Microsoft's projected launch of 'pay-as-you-go' PCs in developing countries such as India is not going as smoothly as it would like.
Encouraged by India's successful adoption of the pay-as-you-go mobile phone service, Microsoft had decided to offer flexible personal computing options in the emerging market, based on a similar financial model.
But before announcing the trials for the 'pay-as-you-go' PCs in India with FlexGo capability – a metering technology that informs users of time used, showing them how to add more hours by typing in a number from a prepaid card – Microsoft failed to take into account the country's scheduled power outages.
The outages, deliberately created by the Indian electricity department to avoid overloading the power lines, make power generators and UPS (uninterruptible power supply) systems a common necessity in homes and offices across the country.
Microsoft, which claims to make the PCs available to first-time consumers for as little as 12,700 rupees (about £150), forgot that buyers would have to shell out an additional amount, upwards of 2,000 rupees (£14), to buy the UPS as well.
Jeremy Gittins, Microsoft's business development manager for emerging markets, expressed concern over the issue, and admitted that he didn't consider the factors. He said the company would be tying up with vendors and partners in India that would address the situation more effectively.
"Affordability is going to be an issue," Gittins said. "Maybe consumers will buy the PCs and use them while there is power. It is all up to the vendors to educate first-time customers about the significant purchase."
Whether Microsoft is anticipating Indian vendors to come up with a reduced price for the UPS systems without a suitable incentive is another point that the company has overlooked.
Interestingly, one of Microsoft's partners in this venture is Intel, which had launched the Community PC platform for rural India only this March. Community PCs are designed to run off a car battery during power outages, and can withstand the dust and harsh environment of rural India.
Another precendent was set by MIT, whose $100 open-source-based notebook, launched last November, will be used by schoolchildren in developing countries who can crank a handle once for every 10 minutes of usage.
"The point is to get the PCs to India, looking at its growing infrastructure and the success of the pay-as-you-go mobile service there. The PCs will be targeted at a whole new generation of citizens who are going to get first-time experience working on computers," said Gittins. "There will also be telephone support for the new users."
Trials will be conducted on Microsoft's pay-as-you-go PCs in India in the second half of this year. The PCs will also be introduced in China, South Africa and Mexico. Brazil has had trials already, according to the company.
This story first appeared on Techworld.com.