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DreamScreen aims to bring budget computing to India, can it succeed where others have failed?

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DreamScreen aims to bring budget computing to India, can it succeed where others have failed?

HP has started the sale of its HP DreamScreen, a unique product that straddles the boundary between television and computer with an easy to use touchscreen interface, for just Rs 20,000. The device is a large touchscreen computer, which is easy to use, works in both Hindi and English, and uses a selection of preloaded apps, enabling it to be used in a variety of ways.

The DreamScreen comes with access to music, movies, games, educational programs, news apps and also a web browser. The device can also play back DVDs and VCDs, and along with the browser also has dedicated apps to book rail and air tickets.

HP has collaborated with different partners, including Airtel and Tata Teleservices, who provide the Internet connectivity, Bill Desk for online bill payments, Erudite for the educational content, Hungama for music and movies, along with Indiagames, India Today, Music Today, NDTV and Yatra, all of whom have built specialised apps just for this platform.

The DreamScreen has been announced for Hindi and English languages, but according to HP, this will be updated online to include regional languages as well. Satjiv S Chahil, Strategic Advisor for Global Market Development, HP, said, “With such an easy way to access the Internet, all Indian families will now be able to fulfill their aspirations and be a part of the digital age.”

Internet penetration in India remains very low and broadband penetration in the country is less than 10 million users, almost a tenth of our neighbour China. Products which provide access to people who cannot afford a PC can, therefore, reach a huge market and increase the size of the digital market for low cost transactions by a very significant amount in India. However, this is not the first time that a low cost device has been talked about in India either.

Here’s a look at some previous attempts:
OLPC: One Laptop Per Child by Intel was probably the most famous initiative and was meant to bring mini-laptops to every school child, particularly in rural, developing areas. The project was rejected by the Indian government in 2006, but the idea behind it never quite went away.

HCL MiLeap: Along the lines of the OLPC, the MiLeap was a predecessor to netbooks. Priced at Rs 18,000 (just below the DreamScreen), the device was underpowered and the 7” screen made it less than ideal for long periods of study.

Simputer: This was one of the earliest tablets initiated by the government in 1999. Linux based, the device was built with a resistive touchscreen and promised to make computers accessible to all, much like the DreamScreen today. However, the price went north and the sales went south, moving only 4,000 units.

$35 Android Tablet: The most recent addition to our list, this little device was announced by Kapil Sibal just as the world was getting used to the idea of the iPad. Little has been seen or heard of the device since then though.

Whether the DreamScreen will do better or end up in the same fashion remains to be seen, but the continued attempts to grow the reach of Internet connected devices is positive, and it can only be hoped that someone will be able to crack the market, as it could open up a lot of new opportunities for growth in the digital domain.



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