MUMBAI: Personal computer-usage habits are changing, to the extent that it may spell doom for desktop computers.
The driver of this change, say experts, is the advent of computing over the Internet, or Internet-based PCs.
Internet-based PCs look similar to desktops — there is a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse. But they do not have a central processing unit.
All the applications and software for running it is stored on a server with the company, and to run the PC — edit a document or play a CD — users must log into their account.
Thus, in Internet-based PCs, the computing is done online, not offline.
Where such machines score, is on price. Today, a LAN-enabled desktop with 1 GB RAM and 120 GB hard disk capacity costs about Rs 15,000.
But Internet-based PCs have broken that price range considerably. NetPC — one such service — costs just Rs 5,000. Moreover, it has taken away the hassles of occasional maintenance and component replacement.
Rajesh Jain, the entrepreneur who conceptualised NetPC and an investor in Novatium, the company that developed it, wrote on his blog recently: “We took the guts of a mobile phone and created a sub-$80 network computer, which uses a standard keyboard, mouse and display. All processing happens over a broadband connection on the server (that is hosted by a telecom carrier).”
A Mumbai-based expert who reviews PCs and other electronic gadgets, told DNA Money: “PC users seek more simplicity in the machine they use. Additionally, the dependence on technicians for repairing a home PC is a definite put off. An Internet-based computer addresses all these issues. It is thus good for home usage.”
The NetPC comes bundled with broadband connections from BSNL, MTNL and Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra). It provides 120 MB of local storage capacity and is priced at about Rs 5,000 (with a monitor) and Rs 399 per month for broadband connectivity.
Last year, research by IMRB on 100 users of Internet-based PCs found that 86% of users used it for communication-related work, such as web browsing, surfing and exchanging e-mails. About 73% used it for entertainment purposes such as playing games and watching videos, and 52% conducted academic work such as completing project work, accessing educational software etc.
However, industry analysts feel the success of the Internet-based PC — despite its affordability card — will depend on the additional value it offers to first-time PC users.
Sumanta Mukherjee, a PC analyst at IDC India, said, “Issues such as adequate local data storage capacity and security of data plays an important role for first-time PC buyers.”
There’s also the issue of whether these offer enough facilities to entice users. The makers of NetPC, for example, incorporated the CD-playing feature only after IMRB revealed that 51% of users wanted the facility.
Mukherjee draws similarity to low-priced ultra mobile PCs that failed to take off; done in by lack of adequate local storage capacity.
Delivery of local content would be another crucial factor that will decide the story of Internet-based PC’s, he said.
Speaking on the strategy to take NetPC to the market, Alok Singh, the CEO of Novatium said, “We have made the NetPC available in three formats — one where it is available through telecom companies bundled with their broadband connectivity, another is through PC resellers, and the third format is through local cable operators.”
However, PC resellers in metros such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and others are not aware of this new development, IDC India’s Mukherjee summed up: “Internet-based PCs have the potential to change the way computing is done if they are placed appropriately.”
6 months ago