The PC Drops to 10k



Team DQ identified the following three vendors of the so-called sub-10k PCs:

  • HCL PC for India, advertised at a price of Rs 9,990/-
  • Xenitis PC, advertised at a price of Rs 9,990/-

The Xenitis Apna PC was available with SD Computers, Nehru
Place. For the HCL machine, we received a positive response from Spark
Technology, Nehru Place. So off we went, to try and buy these machines.

Now, we could not say we were from CyberMedia: we would never
have gauged the common man’s experience of buying these PCs. What a change
this would be from CyberMedia’s usual IT purchase process, where vendors
queued up to sell their wares!

The Xenitis PC
Day-1:
First stop was SD Computers. It took us a while to locate the building,
thanks to the uniform architecture of Nehru Place. We climbed up one flight of
stairs and descended another, to finally get to S D Computers.

A lone lady manned the poorly-lit office. Prominently
displayed, however, was the Celeron model of the Xenitis PC. We were ushered
into the proprietor’s empty cabin, where a picture of a DQ Week Award was put
up to greet anyone who got that far. When we asked the lady for the sub-10k PC,
we were told that it actually cost Rs 11,000, with an additional 4% tax. The
Celeron PC on display would have cost us Rs 13,000, with 4% tax to be added to
this figure too.

We
expressed interest in the 11k PC. The lady had clear instructions, it appears:
we were told that the VIA processor was no good. It would support Dot Matrix
Printers alone, would not run Visual Basic Scripts (!) and was not really the
right choice for an office. My colleague and I went into a huddle and, as
planned, emerged, insisting that the 11k PC was what we wanted-we would merely
be using it for mass-mailing and a bit of browsing.

Although Madam relented, we were made to understand that it
would take 24 hours to deliver-no ready stocks. Also, cash advance of Rs 1,000
had to be paid for “booking the machine”! We looked suitably
uncertain, expressing doubts about prompt delivery. We repeatedly asked the lady
whether we would definitely get the machine tomorrow. Sensing our uncertainty
the lady reacted by calling up “Kapilji” and somebody else too, before
finally expressing her deepest regrets and her final opinion that the machine
simply could not be delivered any earlier. In her experience, the VIA processor
was not popular at all and, therefore, they usually did not have ready stocks of
these machines. Supplies too were very irregular.

We paid up the money, collected the receipt and the lady’s
visiting card, extracting the promise that it would be delivered at our Delhi
address the very next day…

All this anxiety made us very hungry. It was while we were
having Rajma Rice at the popular Sona Sweets that the lady’s call came in. She
wanted us to know where we had read that the machine is shipped with LINUX OS.
She told us we were mis-informed: why, the machine could not run LINUX, (!) it
would run Windows 98 alone! So, did we still want it? We did not budge, so she
let out the next bombshell: the machine “may not” be available with a
30 GB hard disk as advertised. However, it would be available with a 40 GB hard
disk, at an additional Rs 500 (no tax on this amount). We stuck to our guns.

Day 2:
The machine did not arrive. We were told that it would be delivered
“tomorrow before 12:00 noon without fail”.

Day 3:
Office assistant picks up lady’s cell phone. She’s left it behind. No, he
has no clue about delivery. Second call: assistant tells us she’s not coming
back today. Third call: No pick up.

Day 4:
Despatch my colleague to SD Computers to take delivery or take refund. Dealer
says: Distributor has only one piece and it’s faulty so please buy the 13K
Celeron instead. No, we said, No! Well. “No cash available for 1k
refund.” Another trip to Nehru Place next week…

Day 7:
Finally located and called another dealer, Enfotech in Laxmi Nagar, who
said: stocks available, and he would deliver. Delivered against cash, same day.

HCL PC for India
Locating Spark Technology was not easy either. It is never easy for a
newcomer to Delhi to find his way about by asking people on the street. At Nehru
Place this syndrome gets to more pronounced, thanks to the Dilliwala’s
fiercely-competitive spirit. None of the computer shops personnel had ever heard
of Spark Technologies, even though it was in the same building as their own
shop! Ultimately, we got the directions to Spark from a cigarette shop: at least
he didn’t see himself in competition with Spark!

Just as we reached Spark, the power cut lifted. Not a moment
too soon either! After a welcome 10-minute break (during which our ears stopped
ringing) we were told that the HCL PC for India (advertised at Rs 9,990, along
with Mr Maran’s picture) would actually cost us Rs 11,600, all taxes-paid. We
asked to see the proprietor, who then explained how it worked:

Basic cost of HCL PC = Rs 9,990

Tax @4% = Rs 400

Installation Charges* = Rs 1,250

Total = Rs 11,640

*However, the purchase includes neither delivery nor
installation

So you see, we were actually getting a discount of Rs 40! And
oh, does the advertised machine come with LINUX? Sorry, no software comes with
the machine. Moreover, if we were under the impression that the installation
charges of Rs 1,250 meant that the machine would be delivered and set up at our
site, sorry-we would have to pick it up then and there!

The Proprietor also assured us that the machines were at the
moment readily available. However, with hunger pangs hitting us bad, we sneaked
off to Sona for the Rajma Rice. On our return, we found that the Proprietor had
disappeared. In his place we had a young salesman, who insisted that there were
absolutely no stocks of the “sub-10k PC”. We were rattled for a
moment: so certain were his tone and language! When we told him about our talk
with the Proprietor, he imperiously asked us to wait, while he “checked
up”. About 15 minutes later (he was in plain sight of us during this time,
busy on the phone all through) when we asked him “Kya Hua?” he came
close to an apology: Yes, the machines were available, sorry he had just come in
to office and gosh, were we lucky that fresh stocks had just arrived! He
elaborated that supplies were erratic and that they got sold out almost
immediately. We tried to look suitably grateful and paid up the full amount. A
half-hearted question about discounts was met with a sneer, so we let it pass. A
total of 15 minutes for preparing the bill and instructing the packing
department and there we were, the “sub-10k PC” at our feet! With a
feeling of impending dread, we enquired whether he could depute someone to
deliver the machine to our vehicle. Luckily for us, he was able to quickly
arrange two people to carry the CPU and monitor to our vehicle. Since our
vehicle was parked about 1,500 feet away, the “installation charges”
worked out to about a Rupee for every step! But obviously, we were in no mood to
complain!

The
CyberMedia Labs Review
HCL’s
Ezeebee Pride 7741 (VIA)
We
tried using several applications that were shipped with the PC by
default, such as OpenOffice and Ximian Evolution mail client. It
took over a minute just to open an OpenOffice.org application. In
fact, even the mouse pointer slowed down and the screen refreshing
was affected during this basic operation. Our take is that the
machine with these specs and the loaded software is not a very
viable option for either home or office use. Add 128MB RAM (Rs
1,000) and you could run some dedicated apps.
Xenitis
Apna PC (VIA)
The
machine shipped to us didn’t have any OS installed.
How
they match up
PC
Brand 
Price OS CD-ROM USB Mouse
HCL
Ezeebee Pride 7741
11,600 Linux
RH7
52X 2 Mech
Xenitis
Apna PC
11,560 none none 4+2 Optical
Both
PCs shipped with VIA 1GHz processors, 128 MB of RAM, 15″ color
displays, RJ45 LAN port, and floppy drive. The prices shown are what
they actually cost us, in cash (including 4% VAT) to pick it up from
the shop.
Next
issue:
Test Report

Breaking news: Kolkata’s Xenitis breaks the 10k
price barrier with the lauch of its desktop, priced at Rs 9,990. HCL unveils its
PC for Rs 9,990 at a big launch in Chennai, with the IT minister Dayanidhi Maran
presiding. HCL Infosystems chairman, Ajai Chowdhry, speaks about his company
breaking the price barrier, offering a fully functional desktop. And there are
companies like Kobian and Sahara, on their way.

Are they really available for under 10k? Do they work?

Our CIO, S Nambiath, was curious to find out, so he set out
with a wad of cash. For the sake of this story, we asked him to go incognito-just
a home buyer-and pick up as many sub-10k brands as he could find.

He didn’t find very many. In fact, zero. But two brands,
HCL and Xenitis, came close. With so-called installation charges of over Rs
1,200, taxes, etc, they landed up at Rs 11.5k each, give or take a hundred
rupees. More from the CIO as he hunted down the elusive sub-10k PC.

S Nambiath,
CIO, CyberMedia

Bottomline

  • There is no "sub-10k" PC yet, in India.
  • Margins on low-cost PCs are so slim, dealers retaliate by not supplying
    the OS. For the same reason, the promised "machine installation"
    doesn’t work as advertised-consider yourself lucky if your machine is
    delivered to your car in the car parking lot!
  • Margins are so thin, dealers desperately upsell other PCs.
  • Dealers stock very few of these machines. Do not expect to walk in and
    walk away with the "sub-10k PC", even if you pay cash-down.
  • Stocks are erratic and quickly exhausted, when they do arrive.
  • It is not a pleasant experience for the uninitiated or the faint-of-heart.
  • Be prepared to spend about 20% more than what is stated in the
    advertisements ("sub-10k"). Simultaneously, be prepared to get
    less than what is advertised!

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