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Monday, September 24, 2007

This one is for the masses

Way to go....

I am beginning to like it. Low cost innovation for the third world or just simple computing for the masses.

I am referring to the initiative of Chennai-based IT company, Novatium Solutions, that announced a strategic tie-up with Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) for the launch of its Nova netPC, a breakthrough in utility desktop delivery for as low as Rs. 399 ($10) a month (not exactly). Novatium’s Nova netPC is an affordable and simple desktop that is reportedly very user friendly. They say it can be operated like any household appliance at the touch of a button and is quite affordable. The Nova NetPC home user package is available for only Rs. 1,999 ($50) (plus taxes) without the monitor [monitor available at an extra cost of Rs 3000 ($75)] in addition to a monthly subscription starting at Rs 399, including a 30 hour Internet access.

The technology is called Cloud computing – extricating the OS and all its application software from the desktop, host it from a central server and offer it up as a service to multiple clients. The clients neither have to own and maintain storage hardware like a hard disk and CPU at their end nor worry about data security. The most important benefit is of gaining instant computing power without spending too much upfront.

But I feel they can go a little further on its economics. When even many basic services like college admissions, booking a railway ticket, Board / University Exam results services going online, those at the bottom of the pyramid earning under $1 a day too need cheap internet access. They will have ambitions to educate themselves beside their children. The true purpose behind such laudable initiatives – taking computers to the masses - would be achieved only if the cost of minimal hardware (keyboard, mouse and monitor) is kept lower still. It should also be made available as a service or at least on some pay-as-you-go basis. Wider adoption of the net eventually improves the operating margins (eliminating agents in travel services) of many a service provider and Novatium should tap them either for sponsorship, working capital and infrastructure support. The Government can sure waive excise duty, sales / service tax for such mass initiatives. It should bring down the costs further and that should make it a win-win model for all.

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