All posts in the Tablets category

Digital divide: does India need 4G right now,as it is struggling for broadband?

Published March 9, 2012 by vishalvkale

Digital divide: World gets 4G iPad, India still struggling for broadband – The Economic Times:

‘via Blog this’

While the west moves to 4G, we are still trying to get Broadband. Nothing surprising with that – we have been late movers in communication technology and therefore, it is only to be expected. But if you look at the Broadband scenario in India, the statement that we are struggling is simplifying the state of the market in this space. In India, Broadband solutions in the B2C space are given by Wired and Wireless technology platforms and at speeds ranging from the basic 256/512 kbps to 4 mbps and above. What has been their experience? Have they managed to cover costs? Is there a market for 4G services that is big enough to justify investments? My take on this is that it might just be premature to roll-out 4G services in a market that has yet to fully experience 3G and broadband. First, the market needs to mature and second, the current hypercompetitive phase of the Telecom market needs to settle down.
The cost of a broadband connection in the B2C {Business To Consumer / Customer} market is in the region of Rs. 250 per month (free upto 1GB), ranging upto 2100 per month for 3G sticks. Even at the lower level, the 1 GB usage limit means that the total bill in some customers is going to be substantially higher. Given the nature of the market, this means that the potential market needs to be defined very clearly in terms of  household income. Second, the penetration of home PCs – while on the upswing – in nowhere near the west. Even in households with PCs, internet awareness is low and usage limited to only checking mail, simple reservation checking etc. The full gamut of the internet has yet to reach the majority of households. So much so that even households with high income will sport a Home PC: but it will be used primarily for games for the kids. The primary earner will be the regular user of the laptop or desktop – but usage of the same will be limited to stocks and financial markets; reservations, simple googling. Services such as online cinema booking / restaurant booking, hotel booking, online purchasing, e-papers, news services etc are simply not used, as the customers find it more convenient and safe to do these the old way. The point of the above is that the Indian market is still on a learning curve, and the consumers have a long way to go before the full potential of the market can be realised.

On the income aspect, there are again 2 factors at play: the first is perception and the second has to do with expenses. Given that the internet has not yet become a need, a necessity for the majority of users outside the top 8 – 10 cities of the country, there is a perception in place that expense on broadband connectivity is a luxury, or a needless expense. This perception will only recede with the increasing awareness levels and usage of technology. The second factor is actual expenses: shelling out Rs. 1000 for a true broadband connection with 1 mbps speeds calls for a heavy investment for a typical household: this expense takes the total expense on communication to above Rs. 2000 per month given that there will also be 2 mobile connections at least in  operation. That makes this a very significant share-of-wallet for a normal household, and places high-speed broadband firmly out of reach of most normal middle class consumers. Further, when people have not even experienced high-speed connectivity and the supporting applications for the same, one cannot expect them to upgrade to 4G. Please note that I am talking about high-speed plans with decent usage limits: 1 mbps unlimited with 5 GB high speed limits at least.

This factor can be seen in the various prepaid broadband and 3G plans in evidence – 1-day, 7-day vouchers; 1GB limit vouchers, cheap postpaid plans with low limits of 1GB – 3GB at less than 500 Rs. which are meant to pull in non-users and get them to experience the world of high-speed connectivity. This fact itself is a powerful indicator of the state of the market, and that things are on a learning curve. This market is still at 256/512 kbps, and the customers first need to experience the high-speed phenomenon. Further, the awareness of applications needs to increase. And third, either rates have to come down – or PPP has to increase for it to be a mass market. This does not mean that there is no market: indeed, there is a very large market as evidenced by increasing penetration of smartphones, PC and Laptop Sales, Data Usage on 2.5G networks (GPRS). The challenge is to convert these customers to high-speed customers through exposure to applications through any means that are available – for example, net-kiosks; bundled handsets (as tried by idea and vodafone); gaming parlours and websites; support to application developers; links via sms; co-advertising with events / websites / applications etc. There can be any number of strategies for that. And this is precisely what the telecom industry is currently working on.

The last point is that the trade needs to settle down and get into working mode after the tough 2011 year. Some sense of order needs to emerge especially as a huge amount of investment has gone into 3G networks, completing 2.5G rollout obligations, network upgradation. This is painfully evident on the stock market performance and the ballooning debt of the sector due the above factors. Thinking about a further upgradation does not seem to be warranted in this scenario. This does not mean that the industry forgets 4G. I am advocating an increased focus on content and application development, customer education initiatives etc: in other words, the development of an entire ecosystem that engenders increased usage of data. Data consumption increase will directly translate into revenues for the industry: which will make 4G far easier to introduce.  

The Tablet Device Market: caution rules for now…

Published February 20, 2012 by vishalvkale

It is nice to see a semblance of balance echoing through the Tablet Device majors now… a sense of sanity if you will. There seems to be an increasing realisation that the Indian market is based on different factors, and requires almost a paradigm shift in approach. This can only augur well for the entire trade – customers and employees alike, companies and stakeholders alike. 
History has proven that India’s telecom market has grown along an entirely different path in comparison to the established markets of the west. For example, here the advent of pagers and mobiles happened almost simultaneously. Further, within the mobile space, there was heavy – almost cutthroat – competition, which placed intense pressure on pricing. The combination of the 2 factors drove the pager industry into the ground. The intense competition has forced the players to innovate constantly, which resulted in lower prices at the customer level, as well as a variety of devices especially in the lower price ranges. Again, the 2 factors working in tandem served to push up mobile penetration at an almost unheard-of pace.
A similar scene is now emerging in the latest battlefield in mobile / telecom space – the battle for the tablet market. And an early return to a sense of balance, a realisation of the tremendous challenges that lie ahead is a definite sign that the industry is becoming attuned to the realities of the market. For one, the initial euphoria of the tablet”s potential to replace the PC (!!) esp the notebook, seems to have given way to cautious optimism, and a more strategic approach. Far too obviously, given the Indian Market realities as well as the limitation of  a tablet device, the Tablet was never going to replace a notebook. As I had earlier argued with reference to low-cost tablets (, tablets as a product class can only be a secondary device to a smartphone and a laptop / desktop. As a primary device, a Tablet holds relevance only in the low-cost segment, where people in need of computing power  can have access to a device which is within their reach. Sample this: you can assemble a state of the art system with top-notch components at 20000-25000 approx, which is lesser than a premium tablet! Even branded systems are now available at comparable ranges. 
The moment you talk about a comparison to a PC or a Laptop or even a notebook, you have to compare the superior functionality offered by the notebooks etc with regard to its more comfortable user interface, which is much larger in size. The comparative ease of operation with regard to a keyboard input is another additional point in favour of notes and laps. The presence of large resolution screen is a powerful and core feature, which cannot be easily duplicated on a tablet. Secondly, the ease of operation of a full keyboard is a decided plus. These 2 factors go to the core of a user’s experience of the product, and are a very significant barrier that will have to be overcome. It is easier to view  snaps on a large screen, as well as more fun, for one. Next, it is far more functional and easy to create documents and enter data on a full keyboard as opposed to a small pint-sized add on keyboard / touchscreen keyboard. And finally, there is the durability factor. Interestingly, this set of differences has both perceived as well as factual parameters. In other words, you might make a highly durable tablet, for example – but convincing the large majority of users of the same is quite another matter altogether. 
The more developed markets are a different market in terms of some core realities – the penetration of devices and technology, user awareness of technology, frequency and purpose of use, possession of multiple  devices by an average consumer (a function of PPP) – and are thus very different. Given the above, it is only to be expected that there will be some users of laps / notes that find a tablet more useful and functional, and tend to prefer the tablet in addition to their PCs in place of laps. This will of course be dictated by their individual needs and lifestyles. Further, these factors also dictate that this niche segment will be  marketable segment in developed markets.  But extrapolating this to the entire market is being premature to say the least. There is bound to a significant number of consumers for whom the superior interace of the Notebook will provide more value, or will be more acceptable to them. Note that I use 2 terms here: value and acceptability.
Value deals with functions such as large keyboard, durability or screen size, which for some users will be critical – those who deal with large numbers of documents while on the move, for instance; or those who require to see snaps and images on large screens. The parameter of acceptability has more to do with the perceptual factor – resistance of customers to a new interface. Given this twin reality, it is obvious that there will be a need for both kinds of devices in the market. What is more important is the size of each segment and its pace of growth. In mature markets, tablets will a faster-growth segment: that is a no-brainer. But in the other markets, it remains to be seen which segment grows at what pace. And that is precisely why this new-found caution and awareness in the corridors of the companies in the market augurs extremely well, for now instead of  a headlong rush, we are bound to see products with a value proposition involved for the customer; products that have been designed for a specific target audience with specific strategies over the short, mid and long term!
A battle that is going to be fun to follow… as as well as a great teacher to all of us!

The Affordable Tablet

Published November 3, 2011 by vishalvkale

The Aakash… coming after the Nano, is already making waves across the world. It seems we are getting a reputation for creating affordable technology solutions. Another example is the connection of rural hinterlands through the computer kiosk that provides farming, fishing and market information.

A tablet at that price is certainly going to make an impact. But care needs to be taken that the primary focus and positioning is not lost. Consider the Nano – it has become a second or even third car for families, while the original target segment of families who could not afford a car remains untapped. The Nano is still delivering decent numbers of 5000 – 10000 per month – but these are nowhere near the targeted numbers or the potential of the original target market

Similar is the situation with the Aakash – it might just become a second device of professionals or middle / upper middle class people. We should understand one thing clearly – in such hands, there will be a comparison with the higher – end models, which will generate negative publicity for the product. And, in the handset market, negative publicity can be critical

Hence, initially, it will have to ensured that the targeted segment is tapped properly. Once that has been done, avenues to tap secondary market segments can be thought of. It needs to be understood that this device is not meant to compare with the higher end tabs that are currently present. It is a simple price-feature trade-off to cater to a market segment which would otherwise not be able to reap the benefits and advantages of a tablet technology. Secondly, it is meant to provide affordable technology in the hands of such people who will be able to use its productivity features to learn technology, get adapted to it, and use its features to enhance their productivity. It is meant to be used as a tool to create a techno-savvy populace, if I can state a generalisation

The future looks to be bright for the Aakash, which will fulfill a felt need. With proper distribution and after sales support, there is no reason why it cannot make it. Furthermore, beyond the sceptre of sales and profitability, it has already started enhancing Brand India’s image even before its launch, judging from the article on Washington Post. Let us hope for a success in this venture… it will be a shot in the arm for Brand India, as well as give a vital technology tool in our hands….