide serious cred to the startups here.
The Indian team running operations here, however, appears to have spent the last year of its time in the island state helping its Indian funds expand into Singapore, rather than directly investing in startups here.
Singapore is a popular choice as a base for foreign companies looking to expand into Southeast Asia. Early last year, Sequoia Capital India MD, Shailendra Jit Singh, expressed interest in having the fund’s companies expand into the region. Sequoia Cap in the US also appeared to have been eyeing activity in Singapore for a while—it had its first offsite meeting in the country in 2011, and was in discussion with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong about its presence here.
The Prime Minister’s Office oversees its R&D arm, the National Research Foundation (NRF), which has been busy backing local venture capital firms here over the past few years. Its Technology Incubation Scheme is a program that matches funds picked by 11 appointed VCs here, in the proportion of 85 percent to 15 percent—the larger portion dished out by the government. This allows the VCs here to provide bigger sums of seed capital to startups, with much of the risk absorbed by the NRF.
Former NRF projects head, Yinglan Tan, was also pulled over to Sequoia Capital India’s team in July last year, where he is now a venture partner based in Singapore.
When I ran into Tan in Manila a couple of months ago, he was evasive about the funds they’re looking at in Singapore, but was happy to try to set up meetings with their existing funds in Singapore—all Indian-based startups, except for Airbnb and Evernote. Some of these companies that are being incubated in Singapore by Sequoia Cap include Via, Druva, Mu Sigma, Idea Device and Practo.
The meetings never happened, but word on the street is that Tan has been meeting with some Singapore-based startups that are approaching Series A or B in size, and are looking to expand beyond the island. One that I know of provides Wi-Fi infrastructure.
As for its current startups here, Via is pretty sizable. It operates a flight booking portal similar to Expedia and Zuji, and has about 1,200 employees, the bulk of which are in India, with some in Indonesia and another team in the Philippines. It also lists hotels, and has about 45,000 listings, with plans to add more.
Druva started in Pune, India and is now operationally HQed in Sunnyvale, according to Jaspreet Singh, its CEO and founder. The company provides a backup system for mobile devices in the enterprise.
Idea Device is also a Bangalore startup, and makes a runbook automation system. Runbook automation is a set of technologies that helps take out some of the manual system administration tasks for IT departments.
Sequoia Cap itself was operating out of a service office in High Street, but now is the anchor tenant at a fancy new co-working space called The Co, so it could be a sign that it’s trying to get closer to local startups.
Sequoia Cap US declined to comment further on its plans for Singapore.
mu sigma, tan yinglan, sequoia capital
Wrapping your brain around technology trends here in the United States, or even just in Silicon Valley, is a chore. Figuring out the trends and who the major players are in an emerging market like India is 10 times as difficult. Bowei Gai, former LinkedIn employee by way of his company CardMuncher being acquired, has done just that under his World Startup Report umbrella.
Brad Feld and Dave McClure have been leading the mentor and seed-funding charge in India, as well as the Valley, as of late, and shared some interesting thoughts with us based on what they were able to pull from the report.
Feld told us that the online and offline business differences in India are what stood out to him:
I wasn’t tuned into the difference between online and offline businesses in India. The friction in offline society has a tremendous impact on any businesses, especially ones outside India, whereas the online world has enormous opportunities that seem unconstrained in the near term due to the extremely low penetration of smartphones when compared to the high penetration of mobile.
Here’s the extremely detailed report, complete with population information, market opportunity and current players in the country:
The idea for the World Startup Report is that one will be done in all major markets that are up-and-comers in the tech space. This is no small task, but if this India report is indicative of the types of information that Gai and his team are mining, then good things are bound to happen. Its mission is to share these documents for free, to empower local startup “activists” to become ambassadors for their region and ecosystem. Once those leaders emerge, then all of the pieces will start coming together for places like India.
Gai told me about the experience of gathering all of the information in the report above, which seemed like quite an adventure:
It’s been a life changing experience, having the ability to walk into startup’s office and ask any questions about their experience.
In the last 3 months, we spoke close to 2,000 young entrepreneurs, well-known successes, angels, VCs and policymakers to get everyone’s perspective on their startup ecosystem.
McClure talked to me about what it means to be more global as far as investing goes and why 500 Startups is starting to spend actual time, and money, in India:
The benefits and opportunities for getting in early (but not *too* early) in India are tremendous. For only small amounts of capital and resources (say, $1-2m/year?) we can get started now in India, and potentially see impact and returns within just a few years. Particularly seeing the rise of mobile / smartphone business in india, and the Indian middle class growth opportunity over the next 3-5 years is amazing.
Yes, mobile is something that you’ll hear about a lot when it comes to emerging markets. In India, mobile devices easily outnumber desktop ones, and all trends are pointing to smartphone adoption setting up booming potential in the country. Today it’s all about feature phones and SMS, but tomorrow, mobile apps will be bigger than desktop software ever was in the country for consumers.
It’s not easy to get involved in the startup scene in India without some learning and networking, as McClure explained to me. There’s a great bit of mentoring that will take place over the next few years to fuse all of the engineering talent that exists in India with consumer marketing expertise that hasn’t hit its stride in the country as of yet. This report is a great primer for anyone thinking about taking the long plane ride over to build some amazing things for consumers who are just getting ready for it.Read More →
For entrepreneurs, it is now both easier and harder to raise capital: easier because of powerful platforms like AngelList; harder if you’re not part of an accelerator or don’t have a strong network.
Silicon Valley has more startups than ever before. My startup, Cucumbertown, raised its first round a month ago, and during the course of this journey, I realized that, as a first-time entrepreneur without any solid Valley footing, my run toward raising funds as a non-American co-founder was somewhat unique.
Valley funding used to be an impenetrable fortress that opened up only by way of introductions. Your success in raising capital decreased to insignificant levels otherwise. The only other chance to make yourself noticeable was traction, which trumps everything. But the market dynamics of fundraising is shifting, and investors are no longer clustered in the Valley. Accelerators are becoming the showcase for promising startups. I was initially disappointed when a VC told me their firm only focuses on YC companies. But then I realized it makes more sense for them to look at YC, 500Startups or TechStars than to sift through hundreds of decks. These accelerators are becoming the entrance exams for selection.
So here’s how my month of experience as a non-accelerator, non-American fundraiser translates into advice.
Make Friends Fast
I was scheduled to meet 500Startups Partner Paul Singh on the second day of fundraising. As I waited for my appointment, Courtney Powell, CEO of PublikDemand, asked me about Cucumbertown. We became friends within the hour. The PublikDemand team invited me to crash at their home and Courtney taught me everything she knew about fundraising. We continue to meet whenever I am in the Bay Area. Courtney even re-wrote my press release notes.
After I read Darius Monsef’s article on TechCrunch, I contacted him, and he put me in touch with Rajiv Bhat, co-founder of YC alumni Mertado. Rajiv advised me on everything from convertible caps to living life as an Indian founder in the Valley. Nowadays Rajiv and I meet frequently here in Bangalore to track one another’s progress. I even bake for him.
Cucumbertown’s first investor and the co-creator of Farmville was Sizhao Yang, and we became great friends. He also offered constructive criticism of Cucumbertown. Every now and then Zao mails me one-liners reflecting something on the industry worth understanding. Zao now is my 1 a.m. friend/investor on call.
Cucumbertown’s most important advisor and friend is Naval Ravikant. He responds to every email and takes action when necessary. He even follows up. When Naval said stop, I stopped. When he asked me to meet him at AngelList HQ in San Francisco, I changed all my other plans.
These people represent only a fraction of the relationships I built in less than a month, and they represent the change in Cucumbertown’s trajectory to success.
Meet With Companies Who Have Raised
It’s also important to meet with companies who have recently raised. They have a wealth of tribal knowledge that can help you save time. For instance, I met with a company that closed its funds in October, and they advised me about the shift in investors’ herding mentality due to the September YC Demo day this year. This was a wealth of information, as I was able to strike a number of investors from my potential list.
Get On AngelList
AngelList is powering the Valley’s revolution in investing and raising funds. During one of my lunches with an investor, he said that raising funds for the first company he co-founded was near impossible. And raising series A was much more difficult than that. His company’s investors played waiting games and did not introduce the company until their contacts came into the picture. He said shady acts like this frustrated him as an entrepreneur.
AngelList changes all of that and is perhaps the most important tool you’ll need as an entrepreneur raising capital. It is the canonical source of all things related to angel funding in technology now. Never has Silicon Valley been in a position where every investor and fundraiser could e-meet at a platform.
Cucumbertown represents a first-time investment for Mokriya‘s CEO Sunil Kanderi and partner Chandra Kalle. I met them during a growth hacking conference in San Francisco, and they expressed their desire to be connected to Cucumbertown. Our profile on AngelList, our existing investor list there, and our testimonials offered the credibility we needed to gain their trust. And investor Stefano Bernadi followed us out of the blue on AngelList and subsequently invested in Cucumbertown.
Here are some things I learned to be successful on AngelList:
Build a concise and compelling profile.
Make it equally good for your team, too.
Follow investors early on, even during your idea incubation stage, to understand their modus operandi.
Follow partners at VC firms to understand the deals they are seeking. You can view their activity stream.
When you get your breakthrough investors, immediately connect with their connections and start the conversations (AngelList allows you to talk to connections of connections).
Showcase your strengths in the status messages. Don’t overdo it.
Respond to everyone who initiates a message with you. But once you start calendaring in people become selective in appointments.
Get your investors to write testimonials for you.
Almost every company listed there is exceptional. Being different is difficult. But seek the difference.
Silicon Valley works largely by clustered investments. Your company would have always had a chance of being invested in by people who knew each other. And limited by them, too. That has changed with AngelList.
Calendar Every Meeting
I met 28 investors/funds over three weeks, and more were scheduled. The Valley is flooded with investors, and it can get pretty overwhelming once people start responding. Keep it organized and calendar all meetings. The executive assistants for most of these investors will reschedule your meeting at least three times. You have only once chance, so be prepared to move around.
Learn To Say No
As tempting as it was to accept capital from anyone — especially with the uncertainty of the future looming over our heads — we said no to investors who did not align with our thought process and principles. It was difficult. But we sleep well today. My new best friends in the Valley taught me this quality, as well.
The Valley has more startups now than ever before, and investors are bombarded by a hundred pitches every week. You are as valuable to them as the other 99 and so are likely to get lost within three days. Be proactive in the conversation, and try to get a response in a week. Fundraising is a game. If you know you have a good product/team/traction, then get in to win. You are already here because you believe in something. Continue the journey to win. Persevere.
Thanks to Maneesh Arora, advisor and investor in Cucumbertown, for the draft review.
[Disclaimer: 500 Startups is an investor in Cucumbertown. But we are a non-accelerator investment. Though Naval is AngelList’s co-founder Cucumbertown did not benefit any special status. Cucumbertown wasn’t a featured startup or did not show up in the trending list. Dan Hauk is Cucumbertown’s American co-founder. But Dan was not involved in fundraising. Cucumbertown is a distributed startup and none of us co-founders have seen each other. I travelled to the Bay Area to raise funds.]Read More →
Cucumbertown Nabs $300K From FarmVille Co-Creator, AngelList’s Naval Ravikant To Build A Dribbble For Chefs & Recipes
Cucumbertown, although it may not have the coolest name (see what I did there?), has a founding story that is very much a sign of the times. Let me explain: The startup was initially founded by Cherian Thomas, an Indian entrepreneur and former engineer at Zynga, and today has a team of four people. While one might assume that its employees all live near Thomas in Bangalore, in fact each of them live on different continents — and they’ve never met each other in person.
And yet, in spite of the fact that Thomas had never been to Silicon Valley until last month, Cucumbertown is today announcing that it has raised a $300K seed round from a number of familiar names. The startup’s first round included angel investors like Naval Ravikant of AngelList, Paul Singh of 500 Startups, FarmVille co-creator Sizhao Zao Yang, founder of MightyText Maneesh Arora, early Google product guy Richard Chen and Sonique Player co-creator Tabreez Varjee.
So, considering it has a remote staff and Thomas’ admission that it has few contacts in Silicon Valley or in the U.S. for that matter, how was the startup able to raise funding from these angels? The startup is one of the first companies to use AngelList Docs to source its angels, the investor crowdfunding service’s that allows both angels and entrepreneurs to avoid legal fees while filling out term sheets and all the necessary paperwork that comes with raising and closing an early-stage financing round.
Not to overstate, but this could have big implications for international entrepreneurs and founders who don’t have an expansive rolodex of investors and contacts in the U.S. or Silicon Valley. That being said, what exactly is Cucumber, and what are they up to?
Thomas tells us that the startup’s mission is to give amateur cooks and chefs an easy way to publish recipes in a simple, frictionless and easy-to-use interface. Cucumbertown aims to present culinary enthusiasts with an alternative to posting recipes and food-related content on WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, and so on. The founder describes it as the Dribbble for cooks and recipes.
Simply put, Cucumbertown aims to make it easy for anyone to write recipes and publish them in a community that contributes to recipes and posts by submitting pictures, adding tips, sharing the top content and rating their favorite submissions. Thomas said that he wants the platform to offer a frictionless entry-point to recipe-sharing for first-time cooks or those who aren’t already using similar apps, as well as providing a short-hand mechanic for advanced users to write recipes quickly. Like stenography for recipe creation, he says.
After beta testing with 500 users over the past few months, Cucumbertown is officially opening up its “platform for food” to the public today. It is targeting amateur cooks and pro chefs, giving them a non-cumbersome way to establish a food-based identity on the web, craft recipes in a standardized way, include multimedia and publish their best concoctions.
The startup aims to provide an attractive alternative to the WordPresses, Tumblrs and Epicurious-es of the world by enabling users to write recipes in less than five months, take pictures with their smartphones, upload them with a few clicks, and encourage sharing, conversation and interaction around their culinary content. To create an underlying social element by allowing amateur food critics to customize notifications related to content published by friends, the addition of tips, reviews and even to follow their favorite cooks.
The idea is to give them a better way to showcase their recipes and food love as if they are works of art.
For more on Cucumbertown, check it out at home here.Read More →
Intel’s second bite at the smartphone market has been more akin to a gentle nibbling around the edges. At the end of last year the chipmaker teased a smartphone reference design running its Medfield x86 Atom SoC. Nine months later Intel chips have found their way inside six real world smartphones, yet none apparently destined for the U.S.
The six smartphones are the Lava XOLO X900 (an exclusively Indian device), the Lenovo K800 (targeting China first), Megafon’s Mint (a Russian carrier-branded device), the Orange San Diego (a UK carrier-branded launch), the ZTE Grand X IN (heading to Europe first) and Motorola’s RAZR i (coming to select European and South American markets).
Aside from Intel internals, the RAZR i closely resembles the recently announced Droid RAZR M (the latter is a U.S. device) – which further flags up the U.S.-shaped hole in Intel’s smartphone strategy. What’s going on here?
The likely explanation is there’s no support for LTE in Intel’s current Medfield chips. And with 4G such a dominant force in the U.S. you need to command a brand as massive as Apple to get away with flogging LTE-less phones (the iPhone 5 being Cupertino’s only 4G phone).
The lack of LTE support in Medfield chips was confirmed to TechCrunch by Sumeet Syal, Intel’s Director of Product Marketing (he wouldn’t be drawn on explaining the politics behind Medfield’s current geographical spread). He also confirmed 4G support is in the pipeline, noting that Intel will be “shipping some LTE products later this year and ramping into 2013″ – so that particular barrier to U.S. entry may soon be removed.
Multicore chips vs hyper threading
Syal said Intel is also readying a dual-core Medfield chip. Its current chip architecture is single core, although the SoC includes a technique to boost multitasking called hyper threading which — Intel claims — allows it to out-perform some rival multicore chips.
“Even though it’s a single core it has hyper threading technology so essentially you’re able to do multitasking through a hyper-threaded environment. So that’s how we’re able to demonstrate that a single core from Intel outperforms a lot of the dual-core and quad-cores out there,” said Syal.
“Our next gen product will be a dual-core but again that product will also have hyper threading so essentially… you will also have dual-core with four threads. So again just like we demoed that a single core hyper-threaded can outperform dual-core/quad-core I think we’ll do it again when we introduce the dual-core product with four threads.”
But if hyper threading is as good for performance as Syal says it is, why does Intel need to invest in making multicore chips at all?
“You have to take a look at how many instructions per clock can the architecture handle — our belief is that others are throwing cores at the issue in terms of getting more performance. We make that determination based on our architecture so we felt very comfortable coming out with a single core dual-threaded for our first product, and as we’re able to get more and more performance in the right implementation of the architecture we believe putting in dual-core would be the right thing for our next generation product,” said Syal.
On the question of quad-core, it seems likely Intel sees four cores in Medfield’s future but Syal would not be drawn. “We’re not disclosing any plans yet of quad-cores,” he said.
Android app incompatibility
App compatibility is another area where Intel is having to play catch up. Despite working closely with Google to optimize its chip architecture for Android, not all Android apps are compatible with Intel’s SoCs — including, in a recently flagged example, Google’s own Chrome for Android browser. This was noticed by Android Central – after some hands on time with a pre-release version of the RAZR i. (Chrome compatibility is due to be fixed in time for the RAZR i’s launch, says Motorola.)
Syal said the “majority” of Android apps are compatible with Medfield chips but refused to specify an exact percentage — although Intel has previously claimed 95 per cent of apps are compatible (which was a correction of a previous Intel statement pegging Android app compatibility at just 70 per cent of apps).
“We’re not quoting any numbers — but the majority of all the apps we’ve tested work just fine,” said Syal.
Syal added that Intel’s internal software and services group has been working “since the launch of our product and constantly round the clock to make sure that all these apps work… so those numbers [of incompatible apps] are changing by the day”.
Asked to sum up Intel’s current performance in the smartphone space, he described the company as “comfortable” with how much progress it’s made this year. ”We’ve just gotten into the game, since the beginning of this year, right now we’re really comfortable with how we see our penetration — six products have now been publicly announced into the marketplace. There’s more stuff to come — but we’re not talking specific numbers.”
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