All companies have a mission. Nivio, a tech start-up launched by friends Sachin Dev Duggal and Saurabh P Dhoot in 2004, has a noble one: To educate 100 million children. How? Through innovative computing. Duggal and Dhoot believe the only technology that can possibly help them to scale the numbers in a highly cost-effective way is cloud computing. That said, they also know such a feat would largely depend on how profitable their business will be. They believe they have up their sleeves the future of computing — a Windows-based ‘online’ desktop — backed by a for-profit business model that can help them achieve their goals. For the past five years, Nivio has been perfecting the technology and the business model, which it is now ready to roll out.
Duggal, who is the CEO of Nivio, says: “We are seeing a generation that is ubiquitously working online everywhere — I call them the cloud generation. And Nivio’s premier offering, the online desktop, nDesktop, is designed to meet all the needs of this generation at very low costs.”
What edge does the online desktop has over a real PC, how does it work, and why is it cost-effective? A PC in general is made up of six elements — the central processing unit, memory, storage, operating system, software and data. Now the online desktop takes the storage, OS, software and data off the real PC and puts it on the cloud. That leaves you with the PC box which doesn’t need all the power it required to run and manage all the applications and data previously. It can easily be replaced by a low-cost semi-dumb terminal which can run the Windows OS and apps on the cloud and access it through the Internet, without any processing done by the terminal. All the processing and data-crunching takes place on the cloud or the sever farms that Nivio runs. “This brings the cost down of the PC from, say, Rs 20,000-25,000 to below Rs 5,000. In fact, Nivio offers such units at below Rs 5,000,” says Nivio Co-founder Dhoot, who is also director, Videocon Group. The other big benefit, Dhoot adds, is that the user doesn’t need to buy expensive software — whatever he needs, be it MS Office, Adobe Photoshop, MS Visio and so on, he can rent it based on his usage at low costs. “We are trying to change the dynamics of computing, moving it from a buy-buy model to a cost-effective, utility-based rent-rent model. The benefits are too many: Limitless storage, no fear or hacking or viruses, no PC breakdowns or loss of data, and so on,” says Duggal.
Nivio has identified several types of customers who, it thinks, will be interested in its offering. First are those who don’t have a PC or a laptop, but want to buy one if it’s affordable. For them, Nivio offers a Cloud PC at sub-Rs 5,000 and Cloud Book (notebook) at sub-Rs 14,000. Apart from the individual buyers, the first type would include schools and small and medium enterprises with requirement for affordable PCs. “These are segments often constrained in terms of funding. Cost is often the decision-making factor, and we think our pricing will make a difference,” says Dhoot. Then there are people who have an old PC but can’t afford a new one. They can simply rent the latest OS and applications from Nivio and run it on the cloud through the online desktop using the old PC, since hardly any processing is required. Then, of course, is the usual customer with a Windows PC who simply wants to rent and try all kinds of latest software and content (movies, music, games).
Will users subscribe to Nivio’s cloud-based computing model? Duggal and Dhoot are highly optimistic. They say there has been double-digit growth month-on-month on the beta version of the online desktop and there are over 200,000 subscribers to it already. Let’s watch for the actual rollout.