BANGALORE, India With help from the government, India-based companies are ramping up efforts to market and develop low-cost computers to make computing more affordable in India and other poor countries.
Four years after unveiling the Simputer, a low-cost PC, Bangalore-based Encore Software has come out with three more cheap Linux-based mobile desktops under a government-sponsored initiative.
Meanwhile, the Chennai-based PC upstart Novatium is coming out with low-cost thin client machines, one of which can be upgraded to a PC. Also, the Indian government has spoken of a low-cost computer, which aided by tax breaks and incentives, could cause computer hardware manufacturing to take off in India.
Encore's three mobile desktops unveiled by Encore were designed under India's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative. The machines included the Mobilis, a Linux-based mobile desktop and its two variants, Mobilis Wireless and Sofcomp. The machines use the Intel Xscale PXA255 200/400 MHz processor with 128 MB SDRAM.
The Mobilis has a 7.4-in. VGA LCD, weighs 750 grams, and has a six-hour battery life. It comes in a carrying case that holds a full-size roll-up keyboard yet also opens up as a desktop stand. Mobilis Wireless adds a built-in GPS receiver and GPRS wireless modem options. Sofcomp is a compact CPU aimed at less demanding applications that can be attached to a regular monitor, keyboard and mouse.
All three have built-in local language support and choice of applications such as word processing, spreadsheet, email, Web browser, PC synchronization, said Vinay Deshpande, chairman and chief executive of Encore. To keep costs down to $240 to $300, the machines have flash memory but no hard drive.
Aiming at India residents with no PC experience, Novatium is developing the Nova NetPC, a thin client expected to cost just $100. The PC is now in beta-stage development and will reportedly be maintenance-free and appliance-like.
Novatium' three founders include Analog Devices' chairman Ray Stata, Ashok Jhunjhunwala of the Indian Institute of Technology, and Indian entrepreneur Rajesh Jain.