Building on my earlier post, we’ve had some discussions internally on which market segments to target with the Thin Client-Thick Server (TC-TS) solution, and how best to do it. [Also see the TC-TS Economics post, so as to get an idea of the solution pricing.]
I have categorised this discussion into two parts: Generics, wherein I discuss the broad usage categories, and Specifics, wherein I address the first few organisation types that we need to address. Finally, there are some ideas on how we need to proceed.
Terminal Market: Wherever people are using “dumb” terminals, we can now move them to “intelligent” terminals, capable of doing much more since they have a GUI. Another way to think of it is to look at these areas where server-based computing is being used. This could mean replacing Unix terminals, Windows terminals or even Novell Netware terminals. Retail stores could put a terminal at different locations in the store. Banks could install it for automated banking or deploy it at the front-office. Call centres could use it as the desktop for their staff.
Shared Access Market: This involves targeting these segments where a computer needs to be used by different people at different points of time. Another way to look at it is to consider the solution to fulfill the computing needs for a floating population. Think of hotel rooms, airline lounges, cybercafes, schools and colleges. The same computer is shared by many. Since data is stored on the server (should the need arise), there is privacy for each user, unlike on a Thick Client hard disk.
New “X” Market: The X here means Users, Offices, Residential buildings, etc. Look for new buyers, companies setting up new branches/offices or hiring new people. These are users for whom the total cost of ownership can be lower by upto 67% over 3-years, so there is a clear economic driver. Also, new users may not have the baggage of “unlearning” Windows.
Low Usage / Few Apps Market: For those users who just need to have a basic set of applications (email, browsing, letter writing), the TC-TS solution can be more than good enough. Or, it could even be targeted at situations where there is the need only for text-based access. In these situations, cost becomes an important consideration.
Hotels: Hotel rooms equipped with a computer connected to the Internet, such that when one walks in, it is possible to be browsing in no more than 2 minutes. There is no need to boot-up one’s own computer (if one has it) if the need is for checking web-based mail and browsing. Would I pay USD 10 (Rs 500) per day extra for such a service? Sure! Today, just as a phone and cable connection is assumed in a hotel room, it now becomes possible to give not just an Internet connection but a computer in every room. There is a clear return on investment path for the hotel. Another interesting application can be to create an Intranet with the help of nearby shops to give guests an idea of what’s on in the neighbourhood, with the ability to buy and have the items added to the hotel bill. The challenge: networking (doing the cabling).
Engineering Colleges: Computer education is mandatory in the first year programme of most engineering colleges. This is where the Thin Client can be used to give exposure to Linux. Students can also set up TCs in their hostel (dorm) rooms.
MailServ Customers: We have 100+ corporate customers for our messaging solution. While our initial foray into talking to them was not too positive because of the need for supporting Windows applications, we cannot just ignore the corporate segment. Corporates, after all, account for 75% of computer purchases in India. We need to go to them with support for Windows apps. The approach should be to (a) see if we can use their older machines – this is where they would want to use Citrix today, (b) target non-users, thus helping them downstream computing in their organisation (c) look for users just needing the basic apps so they can be moved to a TC, and (d) solve the Microsoft licences problem with the TC-TS solution. A point to keep in mind: “delight” users, not “disappoint” them. Once we make a few breakthroughs with our MailServ customers, we can then target other corporates. For better chances of success, we need to see the intersection of the “generic” markets with the corporate customers that we target.
I’ve been thinking of a multi-pronged approach going ahead:
Get the Windows applications working on Linux so we can talk to our corporate MailServ customers with confidence
Talk to Hotels and Engineering Colleges in Bombay to begin with
Create a Mailer identifying the benefits of the TC-TS solution, and send this out to a database of about 1,000 organisations, inviting them to our weekly seminars (see below)
Talk to intermediaries (assemblers, SIs) – they are prospective channel partners
Set-up weekly seminars (every Saturday morning in our office) so we can showcase the solution and talk about it in detail to interested organisations
Send the TC-TS CDs to a few organisations outside India, so we do not just get limited by geography, and begin work on “internationalising” it also
In short, we need to think creatively. At the heart of our solution is the concept of a “computer on every desktop”. Think of those situations where a computer (rightly priced) could add value. So far, people in emerging markets like India have been used to thinking of computers as luxuries. We want to make it a necessity, a utility. This means thinking bottom-up of all the new markets in which computing can make a difference. One point to keep in mind is that we need 10+ users as a start to make this work in a single location.