The Rs 5,000 PC (5KPC) never needs to be upgraded all the processing happens on the server in the network. This is one of the reasons its administration is simplified we rarely need to call customer support for our telephone. For the 5KPC, the network connectivity is what makes it come alive the network provides the digital dial-tone.
This simplification also ensures that the 5KPC is a zero-maintenance device the next set of users are not going to be half as savvy as the first generation in worrying about upgrades, device drivers and the like. Also, they are likely to be deployed in markets where customer support may not be easy to get. The 5KPC is, thus, a sealed endpoint if it does not switch on, it needs to be replaced there is no debugging it!
In addition, the 5KPC is rugged because there are no moving parts, it can work in various conditions and requires a lot less power. Open up the 5KPC cabinet and you will see a simple motherboard (a single-board computer) and a power supply, along with a set of connectors. Ideally, it should also work in situations where there is no power because round-the-clock electricity cannot necessarily be taken for granted in many of the emerging markets. Two ideas to enable this: one, use a car battery along with an appropriate converter to provide an AC supply. Or, make the power consumption so small that it could, like the Jhai PC in Laos, be powered by bicycle pedals.
So, what is the bill of materials for the 5KPC? The actual computer should cost no more than Rs 2,500 (USD 50), including the cabinet. The keyboard and mouse will cost about Rs 500 (USD 10). That leaves us with Rs 2,000 (USD 40) for the 14-inch or 15-inch monitor. Is this achievable? Yes. Heres how.
There are two options for the computer motherboard: either use an old one, or build a new one. The work is awash in older computers, which are now becoming e-waste as users in the developed markets like US, Japan and Western Europe upgrade to newer, fancier machines. These old PCs still have a lot of life in them. The problem is that the software that they need to run on the desktop (typically, Windows 2000 or XP, now that Microsoft is ending support for the older versions of Windows on the desktop) requires an ever increasing set of resources. Even the monitors are being junked as users upgrade to fancier flat-screens.
So, for that part of the world, the computers which have been disposed are junk to be taken to landfills. But these computer can be very valuable as our 5KPCs, if a way could be found to transport them cost-effectively to the emerging markets and software can be created to make them useful as thin clients.
Tomorrow: The Concept (continued)
TECH TALK The Rs 5,000 PC Ecosystem+T