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What presses their buttons

Priyanka Joshi  |  Mumbai 

2009’s movers and shakers share with us the gadgets that set their hearts racing.

Not so long ago, we all waited to use the internet — it took at least 10 minutes to get the PC started and, while it connected to the internet, you heard the pleasurable sound of the 56 kbps modem dial tone for background score. From just 9 million internet subscribers in 2000 (according to IAMAI data), we today stand at 50 million internet subscribers, who have access to faster data speeds and pay as little as Rs 200 a month for it. The mobile sector, on the other hand, grew from under 5 million subscribers in 2000 to cross the 500-million mark in 2009. This simply reflects the doggedness with which we embraced the third screen as the all-in-one gadget in our lives.

It’s easy to see that prices, and not technology, drove its adoption in India. So, only when introduced low-cost handsets and telecom operators lowered call rates did we start picking up mobile phones and with a fervour that is yet to abate. Undeniably, the most significant for consumers has been the availability of internet, which has morphed from dial-up to broadband, and mobile phone penetration.

Judging by the launch of online app stores (free and paid applications for mobile platforms), it’s easy to conclude that the handset has finally become more than just a device for voice communication and text messages. The touchscreen mobile phone, after the Apple iPhone launch, has become a hit with urban Indian consumers. With the touchscreen handset now starting at just Rs 7,000, there’s no reason why one cannot afford an iPhone-like device.

As we enter 2010, what remains to be seen is how BlackBerry, Apple iPhone and Google Android — the three smartphone platforms that promise the most momentum — service the consumer. With smartphones becoming affordable, it will be interesting to track the mobile platforms users gravitate to and those the developers latch on to as they build new applications for users.

We have also witnessed the arrival of miniature hard drives capable of storing gigabytes of data, at prices less than what we paid for a 2GB flash drive in 2008. Cheap and tinier storage drives have further helped reduce the dimensions and asking price of the gadgets we tote.

In 2007, social networking and blogging were the hottest rage. But this year, that creative outpouring migrated to newer social networks such as Facebook and, most recently, Twitter, where longer blogposts were replaced by bite-sized remarks.

You could be forgiven for thinking that an economic turmoil would blight the uptake of gadgets in 2009. Wrong. In terms of personal technology, the year started with a bang and just kept going. Inexpensive gaming consoles, touchscreen devices at affordable price points, and declining prices of digital content made the year memorable.

So, how would you sum up 2009? It was the year when we connected online, bought iPods and LCD TVs, and started updating acquaintances about daily routines online.

And that’s exactly what our industry leaders, sportstars and Bollywood celebrities confirmed to us. While most chose to splurge on fancy handhelds, a few also went out to equip themselves with e-readers, nettops, stylish laptops and music players that could injure the neighbourhood’s eardrums.

N Chandrasekaran CEO, Tata Consultancy Services

The chief executive officer of India’s largest IT firm Tata Consultancy Services, N Chandrasekaran, is besotted with his latest gadget, Kindle. The e-book reader from Amazon was recently launched in India, but Chandrasekaran got it as a gift while on a trip to the US. This e-reader allows the executive access to 280,000 books and 85 newspapers from across the globe with a download speed of 60 seconds.

Why Kindle?
I do spend a lot of time travelling. Kindle allows me to download any book I want to read, in an instant. The content in the Kindle library is so enormous that I can practically pick books by authors or subjects.

Why is it endearing?
It is such a simple device to get going that my 11-year-old son loves to read on it. He also finds it very easy to buy books over Kindle.

What does it lack?
I would like to see a touchscreen-based interface that would suit this device perfectly. But I must add that I have no complaints with Kindle — it is easy to be hooked to its user interface, and I found it to be friendly.

— by Shivani Shinde

Priyanka Chopra 
Bollywood Actress

It isn’t difficult to understand why Bollywood’s hottest star, Priyanka Chopra, digs the N95. Chopra showers praises on N95, befitting her status as its brand ambassador: “The brand emphasises innovative design as well as immense functionality.” N95’s 5-megapixel camera helps this young heart-throb take pictures and upload them through mobile internet for her friends and family. That apart, in 2009 Chopra emerged as one of India’s most tech-savvy celebs with her interest in websites like Twitter.

— By Abhilasha Ojha

Hari Krishnan Country Manager, LinkedIn

LinkedIn Country Manager Hari Krishnan bought the BlackBerry Curve 8310 and claims it is his most important gadget buy of the year.

Why Blackberry Curve 8310?
My work requires me to travel a lot and I wanted a device that could help me keep up with work. I zeroed in on the BlackBerry Curve as it could connect to my corporate email, the internet, manage my calendar and deliver a solid battery performance.

How did it prove its worth to you?
I was stuck at an airport and had to get on a conference call to close a deal. The BlackBerry enabled me to receive emails and feedback from my colleagues and I was able to view the webpage created for the joint partnership. We closed the deal as I boarded the plane. I don’t dare go on a business trip without it now.

What it lacks?
I would like BlackBerry Curve to include capabilities to shoot videos as well as support 3G networks. I would also love to see more localised mobile applications.

Are you looking for an upgrade?
I am looking forward to upgrading myself to the new BlackBerry Bold 9700, which is expected to be available in the first quarter of 2010. I think the keypad of the BlackBerry Bold is more solid and I love the look of this new device.

— By Shivani Shinde

Akshay Kumar Bollywood Actor

For someone who is considered shy of press interviews, Akshay Kumar surprised us with his gadget habits. The actor enjoys spending quality time with his son Aarav by taking him on over Sony PlayStation games. And while his list of gadgets did grow in 2009, he continues to remain faithful to his Apple Nano iPod. “I am crazy about my iPod,” he said in an earlier interview. Akshay emphasises that downloading endless MP3 files of rap, hip-hop, club and Spanish music on the device, without bothering about the space or the quality of playback, is what makes the gadget so endearing.

— By Abhilasha Ojha

Jeev Milkha Singh Professional Golfer

Being a professional golfer means that Jeev Milkha Singh is always living out of his suitcase. His biggest grudge is that very often he finds himself getting quite bored when he is not on the greens and that’s where his Apple MacBook Pro helps. No prizes for guessing that the glossy-looking laptop that costs around Rs 57,000 is an indispensable part of his travel kit. Singh asserts: “It’s cool, classy and watching movies on a 19-inch MacBook’s LED-backlit screen is an absolute pleasure.” Singh, who calls himself a movie buff — both Bollywood and Hollywood — ends up watching the latest flicks on his MacBook.

— By Aabhas Sharma

OLYMPUS Mju 90000OLYMPUS Mju 90000
Prasoon Joshi Executive Chairman, McCann Eriksson

Of late, photography is something that has truly become a passion for Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman, McCann Eriksson. No wonder, Joshi’s Olympus Mju 9000, a sensibly-designed digital camera, with a useful zoom range, is his most cherished gadget. He feels a digital camera is the easiest to handle and carry. “It’s quite difficult to lug around professional SLR cameras, which might give better picture results, but this digital camera caters to my needs perfectly,” he insists. In an earlier interview, Joshi had said: “I have a small daughter and a water-resistant, shock-proof camera does the trick for me.”

— By Aabhas Sharma

Gautam Gambhir Cricketer

Gautam Gambhir is one of the most promising stars on the Indian cricket fields at the moment. When it comes to gadgets, there is only one that Gauti (as he is popularly known) really banks on — the Apple iPhone. Ever since the young cricketer invested Rs 30,000 in his iPhone, he hasn’t bothered to buy any fancy gadget or gizmo for himself. “It’s everything rolled into one and is one fantastic gadget,” he says. He acknowledges that there are other smartphones that his friends carry and he himself has tried a few of them but “they don’t hold a candle to the iPhone”. Gambhir also confesses that he is eagerly awaiting the arrival of iPhone 3GS in 2010.

— By Aabhas Sharma

D Shivakumar MD and VP, India

Shivakumar acknowledges that is in a completely new space with Booklet 3G, and hence he personally tested the gadget before he boasted about it to anyone. The Booklet was announced this year and is available only in select markets.

Why Booklet 3G?
I have been using it as my primary machine for the past four weeks and I absolutely love it. It truly gives me the promised day-long mobility. I am on my laptop for 10 hours a day on an average and have not yet run out of battery on any given day. Under test conditions —the Booklet 3G’s battery lasts for minimum 12 hours — that’s a buffer of two hours for me. It’s really handy on a heavy work day.

Why is it endearing?
At 1.25kg and just 19.9 mm in thickness, Booklet 3G is ideal to carry around. Importantly, it doesn’t require me to lug around cables and chargers, works like a smartphone and a PC, and even connects wirelessly. This is precisely why I think it has an edge over every other device. It liberates me from constraints of location and size.

Will you upgrade next year?
Not until the next version of the Booklet 3G comes along.

— By Priyanka Joshi


First Published: Mon, December 28 2009. 00:12 IST