[AI] Looking for a no-maintenance computer?

renuka warriar erenuka at gmail.com
Sun Jun 15 11:02:46 EDT 2008

The Hindu News Update Service
News Update Service
Sunday, June 15, 2008 : 1940 Hrs       

Looking for a no-maintenance computer? 

D. Murali and Kumar Shankar Roy 

Chennai: Owners of home computers will remember the sheer joy of having their very own computer installed at home. Around 4-8 years ago, right? Today, the
computer is a bit old and so is the operating system. Microsoft Vista at office looks great but you still have Windows 98 at home. Friends say 98 still
'rocks'. Vista has some issues, they console. You agree, albeit grudgingly. Two days later, you come across the latest Office package. Your old word processor
still does the job but the new software has better functions and is more user-friendly, you think. Upgrading your computer's hardware and software with
originals is a costly job. At least 20k, the guy at the neighbourhood tech shop tells you. What if - you need not maintain your computer? Does that sound
possible? Yes, if you ask Mr Alok Singh, CEO of Novatium Solutions Pvt Ltd, Chennai. 

The company's product 'netPC' was launched on a pilot basis in Chennai in early 2007. The netPC adopts the cable television model and is a simple computer
that works in a network. It does not have local hard disks. That means all the software and applications are set up in a remote central server located
at the premises of the operator. No hassles for the user! "The biggest advantage the netPC has is that it will never become obsolete-unlike any other PC.
It is a device absolutely free from maintenance hassles. People are realising this fact as they are using our product," says Mr Singh. The company's utility
computing model is a discontinuous change from desktop computing to virtual computing. We will redefine the future of home computing, Mr Singh said on
a recent visit to Business Line. We asked some questions. For the answers, read on. 


What was the trigger for Novatium? How did the whole idea start off? 

Novatium is the brainchild of three visionaries from the dotcom and communications world - Rajesh Jain, Ashok Jhunjhunwala, and Ray Stata - who came together
to take computing to the next billion. Their mission was to simplify computing for the billion, thus making it affordable. Novatium started with this problem
statement and has travelled far from the incubation stage and is now an established technology solutions company providing computing as a simplified solution
to homes across India and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the globe. We moved from computer to computing which we realised is the bigger and
'core' issue. It includes everything hardware, software, Internet connection and, managing all of these. 

You have launched in Delhi during September last year. Are you facing the countermeasures from the competition? 

Nova netPC is a unique product and it has created its own segment. There are other PCs in the market which come at a low price but the advantages our product
provides to the customers are not provided by any other PC. Our product is an advancement of a PC - it is a PC Plus which is technically superior to a
usual desktop. 

The biggest advantage the netPC has is that it will never become obsolete - unlike any other PC. It is a device absolutely free from maintenance hassles.
People are realising this fact as they are using our product. We therefore are not currently facing any competition in Delhi. 

Do you offer different configurations of your product? 

We keep on introducing innovations in our product from time to time. While product as hardware can be the same it is capable of providing varied services
to customers, which means that the solution can be customised for an individual consumer. 

What is the current profile of your buyers? 

The buyers of the netPC are spread across all strata of the society. The largest user segment consists of students and children. Due to the affordable price,
we are able to reach out to the middle and lower income groups significantly. The netPC is also becoming popular among working professionals and self-employed
people who use it because of its technical superiority and no maintenance hassles. 

Has your product caught up outside India too? What is the typical reaction you face from people? 

We have launched in countries like Mauritius. We are also evincing a lot of interest from other countries. The customer feedback from Mauritius has been
very encouraging. We have got mentioned in magazines like The Economist and Newsweek. We are the first company to convert the concept of a $100 PC into
a real product. 

Is there a value proposition that you present to the common man, when talking about the need for a PC at less than Rs 5,000? 

We believe that computing can empower the common people significantly. When we talk of a PC in less than Rs 5,000, we are keeping the common people of India
in our minds. We have plans to launch our products in tier 2 and tier 3 cities to increase PC penetration in those areas. These cities are mostly surrounded
by clusters of villages. These villages would surely benefit from the netPC; in particular, the village schools and small community centres can look forward
to benefit from our product. Once we reach the villages, we would be able to achieve inclusive growth in terms of education and technology. The best thing
is that with the netPC, the people would not have to replace their devices due to obsolescence. The simplicity of our device would again be an advantage.

What are the activities that a Novatium user will and won't be able to do with the PC, compared to a normal desktop with Internet connection? 

As mentioned, our product is a PC Plus: it provides the users many advantages over a traditional desktop. While at this moment we do not provide programming
software like Java/ C++ etc as part of our service, it has a number of features which a regular PC does not provide. Our product is a zero-maintenance
PC. The users enjoy the latest legal software without worrying about any updates as all the updates are carried out through the central server. The netPC
has the much required feature of 'parental control'. It has the simplicity of an appliance - no start up or shut down; just a simple switch on/off. 

How adaptable is your PC solution to technological changes? 

The netPC is very adaptable to most of the technological changes. I would prefer to say that it is agnostic to technology changes as far as the user is
concerned. It is completely obsolescence-proof because of server-driven services. In fact, we have introduced many innovations in our latest model. 

Do you think Novatium can become a marketing platform, and, an entertainment device? 

The netPC can be used for a number of purposes depending on what the user requires. We have introduced the netPC as a computing device. It can surely be
used for entertainment purposes but it would primarily be a computing device. The netPC hardware is capable and adaptable to various entertainment, IP-based
technologies which includes streaming solutions etc. 

Are there ways in which your product can connect the members of communities, given that you work in local loop? 

We believe that community networking in local loop is big change which we can enable at significantly lower economics and will become a strong plus for
the service going forward. 

On Novatium in education - can schools and colleges benefit from the low-cost PC? 

As mentioned earlier, students form the majority of our users. The netPC was introduced to empower the people through the benefits of computing. Schools
and colleges can benefit immensely from the netPC as they can introduce the students to computing and working in a technically-advanced environment at
a very low cost. It would surely make our youth more informed and aware in every sense. If the educational institutions take this step today, this would
bridge the digital divide in the country up to a great extent in future. We are also planning a lot of activities for students in the near future. 

Are some of your users the self-employed, who turn the PC into a revenue earner? 

A number of our users are self employed and they are using the netPC to enhance their business. We all know the role a computer plays in business. With
the netPC coming in the picture, even the small entrepreneurs are able to access the Internet and work more efficiently. This has also increased their

Let's talk about security and other threats. How secure is your PC? Are there measures to handle contingencies such as overload? 

Its completely managed service which includes technologies like load balancing and virtualisation which is monitored and managed. We have being running
this service in Chennai from last 18 months without any server-side issues. 

Do you think there are policy blocks and infrastructure/technology constraints in scaling up your services? 

There are no blocks as such for us. However, a company like ours would really appreciate if the Government could support our endeavour. The way they have
encouraged the telecom sector, the computing sector also needs to be promoted. I am sure the computing sector would also soar high if supported strongly.
Our Government needs to realise the role computing would play in strengthening the people of our country. 



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