Via intros low cost, dust resistant computers

Edited by Mike Magee in Mumbai, on Monday 23 January 2006: Chip Firm VIA introduced the Intrepid Computing project here in Mumbai today, and opened an office in the city to push that idea forward.

The Technology Innovation centre in Mumbai will develop PC-1 machines at inexpensive prices and aimed at combating dust, heat and other related problems for developing countries around the world.

The company will also create server appliances to be used for wireless mesh networking in order to provide high bandwidth machines for both town and country.

India is a perfect example of this type of market because it consists of hundreds of thousands of villages with the telecommunications not being what they might be.

Via said that the Mumbai technology centre will work with government, industry and educational institutes to make Power Heat Dust (PHD) appliances that consume a lot less power than conventional machines.

Ravi Pradhan, country manager of Via India said his firm wanted to bring the price of PCs for people down. It’s not just the price of PCs, but electricity that’s the problem in rural India.

There are also electric power cuts in even towns and cities from time to time in India. The machines Via is developing will run for as long as 16 hours in some cases.

CEO Wen Chi Chen said it was his first time in India. A thin client is easier to maintain, has a lot lower cost of ownership, the security is better and it’s a dream machine for corporations, said Wen Chi. China and India moved swiftly to mobile phones because they didn’t have the legacy infrastructure of some countries. India and China will lead the way with new types of thin clients. Other parts of the world will be playing catchup, he said, and will be later on the scene.

India was one of the biggest global forces in the 14th and 15th centuries, he said, and India along with China will lead the way in the future.

Richard Brown, VP at Via said that the PC-1 would help extend computing from the current one billion users to the next billion people. Less than 20 per cent of the population can use PCs now and in developed markets penetration is high, but countries like India, Russia, in Africa and other emerging markets have low penetration. There’s a huge appetite for technology in developing countries but finding the right model to take advantage of that opportunity is a different matter.

PCs are still standard white boxes and other companies in the industry concentrate on branding or lower price points. But you can only get so far with lower price points and then you have to figure out different way of approaching the market, said Brown. In the last six months Via has introduced an affordable PC but now it’s showing the wireless mesh server and the dust resistant appliance. The dust resistant machine runs off a car battery, is deliberately designed to be rugged and has no fan.

The new model, he claimed, is community access where you buy computing and Internet usage as a service, rather than a device. Performance, robustness and a long life rather than the two to three years of a PC are some of the technical challenges. There’s also challenges for deploying machines. Machines need to be both easy to use and be localised and customised for particular markets.

Via has set up a PHD powered wireless mesh based at a temple in Tirupati, Andra Pradesh and will extend this idea elsewhere.

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