From new gadgets to a failed auction, the technology sector was action packed in the year gone by:
2G scam and scrapped licences
The Supreme Court cancelled 122 mobile licences given after January 2008 on grounds that they were issued in a ‘totally arbitrary and unconstitutional’ manner. Companies such as Sistema Shyam, Telenor and Videocon lost their licences impacting 70 million subscribers. Foreign investors sought compensation. The next year will reveal the fate of these players.
Auction flop show
The much-hyped 2G spectrum auction turned out to be a damp squib, with the exchequer garnering a little more than Rs 9,407 crore against expectations of raising Rs 28,000 crore. The auction got over in just two days with no bids in four circles, including Delhi and Mumbai. Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal blamed TRAI for fixing high reserve price and questioned the CAG for proposing auction as the only method to sell spectrum.
Microsoft Windows 8
The software giant launched its latest operating system at a time when it faced pressure from market to come out with product to rival Android and Apple OS. It got thumbs up from app developers and hardware makers, especially the traditional PC brands. It allowed PC makers to launch ultrabooks with touch screen capabilities in a bid to take on the growing popularity of tablets.
Bharti Infratel’s IPO
The Rs 4,500-crore initial public offering, was the second biggest public issue in the last two years, subscribed at 1.3 times. The company, the tower arm of the country’s largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel, also fixed the issue price of its IPO at Rs 210 for retail and Rs 220 a share for other investors, including qualified institutional buyers and high networth individuals.
Despite initial hiccups, Aadhaar has begun to catch the imagination of the nation. States and the Centre began devising welfare schemes with Aadhaar as the base. But still there are issues around implementation.
Indian IT story under threat
Being one of the toughest years, the Indian IT companies still continued to keep the show running with continuous acquisitions and new deals. One of the leaders Infosys, which began the year with poor results, sounded more positive for next year. Cognizant, however, gave weakened expectations for next year raising serious doubts on whether Indian IT firms will achieve Nasscom’s projections of 11% growth.
Apple iPhone5 and Mini
After the death of Steve Jobs, everyone had only one question in their minds – whether Apple can continue to come out with disruptive devices. The company made an entry into the small-size tablets with iPad Mini and also launched the next version of the iPhone. Consumers made a beeline for the products as usual. In India, ecommerce sites made a killing by selling the device at a premium weeks ahead of the official launch in the country.
People buying more online
Online retail got momentum in India with companies such as Flipkart getting another round of funding. Other e-Commerce companies also made acquisitions. Initiatives like Google’s ‘Cyber Monday’ gave a fillip to online companies in bringing more customers into online purchasing.
Ultrabooks not so ultra
The Ultrabook campaign started with a big show, especially by Intel, but did not pick up sales as expected because of steep prices. There are more than 30 products available under this category, but not many buyers yet.
Reign of tablets
Numerous tablets were launched including by Indian brands. Competition in this space has brought price as low as Rs 3,500. Datawind, Micromax, Teracom and others launched new devices. According to MAIT, 3.57 lakh units were sold during 2011-12.
Wait for BB10
BlackBerry fans continued their wait for the next operating systems from the Canada-based Research in Motion.
The latest BB10 was supposed to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2012 but was postponed to January 30, 2013. This will be a make or break launch for the Canadian handset maker, which has lost market share in key markets.
Smartphone gets traction
Sales numbers of smartphones are on the up. Only a few of the 900 million mobile subscribers use smartphones in India, but that is growing at a fast pace. According to the independent research firm Cybermedia Research, the year was expected to end with 20 million users from 5.5 million units in the first six months of 2012.
Freedom of Internet was put under stress during the entire year with number of instances of unfair crackdown. The biggest one was the arrest of two girls in Mumbai for posting harmless comments on the day of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackery’s funeral. Another instance was when hundreds of North-East people moved out of Bangalore after threats. All this has raised questions against Section 66A of the IT Act 2000.
Fourth generation technology based broadband services was launched by Airtel. Other players that won spectrum in 2010 are expected to begin in 2013. However, 4G devices are expensive. Except iPhone5 and Huwaei, not many 4G-enabled devices were launched during the year. India is still a niche market for the 4G and most of the operators are still in planning phases. Reliance Industry’s launch is keenly awaited.
Internet growth crawls
India now has 137 million Internet users but not growing as expected. The target is to reach up to 330-370 million users by 2015, but that will depend on infrastructure and how fast connectivity goes to rural areas.
(Compiled by S. Ronendra Singh, K.V. Kurmanath and Rajesh Kurup)