AMD and VSNL to sell net communicator device in India

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has teamed with Videsh Sanchar Nigam (VSNL), a leading Indian telecommunications and internet...

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has teamed with Videsh Sanchar Nigam (VSNL), a leading Indian telecommunications and internet services company, to market its Personal Internet Communicator (PIC) to consumers in India.

AMD also announced distribution partnerships for the device in Mexico and the Caribbean. In one example, the manufacturer has linked with Cable and Wireless, which is deploying the PIC in the Carribean to support disaster relief efforts.

The PIC was developed by AMD as part of its 50 X 15 initiative, which aims to provide affordable internet and computing capabilities to 50% of the world's population by 2015. The PIC is designed to be an easy-to-use, affordable consumer device that provides basic internet and computing capabilities such as a browser, e-mail and productivity tools.

In India, the PIC will be offered by VSNL as part of the Tata Indicom Broadband Services, as a bundled internet service including both hardware and software. VSNL is part of the Mumbai-based Tata Group.

"The internet in India has so far touched very few people because of the non-availability of an affordable device and a high speed internet connection," said Shashi Kalathil, head of the broadband business of VSNL. The combination of AMD's device and Tata's broadband service will help change that, he said.

The PIC, bundled with internet services, will be sold to VSNL's broadband users at between $6.50 (£3.50) to $21.70 per month, depending on the service, according to Kalathil. VSNL, which has 50,000 broadband subscribers, aims to have two million PIC users in India over the next two years, he said. The key constraint will be the speed of deploying broadband connections in the country, he added.

"We chose to offer this device because, unlike conventional computers that are over-architected for these applications, the AMD device has been dressed down to a price point that makes it affordable to a large number of people," Kalathil said.

But while the offering may expand internet use among relatively well-off urban Indians, at the proposed pricing the service is unlikely find takers in urban slums or among the masses in the country's villages. These under-served segments of the market have typically been addressed by NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and government agencies that recognise the need for subsidising internet costs and by amortising costs by making the internet a community asset.

AMD's suggested system price is $185 (£101) for a configuration with a keyboard, mouse and preinstalled software. A configuration with a monitor would cost about $249.

The PIC will be branded and sold by local service providers such as telecommunications companies and government-sponsored communications programs. Pricing to the consumer will be determined by the service provider, which may offer a variety of subscription, microfinancing options and bundling packages.

John Ribeiro writes for IDG News Service

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