Archive for January 1st, 2011

Made for india, Made in india products start arriving – the case of HP Dream Screen 400 – Information Appliance and NOT one more PC

January 1, 2011

In the past decade, product development is slowly and steadily taking off in India. Automobiles, tractors and even commercial vehicles started to be “made for India”, in addition to merely being “made in India”. Tata Nano is perhaps the best example. Core banking software from Infosys and iFlex Solutions (now part of Oracle), Tata Chemical’s drinking water purifier “Swach”, Titan Edge watches, BEL Electronic Voting Machines are typical and well-known examples of this trend. Such innovation is not limited to Indian companies alone. Toyota recently launched Etios car in India. Nokia 1100 mobile handset that was “made for India” was a spectacular success. GE’s low cost ultrasound machine VScan is yet another innovation inspired by India.

HP launched its Dream Screen 400 product in November 2010, specially targeted at the entry level Indian consumer. Attractively priced at Rs 19,999, HP Dream Screen 400 is a great “value for money”; one more in the line of “Made in India, Made for India” products.

A quick look at the specs:

Hardware

  • Powered by Intel Atom microprocessor
  • 18.5” touch screen display with 1366×768 resolution
  • 250 GB Hard disk (with 127GB for users)
  • Optical DVD writer
  • Ethernet and Wi-Fi for high speed wire and wireless connectivity to the Internet
  • Good multimedia capability with two 5W speakers, microphone, H.264 HD video play capability and 1.3 megapixel Web camera
  • Four USB ports, SD card slot

Software

  • Linux-based OS (Fedora distribution) optimized for “touch interface”
  • Mozilla Firefox browser Version 3.5.11
  • Browser-based e-mail with one step, easy to use and intuitive user interface for GMail, Yahoo Mail, Rediff Mail and Windows Live
  • Internet chat using Google Chat, Yahoo Messenger, and Windows Live
  • Open Office Version 3.1.1 for Word processing, spreadsheets and presentation with support to read Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint documents
  • Calendar utility with built-in Holiday list of the Government of India
  • Desktop calculator
  • Simple file manager to copy, paste, move and organize files and file folders with search capability
  • Corel Media Player to play DVD content
  • Simple, user friendly software to watch multimedia content (photos, music, video)
  • Desktop video conferencing capability with other HP Dream Screen 400 devices; any user on the Internet with browser access can get a simple XXXX-YYYY ID free from www.hp-ds.com site and use video conferencing!

Pre-packaged content

A unique strength of HP Dream Screen 400 is the rich (and hopefully growing) content provided by many partners in the ecosystem, that currently include

  • Internet connectivity thru Airtel and Tata Telecom (sold through Airtel Tata Telecom outlets across India from November 25, 2010)
  • BillDesk for Bill payments
  • Hungama for music and video
  • IndiaGames for gaming
  • India Today and Music Today for media, music and Astrology
  • Tata Telecom and Aplaya IPTV for Darshan – Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh, Shirdi temple in Maharashtra, Golden Temple in Punjab, Kasi Viswanath temple in Uttar Pradesh, Govind Devji temple in Jaipur, ISKCON and Siddhivinayak temples in Mumbai
  • Edurite for School education content

First impressions

I got my piece delivered to my home on a weekend. Un-boxing the piece, connecting it to the power and starting the machine was a breeze (less than 15 minutes).  The “Take a tour” videos are excellent; clear voice, clear instructions impressed me. Connecting to the wireless was a struggle (partly because my BSNL Wi-Fi Router is closer to the balcony of my living room and I installed HP Dream Screen 400 in my office room). It worked for 10 minutes in my one-hour experiment! I tried to “install” the Tata Photon USB high-speed modem and failed many times; giving up exasperated, I started working on my Apple Mac; suddenly, I found the “green light” on connectivity; that is when I realized HP Dream Screen is not built to “install” any programs! However it recognizes Tata Photon USB device. From onwards there was no looking back! Tata Photon is permanently connected to HP Dream Screen 400 for the past 10 days and it works very well.

I completed my registration and “subscribed” to Live Darshan. It was nice to watch SVBC (Sri Venkateswara Bhakti Channel) on the machine. I could finish my GMail session really well. Browsing was as effective on HP Dream Screen 400 as on any standard desktop. The “touch” interface is very useful for watching photos and video as well as for quickly selecting the menu options (large icons like Apple iPad or iPhone). Being an avid “touch” user for the past two years, thanks to iPhone & iPad, I particularly value “touch” as an additional interface.

Watching the “stored” movies was real fun. The screen, audio and video rendering is real good that my wife really watched a full movie (3Idiots)! The music collection is really large. India Today News is an interesting channel. Wedding Fashion is an amusing piece (at least for us). I have not tried Travel booking and Bill payment yet (I may never use them); nor did I experiment with Education content, as I am far removed from School education.

Online help thru a toll free number (available on every screen), support for Hindi, option of QUERTY as well as ABCDEF keyboard layout are nice bonus points.

The overall form factor, location of buttons, ports and switches are apt, intuitive and marked for easy identification.

Of course there are pinpricks; video part of video call works well, but not the audio part. The file manager is a bit primitive.

Use case

Targeted at first time, non-techie users and the whole family (with start-up base of five users), HP Dream Screen literally provides “on touch” solution to the

  • Interesting Games for kids
  • Education for School going children
  • E Mail, Web browsing, Chat, Fashion, Movies, Bollywood TV for College students
  • Open Office (Word processing, spreadsheet, presentation), News, Travel and Bill payment for the Head of the family
  • Live Darshan, Astrology and Video call for Senior Citizens
  • Photos, Music, Video, Video call, Movies, News, Email for everyone in the family

In fact many reviews “dismissed” HP Dream Screen 400 as “uninteresting”, “who wants it”, “be ready for disappointment”; viewed as one more “Desktop PC”, the reviews are correct; but HP Dream Screen 400 is not to be “mixed up” as “one more PC”; it is a new “information appliance” targeted at lower and middle income family in an economically under developed country like India, where the family is still is very strong!

In summary, I view HP Dream Screen as an interesting unfolding of the information revolution that entered a defining moment in the year 2010. With smart phones (Apple iPhone, Android phone), tablets (Apple iPad) and e-book Readers (Amazon Kindle) taking off in a big way, computing is entering the “appliance” phase. The electricity industry was very “electric bulb” centric for decades; but with appliances (Refrigerators and Washing machines, generally called white goods) the industry transformed completely. It was no longer a monolithic world of “electrical bulbs”. HP Dream Screen 400 represents a move towards “information appliance” that may not be the right choice for everyone but the best choice for the niche audience for whom it is targeted. It will be interesting to watch the development of HP Dream Screen 400 like devices in the next decade.