As promised to one of my childhood friends, Gowtham, today I am going to write about the vision of Novatium. This post is going to come in parts. I haven’t exactly planned them out so I won’t be able to tell you how many parts. Let’s just begin.
Rajesh Jain made big news during the peak of the dotcom craze. He sold a bunch of websites to a company called sify for Rs. 499 crores. [Roughly $110 million] An entrepreneur by choice. An intense patriot. Rajesh is a down-to-earth person and very pleasant to be with. To know more about him browse through his blog. Alternately, you click on the link titled “Emergic” in the list of “Blogs I read” to the right of this page.
I have had the privilege of having attended a meeting with Rajesh when he was down here at our office premises in Chennai. It was during the early days of Novatium. Rajesh was here to attend a board meeting. He made a presentation on his idea of Novatium and how it would look, say, 3 to 5 years down the line. Rather, he concentrated more on the what we need to focus on to get there than paint a fantasy for us! Didn’t I tell you he was down-to-earth?! ;)
Let me start with a simple question. How many of you own computers? Whoever is reading this either owns one or has access to one. There is a miniscule number of people who read blogs through mobiles. Do you know that there are approximately 600 million people in the developing markets who don’t have access to a computer? The problem with access is not that there is no channel there and hence they don’t have access. The issues are many:
- Wintel monopoly: Whenever Windows upgrades its OS you need to upgrade too. You don’t have an option. And Windows recommends you to have Intel processors in your computers. Otherwise, your system will become slow. In such a seller’s market, there is only a certain limited reach that you can afford. And you cannot continue holding your customers at ransom for a long time.
- High TCO: [TCO – Total Cost of Ownership] Till recently, the l0west priced computer was Rs. 19,500/- [Approx $450]. And it was definitely out of reach of the common man whose disposable income is just about enough to satisfy his top three priorities of food, clothing and shelter. With the launch of multiple series of low-cost computers, there is a certain segment that has now graduated from no-computers to computers, but still there are other issues that are not answered just by lowering the cost. Like the ones we are going to look at next.
- Manageability: For the common man, the PC is still a complex device. You and I are so much used to its complexity that we are able to manage our way through it. Otherwise it is still not very user-friendly. Windows claims to be user-friendly. But it takes a lot of courage to get used to the number of crashes and data loss that happens during the course of your work. And that’s still the software. The hardware components look so mind-boggling with so many wires running in and out of the CPU that you had rather stay away from it! By making it available for Rs. 10/- I am not going to solve this mental mindset, can I?
- Technology obsolescence: During my engineering [under-graduation] days I owned a computer that ran on a Cyrix 233 MHz processor . We used to run softwares like AutoCAD, etc. on this. We bought the computer for Rs. 30,000/- [Approx $700] and at the end of our engineering days we sold it for Rs. 9,000/- [Approx $225]. But it’s not about the money alone. We had a tough time finding a buyer for such an outdated processor. If you notice, it wasn’t outdated by technology. You could still run all your essential softwares on this processor. But it was outdated by the growth of technology. There were better and more capable processors available at the same price. Imagine at what rate you will have to sell off a sub Rs. 10,000/- computer?!
- Security: Your data is sitting on your hard disk that is extremely vulnerable to worms, viruses, and what not?!! And everytime there’s a new virus, you need to run to the website or call up your local dealer so that you download the relevant patch for it. Does it sound easy? Try doing it. I develop cold feet everytime I hear of a virus doing the rounds. And take backup of my Hard Disk on CDs like crazy. So, technically your data can go kaput whenever a capable programmer can write a good virus. Let’s look at the commercial part, ever bought a license of any Anti-virus software? Know how much it costs? It will cost you more than your entire computer! Security doesn’t come cheap! If I show you a spreadsheet I am working on right now regarding the lifetime cost of security software you had rather lock up your computer inside a room and forget about it! ;)
Novatium has developed a hardware technology platform that will solve most of those issues mentioned above to your satisfaction. The remaining issues will be solved by the server computing paradigm that we are adopting. We see a future where the world operates computers like electricity without bothering about the back-end processes. You really don’t need to know whether there is a Pentium 4 processor or an AMD processor or whether there is 256MB RAM there or something lesser. You just need to work at an acceptable pace on whichever application you want to!If you are finding this something similar to Sun’s punchline of “The Network is the computer”, then you are spot on! We are the ones who are going to make it a reality. How exactly are we intending to do it? What are our strategies? What makes us believe that we can do it? All this and much more in my next post. Till then, upgrade your knowledge about Network computing and thin clients. My subsequent posts are going to concentrate heavily on these subjects.