The Akash ecosystem

Akash, the much awaited ‘cheapest tablet’ got released yesterday, here in India. I could see different set of numbers – $35, 2250 INR, 2999 INR, about its price, quoted by various websites. I also understand the commercial version will be available from November onwards. Definitely the price looks very exciting, given Indian domestic market condition and comparing with other variants of tablets running Android.The concept of ‘thin’ device (mobile/tablet/PC), connecting them to web using GPRS/3G data connections and offering multiple services in terms of Apps, is in the news. Added to that interesting ideas (Apps would be hosted in SaaS model) are floating around this ecosystem for enabling monetizing aspects. Apart from the tablets, Android powered mobile devices are flocking the same space as price-point of such devices is sharply declining and the form factor of the device is increasing. 

On the PC side, the concept of ‘thin PC’ been there for while now. Novatium Navigator is one of the early entrants into this space, which offers Open Source Linux distribution with customized application ecosystem. Novatium has a different business model as they sell the device thro’ Internet Service Providers like BSNL. This proprietary device is sold at lower price point by bundling support/maintenance service for a nominal amount (on a monthly basis), thereby recovering the cost over a period of time. While there is lot of talk (or hype?) about this new ecosystem, I am still not able to see a single product becoming a big success in Indian market. For example, the first generation mobile VAS providers (Java enabled phone + Stand-alone App + GPRS connection) generated similar buzz around 2005 time-frame there are hardly any product which has become ubiquitous, used by millions of Indians (there are few successes in mCommerce space though).

This raises few more questions from my side:

  1. Assuming there is a potential market that needs to be tapped, is the ‘real’ need of ‘real’ customers is well understood?
  2. Majority of these devices/services are available only in major cities, which hardly contributes into the total market size. Why still the gap exists?
  3. The customer behavior and the way they look at computing should be changed by innovating around the way software is built. Vernacular language support is an immediate case that I can think of, where the focus is pretty less

Tail-piece: After publishing this post, I came across an interesting link from PluggdIn, where one of the recent survey claims Indian mobile customers spend more time in using data than for traditional voice + SMS. The article also states that the issue of distribution & lack of willingness (to pay for content) remain intact. May be this is where the core issue lies? An average Indian consumer has got used to getting everything for FREE, when it comes to software.