Gaining momentum

Its a cruel world out. You need to take very quick and careful steps otherwise you’ll roll down the mountain on which you’re trekking.

I’ve decided to work on more than 1 startup at a time and see which one succeeds. Since the underlying technology is the same in my startups therefore I can afford to have them run at parallel. None of my startups are funded at the moment. Therefore, I’m also making sure that we get some paid projects based on the technical capabilities that we have developed.

We are currently working on following lines: wordpress, jQuery/AJAX, PHP, Sencha, Scala/Lift, NoSQL and a whole lot of APIs: Facebook, Twitter, Geolocation, you name it. So if you have any projects related to these technologies like custom website development and mobile HTML5 apps development, we’d be happy to help you achieve your desired goals.

Currenlty, we are a team of 2 highly dedicated developers working on the stuff mentioned above. We are also looking for equity holder partners with the skill set: a graphics designer/developer aka desolper and a marketing professional to work on an exciting startup based on tabletPC B2B app 😉

I’d entertain applications at the email: sim4biz [at] gmail [dot] com

Startup brewing startup

Well, I like to be called an innovator. Entrepreneurship for me is a family thing. I wanted time to decide to take entrepreneurship as a career but fate plays its funny games some times.

This life, it seems, is too short for you to make a move from a well established career to a risky career of an entrepreneur. If you’re perturbed  by innovative ideas every now and then; I’d suggest you should try your luck in this line of business.

The name of the game is: key players at key positions. An innovative idea and a well-balanced team with brilliant past record is what angel investors and VCs seek. The current interest rate of 0.5% is proof enough that the pool of potential investors is huge. Seeking seed funding is not your goal.

You’re an innovator and you want to change the world with your inventions. Get a good idea and then pick a team or do it the other way around; its up to you. For the former adventure, there are plenty of places to seek a good team like Launch48 I recently attended.

I stumbled upon so many innovators and entrepreneurs at that event. I worked on somebody else’s idea and it was so much fun with you working on you own part and letting others work on their part.

I’m also looking for teammates for my startup slately; one techie/front-end guy and one business development guy are missing in the picture. I’m focusing all my energies on picking a super biz dev guy now as the startup I’m working on is majorly a sales business. I think, a person with primarily marketing but some sales experience with small/medium enterprise would be a good fit. Again, slately is a startup working on a tablet PC B2B application and we hope to go global in the coming years.

Things are moving fast and I’m talking to potential customers everyday. I hope to get to the point of signing a pre-order soon and from there life’d be a roller coaster ride!!!

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Looking for partner(s) to join for techstars.org program

[Open Letter]

Well, I’ve been working on a hi-tech startup offering a tablet PC based B2B application for quite some time now. Since I don’t have any funding at the moment therefore I’m looking for funding as well as interesting people in my business. Fresh out of thedifferenceengine, I’m all too excited to apply for techstars but for that I need a partner with a good match of tech and entrepreneurial skills. Furthermore, I’m willing to offer founder’s equity for joining. [Remember, the deadline for techstars is 1-JUN-2010]

I’ve figured out the architecture and the technologies behind it: Flex4/Air2 as front end, Scala as backend and No-SQL (probably) as a data store. The application may also be available as SaaS offering, in a cloud, some time in the future.

For that I need someone who has 3+ years of experience in enterprise software development: Whether he has worked in .NET or Java, it doesn’t matter, but what matters is his ambition to learn to do enterprise application integration, preferably with CRM or payroll systems, in a far efficient and elegant manner. I mean doing it through RESTful concurrent Scala!

Scala is a new kid in the block but it has garnered great reputation after twitter and linkedin chose to migrate their core technology to this new JVM-based language. It supports elegant multi-core concurrency language features apart from providing a very clean syntax.

Another person, who may be of an interest to me, would be a Flex desopler (designer/developer) who is also an expert in designing UX (user experience) for consumer applications.

I myself have worked heavily on enterprise software and business intelligence projects too. Mostly, Java and Applet based technology but I kept myself updated with what’s going on out there and what’s hip throughout my career. I’ve been advising various startups and also coming up with business plans ever since I graduated. However, this is the first time I’m out seeking funding 🙂

So anyone with ambitions, authorization to work in UK and willingness to take the risks in order to change the world is welcomed!

sim4biz[at]gmail[dot]com


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Triopoly

After a longish hiatus from blogging. I’m back!

It seems either too difficult or way too easy to analyse the current situation of business dynamics of computer semiconductor manufacturers, namely: Intel, AMD and nVidia.

vs. vs.

Let’s see how it all started…

AMD, second highest desktop CPU market share holder and performance leader till first half of 2006, bought ATI, the highest GPU market share holder but not the performance leader, in late 2006. It forced AMD to directly compete both Intel and nVidia, chipzilla and grahpzilla in theInquirer.net lingo. It yielded only shame for AMD till the end of year 2007. During this time, AMD lost both its CPU performance leader crown and highest CPU market share crown. AMD reportedly bought ATI for some $5 billion. By the end of year 2007, the net worth of AMD, previous AMD and ATI combined, was $3.83 billion including its cash in the bank. But AMD is AMD. It bounces back after all hope has faded. It’s managers also boyishly rejoice unlimitedly the little pleasures they may have, once in 5 years, for beating Intel in performance numbers.

Intel, the CPU performance and market leader, bought Havok, the software physics game engine market leader. This gave Intel a killer app solution for its multi-core CPU fanaticism. Intel immediately killed the Havok’s plan to release an SDK, HavokFX, which was supposed to run on conventional GPUs for bringing improved and detailed physics effects in games through its physics engine. A sad point in time for all the gamers out there who were drooling for making better use of their graphics card other than just, well, graphics rendering.

Most interesting of these acquisitions was that of nVidia buying Ageia, world’s only hardware physics manufacturer and the second highest software physics game engine market holder. This brought it into some competition with Intel due to the Havok deal. The real tragedy, in fact the tragedy of tragedies happened when nVidia spokesperson announced that they will not produce hardware physics processors, more generally dubbed as PPUs. [Since this is reported by fudzilla.com and considering fudo’s rumor mill I would want to think that nVidia is still strategizing about Ageia and nothing about discontinuation of PPU has been announced.]
However, in contrast to Anandtech.com analysis, I believe that nVidia, being a semiconductor hardware manufacturer, needs to diversify its hardware products portfolio by introducing whatever they have in their arsenal. They can prove to be a monopoly in PPU market if they put their marketing muscle and game developer relationships into Ageia offering. They have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

Now a new broth is about to be cooked regarding nVidia’s acquisition and/or possible merger of VIA.
Why?
VIA is the only third x86-64 CPU manufacturer and their CPU designs come from their US division Centaur, previously producing Cyrix CPU. Since buying VIA will not transfer x86 license from VIA to nVidia according to VIA’s deal with Intel therefore nVidia and VIA might have to become partners in crime. This brings nVidia in league with Intel and AMD as premium semiconductor manufacturer.

Apart from acquisition, Intel has announced multiple times that it is working on a project code-named Larrabee. This might turn out to be a CPU+dedicated GPU and/or CPU+GPU multi-core design. Only time will tell what it turns out to be.

We all know that Intel, nVidia and AMD (ex-ATI) already manufacture motherboard chipsets. Considering the above strategies, it seems that all the three BIGG chippery firms are going to compete fiercely in CPU, GPU, chipsets and PPU domain. Only AMD will miss out the opportunity of PPU or software physics engine offering. However, nVidia seems to be open in bringing its Ageia software SDK to work on both nVidia and AMD GPU platforms thus bringing acceleration of physics on AMD’s hardware.

2010 will be an exciting year when the three semiconductor giants will have their full arsenal armed and ready. By 2012, I expect that one of these three giants will lose the battle and will be bought by the other. This is a pure speculation based on the fact that “nature has never allowed triopolies to settle peacefully”.


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Business Plan: Interactive displays

Interactive displays

Informal Business Plan

 

Touch sensitive technology has always been around since the early days of smart phones. However, that technology never got out of the confines of small portable electronic devices. The buzz words here are small and portable.

 

There has always been academic research going on in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) area. Some of their publications have produced commendable results. Microsoft surface technology is an evolution of interfaces between mankind and computer beyond colorful & twisted keyboards and light flashing mice.

 

On the other extreme is the ubiquitous computers research. This research elates the use of computers as omnipresent & invisible machines in our homes and offices, assisting us in our daily tasks as obedient servants acting on our commands. The bottleneck in this research is the imperfection of voice recognition technology.

 

Microsoft Surface is a middle ground in terms of pace of technology.

 

  microsoft surface logo

 

The business value that can be extracted from Microsoft Surface technology is in the form of time saving activities for routine tasks wherever HCI is involved. These activities include but not limited to reading out a restaurant’s menu, placing order and receiving the bill, Point-Of-Sales-Terminal (POST) plus RFID, ATMs, computer terminals for banking professionals synced with hardware calculator, using CRM applications for assembling custom products and ordering them online,
designing business workflow blue prints, interacting with the machines on a manufacturing assembly plants and…In short it can be used wherever there is a routine use of only one software application on top of an operating system.

 

How does it improve efficiency of the workforce? Firstly, this technology can act as a confined window of work to concentrate only on the task at hand and forget about the intricacies of the operating system itself. Secondly, the use of text not as a virtual but a real button can help eliminate human error, double mindedness for new users and save time for a user from grabbing a mouse, fine positioning it at the desired virtual button on-screen and clicking it.

 

Things interactive display is not good at are replacement of type writer interface to write lengthy paragraphs, design professionals like architects using AutoCAD, Maya3D artists and others and of course for the technology professionals like IT professionals, electronics and mechanical engineers and the likes.

 

Long story short, these technologies will be employed in above mentioned work situations as prophesized by many of the Steven Spielberg movies but who does that is the question.

This, some have called, is embracing the World 2.0!

Ageia PhysX : a true revolution in PC Gaming

Ever since the first announcement of PC Gaming technology called PhysX by Ageia in Computex or some exhibition in spring 2005, I have followed the technology very closely. Ageia is/was a startup by ex-XBox guy and other gaming industry veterans.
It is infact its a software physics engines for computer games and corresponding physics hardware with special purpose hardware chip. They have named this chip a PPU:Physics Processing Unit as you can guess.
Just lately it occured to me what a lofty challenge this is from both technological and business point of view to get this thing established.

Comparisons shots of GRAW

Business Aspect:
Challenge#1:
First of all there is that chicken and egg problem. Games developers say that since there are not enough physx hardware cards therefore we cannot invest time, resources and efforts into enabling hardware physics in our games. On the other hand, the consumers-the gamers- simply cannot buy physX cards because there are no top rated titles with optimized hardware physics.

Exactly how Ageia guys are coping with this challenge is through the networking of its executives with game developers and this seems to be working.
Secondly, ageia is also providing its software physics engine PhysX, previously NovodeX, as a free API for any developer with the condition that the developer will optimize their games with its matching PhysX hardware. While its software competitor, the most famous games physics engine makers Havok are licensing their engine for some measureable loyalties.
Ageia has already made unreal guys use their physics engine in their game engine Unreal3 and game Gears of War that will eventually be ported to PC eventually. Unreal is also the most popular game engine for other game developers to license among modern engines. All in all, Ageia guys claim 100 titles by 60 game creators in 2007-08.

Ageia PhysX logo

Challenge#2:
As we all know, the big 3 console makers have released their next generation consoles in the last year with Nintendo Wii taking a bigger share of the cake, its really hard for even PC Gaming to survive. Plus for a gamer playing latest game means considerable updates. Updates that can cover the cost of buying all the major consoles!
A gamer now needs to buy a DirectX 10 graphics card + Microsoft Vista + Ageia PhysX card to get the fuller experience. I’m excluding the cost of upgrading memory and assuming that an average gamer already has atleast dual core machine with Creative X-Fi card.
Again making very little sense for a game developer to devote some energy to PhysX development than to optimize her game for all three consoles.
I’m really not sure how Ageia guys are fighting this challenge other than using their contacts. But I think that developing an itch in a game developer to loose their virginity 😉 of never before testing their game with flashy game physics effects in hardware is the way to go!

Challenge#3:
Considering the fact that all the software game physics engine market place was dominated by Havok physics engine as a monopolist before arrival of Ageia PhysX, Ageia has made quite a progress already. Havok seems to be on the run. It has produced a solution called HavokFX that is supposed to utilize nVidia triple SLI technology to do hardware physics but the solution hasn’t delivered and never launched out of beta state.
Ageia has already overcome this challenge at present.

SLI HavokFX physics

Challenge#4:
nVidia and DAAMIT (ATI/AMD) have provided some hasty solutions to counter the attack of Ageia PhysX cards by doing triple card solutions. Two cards to render graphics and 1 to do physics calculations. Agreed, dual card and its driver support for graphics cards is a step towards doing dual core graphics chips in next generation (GeForce 9 & Radeon X3) elegantly but against the proposition of buying just a console it stands no chance.
nVidia triple SLI is supposed to utilize the upcoming HavokFX API, I’m keeping my hands raised in prayer for its release, while DAAMIT triple CrossFire is supposed to use its own abstract layer of some kind that nobody understands let alone be using it.
However I personally believe, the place of hardware physics chip is on the graphics card to reduce latency between GPU and PPU communication and other such improvements.
This challenge again is overcome and the solution by competition is messy at best.

Challenge#5:
The least business challenge I suppose was to convince AIB, Add-In Board, partners to provide cheap cards based on Ageia PPU and distribute them properly.
This is a challenge no more 🙂

Asus Ageia PhysX card

Technical Challenges::
Challenge#1:
The most important technical challenge I believe was to keep performance of hardware PhysX enabled system equal to that of a disabled one. This depends a lot on the game developers. They can write pretty bad code etc.

However, I would like to emphasize the fact that NovodeX game physics engine was not widely popular among game developers as opposed to Havok. It definetely lacked some features but its performance delta cannot be judged.
Initial benchmarks revealed a negative delta of 10%-20%. So a drop in performance to see eye candy in games isn’t the best choice.
Also initial games only embedded eye candy physics hardware effects, like wild explosions and building debris falling. Advanced effects like, fluid motion, avalanche were left for next generation games [and probably next gen PhysX PPU]. Morover, initial physics also seemed rather random as opposed to the prevailing belief.
Ageia is still fighting hard to overcome this challenge but this seems to have found a real thorn in the neck from the end-user percepective. This is also backed up by the fact that gamers who invest in such luxuries as Ageia harware PhysX cards are already very performance sensitive.

Clothe Animation

Challenge#2:
…and then there was the driver. For each harware released in this world, support by a powerful driver enhances the user experience by many folds. The driver team released driver update from time to time and in each update new feature set of the PPU were unlocked. Since a lot many users did not install the cards therefore the stability issue cannot be evaluated.
…then there was the new windows launch. MS Vista with its *brand new* driver model has diminished the end-user experience in that its 5 months already since its release and even the huge and powerful driver teams of nVidia and DAAMIT have not been been to release driver-for-Vista-with-DirectX10-in-32-bit mode. Heck! DAAMIT has not even launched the graphics chips for DirectX 10.
Then after DX10 hardware+driver release there will be conflicts of Ageia PhysX drivers and these GPU drivers.
Also keep in mind that Ageia has not released the Vista drivers and doesn’t seem to be at all interested in 64-bit drivers.
I think 64-bit gaming is not getting popular anytime before 2010.
Since this is an ongoing challenge and Ageia is making inroads into it we should consider it a challenge forever.

PhysX driver options

Challenge#3:
This challenge is totally invisible but its very important. The game creators are not just a bunch of code junkies but also cool content creators. In the game development, the 3D artistic content and making the code to execute it efficiently is a long lasting challenge.
Here comes physics effects and the content creators need to artistically design these effects and the code junkies need to enable these effects using PhysX API and optimize them later on.
The only thing Ageia is doing right now is to work closely with game developers on a person-to-person basis and helping them out. But in the longer run they need to develop best-of-breed tools to enable development of aritistic content into games productively.

Blood Burning

Challenge#4:
We all forgot that Ageia is also a hardware chip designing firm. So they have dedicated chip engineers that are working on next gen PhysX chips. The initial chip was 125 million transistor on 130nm process design. Now they are on the road to a process shrink to 80nm.
With the shrink of this magnitude they are bound by rule of thumb to increase transistor count that either means more PhysX hardware features or more precision in calcualtions of existing features or both. Furthermore, the long awaited shift to PCI-Express standard is coming. We still have to see if they will support PCIe 1X/4X or 16X and will they be supporting PCI-Express 2.0 standard in time or not?
Ageia is working on this challenge and they are about to launch something soon.

Shrapnels of Explosion

Challenge#5:
Last and the least, there will always be a need to improve the design and power by adding more effects into the PhysX software game engine. This is again an ongoing process.
Ageia doesn’t seem too much focused on this after considering all the above challenges but once the things stabilize a lot in say a year or year-and-a-half then the engine may be upgraded.

However, there is a caveat here. The only and the more popular physics engine competitor Havok if enables drastically astonishing physics effects using its API then the landscape will alter altogther. Game developers will keep their focus on Havok and GPU creators will focus on triple card technologies to beat Ageia.
Here’s my analysis on Ageia and kudos to the Ageia management team to come this far! Lets see what happens in two years time.

Stay tuned!

Apple’s new buying frenzy: 3DLabs

There is that latest rumour among many regarding Apple and its rumour mill related to its infatuation with user interface/graphics.
Apple is in talks of buying 3DLabs from Creative.

The Reasons given by the officials of 3DLabs are mentioned below while the Apple officials denied any statement as usual:

Reason #1: 3DLabs had a very bad time with creative not taking their workstation class graphics offering to the consumers due to its shyness of the waters of competing against the giants like nVidia and ATI (now AMD). The decision by Creative to make 3DLabs work only in portable handset graphics proved to be the last nail in the coffin. Last October 3DLabs showed its intent to the world of splitting from Creative, with Creative agreeing to this proposition, to be taken over by some serious graphics firm.

Reason #2: Apple is in dire need of increasing its presence in the game industry. Mac OSX is the last platform for even the big game developers to port their top titles to. While OCX pose as thee most polished platform when it comes to usability and media content creation and consumption. With 3DLabs come the expertise of the creators of OpenGL graphics library as well as hardware support of all present and future endeavours of Apple in video game ventures.

Reason #3: 3DLabs misses a serious player like Apple to support its vision and Apple is in the safest financial position to get its feet wet in the only arena of the user-friendly OS platform that it has not dared to step in.

Need I say more?

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