Lauren Abendschein

Making Low Cost PCs Work for SMEs

NovatiumMobile phone companies have found innovative ways to give consumers at the bottom of the pyramid the services they need in a cheap, barebones way that takes few resources or knowledge to use. Despite efforts to tailor designs to the BOP in a similar way, the makers of cheap PCs are far from penetrating the market with the depth of cell phone technology. Novatium has recently rolled out a server-based PC that offers an answer somewhere in-between the two–the question is: how to reach the BOP?

Nova netPC is a network computer, designed on a completely new hardware platform without using any of the typical PC or thin client components. Check out ?Novatium unveils pilot of low-cost PC? in the newsroom for more info.The technology addresses a number of important issues for SMEs in emerging markets:

  • It requires no administration for users, significantly reducing the barriers of training and overhead
  • The technology is updated regularly, and security is regulated, taking care of two major headaches for SMEs
  • Novatium offers a pay as you go model that incurs less risk for the user
  • It allows for different connection types (wi-fi access being particularly helpful) and offers multiple operation systems (Microsoft costs extra, but Linux is free).

This product is promising for SMEs and other consumers, but even at the $100–not including monitor and keyboard–this is beyond the reach of the majority of the BOP. For most of the world’s poor, a PC is totally impractical, particularly given the penetration of mobile phones.

Yet for SMEs that are starting to reach the capacity where a PC could make a significant difference Novartium’s model could be ideal. By partnering with microfinance institutions that are working with slightly higher loan levels and have the infrastructure to work with SMEs, Novartium could be at the forefront of introducing low cost PCs in emerging markets.

(HT to NextBillion reader Ashok Ramachandran for this story)