East Asia Trip Update

A few thoughts from my recent visit to Hong Kong, Beijing and Bangkok, and meetings with companies. Much of the discussion relates to the Thin Client-Thick Server product that we’ve been working on. Overall, I think we are definitely on the right track with the TC-TS and other Emergic ideas. Need to now sustain the development and productisation, and take it to customers within India and outside.

1. Need to be able to give a demo on a single notebook: “seeing is believing”. If not a single book, I should be able to make my notebook the TS and use one of their clients as a TC (ie, make the bootup floppy and do the configuration, even connecting both to a hub). We should be able to set this up in no more than 10-15 minutes.

2. Productisation of TC-TS is very important. We need to do this my mid-September — be able to send a set of CDs with documentation.

3. We need to get some beta customers and then some paying customers: this increases everyone’s confidence that we have a “commercial” proposition, rather than just an interesting tool.

4. What people find very interesting (and which they havent thought of) is the idea of using old PCs. It also means we need to figure out the second hand PC supply chain, to ensure a stable supply.

5. I am becoming inclined towards a “utility” type pricing option – a subscription price for hardware and software combined. We will also offer the software separately, but the customer should see a solution, and not have to buy hardware and software separately. This needs more thought.

6. 802.11b (Wireless LAN) is the way we need to offer connectivity. Wiring up with cables can get quite expensive. WLAN cards are dropping in prices – available at USD 40-50, with access point for about USD 125-150 (or even less). Expected to go down further. This also means we need to optimise our solution to work well on a 10 Mbps connectivity and not 100 Mbps since 802,11b works at 11 Mbps. Later, we need to get the speed requirement down to 1 Mbps for cable connectivity (especially if we target the residential market).

7. Think: what if Microsoft makes Windows free for developing markets, and/or reduces the price of MS-Office. From my point, our solution does 3 things: (a) reduce hardware price needed (b) reduce software price (c) increase manageability. There is no equivalent solution which does all three things.

8. Need to see if we can use TVs as display. Can we modify the TV output stream (for video) so we can do better than the 640×480 fuzzy display? TVs are there everywhere, and this saves the price of a monitor in some segments.

9. The User Interface has to become better. We should learn from the Mac OS X interface.

10. What is going to be our business model? How are we going to sell/distirbute the TC-TS?

11. We could even talk later to some CPU companies (eg. Intel XScale, Via) for making custom motherboards for TCs based on their chips.

12. We should also look at an interim “Boot-off-the-CD” TC, since this can help reduce the traffic flow across the Network.

13. Blogs are still an unknown quantity. But I think they will become critical for knowledge sharing in the coming months. Ray Ozzie (Lotus Notes creator and now CEO of Groove) has been blogging a lot on these areas recently. His mantra: OHIO – Only Handle Information Once. Thats the philosophy we need to use for our Digital Dashboard and Eneterprise Software.

14. To do business in China, we must know Chinese language (read, write and speak).

On a lighter note, did do some sightseeing: Great Wall and Forbidden City. I found both somewhat underwhelming. One thought that struck me: The Chinese emperors seemed to leave a lot less ostentatiously than our local Maharajas! In fact, I think India has a lot more attractions that greater depth and variety but we have just not leveraged our heritage enough, as compared to the East Asian countries.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.