The recent introduction of the so called "PC for India" by HCL Infosystems (my first employer, a division which became a part of HCL Technologies), is not a small thing at all, despite what many comments in response to the engadget entry would have you believe. The comparisons with the low end offerings by Dell Inc. and the cheap PCs sold at Wal-Mart etc are overtly misplaced. For one, the target market is domestic sales in India, where the question of prices is one of sheer affordability and not of choice. Secondly this price point and Wal-Mart stores are not part of the Indian IT landscape, atleast not yet. HCL has the infrastructure and reach to make these PCs available across the country and meet the wide demand.
Granted that the most visitors of the engadget site are looking for the latest and greatest to attain their gadget karma (me included), thereby their direct comparison with whats available in the US market as such. However, the "PC for India" is a more practical and commercial solution than the initiatives by the Simputer trust and the PIC by AMD.
As from the coverage article above:
The Linux-based PC will "support applications such as word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and web browsing, e-mail clients and audio video playback. It will come bundled with multi-lingual fonts such as Tamil.
The PC was "good for a start" and "will encourage the first time buyer," said Mr. Maran and emphasised that it was a "low-cost PC and not a cheap one."
The main thing to note here is the fact that this PC's positioning is right: first time buyers looking for a low cost option. Availability of a low cost computer, already custmozied for the correct end user experience, without the language barrier for the first time buyers, is bound to increase the reach of computing. Such affordable PCs would play a vital role in further growth and penetration of broadband services in India. Alternative and cheaper communication with new VoIP applications is just one of the many possibilities. Affordable computing is quite a vital building block.