PM Book Review June 2019

Swipe to Unlock: The Primer on Technology and Business Strategy

Mehta Agashe Detroja

Prashant Paranjape (M.Tech. IISc), (MBA SMU) is software professional with experience EDA, Networking, and Storage domains. His interests include various technologies, programming, Capital markets and on lighter side – humor and motivation biographies. He has 11 granted patents, 13 IP publications in areas of TCP IP networking, n/w virtualization.

Swipe to Unlock : The Primer on Technology and Business Strategy is well written for aspiring product managers coming from a non-CS background. It is equally refreshing book for computer engineers, teachers, researchers curious to know new concepts in technology and the resulting impact on business. It gives many real life examples to demystify technologies that disrupt our world of today. Very frequently, we hear how big technology companies are creating technologies like cloud, big data, web search, Internet, Robots, software. We also learn how some companies are consuming these technologies to solve day to day problems of humanity. If you are a curious individual who is hungry to know how these day to day technology stuff works, this book is a must read for you.

Swipe Book

Let’s examine some of day to day technologies covered in this book – Most of us use Google search. Did you realise that whenever you search on Google, the search engine combs through over 30 trillion webpages on the internet to display the top 10 results for your query? 92% of the time, you’ll click a result on the first page (that is, among the top 10 results). This book explains how Google search works. It talks about how programs called spiders “crawl” over webpages until all the pages have been indexed. How big is the index? 100 million gigabytes! Did you know that pages are ranked by importance using Google’s core innovation which is an algorithm called PageRank, that the founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin created for their PhD thesis in 1998?

Several people use mobiles based on Android OS. Google’s Android mobile operating system is free for both consumers and phone manufacturers. So how does Google monetise search? First, Google attracts many users to android mobiles, who in turn install various apps from Google play store, this way Google can get more user data, show more targeted ads, and thus make more money. Then, there are In- app purchases. Some apps are paid subscription giving the company a steady stream of income. Third, making Android more prevalent could help Google keep more ad revenue for itself. This model is called “freemium economy”. The strategy is simple. Give away the app for free to draw in a massive number of users, find the “power users” who love the app, and charge them — either once or via a recurring subscription — for extra features.

Do you know that about 5 to 7 GB on any mobile phone is bloatware? Some of which you cannot uninstall. The economics behind these bloat ware is well explained in the book.

In fact, the entire mobile app economics revolves about indirect revenues. Some of the questions that the book tries to answer include:

  • Why almost every app is free to download? 
  • How Facebook makes billions of $ without charging a penny to its end users?
  • How do apps make money without charging endusers or by not showing ads? On that note, here’s one more question that you can get an answer to in the book. What is the world’s third largest mobile operating system behind Android and Apple iOS? (Clue: Blackberry, Windows OS are wrong answers!)The book covers major players like Amazon AWS (EC2 compute servers and S3 public cloud storage) and Microsoft Azure, google cloud platform, detailing topics like SaaS (Software as service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a service), PaaS (platform as a service) using day to day examples of cloud services such as Gmail, Google drives, Google docs, adobe Photoshop, Microsoft office365. In summary, it quenches your technical curiosity around new technologies by answering questions like –
  • How does the Amazon recommender service work? 
  • Why did Blackberry fail?
  • How a single typo in Amazon AWS cloud command brought down 20% of internet for 5 hrs?
  • How Apple Pay, Apple credit card is revolutionising traditional credit card industry?
  • How does Amazon manages one hour (even 30 min!) delivery using flying Drones? 
  • How does the end-to-end WhatsApp encryption works so well that even WhatsApp cannot read the messages?

There are further reading references embedded in kindle book that helps you understand particular use case in greater detail if needed.

The authors: Aditya Agashe is product manager at Microsoft, Neel Mehta is product manager at Microsoft, Parth Detroja is product manager at Facebook. This helps them tap innovations as they happen and readers can immensely benefit from rich and latest contents in this book.

Reviewed by : Prashant Paranjape