A super laptop from India: For just 15,000?
It's a laptop, an e-book reader, phone and media player all rolled into one. You can draw on its fingerprint resistant touch screen, take quick notes, or click photos with its 3 MegaPixel camera. It's got a 32 GB flash drive, expandable memory, GPS and Wi-Fi. All this for close to Rs 15,000.
It's a tablet PC that might just put Apple on the backfoot. And it's been developed by Rajat Sahni, Sachin Ralhan, Devanshu Agrawal, Mohit Gupta, Rohit Rathi and Rohan Shravan. Six Indian IITians and an MBA. After getting rave reviews on several technology blogs, the seven are now busy preparing to launch their dream product in Las Vegas next month.
What follows below, is their story, in their own words. How a bunch of Indians, dared to take on the world's best. And succeeded.
Three years ago, MIT, Intel, AMD, Google and other big names came up with the idea of a cheap laptop which could make everyone on the globe go digital. It had to be easy to learn, work for hours if not days and would be connected to the net always. The task was tough, and they did solve many issues. But they failed in one major aspect where it hurt the most. The Price!
Every human dreams of such an enabler; one, which would remind, talk, teach, play, learn and becomes a companion. The need for such a device is felt every day. The technology is here. What was missing was the integration.
At the beginning of 2008, we realised we could change that. We'd been taught at the best institutes in the country. Each one of us was trained in Artificial Intelligence, Operating Systems and Embedded systems. We had the brains, but didn't have the means to challenge or compete against the West. Or at least that's what we thought initially. We knew we have to innovate. We also knew that it's Indian engineers and designers who drive innovation at Apple, MS and Intel labs. We just needed to take the first step.
It took us an entire year to come up with the design, requirements and proposed technologies to make this device a reality. It looked difficult in the beginning, to convince the world that we could be a "Complete Product Company", something only Apple has done successfully so far. But as people joined, our confidence grew.
We wanted to design the product ourselves. Design the next generation Touch user Interface, do the internal hardware integrations, operating system personalizations. Most importantly, we had to do it fast and against the best in the world.
We worked with some of the best designers in the country, at the National Institute of Design, Research and Development Campus in Bangalore, to understand better the user Interface and product concept we were aiming at. After 6 months of research we had what we wanted.
For the hardware, we collaborated with the best in the industry. Today, our product has 48 hours of standby time. It'll work for 25 days straight, if you just listening to music. It gives you 16 hours of Wi-Fi Internet surfing or 8 hours of HD video viewing at a stretch. That's better than anything, anyone else can provide.
We wanted an operating system which would make our device 'talk' to any other device. And we chose Google's Android. But India doesn't have people working on Android. And those who do, (like Tata Elxsi or Sasken), asked for Rs 1 lakh per resource per month, even after we explained what we wanted to do. We needed trained engineers quickly.
We came up with a social solution. Why not train engineering students still in college? That would increase the brand value of the colleges, the value of our educational system and give students a professional grounding.
We chose to work with BVRIT. We trained the students ourselves. Within two months our gamble started paying off. Our students started developing professional applications for the product we want to design.
Mid-2009: We knew India couldn't manufacture what we had in mind. Even if it could, it would take us years to perfect the product here. And the cost would be too high. So we went to the best internationally.
We tied up with nVidia for their next-gen Tegra processors. For touch screens, TPK, the same guys who make screens for Apple. One of the most special parts of our device is the screen itself. It can work like a normal screen. Or like a paper display, without using LEDs. That makes it easy on the eyes, while consuming just 1/10th the battery as compared to conventional LCDs. For this, we collaborated with Pixel Qi, headed by Mary Lou, the ex-Chief Technology Officer at Intel.
There were two more problems we needed to solve. One was the constant connectivity. Telecom operators in country and US have already started to show interest. And they have to, as they all are coming up with 3G, but it's adoption hasn't really taken off. But even if you have 3G, how will the user use it? Where is the content? And this is the second problem.
When anyone buys iPhones or even windows based laptops, they know that they have lots of content to download, install and make use of. That's been missing for the kind of device we've made. Today, we have collaborations in place which will make content available a lot easier. Digital books, songs, movies, applications - you name it, we've got it. Mind it, we have global ambitions, so US is a very important market for us.
That's why, we're showcasing our product in Las Vegas on January 7th, at the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES. We are proud to say that we are the first Indian firm that's entering into the products space. Even giants like HCL, have never challenged the biggies there in west. We are going to challenge them. And we're going to write down and realize all our dreams and ambitions. We are called Notion Ink.
More about Jaimon JosephI've always been scared around gadgets and software. And in awe of people who're good with them. After three years of science and tech reporting though, I think I'm starting to get the hang of things. Before this, I covered automobiles, health, careers and business, for seven years. Nice thing about technology is, it lets me poach into all those fields once in a while. I love this job. But I'm not sure how I managed to land it. I did my BA in Advertising from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce and MA in Journalism from Madurai Kamaraj University. I wanted to be a cartoonist, a guitar player and a footballer but sucked in all those fields. I can play the flute and harmonica though. And I have an interest in machines that move - it was cars and bikes earlier but considering there's nothing revolutionary happening there, it's military stuff now. I'm the sort who drools over figures. Not the 36-24-36 types. But top speed, acceleration, fuel consumption, drag co-efficient. I drive an Alto though. And usually take the Metro to work.
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