Monday, February 26, 2007

Sub $100 PC from India

"Novatium - Computing for the next Billion", announces the bright orange logo of this next generation Indian computer firm that has plans to turn to reality Larry Ellison's (Oracle's famed head) dream project back in 1990's of creating dirt cheap computers which reach and work to their true potential and productivity when plugged into the network.

Coming up with really low cost computers has been a pursuit of many individuals and corporations across the globe. One example that has got its fair share of bouquets and brickbats is Negroponte's $100 computer. While this project aims to reduce costs by cutting down on high end features of laptops and making it 'kid-centric', Novatium aims to cut costs by shifting all things that can be done on a desktop PC to the network or the WWW.

Trash the hard disk, go for low processing power chips and use less RAM. Why need all this when you can store over the network; use the memory and processing prowess of the central server. This is the logic behind, Novatium's NetPC. Make the computer "client thin" with the least amount of processing, storage and memory utilization happening at the client end of the PC. All that will be taken care by servers connected to the same network as the client-thin NetPC.

Though the website has scant details of the level of feasibility achieved till date, it does boast of some interesting case studies of where such PCs can be put to use. What interests me is the belief that the company has in making the concept work while giants like Oracle have been a failure. The difference hinges on probably the
  • angle of approach taken,
  • the timing and also
  • the landscape
in which the experiment was carried out.

A similar project initiated by Oracle went into losses within a short span way back in the 90s. The reasons on hind sight might seem the lack of network penetration, the lack of sufficient processing power, the inertia in trying to move the large number of users in US who had already taken to desktop computing in a big way and also the lack of enough network enabled applications.

Novatium scores on all these aspects. One, Novatium's first target would be the Indian market where PC penetration is still far low than the developed world and there is no trend that has yet been set. The market would be more malleable for Novatium to introduce its NetPC and get users hooked on to this new way of computing.

Two, with Google well on its way to populating the WWW with network enabled free to use applications like office suites, chat software, search engines, email and even small scale business software suites, the time is just ripe for Novatium to hitch a ride on the attractiveness of WWW as a medium to complement the client thin NetPC of Novatium.

Three, the cheap storage online, the exploding broadband internet access and the appearance of WiMax on the horizon all seem poised to give Novatium the necessary thrust into the center stream of PC market.

Definitely this is one project that I will keep tabs on.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Potential for high end R&D in India

When Intel announced that it plans to setup base in Bangalore, India in 2000 with about 100 employees, the expectation was the company would ramp up its operations in India. True to its word, today Intel has about 3000+ employees today at it Research & Development hub at Bangalore, Karnataka. The total investment that the multinational company has poured into the country amounts to 1.7 billion USD till date.

The company sure has been justified in pursuing its Indian dreams. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the breakthrough of a tera flop chip, the major portion of which, was researched and developed in the Indian Intel center. The chip, which packs 100 million transistors, burns less power than a typical home appliance and performs more than a trillion calculations per second -- a "teraflop." The first "teraflop" performance was achieved in 1996 on a supercomputer built by Intel that took up more than 2,000 square feet, was powered by nearly 10,000 Pentium processors and consumed more than 500 kilowatts of electricity.

Though not out for commercial production yet, the chip marks an important milestone not only to Intel India, but also stands testimony to the skilled human resource available in India to lead high end research projects. This usually has been a point of endless debate with a certain section of people arguing that Indian engineers are mere products of a mass assembly line educational system and another section arguing that though we might be producing engineers in large numbers, they are not lacking in skills and talent. Well, this should be an indicator of the positive outlook one attaches with the Indian talent pool.

More on the topic: Financial Express

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Multi Touch Sensor GUI

A preview into the state of Graphical User Interfaces in the future. Do away with the keyboard, the mouse, the stylus. All you need are your ten fingers and the multi-sensor touch screen at your disposal. A recreation of the GUI that shot the film, Minority Report, to fame.

Imagine providing the power of such a GUI to people. Computing will herald a new wave of intuitiveness never experienced before. You do not need to fear computers. Just touch and feel them with your ten fingers. The rest you will learn along the way.

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