The markets for the Rs 5,000 PC (5KPC) are not limited to the ones we discussed schools, colleges, government, bank branches, SMEs, telecentres and homes. The 5KPC opens up new markets which hitherto would have been inconceivable given the costs hotel rooms (why lug a laptop), hospital rooms (why be deprived of connectivity when one is unwell), factory floors (so that even the blue-collar workers can now be connected), point-of-sale terminals (for lotteries or merchandise) are some examples. The 5KPC enables a computer wherever it can be imagined. Think of the 5KPC as a disruptive innovation it opens up new markets where it can delight users, and then over time, it can target even mainstream users.
In fact, the opportunity for the 5KPC is not just limited to the developing countries. There is an interesting discontinuity in the worlds existing markets. As organisations in countries like the US seek to upgrade three- or four-old PCs, the USD 100 PC can be a very interesting alternative to minimise support costs and get off the treadmill of enforced obsolescence. In fact, the upgrades may be forced upon tens of millions of users as Microsoft seeks to end support for its older Windows operating systems in June. As CIOs consider alternatives, theyd do well to look at the USD 100 PC and open-source software.
By themselves, the 5KPC and many of the ideas discussed in the past columns are not new. Whats new is the markets that need to be targeted, and the focus on value-added aggregation putting together whole solutions for different verticals. In a sense, the markets need an iMode-like solution with hardware (the 5KPC), software (open-source components) and network connectivity (via WiFi, cable, dial-up or LAN) integrated together. In fact, much like iMode, the additional services that can be layered on top will be the key.
For emerging markets, the 5KPC offers an opportunity to leapfrog in terms of computing and a connected citizenry. It is very difficult to imagine the impact of making technology available to whole nations in a very short period of time. In fact, in countries like India, the two revolutions of computing and communications could run in parallel making available suddenly voice and data services to the masses in their homes and offices. By making technology a utility, the 5KPC can herald the creation of a New World Order.
The 5KPC is an idea whose time has come. It is an idea which by itself will not bridge the digital divide, increase growth rates or eliminate poverty. But for the worlds poorest countries, the 5KPC can be an equaliser. It can open up new vistas and fire up peoples imaginations. After that, it is to the individuals and the enterprises to convert these openings into dramatically better futures. It is up to this generation of entrepreneurs to go and build out the 5KPC Ecosystem. The Next 90% is waiting.