In its October 22, 2012 edition, The New York Times reported that an inexpensive tablet, manufactured by a London UK-based company called Datawind, is being sold in India, designated initially for students in the country’s massive school system.
Called the Ubislate 7Ci, the device is described as “a fully functioning 7-inch tablet, with a touch screen, Wi-Fi capability, a microphone and camera, a headphone jack and a USB port.” According to the Times, “it is pretty much everything you need to be fully functional on the Internet.”
However, there are some relatively minor downsides for the U.S and other markets that have become accustomed to what seems like a never-ending cascade of creature features and the like. For example, the keyboard may be a tad small for the taste of the American market (e.g., the Times cites “big American fingers”), the camera resolution is relatively low, and the software is accompanied by “lots of ads.” However, after all is said and done, it still costs only $40 (US$)!
The Times quotes Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind, as saying, “Personal computers caught on in the U.S. when the price got to 25 percent of the average person’s monthly income. In India, where people make $200 a month, that is about $50.” Mr. Tuli knows something about monthly incomes in different geos, as he was born in India, raised in Canada and currently operates his business out of the UK.
While I would hardly imagine the Ubislate 7Ci to meet anywhere near the functional requirements for supporting today’s mobile workforce in the U.S. or the UK (i.e., where it is being manufactured), the question arises, “When will there be an acceptable device manufactured for the U.S. (and other global markets) containing all of the required functionality (i.e., a larger keyboard for our “big American fingers” and, perhaps, a higher resolution camera, et al) and priced well below a top-of-the-line iPhone, tablet or other device. (This is where Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, can emerge as an key factor.)
Gartner reports that “Google’s Nexus 7 tablet is $199 now, but people are saying it will be a $49 device in a year or two.” Intel’s CFO, Stacy J. Smith, believes that “Content sellers will underwrite hardware costs, so that devices eventually end up being free to consumers.” However, “free to consumers,” of course, will not equate to “free to field technicians” – although costs will ultimately come down significantly, as functionality on these devices continues to increase. In any event, Intel expects to see these types of tablet devices to come to market soon, and it plans to “compete for the business.”
While Datawind is far from being ready to mass market its device, it already sees competition in its own market niche, leading CEO Tuli to believe that the world will soon be “flooded” with “cheap tablets.” The Times further cites that this “could lead to an explosion of novel applications, similar to the online car sales that are moving into Africa thanks to cloud computing.” Perhaps, ultimately, some to support a mobile workforce?
When will it all hit the mobile workforce market in the U.S. and other leading technology geos? Probably first in the less developed and/or lower income geos; but then, look out for the deluge of cheap tablets riding the wave across all geos (i.e., first among consumers, most likely; and then among the services organizations that support them). As such, this will clearly be a another prime example of the B2C market influencing the B2B market during a product’s initial penetration stage.
Until next time, keep your customers satisfied!