I have been thinking for some time about the need for an all-in-one and affordable server for small businesses. Something that includes messaging, security, file/print server, desktop computing apps running on the server, accounting and CRM, on a Linux platform, so that the price can be kept low. At a price point of between USD 150-250 (Rs 7,500-12,500). Pre-package it with the server sold. The server would cost about Rs 40,000 for 10 users, and go up to Rs 60-70,000 for about 25 users). The software should come pre-loaded with the software.
The competition for something like this would be (a) nonconsumption – companies not using anything, and (b) piracy – just take any version of Windows for zero price. The idea is to offer an affordable alternative with remote support. Combine this with thin clients, and the only machine which needs to be managed is the server.
A couple additional ideas:
– to run Windows apps, small businesses would need a separate Windows machine (Wine doesn’t run everything) with Windows Terminal Services. Can we develop a clone for Windows Terminal Services, or make Wine good enough to run everything Windows?
– over time, develop a VM-ware like clone so that Linux and Windows can run on the same server. This is the only thing that needs to be managed and can do done remotely over the Internet.
We have been working on this as part of our Emergic ideas. I think the time has come to focus on small businesses (5-50 users) and give them a simple, single, managed solution for all their software needs to a very affordable price point (remember: the competition is something that to them costs zero).
What will be needed is to build an ecosystem around this:
– training institutions, to provide end-user training on the applications
– ISVs, to get their software working on this platform for vertical segments
– banks, so they can offer financing for the hardware-software bundle
– channel partners, who can do the selling and already have the small business relationship
– an online marketplace for small businesses to connect to others
Taken together, this can open up markets which do not exist today, and get penetration for Linux in the small business via the server – on the desktop.