Plethora of PC options coming for Indian home-users

Samsung's `Build UR PC' (top) and Acer's Aspire C600 (bottom) ... targeting Indian Homes  

Bangalore Nov. 24. The Indian middle class has suddenly been `discovered' by the computer industry. It is being wooed with an attractive array of personal computer products that include some path-breaking configurations.

The lead has been taken by a trio of South Korea-based Information Technology companies with a presence here. They are aggressively targeting the burgeoning Home PC market with canny configurations.

Samsung, hitherto known mainly for its monitors, has entered the PC arena with "Build UR PC''— a scheme whereby it will supply full kits that select partners countrywide will assemble into machines, have them certified by Samsung, and sell under the brand name. The plan allows the buyer to "mix n' match" the components to specify a configuration of choice. While a basic home multimedia PC would cost around Rs. 30,000, you could end up spending nearly Rs. 5 lakhs for a top of the line PC with Samsung's 24-inch flat panel liquid crystal panel — the largest PC monitor in the world.

Last week, Acer unveiled the Aspire G600, simultaneously with its worldwide launch. The machine includes some features new to the Indian market: a built-in TV tuner that allows you to watch TV and Cable channels, record programmes of choice and edit out annoying advertisements. It also facilitates playing CDs on the CD/DVD player, even when the PC is switched off and comes with a built in-port that docks the latest "Memory Stick" type of portable storage devices. The Aspire models cost Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 60,000 for the two configurations — 15 and 17 inch monitors.

The other Korean player, LG Electronics, has announced the "MyPC" range, based unusually on the Linux operating system rather than on the dominant Windows. This way, LG is able to offer a Pentium 4-based multimedia PC for around Rs. 36,000, which is about 10 per cent cheaper than a Windows PC of similar specification.

LG is not alone in taking the pioneering path of Open Software standards: The Delhi-based distributor of the Singapore PC maker eSys, has also unveiled the ePC range: bare bones PCs, costing less than Rs. 10,000 based on an 800 MHz ViaC3 chip, which can be plugged to a TV. The optional monitor cost Rs. 5,000 more, while a model with a CD drive comes at an additional Rs. 2,000. The Linux operating system is bundled with the free `OpenOffice' suite, which can mimic most `MS Office' tools.

Meanwhile, HCL has launched an Indian languages version of its Infiniti PC range, based on the international standard, "Unicode", for language fonts. The software allows the user to work in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Gurmukhi and Sanskrit.

The hardware industry, which had a bad fiscal year in 2001-2002, sees salvation in the 300 million-strong upwardly mobile Indian middle class, of which only three million own PCs. Multinational companies currently sell one fifth of the 1.8 million to 2 million PCs that are bought here annually. Indian PC-makers account for another 16 per cent, while the bulk — nearly 65 per cent — is sourced from local assemblers. It is this chunk that is increasingly eyed by the "Big Boys", with the new regime of `build and sell' schemes. Whatever their motivation, the result is now wider choice — price and feature-wise — for the Indian family, shopping for its first PC.