When I look back, the Time Asia cover story came after I had done something, while the Newsweek story has come as I am doing something (there’s a long way to go). Of the two, the Newsweek story puts even greater pressure on us to make sure we can bring about the home computing revolution in India and perhaps, the developing world. We are trying to bring in place a new paradigm. It is something that I have been thinking about since 2000 how to make computing and Internet access affordable to a magnitude more people than have it now. At its core, it is about building India’s digital infrastructure.
Novatium, of course, has a long way to go. It needs to build a network along the lines of those run by India’s mobile and Internet service providers. For that, the company will need to partner with telecom or cable companies that are pushing broadband Internet access. (It is working to line up a contract with a few small cable companies, which if successful could lead to deals with larger broadband firms like Airtel, Hathway, Sify, Tata Indicom and state-owned BSNL and MTNL.) Success will bring competition from Western firms such as San Jose, Calif. -based Wyse, which already sells some network PCs to India’s IT firms. But Wyse and the others aren’t yet interested in the home market. And Novatium has licensed its technology to Sun Microsystems for the enterprise and education markets so Novatium can focus on selling to home users. Jain is hoping that that head start plus a rich offering of featuressuch as streaming video, video-on-demand and voice-over-IP, which other low-cost thin-client PCs don’t offerwill give Novatium an edge for at least a few years.
Down the road, Jain envisions his device transforming the computing landscape. “It’s taken a quarter century for computer makers worldwide to get to 700 million users,” he says. “The utility and network computing model can double that number in the next five years. That means there’s a huge opportunity for the likes of Dell, HP, Lenovo, Intel, Microsoft and so on, and the entire existing computer value chain. But they’ll have to reinvent their businesses. They have to look at an entirely different model.” And they’ll have to look to India.
TECH TALK A Tale of Two Covers+T