Is this finally the Indian PC avatar for the world?

09th January 2010
Is this finally the Indian PC  avatar for the world?
Notion Ink founders Rathi, Shravan and Ralhan.. with their Android smartpad ( group photo courtesy IBN Live blog)

Hyderabad start-up, Notion Ink, unveils a 'smart pad' at the CES show in Las Vegas.
Design has many firsts: a combo of NVIDIA's Tegra chip, Google's Android OS and ultra- low-power display technology from Pixel Qi.

The following story  was written for :  

From Anand Parthasarathy
A group of IIT and management graduates based in Hyderabad, unveiled one of the most talked about personal computing products at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

It is difficult to even get your product noticed, let alone feted by the media at this jumbo event -- the world's largest annual show case of consumer oriented gadgetry. Yet the as-yet-un-named PC form factor launched by Notion Ink, a startup with its base in Hyderabad and a small presence in Bangalore, has captured the imagination of the electronics industry with a combo of three technologies:

- Notion Ink's device, variously called a smart pad or a tablet, is one of the first to embrace Google's newly announced operating system, Android.
- It is one of the first to be powered by NVIDIA's challenge to the dominant Atom processor from Intel for ultra small PCs -- the Tegra whose demands on power is so frugal that Notion Ink's design team is able to claim almost 16 hours of reading or browsing -- or 8 hours of movie viewing on a full battery charge.
- This almost unheard-of battery usage is also enabled by Notion Ink's daring choice of partner for the display: an ultra thin touch screen from PixelQi which almost chameleon-like assumes two separate avatars: either like a normal back lit LCD screen -- or like a paper display, with the back-lighting LEDs switched off, cutting power demand to a tenth.

This allows the device to double as a screen reader -- like the e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle. Weighing just three-fourth of a kilogram -- that is less than many of today's Net book PCs -- it is a comfortable 16 cms-by-25 cms in size just 1.5 cms in thickness -- making it extremely comfortable for use as an e-book reader.
Into this small package, the makers have squeezed in WiFi, Bluetooth, a 3 megapixel camera, GPS, a digital compass, a 16 or 32 GB flash drive and support for high definition video.
That's phenomenal bang for -- how many bucks? We can't say for sure, because Notion Ink is being very cagey about some things -- but we hear a price of around $ 300 that is Rs 15,000 or less talked about. Killer pricing apart, we have not heard of a product in the market that has combined a touch screen Tablet PC, with an e book reader in quite this fashion. It is a combo that almost defies conventional definition -- and we may have to coin a new category-name for it

Co founders Rohan Shravan, Rohit Rathi and Sachin Ralhan, who seem to be the most visible faces of the 8-strong team ( the others are Sreenivas, Rajat Sahni, Anirudh Gupta, Devanshu Agrawal and Mohit Gupta) have spoken of a June 2010 availability during their public interfaces at the CES this week; but their coyness extends to sharing most details of their product with select members of the global tech media like Slashgear (  ) maintaining what seems to be almost a blackout in India. Their web site  is almost empty of details about the product -- except for a one page note on the founders and a link to a blog. The only substantial Indian resource about their product and work is at Techshout (  ) and at Jaimon Joseph's IBN Live blog
(  ). We can understand their fears of copycat hardware manufacturers, but remember guys, for the world, you will be just a one week's wonder and a few headlines; it is only the Indian media that will support and encourage you when you need such support the most -- months and years from now, when the going gets tough.

In recent years, we have had some interesting Indian PC design developments -- but they never came to fruition. The simputer, the Mobilis ... all innovative form factors that were throttled by official indifference. And that so-called 10 dollar PC that the government touted last year?  Mostly terminological trickery. From what we have seen of Notion Ink's smart pad/ tablet so far, it might just turn out to be the first 'desi' PC design that the world embraced. Let's wait and watch, with fingers crossed!
Jan 10 2010