If it can happen in real estate, it can happen in computers. Business travellers like IT professionals who stay for long stretches prefer serviced apartments, which combine the comfort of a home, with its space, furniture and privacy, with the benefits of someone looking after your maintenance like laundry and cleaning – at optimal costs.
This option is now happening in home computing, and it could help you if your needs are basic – such as e-mail, browsing, chatting and downloads – and it is happening thanks to the power of higher bandwidths and smoother Internet connectivity. I am sure most people have difficulties in buying legal software at affordable rates, worrying about their updates and also living in fear of how to maintain a PC or guard oneself against a virus. Traditionally, this involved getting into an annual maintenance contract for the hardware and pestering geeky friends on software – or paying too much or pirating programmes!
Now, increasingly, "Netbooks" –affordable laptops that essentially perform functions linked to the Web – are getting popular worldwide (A company called Psion says it has a trademark on the term).
A few days ago, I had a visitor in Alok Singh, Managing Director of Novatium Solutions, which in partnership with Internet service providers is bringing the same phenomenon to the home.
In simple terms, a Novatium PC is like a bhelpuri or a pizza home delivered to your requirements, with your choice of toppings and dressings.
You pay for a basic machine (Novatium's models range from Rs. 3,000 to 6,000—and that is certainly cheap), and combine it with a service option (from Rs. 99 to 500 a month). You get storage on the Net from 50 GB onwards, and essentially "rent" a combination of software on the Net.
The upside is that the company ensures security, storage and maintenance for your machine with assured, affordable software. The downside is that you cannot do programming or install your own software. But you can download stuff on USB sticks, which are increasingly smarter and enable higher storage.
Novatium has "self-healing" networks with automated maintenance software, much like hotel attendants in the background who do your housekeeping.
"We cannot take away the complexity of computing. So we have taken away the complexity of the computer," says Singh.
A decade ago, Sun Microsystems gave the slogan, "The Network is the Computer" but did little more than sell an idea. Companies like Novatium are walking that talk on the ground, and "Netbooks" are practical laptop solutions for those want to do something like that on the move. The jury is still out, but the idea is definitely a winner as Net connectivity increases in quality, reliability, reach and affordability.