Monday, November 15, 2010

Orange Launches Orange Money in Kenya

Orange Kenya in partnership with Equity Bank unveiled their money transfer service last week to their customers. The service is mapped to a bank account to allow Orange subscribers access to financial services using their mobile phones. Orange money is different from the other mobile money transfer services in Kenya, combining money transfer and mobile banking to provide a richer banking experience for its customers.

The Orange money service in Kenya is currently hosted on Equity bank's mobile banking platform, giving customers the convenience that comes with a bank account.

The difference between Orange Money and the other money transfer services:
Orange money provides the following services, on top of its money transfer feature that supports money deposits, sending money and withdrawing money through your bank account using your mobile phone.
  • Making purchases
  • Paying bills
  • Managing Payrolls
  • Repaying Loans
  • Mini Statements
  • Stock Prices
  • Forex Rates
  • Full bank Statements
  • New Cheque Books
  • Stopping Cheques
  • Stopping a Card
Benefits of Orange Money:
  • Convenience: You can directly access your bank account from your phone and can send money to any mobile phone network and any bank using your phone.
  • Security: Unlike the traditional mobile money transfer solutions you can store unlimited amounts of money and your funds have deposit protection. Transactions are subjected to the processes and procedures of a bank.
  • Time Efficient: Currently you incur a cost to move money from a bank account to a traditional mobile money transfer system, after which you have to pay additionally for sending money. Time and effort is also required to deposit money via agents into a traditional mobile money transfer system. However, with Orange Money, you transact your bank account using your phone, thereby saving time and energy.
  • Rich Functionality: Since real bank accounts are transacted using the phone as an access channel, limits are higher than traditional mobile money transfer solutions. To protect customer interests, we have set the current limit at Sh. 100,000. You can also minimize errors of transactions by using the phonebook lookup to access the receiver’s details.
  • Easy Registration: If you have an existing Equity account, you do not need to open a new one to access Orange Money – you can just link your existing account to Orange Money. If you are a new customer, then the registration process is quick and easy – you just fill a one page form, either provide two photos or have an agent take your photo. Your application will be sent to a central processing centre and once successful you will receive an SMS with your 5-digit PIN.
This convergence of Orange Kenya and Equity Bank seeks to tap into the unbanked Kenyan population by extending financial services through mobile phones that have a higher penetration rate in rural Kenya. The service is a first of its kind in Africa and it has already been launched in 5 other African countries. It will be rolled out in 19 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Google Will Buy Java

The ongoing face off between Oracle and Google over the use of Java on the Android operating system seems to be making headlines, with many christening Oracle as an evil organization. If you may recall, Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems earlier this year, taking over control of Sun's hardware and software divisions. This acquisition was not well embraced by many including the Java developer community and partners, as well as some of Sun's top engineers that left the company recently, including Jon Gosling, the father of Java.

Oracle's major interest in the acquisition was Sun's much coveted hardware line that boasts of a powerful SPARC processor architecture and their advanced server technology. Oracle specializes in database management systems and ERP software, a clear indication that Sun's hardware products fit perfectly in their core line of business.

So why then, did Oracle sue Google for patent infringement over the use of Java on the Android operating system ? Sun's software line consists of several UNIX systems including the stable Sun Solaris operating system, and many open source platforms like the Java platform. Many of their software products are free and open source, hence they don't really make a lot of money. The Java platform is patented under the GNU General Public License Version 2 (GPL v2), which has some restrictions on using patents. Some of these patents are licensed to Sun, and Oracle claims that Google infringed on them without a license.

Since Oracle does not seem to advocate for open source development and does not seem to care about the fate of the Java language, they will find it easier to hold Google at ransom and indirectly force them to buy Java at a very high cost, or share revenues derived from the Android platform. Google will most likely opt for the latter because the Android platform is performing pretty well. Eric Schmidt, Google CEO stated earlier that Android could easily net a cool $10 billion in annual revenue. Google would therefore not be willing to share revenue with Oracle over the next ten years.

So what will Oracle achieve ? Oracle, in the end will kill two birds with one stone. Sell off Java at a hefty price, while retaining Sun's hardware division which was their major interest in Sun Microsystems.

Larry Elison is a smart businessman. I wonder why Google didn't see this coming and acquire Sun and take control of Java, than have it sold to them at ransom !

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cloud Computing for Mobile Value Added Services

Following the rapid development of cloud-hosted services, there has been a sharp focus on building internet-based solutions that cater for today's active internet user. Solutions ranging from social networks, communication services, commerce are all being integrated within the confines of a web browser. This shift is an indication that the internet has evolved from being a communication enabler to a computing platform, and if we take a close look at the nature of today's use of a computer, we realize that we spend more time on the internet. Applications like facebook take up so much of our time chatting away, communicating with friends, etc.

With the recent drop of internet connectivity costs in Uganda and Africa in general, more people are getting connected to the rest of the world. As the prices drop further, the internet speeds are surprisingly getting faster too (Courtesy of the undersea cable).

What we don't see is the impact of these fast changing trends on the mobile communications sector. It is evident that: As internet services become more affordable and the speeds increase in Africa to match the rest of the world, mobile carriers will continue to lose a bigger share of their “voice” market to the “data” market. What our mobile carriers are not understanding is that the internet provides far more communication and information services than the services they develop for the mobile user to access.
This shift from voice to data has now been the emphasis of the mobile carriers in Africa, and many of them are now investing enormously in data infrastructure. Again, they don't seem to understand the direction of the market. What the consumer wants is a service that gives them their money's worth. If I buy a 350MB data package at 10 dollars for my internet-enabled phone, what will I use the internet for ? I will use it for accessing my facebook and reading my emails. Usually, the websites we can easily access on our mobile handsets are the ones that are optimized for our browser-supported phones ie the high end feature phones and smart phones. These phones are many on our market today, and more are being shipped to Africa. The manufacturers of these phones, ie Nokia, Blackberry, Samsung, Motorolla, Huawei, etc are releasing new features and models at a speed that is not being embraced by the mobile carriers. Today's smart phone has support for GPS, WiFi, Flash, HTML, extended data storage, faster processing and memory(some of them now come with 1GHZ processors and upto 512MB of RAM) to mention a few. All these features are not being exploited at full potential in Africa.

The only way we can embrace these new developments in technology is through innovation. However, we need to innovate new products and services at a speed that is even faster than the technology advancements in both hardware and mobile device specs, and this can only be achieved if we open up our mobile carrier platforms to developers that can build new competitive value added services for the mobile user. The current business arrangement caters for only those companies and businesses that register for SMS short codes and develop only SMS solutions. With the advent of cloud computing, SMS is bound to become an obsolete technology in providing rich content for today's tech-savvy mobile user. Sharing revenue between the mobile carrier and VAS provider will definitely not be a viable business solution in the near future as long as smarter and better phones continue to flood our market. Mobile carriers should therefore focus on building stable data infrastructure and open up the VAS market to developers by building an internet-based platform for hosting VAS products . With this kind of business model, they will definitely make much more money from data charges than what they have been making from SMS-based services.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bigups to UCC and Warid Telecom for Championing Price Reductions in our Telecommunications Sector

Following Warid Telecom's unprecedented price cuts a few days ago, the major players in Uganda's telecom sector reacted pretty fast to announce price reductions to a record low of 3 shillings per second for calls across all networks. Am wondering why MTN, Zain and UTL had to wait for Warid to announce price cuts before they could jump on the band wagon and reduce their rates too.

If you may recall, following an announcement by the Uganda Communications Commission to fix interconnection rates across networks earlier this year, MTN ran to court to block the move, in fear of cut-throat competition. Fortunately, UCC's announcement came to fruition and call rates have dropped instantly.

We should have more new policies like this implemented in Uganda to curb unfair competition in our private sector and weed out deliberate extortion by such companies.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Google launches Android Market in Kenya, Huawei releases cheapest Android Smart Phone

With Google's recent launch of Android Market in Nairobi at the Gkenya event hosted at Strathmore University this month, mobile application developers in the East African region are gleaming with hope.

The mobile computing arena in Africa seems to be changing so fast, a scenario attributed to the 260 million plus mobile phone users on the African continent. Blue chip American tech companies are now scrambling for the African market that had long been ignored, a move that is going to spur the rapid development of the mobile technology sector.

It's evident that the mobile phone will still remain the de facto communication gadget used in Africa, and any business that is inclined to this fact will definitely rip big from the continent. Google recently invested in Mobile Messaging Solutions, the parent company of Mobile Planet, a Nairobi-based company that specializes in the development of wireless voice and data applications for mobile devices in Kenya, an indication that Google is strongly committed to investing in Africa.

With the launch of the Android Market, Kenyan mobile application developers can now build both free and paid applications, and sell them directly to Android OS users over Google's Android MarketPlace.

While Google awed Kenyan developers in Nairobi, Chinese technology firm Huawei launched a competitively priced smart phone that runs on Google's Android operating system. “Retailing at just Sh8,000, the Huawei IDEOS is the cheapest smartphone in the Kenyan market and is expected to deepen the penetration of Internet among the estimated 20 million Kenyan consumers of mobile phone services”, wrote Kui Kinyanjui in Business Daily. 8,000 Kenya Shillings is about 100 US Dollars, a price much cheaper than the 400 US Dollar plus price tag on most American Android smartphones.

Models display the Huawei U8220 Android smart phone 
during its launch at a Nairobi hotel.
Huawei seems to be taking a lead in the African mobile hardware sector, and this is evident with the several 3G wireless Huawei internet modems that are now widely used allover the continent.

It's now upon local mobile application developers to tap into the mobile computing market before foreign players take control of the entire sector.

Huawei Unveils Android Smart Phones

Huawei's U8800 Android Smart Phone

[Barcelona, Spain, February 15, 2010]
Huawei, a leader in providing next-generation telecommunications network solutions for operators around the world, showcased the world’s first HSPA+ smartphone powered by Android at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The U8800 smartphone will be commercially available in the third quarter of 2010, and able to support high-speed Internet access, which is faster than existing 3G smartphones.

The U8800 uses the Android 2.1 operating system, and integrates HSPA+ capabilities to support downlink speeds of up to 14 Mb/s. This speed allows users to download a 400Mb feature-length movie within thirty seconds. The smartphone will feature a 3.8-inch wide screen, providing users with a broader field of vision and allowing them to take full advantage of a multitude of features and Internet applications.

Kevin Tao, CEO, Huawei Device, said: "The customized Android smartphones reflect our long-term investment to develop high-end devices which enable operators to deliver enhanced and differentiated mobile services. Android being open to third party programs means that operators can add a number of various applications to the phone. The U8800 enables operators to provide tailor-made, stylish and affordable smartphones to their subscribers."
Smatkit S7

Thursday, September 16, 2010

When Your Competitors are Evil & Lazy

After a big public announcement Apple had for the iPad, CEO Steve Jobs took time in the day afterwards to have a Town Hall at One Infinite Loop, making himself available for questions from employees bold enough to stand up and take one right between the eyes.

This time, the big topics included Google and Adobe — no surprises there. Google recently unveiled its own Android-powered handset, the Nexus One, whose release prompted Jobs to perhaps over-react by announcing on the same day, that the iTunes store had served up three billion apps and that “… we see no signs of the competition catching up any time soon.” Apple’s billionth iPhone app download was greeted with great fanfare, but the two billionth not so much, so it felt a tad like Jobs was feeling some heat.

And the absence of Adobe Flash support on the iPhone for three years and counting, and now on the iPad, is either celebrated by users as a poke in the eye of one of the web’s most dextrous tools, or the most over-rated and overused crutch for decent design.

Jobs, characteristically, did not mince words as he spoke to the assembled, according to a person who was there who could not be named because this person is not authorized by Apple to speak with the press.

On Google: "We did not enter the search business", Jobs said. "They entered the phone business. Make no mistake, they want to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them", he said. Someone else asks something on a different topic, but there’s no getting Jobs off this rant. "I want to go back to that other question first and say one more thing", he says. "This don’t be evil mantra: It’s bullshit".

About Adobe: "They are lazy", Jobs says. "They have all this potential to do interesting things but they just refuse to do it. They don’t do anything with the approaches that Apple is taking, like Carbon. Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy", he says. "Whenever a Mac crashes, more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash", he says. The world is moving to HTML5.

The world, of course, includes Google, which last week in a somewhat more modest development bypassed Apple’s iPhone app blockade by unveiling an html5 version of Google Voice, which takes full advantage of mobile Safari on the iPhone. found it to be an impressive variation of the app Apple has neither approved nor officially rejected.

And it is, of course, in keeping with Google’s stated view (Android app marketplace notwithstanding) that the future is really in web-based applications and not in mobile apps at all. Web-based applications of the sort html5 makes much more viable.

So, great work rallying the troops, Steve — but be careful what you wish for.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Africa and the Mobile Handset

Africa, in the world today, has greatly influenced the growth of mobile technologies, harnessing the way we communicate. With new mobile applications being built for more sophisticated communities, we too can have our own applications designed to suit our African needs.

Let's discuss and share ideas on the kind of cool things you would like your mobile handset to do for you. Together, we can build a gadget that will help the farmer sell his produce, provide good educational content for impoverished communities, deliver health services information to our health workers, monitor government community projects, etc.

Please feel free to post your ideas, suggestions and comments !

Monday, August 23, 2010

Eclipse Helios is unstable with Android

When I tried to run my first application on eclipse helios, I realised that helios does not actually output anything. I would imagine that helios is still under development by eclipse, therefore, new android developers should stick to eclipse ganymede and galileo, they are more stable !

Setting up Eclipse for Android development with a slow internet connection

1. Download the Android SDK onto your disk or local drive.2. The rest of the SDK components will not be installed using the SDK Manager, simply point your browser to: . Quickly find the android platform that you want to download by pressing Ctrl+F ( In FireFox), we want to find the latest Android platform 2.2 so we typed in: 2.2 . Other available platforms: 2.1, 1.6 and 1.5

2. Highlight the part: android-2.2_r02-windows/linux/macosx.zipcopy it to the end of the url above. Download the zipped document, unzip the contents to the "Platforms" folder in your Android SDK directory. This step will allow you to set the build target for your android applications, and

3. Follow the rest of the instructions i.e steps 1,2 and 3 on . The above instructions cater for step 4 on .

4. All the best !