A story in the San Jose Mercury News on the forthcoming launch of the Simputer:

Powered by an Intel StrongARM processor, the Simputer runs off two AA-size pencil batteries and comes equipped with 32 megabytes (MB) or 64 MB of random-access memory.

“In our trials, we found that `one size fits all’ doesn’t work because it also means one price and one particular configuration,” said Deshpande. “We are now making a range of Simputers with different configurations and prices ranging from 10,500 to 23,000 rupees,” he said. Equivalent to roughly $214 to $469, this figure compares to average annual Indian per capita income of about $450.

Trial orders have come from state governments, consumer goods companies and co-operative banks, all of whom are pushing into rural areas, where two-thirds of India’s population of one billion live. At about $200, the Simputer would be three times cheaper than a PC, and cost nearly the same as a cheap colour television set.

“We are in the process of making about 200 Simputers this month and about 1,300 to 1,400 by September based on potential and existing orders,” Deshpande said. The device allows personal data to be stored through a smart card, so enabling many users to share it. Sales of the Simputer are likely to rise to 50,000 by late 2003, Deshpande said. “The profit is not in delivering hardware but solutions (for end use),” Deshpande said.

I think the price point of the Simputer is still too expensive. It needs to be half of what it is. Perhaps it will happen over time with volumes. It will have its uses, for sure, but at just 50K in volumes next year, it doesn’t make much of a difference. A question to think about: what would we do differently to sell 5 million computers next year? My answer: think used PCs (thin clients) and server-based computing.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.