Simputer tries to find foothold in Singapore

Friday, 28 February 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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BANGALORE: The indigenously innovated Simputer may be struggling against deadlines and heavy taxes in India, but the low cost computing device is taking roots in Singapore.

Some 1,000 units have been produced in Singapore over the past couple of months, according to Ravi Desiraju, CEO of the Singapore-based Encore Technologies (S) Pvt Ltd.

This is in addition to the Bangalore-based Encore India's production of around 200 Simputers to test out the product design. Simputer quarters also said "several teething issues" have been sorted out and that they now expect the product to be "very stable and reliable".

The Simputer, an acronym for the Simple, Inexpensive, Multi-lingual Computer, is slightly larger than a regular hand-held personal computer and uses the license-free GNU/Linux operating system.

Bangalore-based scientists who took up the challenge to see how India's software skills and technological know-how could be harnessed to bridge the digital divide designed it.

It is meant to be sharable, and was originally promised to cost approx $200. Today costlier models with higher functionality are on offer too.

But the Simputer idea, which whipped up a lot of enthusiasm due to its innovative approach to solving problems, has been long hit by delays in reaching the market in sufficient numbers.

Besides, the Indian government has claimed credit for this innovative design. Insiders have also complained that the high taxes on this common man's computing device have hit its viability.

By end February and early March, a new production batch of about 200 units, with some more enhancements especially on the power management side is being run in India and is expected to be followed by higher volume production in Singapore.

"Our business forecast until June is between 15,000 to 20,000 units. We expect that the Simputer production would hit 3,000 to 5,000 units by then and ramp up to about 10,000 units per month within the subsequent six months."

A partner program for solution providers to develop several industry vertical solutions was also launched. It claims to have over 50 partners in countries like India, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Holland, Poland, Sweden, U.S., Canada, Mauritius, United Arab Emirates, Japan and Germany.

"We have potential partners in discussion from many other countries and expect that by June 2004 we may be able to develop a network of 300 partners or more," Desiraju said.

"We have created a partner portal,, to showcase partner companies and their solutions so that the Simputer partner community is able to leverage on the capabilities and existing solutions of all the partners globally," he added.

Currently Simputers are being rolled-out to pilot customers along with the partners. But the team said they need "a bit more time" to get case studies on customer's experiences. Claimed Desiraju: "I expect that the customer success stories can start coming out in another two months or so."

Over the past few months, the team has been focussing on "fine-tuning" the performance of the product and enhance manufacturability.

Some requirements being looked at in the hand-held sphere by the Simputer team include e-governance, e-learning, corporate solutions, retail and payment solutions.
Source: IANS
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