• United States
Bangalore Correspondent

In India, Via focuses on emerging economies

Jan 23, 20063 mins

Taiwanese chip maker Via Technologies announced Monday that it is setting up an innovation center in Mumbai, India, that is focused on developing computing and communications appliances designed for rural markets in India and other countries.

The objective of the center is to define and develop appliances that consume much less electricity and are designed to withstand heat, dust and power problems, common in rural India.

Technologies developed by the center will also be tried in other markets besides India, and may also find their way into mainstream PC products, Wenchi Chen, president and CEO of the Taipei company, told reporters in Mumbai.

The products are being designed as part of Via’s pc-1 initiative, which aims to take computing and the Internet to the next one billion people in the world, says Richard Brown, vice president of the corporate marketing division of Via.

Computing and the Internet have so far benefited about 1 billion people worldwide, according to Brown. To address the next billion people, vendors have to come up a variety of new computing platforms,” Brown said. The computing device is also likely to be more of a community device than personally owned, he added. A thin-client model is also likely to be more relevant than the traditional PC platform for these users, according to Brown.

Later this year, Intel, is also expected to launch a “Community PC” in India, designed to work in dusty and hot environments powered by a car battery. “Succeeding in this market is not about taking a PC, making some minor changes, and offering it at a low cost,” Brown says.

Via is working with local nongovernmental organizations, the Indian Institutes of Technology and other organizations to build an ecosystem that can help generate relevant local language content, and help evolve the appropriate business models, according to Brown.

The new innovation center will also work on the development of advanced server appliances that will feature mesh network technologies, and will enable cost effective last-mile bandwidth in rural and urban markets, the company says.

Via also introduced Monday a reference design for a computing appliance called the Via pc-1 PHD Appliance, in which PHD stands for “power, heat and dust.” Built around a specially designed C3 processor from Via, the device will not require a fan, and is designed for use in conditions where there is dust and heat, and where the power supply is poor, Brown says. “We have tested it to run up to 30 hours on a 12 volt car battery,” says Ravi Pradhan, Via’s country manager for India.

Wireless connectivity is currently provided on the platform with the 802.11 wireless LAN standard, though in future support for WiMAX will also be offered. Indian equipment vendors will be able to configure the device, including for example replacing the hard disk with flash memory, or using a higher-speed processor than the base 1GHz C3 processor. The device can run a variety of operating systems including Windows from Microsoft, Brown says.

India equipment vendors are expected to announce products based on this reference design by the end of the first quarter, Brown says. The price of devices configured around the Via reference platform is going to be more than $230, he adds. A number of PC vendors in India have been targeting the entry level market in India with PCs priced at below that amount.