Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The PTA Report: 2007

Reports are a plenty - but this is one that serves the solitary purpose of showing how far behind Pakistan is as compared to the global IT industry. The UK, despite its staggering connectivity, has recently been condoned for "slow appraisal." But Pakistan, being Pakistan, is what one could call, a phenom in all the wrong senses.

Here's a brief - I would post the entire report, or even link to it, but then again, you'd fall off laughing - given that you are reading this at work, we really wouldn't want people asking you to shut up, or to control your laughter - or maybe even to get back on your chair.

The report quite distinctly claims that Pakistan has 3.5million Internet subscribers. It goes a step further, proudly boasting 79,000 "broadband" users. Now, I'm no Pascal Blaise, but in a country of 120-170million (depending on which population census you are willing to believe) 3.5mil stands out - but for what? What percentage is that again? Lets take it a step further - 79,000 broadband users? Bravo son - of course, given that we're the only country in the world that categorizes a 32k connection as broadband, you have to wonder where these numbers are popping up from. 3.5m, less 79k dial-up users (assuming that the Pakistani definition of dial-up is what the industry thinks it is)

Now, as much as I try to convince myself that there isn't more than the accepted 2% error in these numbers, conscientiously, I just can't. For one, this is a country where our census declarations are off by at least 50million - in a scenario where you just have 3.5million users, can you imagine the error rate? So how many broadband subscribers shall we call it at? I'm going to be generous, and define my limit at 20,000 - given that most packages above 256k come at a monthly expense greater than the per capita income.

Wateen's WiMax is supposed to support a million subscribers - one of the more ambitious introductions by an organization into what is a shambles of an industry - given the organizations pre-launch, it doesn't really leave one with much hope - given the adherence to "rip off the customer" credo, it doesn't sound the least bit viable. But then again, heres to an Xmas miracle!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The IT Job Market - Nothing But Hype?

As a follow up to one of my earlier posts questioning the availability of those purported six figure incomes, here we analyze some of the numerous reasons why people quit the IT industry. Quit? What? Here you have organizations claiming six, even seven figure salaries, and yet, you have people quitting? Hah! Surely someones in the wrong – and I'm assuming its those who lure us into the industry by claiming those million dollar salaries.

CIO Insight recently conducted a survey hoping to determine any gender bias that may exist as to why people quit the industry that we seem to be inundated with. Uh wait – the most popular argument was “better pay or benefits.” Say what now? From a gender split, it was a 64 – 35 response (men, and women) 41% men surveyed would quit to learn new skills or, wait for it, wait for it – to do more interesting work! What the hell is going on here? Doesn't this show the true image of the industry, rather than those absurd job listings? Is the only viable argument one that states that countries are looking to promote their own domestic applicants, or is it that there are no jobs available?

Barring the above, you had traditional arguments such as management / employee conflicts, flexibility of work hours, and such – but the above discussion paints a rather gory picture doesn't it? Its either a grade-schoolers artwork, or a handful of turtles, running around on a flat surface with paint brushes attached to their tails. Given the prominent result of the latter, or at least, thats what comics have us believe, I'm going to categorize the industry as the former.

Tersely, given the above analysis, I'm not even going to bother dipping my feet in a discussion relating to the murky waters that are the Pakistani IT industry. Reckon its another discussion for another day – in the meantime, you may want to check out the detailed presentation at CIO Insight here - but for the time being, from my end, thats' a wrap!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pakistans' Flailing DSL Industry

In a recent post, I mentioned that Wateen was launching a rescue mission as far as Pakistans' flailing DSL industry is concerned. However, its tentative launch date has come and gone, with no realistic indication of an eventual rescue - this in turn has led to consumers debating about the viability of the project, more specifically, the fact that other organizations are giving "256k, 512k, et al without any caps." For one, we've determined the ridiculous price tags that accompany the same (e.g. 40USD for a 256k "unlimited download" (20gb per month in Pakistan is considered unlimited!) given by Cyber(again - void left for users imagination)) so we're not going to go into that here. Lets look at some other arguments.

They might be giving you 256k, but have a look at the CR. If that doesn't make it dismal enough, consider the fact that your medium is copper - 95% of the time the cable provided by your lineman will fail all tensile tests you can perceive. Hence, any dropping, or the least bit of wind that tends to frequent us once in a blue moon, will result in sagging as far as the cable is concerned.

Complement that with the fact that their backbones are absolutely ridiculous - Cyber for instance started off as a decent corporation, but once it had the consumers, its become a "sethh sahabs" (officially translated to "big bosses" but realistically determined as "pay us to give you nothing") company. Corporate accounts are given preference, while the everyday user can only get service after launching a bout of verbal volleys towards their reps.

Even if you put in the effort of testing your cables versatility, and the provider has a perfect setup, you are dependent on PTCL whenever your line encounters issues - yes, the least bit of static on copper is an issue. Hence, the justification for the statement "good Internet, and Pakistani providers do not go in the same sentence."

PTCL is the only provider that is offering the service on fiber. However, that ties you down to an annual contract - add to that, the first 3 months are unlimited downloading, but then you are capped. So that doesn't work in the most responsive of ways. Of course, conveniently, they give you the connection within 7 days, but then take a month to fix the kinks.

Gerry's keeps on shutting itself down every now and then for a few hours, informing you that they're upgrading their servers. The number of times they've gone down, they should be the highest ranked providers in the market. Unfortunately, they're not.

One would have hoped that Wateen would have come to the rescue, but given this despicable introduction, they're not one to rest your hopes on. When in Pakistan, do what the Pakistanis do seems to be their motto.

Amazon Kindles Your Imagination

Eons of rumor mongering have eventually come to light in the shape of a seven page Newsweek article (dated 26. Nov. 2007 - for the reader who didn't know, I've contrived a time machine that allows me to traverse through the arrays of time.) Hence, rather than writing anything more about it, reckon I'll redirect you to the future of reading.

Spiders Fail to Sting Intel

Being an avid AMD fan, one would have assumed unconfined joy at the fact that the gurus at AMD have finally sent spiders sprawling into marketplaces. Sounds disgusting doesn't it? "Spiders sprawling..." how about we clearly list the same as the AMD Phenom - yes quad cored! But the sad truth is that its one of the few instances where the organization has failed to meet expectations. 2.2Ghz for USD251, with 2.6 expected in Q1, 2008, you'd hope that the latter would meet the hype established by their marketing department, which dubbed it as the "Ultimate Visual Experience." Has Intel finally won the battle? Is AMDs fate similar to Intels EPROM failure, and eventual exit from the same in the Grove era?

Reckon the aforementioned queries can be correlated to a Shakespearean act gone wrong in translation, but the bottom line is that AMD needs to meet the hype at the earliest if it is to overcome Intel.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

When Gates Lost Top Spot

Much like the 3a.m. news bulletin without a caffeine rush, here's whats on the menu this morning:

For starters, Gates is no longer the world's richest man - of course, the man to replace him has celebrated his wife's birthday by gifting her a customized Airbus. Fun eh? But lets get to the point - a USD240 mil investment in Facebook has quite correctly been deemed "not a mistake" by company CEO Ballmer. One has to sit back and question the longterm value of this project - surely we're talking about a few billion dollars. Hence, while not a stock market guru in any sense, if you've got the dough to spend, mate Facebook is the way to go.

Of course, as an alternate serving you could bet on the next Facebook. Analysts at CIO Insight are listing it as Aptara (aptaracorp.com) - 'the content transformation company.' And speaking of CIOs' (well to a certain extent), we all know they are the highest earners as far as IT salaries are concerned, but in a year when this salary segment is expected to rise at double the inflation rate, its interesting to note that amongst the top 30 jobs, the worst you can do is a six figure salary as a Business Continuity Analyst.

Conversely, if someone could kindly enlighten me as to where on Earth these six figure salaries are to be found? Where exactly are these analysts getting their data from? Here's what I find ridiculously hilarious - a student graduates, armed with knowledge that is alien to the world, expecting a decent job offer. Sadly though, every task that he/she thinks applicable towards his/her talents, is one that requires "3-10 years worth of work experience." 10 years later when the student goes to apply for that job, the response is "uh sorry - your skills are outdated." Right then - economists won't help but stop talking about structural unemployment, or the dire need to keep yourself at par with the human capital that is demanded in the industry, but analyze this - haven't we attained that par by graduating from one of the big 5 institutes, regardless of the field you are in?

Frankly speaking, unless you are an individual approaching retirement, and have a miracle clause somewhere in your lease on life, I really don't see the six figures applicable. Yes - you could counter that with Zimmerman and co., but fill in the 'and co.' - reckon you could count the names on your fingertips! Don't even need a calculator, or a complex array of strings to compute that.

A delicacy for starters, yet a rather sour dessert - dear habitue - that is today's menu.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Return?

Right then - its been about a month since my last entry, and I do apologize for the hiatus - but then again, it hasn't been in vain. Reckon over the course of these 30 days, I've journeyed my way through a maze of media gaffs which have ended up in revealing the secret of being a successful business in Pakistan - "be a screwup." Hah! No - that isn't a typo, nor has someone drugged me into typing that - just to prove my point, let me reiterate - "be a screwup." Case in point, as under.

By now, or at least by my last entry, surely you've seen my affinity for Cybernet (Pakistan's leading (still trying to fill in the blank - I know they've erred in what they have here, so just to be nice to them, I won't repeat their mistake.)) That saga just doesn't seem to end - in fact, just prior to the Eid break (yes - a festive season - or that's what people say - but then again, with finals on my head, the only festivities involved have been around my textbooks) my favorite "CyberSh*t technician) paid a visit claiming that "uh yea - seems like you've filed yet another complaint."

Lol - then came one of the more amusing sentences that I've heard for a while - "we've noted that when idle, your connection is absolutely ideal. However, its when you start using it that you encounter problems." Once the laughter subsided, one couldn't help but launch a few tactically astute verbal volleys at the individual.

Despite claims such as the above, they still seem to have a greater market share. PTCL has introduced a "broadband," but the brilliant marketability of the package implies that while the first three months of the annual contract entice you with unlimited downloading, the latter part of the contract is volume based (2gigs for the 256k deal - 4 for 512k - while the incessant unlimited downloading that consumers demand is only offered w/ a ridiculously priced 1MB package.)

Alternatively, Wateen seems to be the rescuing force as far as the broadband industry is concerned - word on the streets is that they'll be launching commercially on the first of next month, but then again - given that they haven't even released their tariff structure as yet, one has to question how they're making the first of November launch date.

In the meantime though, reckon we can try to stay online with Cybersh*t - they claim they've started working on their own fiber network, while simultaneously putting up a WiMax infrastructure - though given that they've asked for a year long wait, reckon we'll celebrate England's next entry into a soccer competition with the introduction of the same (given how they taught viewers to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Moscow, here's hoping Wilko and co. can do something tonight! Imagine that then - 30 seconds to go - England trailing by 2 - Wilko steps up - kaboom! That'll show these overpaid soccer lunatics a thing or two.)

Ah I do apologize - the sporting festivities of the next 48 hours are just too much of a distraction. Reckon I should quit while I'm ahead - but then again, here's some good news - not for the Pakistani market though, given that we don't know what WiMAX is - hell - we still believe that broadband starts at 32kbps, and that a 256kbps package on copper, with a contention ratio of 1:5 is worth PKR2500 per month (40 odd USD) - anyway - the ITU is expected to declare WiMAX as a 3G IMT-2000 standard. Would be nice, given that it would allow the same to compete with other 3G occupants - wheres 4G now? Reckon once the world has that, Pakistan will move onto 2G!