Amazon’s EC2: Bringing cloud computing down to Earth

amazon web servicesCloud computing is becoming the next hot item in a changing tide that is replacing the well entrenched product model, with a new, on the fly, pay as you go, service model.

The new Virtual servers, are to the classic server, what the SAAS models, where software is being sold as a service, are to the traditional boxed software.

amazon cloud computingLeading the latest virtual server charge, is Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). The basic idea is that a developer can set up a virtual server (the actual servers are hosted by Amazon) in minutes, and have none of the maintenance headaches of buying and installing server hardware and software, which can take weeks to get up and running.

The pay as you go model is cheap and flexible . If your computing demands increase, there is no need to buy any more hardware. The “resizable cloud” provides a scalable computing environment.

The whole idea of Utility computing or Grid computing, is not entirely new. It was pioneered by IBM, and was offered to consumers by Sun in 2000 as part of the Sun grid service.

Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2), released in a limited Beta, is the latest offering from Amazon Web Services, AWS. It follows Amazon’s earlier cloud storage service Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).

Amazon’s on-demand web service platform is creating a host of opportunities for start-ups. A company called RightScale based in Santa Barbara, CA, is providing a platform on top of AWS virtual servers, that enables companies to create scalable web applications within the new paradigm created by Amazon’s EC2, S3 and SQS. RightScale is currently in beta.

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Interview: Sean Malatesta of India Games

Interview with Sean Malatesta, VP Americas, India Games Ltd.
Contributed by Barbara Bickham, CEO, Techgenii

indiagames logoBarbara Bickham spoke with Sean Malatesta of India Games, regading the company, its global plans, the games they are developing and the challenges of the mobile gaming market. The company has offices in India and Los Angeles.

1. What is your role at India Games?

indiagames chessSean Malatesta is the Vice President for the Americas of India Games. He is in charge of the entire business for the Americas. This includes Licensing, Carrier Relations, Game Creation, Marketing and Sales, and Production. He is also now CEO of IG FUN LLC, the new publishing unit of Indiagames in Europe and The Americas.

2. What are some of the barriers to entry or challenges for your company?

For mobile gaming there is not always a clear marketing path. It is clear, however, that “The Carriers are our retailers.” says Malatesta. The company feels that they need to work with carriers on consumer education. We’re still dealing with discovery issues: Consumers need to know that such product exists and how to get the product from the carrier. This education should be all encompassing; explaining to consumers how to do it every step of the way.

3. Was NBC’s The Office Games widely adopted by consumers?

“Yes. We did Co-marketing with Circuit City, NBC Home Video and In Cinema Advertisements. In the future sales may come easier as customers will understand how to get product.” says Malatesta.

4. Could you tell me more about India Games? Is it a Global Company?

India Games has just gone through a change of ownership; now with UTV an Indian media company. American companies, Adobe and Cisco own roughly 10% each of the company. There are Offices in India, Los Angeles, Beijing and London.

5. What types of Games does the company develop?

indiagames spiderman gameIndia Games has creates many branded and unbranded titles; Hollywood, Action and Casual. Some examples are: Bruce Lee - Iron Fist, NBC’s The Office Games, Predator, Godzilla and the upcoming Rush Hour 3.

6. What about Mobile Video Game Rating?

According to Malatesta, “Not a major concern now. The carriers are our big box retailers and they are doing a good job; carriers are selective about the games that go onto their decks.” The industry is already “self policing”.

7. Any challenges with the handsets and porting games to the different handsets?

India Games believes that it is a part of doing business. As an analogy “It’s like making shoes. One size does not fit all. There are many different shoe types and many different shoe sizes.” states Malatesta.

8. What is the future of Mobile Gaming?

Recognize the medium we are in. This isn’t console gaming; this is mobile phone gaming; it’s got to be simple to understand. Multi-Player games will work well if they play easily, fast and are designed elegantly. 3D games may work best if they are simple and fun. The user needs to be able to easily understand the game, navigate within the game and for have fun playing the game.” says Malatesta.

9. What are the plans for India Games?

India games will continue to market and promote games to enlarge exposure and revenues. Most people think that once the game is placed on deck, that’s the end; It’s just the beginning for marketing and proper retail merchandising. They are working with their retail partners to help consumers understand how to buy the titles that they want.

India Games is working to import and export titles to and from the United States. They have global, regional and local titles. Some of the titles will not import or export well. They work with their partners to co-market or do cutting-edge marketing to get the message out about the new title. “This is not easy and can be expensive; Hollywood does it every week for its movies; it can be an expensive line item.” says Malatesta.

“Again, Carriers are our retailers. Carriers are willing to work more with their partners to promote games content. Innovative creatives, titles and marketing will succeed. The feeling that I get from carriers is that they are very helpful and want to help companies with content on their decks succeed.�? states Malatesta.

With their wealth of titles and success of The Office, India Games is positioned to make mobile games easier for consumers to buy and enjoy.


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One Laptop Per Child ‘goes public’

LogoolpcNo, they aren’t launching an IPO, but the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) non-profit group has just announced that they will be selling their rugged cost-effective “$100 laptops,” named ‘XO,’ to the public. The program is called G1G1, give-one-get-one: for $399, customers will be able to purchase two of the laptops, one to keep and one to be given to a child in a developing country. Starting November 12th they will be sold online (at xogiving.org) for an initial two week period, which may be extended if the program proves successful. Previously, the laptops were only being sold to governments in batches of 250,000 units.

While they haven’t been able to hit that $100 price point yet, what OLPC has managed to accomplish in terms of the hardware alone is extremely impressive: a pivoting reversible hi-res monitor, 433 mhz processor, 256 mb DRAM, USB ports, and WiFi support all housed inside of a dirt and moisture-resistant enclosure. And that stuff isn’t even the really cool part; the laptop can be powered by its rechargable NiMH battery, an alternate power source like a car battery, or… this is it…. by hand. Using innovative techniques to shut off the processor when not in use, OLPC managed to get the XO’s power usage to under 2 watts. This allows the laptop to be powered by a hand crank, a pedal or a pull-cord… a necessity, seeing as how many of the XO’s intended owners live in areas without electricity.

OLPC was created in 2005 by faculty from the MIT Media Lab with one goal: to create a fully functional laptop can be produced cheaply enough to be put in the hands of children in developing nations. Out of these two-billion children, some receive very little education with others receiving none at all (one in three completes third grade).

From OLPC’s website:

Using the XO as both their window on the world, as well as a highly programmable tool for exploring it, children in emerging nations will be opened to both illimitable knowledge and to their own creative and problem-solving potential … [OLPC is] providing a means to an end—an end that sees children in even the most remote regions of the globe being given the opportunity to tap into their own potential, to be exposed to a whole world of ideas, and to contribute to a more productive and saner world community.

What a great example of a way to utilize information technology.

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Palo Alto Research Center creates program to foster startups

Startup-LogoThe Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), located in Silicon Valley, has recently launched a program called Startup@PARC that’s focused on incubating promising tech startups. Founded by Xerox in 1970 for the initial purpose of conducting internal research, PARC was incorporated in 2002 as an independent research business. The center is credited for being the birthplace of a variety of significant computing inventions: the mouse, the graphical user interface, laser printing and Ethernet all got their major start at PARC. Not to mention their first commercial GUI product was the Apple Macintosh.

According to PARC, the startup program is “a novel initiative to join forces with entrepreneurs and investors to bring transformative technologies to the marketplace. The Program will help selected entrepreneurs: crystallize opportunities; accelerate time-to-market; enhance competencies; provide facilities resources; and create unique, competitive advantages that leverage our track record in applying scientific insight to real-world opportunities.

According to Mark Berstein, PARC’s president, they aren’t looking for startups based on run-of-the-mill “me-too” ideas, most likely referring to the recent flood of flimsy “Web 2.0″ companies searching for VC money. “We’re looking for people who really have unique ideas [that] match the competencies that we have here,” Bernstein said. “It’s actually looking at bringing entrepreneurs in at a fairly pre-investment stage to develop their ideas.”

The press release mentions PARC’s recent partnership with SolFocus Inc., a solar energy company that they helped transform from a 2 man R&D team to a 50 employee company. The greentech company has raised $84 million in funding to date.

It will be interesting to see what comes next from PARC. Based on past experience, I think its safe to say these guys are good. Although most of the innovations this group is famous for were created 20+ years ago, many of them still play an integral part in the computing landscape to this day… a rare feat in the tech world. I think this proactive invitation to entrepreneurs is a great decision on their part and should really help foster some creative ideas and companies.

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