Is Nokia Ready to Take India by Storm?

This episode of Orbital focuses on Nokia’s new smartphone launches. Nokia launched three Android phones – Nokia 3, Nokia 5, and Nokia 6. These three Android phones have been hotly anticipated but will they be able to make a mark in a market where there are so many good mid-range Android phones? Games editor Rishi Alwani and “former” host Pranay Parab join host Aditya Shenoy to discuss.

Is Nokia Ready to Take India by Storm?

We start the episode by talking about the three Nokia smartphones and whether the hardware matches up against what the competition has to offer. We look at the specifications of the three Nokia smartphones and wonder whether they can take on excellent mid-range and budget smartphones from rivals.

Nokia’s distribution strategy is also a big point of discussion. We wonder why Nokia 3 and Nokia 5 are offline exclusive and why Nokia 6 is an Amazon exclusive. Rishi and Pranay offer theories about this, before we look at Nokia’s official comments on its strategy.

Then Aditya brings up the topic of after sales service. We talk about how difficult it is to provide good service and whether Nokia can differentiate itself from competition on this front. Finally, we close the episode by talking about Nokia’s naming strategy for its smartphones.

E3 2017: Video Games Take Centre-Stage as Spectator Sport

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/ Getty Images North America/ AFP
HIGHLIGHTS
YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook turned gamers into online stars at E3 2017
The e-Sports matches were hugely popular at the annual gaming expo
YouTube billed itself as the biggest gaming platform with record audience
Long fiercely guarded video game industry terrain, the Electronic Entertainment Expo kicked off Tuesday with YouTube, Twitch and Facebook turning gamers into online stars.

A hot trend of video game play streamed as spectator sport and “YouTubers” becoming famous for skills or pithy commentary pervaded the annual gathering, from unveilings of titles to major ‘e-Sports’ matches staged for the first time on the show floor.

“There is a reality now that the influencers of the gaming industry are no longer the games, but the YouTube creators,” YouTube head of gaming Ryan Wyatt told AFP.

E3 2017: Video Games Take Centre-Stage as Spectator Sport

“It is smart to bring creators into the fold so the feedback is constructive, and not scathing reviews.”

Players who have risen to stardom by streaming play online took part in theatrical press conferences held by game and console makers in the days ahead of the formal opening of E3.

Unveilings of eagerly-awaited titles and new franchises were streamed live on platforms including Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube – drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers.

YouTube billed itself as the biggest gaming platform, and said that broadcasters from E3 racked up record-sized audiences.

“Before publishers caught on to the power of the creator, I think creators felt alienated,” Wyatt said, referring to players who stream game action and comment online.

“All of that has changed now. They are integrated into the show and their feedback goes into the design, marketing and promotion of games.

Outshining real-world sports
Video game competition as spectator sport is driving the industry in many ways, according to Craig Levine, chief of leading e-Sports company ESL.

Developers are building games with features to be attractive online spectator events, offerings at E3 showed.

“There are more people watching these games than playing them; it has more than crept into the design cycle,” Levine told AFP.

As competitive performance climbs as a priority, hardware makers push to field better computer chips, screens, controllers and more.

This week, for the first time at E3, there was an e-Sports zone powered by ESL where video game battles were fought and streamed online.

“ESports has one of the fastest growing audiences in not just video games but all of entertainment,” said Rich Taylor, senior vice president of communications at the Electronic Software Association behind E3.

The eSports industry will accelerate from roughly $200 million (roughly Rs. 1,288 crores) in revenue in 2015 to $1-billion (roughly Rs. 6,436 crores) by 2018, according to Baird Equity Research estimates cited by E3 organisers.

In the coming three years, the global audience for eSports was predicted to grow to a half-billion viewers, eclipsing the numbers watching traditional real-world sports, according to Levine.

And, while the focus at E3 was on games for consoles or Windows-powered computers, mobile game play is consistently in top ranks when it comes to viewing, according to YouTube.

More women gamers
The gaming community is huge at Facebook, which returned to E3 this year with an area for live-streamed chats with developers and personalities, and where visitors could share thoughts about the show at the social network and capture memories with 3D or augment reality technology that put them into game scenes.

During the past month, 43 million people have made some 115 million posts, ‘likes,’ and comments related to E3 and major titles.

More than a third of that sharing came from women, who are a growing part of the gaming community, according to Facebook.

“We’ve seen this community of gamers continue to grow and evolve each year – with women now taking a growing share of the conversation around E3,” said Facebook head of global console and online gaming Franco DeCesare.

About 800 million members of the social network play at least one Facebook game monthly, director of global games partnerships Leo Olebe told AFP.

Facebook worked with ESL, video game giant Activision and others at E3 to create content for the social network.

“The fact that the player really is at the center of everything is really powerful,” Olebe told AFP.

“As the player takes a larger role in what’s happening inside our industry, Facebook is perfectly positioned to facilitate that process.”

On Shania Twain's 'Life's About to Get Good,' We Have No Choice But to Take Her Word for It

There’s something just so inherently delightful about the prospect of a brand-new Shania Twain single, from an upcoming brand-new Shania Twain album, in 2017. The last time Shania released an album, LeBron James had yet to even make his NBA debut, and after endless false-start rumors and reported delays, it was starting to look like she might not release another until well after he retired. It’s not an exaggeration to say there’s been no substitute for her barnstorming country-pop while she’s been gone, either: No star to appear in her wake has matched her effortless charm, her global ambition and her absolute sledgehammer hooks.

This is all to say that “Life’s About to Get Good,” released Thursday (June 15) as the first taste from Now, due in September, didn’t have to actually be all that good to still be a welcome presence in our lives, especially going into the warm-weather months. Luckily, it is anyway; a rollicking anthem of folk-pop perseverance with a gently throbbing pulse, a sing-along-by-song’s-end chorus and an inscrutable, almost quacking hook on the verses that sounds like it should be marking a Naked and Famous song. It’s marvelous, it’s irresistible — it’s Come on Over-worthy, which 20 years later is still pretty much the highest compliment you can give to a song of its ilk.

It is also — rather quietly — completely devastating. If you don’t know about the drama Twain has undergone in her personal life since she’s been gone, a quick summary: She separated from superproducer husband Robert “Mutt” Lange after nearly 15 years of marriage, with Lange alleged to have been having an affair with Twain’s best friend, Marie-Anne Thiébaud. Shania bounced back quickly, however, and within two years she was remarried — to Frédéric Thiébaud, former husband of Marie-Anne. It’s the kind of stuff that would’ve been deemed over-the-top even in a classic country song, and it’s unignorable context when considering the alternately heartbreaking and heart-filling lyrics of of “Life’s About to Get Good.”

Despite the song’s sunny sonic demeanor and Twain’s unwavering delivery throughout, the verses are a pretty big downer from the opening lines: “I wasn’t just broken, I was shattered/ I trusted you so much, you were all that mattered.” The second verse gets even more brutal: “The longer my tears fell, the wider the river/ It killed me that you’d give your life to be with her.” And then the absolute killer at second verse’s end, as the singer resolves to move on despite her wallowing instincts, declaring “It was time to forget you… for-e-ver.” The pause before the final word and way she extends it to emphasize all three syllables sounds like she’s still considering pulling it back at any second, and it’s spine-tingling just to hear her reach the end of it.

Shania Twain performs on the Toyota Mane Stage during day 2 of 2017 Stagecoach California's Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 29, 2017 in Indio, Calif.

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Shania Twain Announces New Album ‘Now’: Listen to the First Single

But that’s where the chorus comes in, and thank heaven. The refrain is such an instantly familiar affirmation that it threatens to overwhelm the nuance of the preceding verses, as Twain rhapsodizes (with sturdy backing-vocal support), “Life’s about joy/ Life’s about pain/ It’s all about forgiving and the will to walk away.” She soldiers on with newfound determination: “I’m ready to be loved/ And love the way I should/ Life’s about, life’s about to get good.” It keeps the song from ever becoming a drag — Shania would never, not with a lead single — but has just enough lived-and-learned bruising to steer clear of being pat, either.

And when it comes to the chorus… she would know, wouldn’t she? It’s always dangerous to read too much real life directly into pop music, but with a story like Twain’s it’s pretty hard not to, and the music and delivery sells both the hurt and the healing with such crackling alacrity that it almost seems insulting not to assume she knows exactly from what she speaks. It’s exactly what fans would’ve asked for from a Shania comeback single, and it makes its title one of the year’s most gleeful self-fulfilling prophecies.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to Take Leave of Absence

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Uber has also released the recommendations of an internal investigation
  • Among other things, they called for reducing Kalanick’s authority
  • The recommendations were unanimously adopted by the Uber board on Sunday

Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick told employees on Tuesday he will take time away from the company he helped to found, one of a series of measures the ride-hailing company is taking to claw its way out from under a mountain of controversies.

Kalanick’s move comes after a months-long investigation led former US Attorney General Eric Holder, who was hired by Uber to look into its culture and workplace practices after a female former employee publicly accused the company of what she described as brazen sexual harassment.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to Take Leave of Absence

Uber on Tuesday released the recommendations from that report, which include reducing Kalanick’s sweeping authority and instituting more controls over spending, human resources and the behavior of managers.

Kalanick’s departure, even if it is temporary, is a thunderclap for the Silicon Valley startup world, where company founders in recent years have enjoyed great autonomy and often become synonymous with their firms.

It also marks a pivotal moment for the world’s most valuable venture-backed private company, which has been largely defined by Kalanick’s brash approach.

Kalanick, 40, said he needed the time away to grieve for his recently deceased mother and to work on his leadership skills, according to a staff email seen by Reuters. He did not say how long he would be away.

“If we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve,” Kalanick wrote in his email. “During this interim period, the leadership team, my directs, will be running the company.”

According to a source familiar with the matter, Kalanick can return to the company whenever he would like.

More oversight needed
The company on Tuesday shared with its staff 47 recommendations for management and policy changes that were unanimously adopted by the board on Sunday. Kalanick was not at the meeting, said a source who was present.

The meeting was marred by private equity executive David Bonderman making a sexist remark about women talking too much. He later resigned from the board of directors, calling his comment “careless, inappropriate, and inexcusable.”

The recommendations from Holder’s firm, Covington and Burling, include adding an independent director to the board and considering an independent chair; mandated manager training; and a bigger and more independent audit committee to oversee spending and management.

“I would now suggest to any startup, here are the Covington rules, and when you get passed 100 people, put these in place,” said Steve Blank, a startup founder and mentor and adjunct professor at Stanford University.

Other recommendations prohibit romances between bosses and their subordinates and create clearer guidelines on the use of drugs and alcohol.

 

“I think it paints a picture of a company pretty out of control with no oversight from the board or basic controls,” said Elizabeth Ames, senior vice president at the Anita Borg Institute, which advocates for women in technology.

At Tuesday’s employee meeting, human resources chief Liane Hornsey thanked the former employee who wrote about harassment, Susan Fowler, for being a catalyst for the changes. She received applause from employees, according to the source at the meeting.

Holder’s recommendations stressed the importance of a new chief operating officer. The company has been searching for a No.2 executive for more than three months and is also looking for a chief financial officer.

A number of senior Uber managers left in recent weeks as the Holder investigation and a parallel probe focused strictly on sexual harassment and other employee complaints, conducted by the law firm Perkins Coie, moved forward.

The most recent departing executives included Emil Michael, head of business and Kalanick’s closest confidant, and Eric Alexander, who ran the Asia Pacific region.

Uber said last week it had hired two women to fill top roles: Harvard Business School management professor Frances Frei will serve as an executive coach and Apple marketing executive Bozoma Saint John was hired to mend Uber’s brand. Uber also added a second woman to its board, Wan Ling Martello, an executive vice president at Nestle, to serve as an independent director.

There are 14 people at Uber who report directly to Kalanick and who will likely take on more responsibility in his absence. They include Ryan Graves, head of operations and one-time chief executive at Uber.

Founder power
Uber grew to a valuation of $68 billion in seven years amid non-stop controversy. It has upended the tightly regulated taxi industry in many countries and changed the transportation landscape, but has run into legal trouble with a rough-and-tumble approach to local regulations and the way it handles employees and drivers.

Uber has suffered a series of damaging setbacks in recent months, including a federal probe into the company’s use of technology to evade regulators in certain cities and a trade secrets lawsuit filed by Alphabet Inc’s self-driving unit, Waymo.

Some venture capitalists say Uber’s challenges should serve as a warning that the Silicon Valley ethos of leaving founders in control of companies, even after they grow into big corporations, can be a dangerous proposition.

“Inevitably, this will help drive the pendulum back toward better governance inside an organization,” said Robert Siegel, a lecturer at Stanford University and venture capitalist at XSeed Capital. “Sometimes we conflate great business leaders with strong personalities with great governance.”