Continuing with the ideas:
4. Build a low-cost Home PC
Parents want their children to grow up learning computers. But today, the computer is still unaffordable for most of them. This is what we can leverage. Think of the computer as a Magic Box which does various things for the family at home. The focus is on children, it provides educational applications and games. The cost should be Rs 10,000 or less (USD 200). We can think of doing this using recycled computers with the appropriate set of applications. This would still be a third cheaper than the new PCs which today cost Rs 15,000 or more. The key is in the applications. Even when people buy new PCs today, they dont know where to get the apps to make their PCs useful. As a result, the utility of the PC is still quit limited. What we have to do it is to create an applications portal which focuses on the functionality that people can get from their computers.
Each fortnight, we can send across a new CD to the homes, with a new set of applications. I remember as a kid waiting anxiously for the Amar Chitra Katha comics, which used to have a new title every fortnight. ACK was the window to the world, a lesson in history. The computer-CD combo needs to become that. Today, even if the applications are available on the Internet, they are hard to find, and besides, people are still scared to download them.
The one reason I am hesitant about this is that it does not leverage any major strengths of ours – our solution is not focused on the standalone desktop. So, this will mean a startup effort to get Linux work well on old PCs. Of course, we could use some of the work that has gone on in embedded Linux devices like the Zaurus. But still, its a deviation from the main focus of looking at the terminal-server applications.
5. Focus on Schools
I have been amazed by the opportunity in schools. A lot of money is being spent the focus is to provide universal elementary education and computing knowledge is seen as an important element of this. The spending is still focused on new computers and Microsoft Windows and Office. Even with the software discounts, the costs still are significant for the entire solution. We need to go in there with two key additions: support for local languages, and electronic curriculum for standards I to X. Various NGOs and governments spend a lot of money on schools we can channelise that more effectively if we can integrate low-cost computing with education.
6. Target Corporates with Virus Freedom and Security
While we have not been very successful with corporates, there are two planks where Microsoft is vulnerable besides the cost factor. (I am not emphasizing the cost factor much because piracy levels continue to be quite high in most organisations). The two planks are: fear of viruses and security. These are both Linuxs strengths. Emergic Freedom offers a virus-free environment, and security of data. These are both which should work as good selling points. We have been over-emphasising the cost part so far. That needs to change.
7. Look at International Markets
While our focus has been on getting the solution to work in India, I think the opportunities outside India are also very significant. The key is to work with organizations who have distribution into their local markets. This is where we are weak in India. Our strength is on the development side we understand Linux and open-source very well, and can integrate and build software solutions well. This value-added aggregation service is what we should provide to channels in other countries who understand their local markets well and are looking for solutions which can make a difference in their markets.
These set of ideas are why I had said when I started this series that I am more optimistic than ever. There are opportunities aplenty for Emergic Freedom. The decisions we need to make soon is which are the ones we should focus on first.