Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sony USA - Website

This is a sore point that we have felt at various instants, over the years. Tech giants do not treat India the same as the western world, or mainly, the same as the United States. We’re not expecting them to give our lovely country prime importance – we understand that the market and public opinion is quite different in India when compared to the US. However, the divide that we see is huge that we felt it necessary to talk about it a bit. So here we go.

We’re briefly taking a look at various ‘things’ that we see quite different in the way that they are presented/existent in the US, and the way in which they are presented/existent in India. Join us below for our thoughts.

Websites

We don’t want to bash up Sony – we really love that company. The DSC H55 (among other lovely products) is a camera that we’d recommend in a blink for anyone with a Rs. 15,000/- budget. That doesn’t mean that the company is perfect. A simple thing such as a website is so different for India and the US. Actually, it’s very different for the US from the rest of the world. The UK website is slightly better than the Indian website, but several other websites (such as the Middle East one) are exactly the same as the Indian website. Why the different website for Americans? Is the rest of the world not good enough? Check out the screenshots of the UK and India websites below. The US website screenshot is at the start of this article, looking all fine and dandy.

Sony UK - Website

The Sony UK website – Notice that the entire website “dims” when we point to one of the menu options on top

Sony India - Website

The India website – looking a lot better than it used to a few years ago – but we want the best

We find Acer also doing a similar thing. Their US-centric website is drop-dead gorgeous. The Indian website – leaves a million things to be desired. It doesn’t make us want to visit it. At all.

On the other hand, companies like Apple, Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Research in Motion (RIM) actually do well in this regard. Their Indian websites are very similar to their US counterparts, if not better in some cases (We’re looking at you, Nokia!)

Products

We do not expect every product released in the USA to make it to India at the same time – we’re not that crazy. We would like to get similar products at a reasonable timeframe in India. Again, we’re going to have to mention Sony and Acer here. Sony’s cameras (atleast) have never all been sold in India officially. None of the super-slim T-series cameras with onboard storage were ever sold here officially, for example. The Webbie/Bloggie series of personal video recorders have also never made it to the Indian shores. Think about it – in a value-conscious market like India, a relatively cheap diminutive video recorder such as a Webbie would be an instant hit. Alas, Sony doesn’t seem to think so. The Webbie (born as the Bloggie) series has been on sale in the US for about two years now. India is yet to see one being sold officially. Sniff sniff.

Acer, on the other hand, really needs to pull up its socks. Over the holiday season, Acer US announced a behemoth of a smartphone – a 4.8 inch beast with a narrow, ultrawidescreen display. What did Acer India do? They announce the Acer Liquidmini (with a 3.2 inch HVGA display; to add to the HVGA Android army!) and the Acer beTouch E210 (with a 2.6 inch display, and a slideout QWERTY keyboard) Why can’t India have the superphones? Or atleast, a toned down version of it – like what Motorola did to the Droid X in converting it to the Milestone XT720 – reduced the RAM, processor, but maintained most of the other specs.

Guess which companies score high points in this department? Apple (except for the iPhone and the iPad), Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Research in Motion (RIM actually is one of the few companies to provide top-end smartphone solutions for CDMA networks in India – on par with their offerings in the US, which is very commendable). When any one of these companies releases or announces a product for the United States of America, the question is not if it would come to India – but when. We like that.

Services

Let’s take a break from Sony and Acer, and look at another company we really love – Google. We really can’t say any bad things about them – they’re a pretty sweet company. However, we have a few niggles. The primary one being – Google Voice. We want Google Voice in India, and we would like it ASAP. Sadly, this is something that may not happen for a few years – Google Voice hasn’t made it out of the US, yet. We’d like to see it here, though. It’s a very neat service to have one number to ring all your other numbers, and receive e-mails for voice messages. Did we mention that you also get free calls to US-based numbers? Yeah, we really really want Google Voice in India.

Another ‘service’ that we’d really like to see and use in India, is Pandora. For those of you who don’t know, Pandora uses a music genome project to decode the “DNA” of a song, and play similar songs if you select one song. It analyses the vocals, the beats, the energy, and a host of other things. It is a wonderful way to listen to music and discover new music. Think about it – there are days when you just want to listen to slow ballads. You would just need to hit up Pandora and input the title of one slow ballad. And Pandora would keep bringing ballad after ballad to you – many which you may not have heard before. This is a service that a music-centered country like India desperately needs – especially with the advent of 3G services, we can really use some nice music on the go.

Costs

Apple charges a slight hike-up over their US prices in India – we’d grant that this charge goes towards the import of their products from Singapore (All Apple products in India currently are imported from Singapore) Companies such as HP and Sony, however have widely varying costs. An HP Notebook PC in the USA is one of the cheapest (comparably) Notebook PC that you could buy. An HP Notebook PC in India is always costlier than the competition. Ask any Croma sales guy (we’ve asked plenty of them, actually) and he’d say “Brand, sir. It’s better” How could we in our right minds really recommend a higher-priced Notebook PC, when there doesn’t seem to be any evident advantage for the consumer? We can’t. If HP Notebook PCs in India cost a few thousands more than their US versions, Sony’s cameras (at times) have ended up costing nearly double. When one of our in-house geeks purchased a DSC T-700 from the US for about Rs. 14,000 (from the official Sony store without any discount), the same camera was being sold in the grey market in India for about Rs. 20,000. Why this huge price difference? If India is really not as “high end” as the United States, and if Indians really don’t have that much money – shouldn’t we be getting the products at a cheaper rate? Sigh.

We only wish that as time progresses, these kind of anomalies get phased out. The world can be a truly global village only when the global players consider the globe as one unit, and not as US – and then everywhere else. Till then, we can only drool at the gadgets available in the US, and figuring out how we’re going to get them over to India – on the cheap.

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