Intel expects sales of PCs based on its Community PC platform to rise rapidly in India, hitting 100,000 units within the next six months, while the company looks at extending the program to other countries in South Asia.
Since the platform was launched in March, about 15,000 Community PCs have been sold in India by Intel’s partners, which include PC maker HCL Infosystems and others, said Joydeep Bose, director of Intel’s Emerging Markets Platform Group, in an interview. That number is going to rise quickly, hitting the 100,000-unit mark in six months or so, he said.
Much of this demand will come from government spending on a program intended to raise Internet access in rural areas. “The Indian government has allocated about [US]$1 billion, and they are setting up huge rural networks that will include a WiMax backbone and kiosks,” Bose said, noting that seven of more than 20 tenders under this program have already been issued by state governments.
Designed to be used in kiosks, the Community PC platform is based on a mobile processor and a ruggedized chassis designed to operate in dusty environments with unstable power supplies. The kiosks are run by entrepreneurs and require an initial investment of about $4,500, which can be financed by the three banks involved in the project. The investment covers the cost of buying the PC, peripherals and Internet access.
Owners generate revenue by charging for people to use the computers and peripherals. “The typical break even is about 18 months to 24 months,” Bose said. “Some of the high flyers, who are really entrepreneurial, can break even in 12 months.”
Looking ahead, Intel hopes to see the Community PC program rolled out in other South Asian countries, and has begun to work on building the partner relationships needed to make that happen, according to Bose. “Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan … all those countries are piloting [the Community PC],” he said, noting that the necessary partners and infrastructure have to be put in place before sales can begin.
-Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service (Singapore Bureau)
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