NetTV and NetPC: The harbingers of a new era?

Written by: Abhinav

On Feb 12th, 2007

[via Atanu]

Internet is still a niche market segment in India, a point borne out by the numbers. Anand Sridharan, in his analysis of the current state of the Internet in India, captures the reasons behind it and also takes a look ahead as to what it takes to increase the usage of Internet in India.
It is well understood that if the Internet economy is to really take off in India, it has to reach down from the upper (and upper-middle class sections) and penetrate the lower middle class. This is the population segment that the mobile phone market has been able to penetrate and consequently made India one of the fastest growing mobile markets in the world!

If cheap (”Made for India”) handsets and ever-reducing call charges have made the mobile ubiquitous in India, can the Internet (and computing) industry in India ride on the equivalent - cheap computers and affordable internet access? Novatium, a Chennai-based company co-founded by Rajesh Jain and Ashok Jhunjhunwala, seems to think so. Novatium which aims to provide “Computing for the next billion” uses thin computing to reduce costs for end-users. Thin computing, in Novatium’s own words, is “the process by which the complex computing tasks move to a central server (s) and the client desktop is relatively simple to just access what is being processed. The client desktop also becomes the interface between the human and the complex processor of the server. Some of the immediate benefits that this process delivers is a hugely manageable, secure and optimized computing setup”

MSNBC/Newsweek features Novatium.

What do you think? Is this the way computing will reach the next billion? Does Novatium have what it takes?

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5 Responses

  1. 1. vijay said on February 12th, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    For anything to reach to 1bn or a mass audience has to have low price advantage and a relaible service.

    Internet access in india is still expensive compared to west, and unless and until we can have 256/512kbps unlimited access for Rs.200-300 per month, we cannot have too many audience as we still have a limited no of households who can spend 10K for a PC and 1K pm for internet.

    Those who just want to watch a movie or shop online, chat with folks or simply browse donot need power of a PC, they need vary basic things.

    Internet through cable is still a huge promise for india looking at no of cable houses, going forward even Dish Tv providers should look at this option.

    But somehow it hasnt gave expected results, hope something breaking work in that segment to lift up internet population.

    In todays wireless world people want to go away from cables, mobile has proved it.

  2. 2. Santosh said on February 12th, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Cost is only one parameter.

    Wouldn’t the potential of the medium also depend upon the properties and method of connectivity?

    Mobiles depends on mostly wireless infrastructure for connecting consumers to main base stations. This is a positive advantage when tackling the issue with the last mile to reach the consumer.

    What does Novatium’s thin client depend on? I suspect Wi-Fi and fixed internet lines. But then, Dr. Jhunjhunwala is quite a brilliant chap and I am sure his bet isn’t that off!

    The other question I have is that does the thin client really solve a huge need?

    - Santosh

  3. 3. vivek garg said on February 12th, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    I remember seeing a demo of following - phones with enough display capacity to give a fair resolution on TV. I think this is from one of the Bill Gates keynote during CES or PDC. dont recall now. mobile has a laser keyboard that gets drawn on a table. With this keyboard and TV as a monitor, using existing cellular infra for bandwidth, mobile chip for computing , this setup could provide email, chat and browing capabilities. IMO a very convincing setup.

  4. 4. vivek garg said on February 14th, 2007 at 5:49 am

    I found following interesting. This makes me think if the assumption that PC growth will never catch up, correct?

    [from gigaom]

    If the Indian economy continues to grow at its recent scorching speed, then 2008 is the year one should expect PC sales to boom in the country. Corporate buying has driven PC sales in recent months. Some forecasts estimate that PC sales will be around 6.5 million for the financial year 2006-2007. As PC sales start to ramp up the Internet penetration, and demand for broadband is also going to go up.

  5. 5. abhinav said on February 19th, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    Apologies for the delay in responding. There are good points raised by all of you - Vijay, Santosh and Vivek.

    The cost of broadband access is coming down in India and my guess is that Novatium is also betting on this to happen.

    However, the crunch factor isn’t about how the access is provided. It is about how the applications are delivered and the kind of applications delivered. Text isn’t going to penetrate very deep - especially English. Whats needed are voice based applications (or symbol based or some unique way of reaching more people) and the kind of problems that can be solved using these apps. That is what I really want to see.

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