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Maran unveils low-cost PC

Special Correspondent

The Linux-based personal computer will support a host of applications

BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE: Dayanidhi Maran, Union Minister of Communications and Information Technology, and Ajai Chowdhry, Chairman and CEO, HCL Infosystems, at the launch of HCL's Rs. 9,990 computer in Chennai on Monday. — Photo: Shaju John

CHENNAI: A personal computer for Rs. 9,990 (plus taxes). That is HCL's "PC for India," unveiled here on Monday by the Union Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Dayanidhi Maran.

The PC has a one GHz processor, 128 MB RAM, 40 GB hard disk, 15-inch digital colour monitor, 52X optical drive, keyboard and scroll mouse. The Linux-based PC will "support applications such as word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and web browsing, e-mail clients and audio video playback. It will come bundled with multi-lingual fonts such as Tamil.

HCL's PC for India range is designed for each Indian who wants to harness the power of computing right from a first time home user in small towns to SOHO (Small Office Home Office) users, says a release.

The PC was "good for a start" and "will encourage the first time buyer," said Mr. Maran and emphasised that it was a "low-cost PC and not a cheap one."

`Landmark achievement'

The HCL Chairman and CEO, Ajai Chowdhry, who said that the launch was a "landmark achievement for HCL," made it a point to differentiate the HCL's low-cost PC from others in the market: "Most of the existing low-cost PCs are either stripped down versions or made of poor quality or counterfeit components. HCL's PC for India for the first time will offer PC in the sub-10,000 price bracket without compromising on quality and functionality.The PC will be backed by HCL brand assurances built over its 30 years of operations in India."

Mr. Chowdhry was of the opinion that it made business sense to introduce low-cost PCs. In January 2004, when HCL introduced the Rs. 14,990 PC, its market share was 3.7 per cent. In March 2005, this share rose to 15 per cent, he said and attributed the jump to the introduction of Rs. 14,990 PC, and later, the Rs. 12,990 PC. With the Rs. 9,990 PC too, HCL banked on volumes to rake in profits. Mr. Chowdhry was unwilling to hazard a guess, saying he was answerable to the shareholders.Mr. Maran said that as many as 15 million Indians owned a PC and there were five million Internet connections. By 2010, the number of Indians owning a PC had to be increased to 75 million and Internet penetration, up to 45 million during the same period. The IT department had taken up a pilot project in Chennai and Noida to train the visually handicapped to handle computers, he said. This project was aimed at making these people operate computers so that they could be employed in call centres.

Nokia's operating centre

Mr. Maran, who distributed free Rs. 9,990 PCs to a few students from his constituency, said that it was appropriate that the launch was happening in Chennai. He also said that Nokia was looking at India to set up its network operating centre, the hub that would monitor all its operations in the region. He said he was hopeful that the facility would be set up in Tamil Nadu.

Open source centre

Mr. Maran said initially Microsoft operating system was considered for the Rs. 9,990 PC. But since it was expensive, Linux was opted for. "We are going to start, by the end of this month or the beginning of next month, an open source centre for developing open source in Chennai," he said. The idea was that prices should come down and people should benefit.

Changes to IT Act soon

Answering questions, Mr. Maran said the committee under the chairmanship of the IT Secretary was finalising its recommendations on the changes to the IT Act. Asked when it would be ready, he said: "It's in a matter of weeks."

Xenitis' offer

Xenitis, a manufacturer of branded range of desktops and laptops, on Monday announced that it is offering a feature-packed personal computer at Rs. 9,790 with Intel CPU and motherboard.

The company, which has been concentrating in the eastern part of the country, said that it was now "embarking on another milestone by offering Aamar, Aamchi, Aapna and Namma PCs at an unbelievable price range of Rs. 9,790. The range of PCs is being launched in association with Intel."

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