Chennai-based Sify Technologies Ltd, which provides retail and corporate Internet and network services and runs a chain of cyber cafes, plans to enter the so-called thin client computing market, a fledgling business currently dominated by players such as the San Jose, California-based Wyse Technology Inc. and local start-up Novatium Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
Sify is in discussions with software leader Microsoft Corp. to host the latter’s operating system and productivity software on its servers and allow client customers use it for a fee, two people familiar with the development confirmed.
Thin client computing, still at a nascent stage in India, involves a stripped-down computer hooked up to a central server that hosts software and data as against traditional desktop computers that store and process this information on local central processing units. The model, which hinges on robust broadband connectivity to the server, touts lower costs and better security.
Sify, under a new management for the last two years after software services vendor Satyam Computer Services Ltd sold its controlling stake in the firm to California businessman Raju Vegesna, aims to sell up to 30,000 thin client computers in some nine Indian cities in the first year of launch. “For the home user, the box will be sold at about Rs5,000 each with a monthly fee (for accessing software),” said a senior Sify executive.
The target might be ambitious given the demand for such computers in India, though this number has been growing fast, albeit on a smaller base. According to the local unit of research firm IDC, 42,723 thin client computers were sold in India in 2006.
In the first half of last year, which is the latest period for which data is available, 37,182 units were sold. “There has been a 99% growth in the first half of 2007, against the same period last year,” said Piyush Pushkal, manager for computing products research at IDC, adding the momentum is likely to continue.
Still, Sify’s aggressive pricing could help. A thin client computer typically costs between Rs10,000 and Rs14,000, excluding the monitor and keyboard, or more. The Indian unit of Wyse Technology sells its thin computer at around Rs25,000 including the keyboard, mouse and software but without a monitor. The firm, which sells largely to enterprises,sold 20,000 units in India last year.
Sify’s entry into the business follows that of Chennai-based Novatium, which announced its Novanet PC for home customers at Rs5,000 including the monitor and keyboard, with options to access operating systems running on Linux or Microsoft’s Windows platform. The start-up aims to have about 1 million thin computer customers by 2009.
“With the total cost of ownership being only 30% (of a traditional desktop computer), the thin client market is set to grow in India. Also, (broadband) networks here are going through the process of becoming more reliable,” said Alok Singh, CEO, Novatium.