Three big events last week in the technology world attracted my attention. And you probably have not heard of one. The ones that you have heard of probably are the launch of the latest mobile operating system by Apple, the iOS, which will power the world’s coolest smartphones and tablet PCs, and Nokia laying off 10,000 employees as it struggles to turn profitable.
No doubt, these are momentous developments, but sitting in India, it is important to ask ourselves how it makes sense to us — or does not. And thereby hangs the tale of technological relevance.
Apple is no doubt cutting-edge, but its latest tablet costs upwards of Rs. 44,000, a price point even well-to-do middle class Indians think twice about before buying. So I am quite puzzled why the third event was happening without much fanfare. MicroMax launched its Android-based tablet, the Funbook, at R6,500. Right on the target audience, it also came up with a cool television ad that went with the Indian Idol show at the weekend.
Now, what Apple sells at Rs. 44,000 is no doubt loaded with features and services and amazing design. But, when an Indian company offers what to the masses below is a significant upgrade in their digital lives at 15% of that price, it is important to take note.
A noteworthy point is that the Funbook is based on the latest 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) version of Google’s Android handset platform.
Yes, we already have the government-backed Aakash tablet PCs from Datawind that is going through its bureaucratic paces. Yes, both Aakash and Funbook are yet to prove themselves as products its intended customers like.
While the jury is still out, I would still salute such innovations that are taking big steps to bridge the digital divide.
Nokia got into trouble because (in my opinion), it served neither the upscale cool slot that went to Apple and later, Samsung. Nor did it take to a logical extension the amazing thing it did when it launched the affordable Nokia 1100 for India’s hinterland. Before discontinuing it, Nokia had sold 250 million 1100 — making it the world’s best selling phone handset.
Apple innovates away at the high-end, and MicroMax serves away at the low-end. Where does that leave Nokia? Its Microsoft Windows alliance still remains its best bet, but that's another story.