Up Ahead in the Distance



The "10k PCs" actually added up to 11.6k, with a
whopping handling and delivery/installation fee (but without delivery or
installation actually occurring, as reported last issue), and with 4% tax. In
September, we bought two of them: the HCL Ezeebee and the Xenitis Apna PC, and
ran them through several weeks of testing at CyberMedia Labs. The Dataquest
report:

  • The ’10k PC’ is nearly unusable as shipped. One (Xenitis)
    had no OS, and the other (HCL) had a Red Hat Linux installation that was not
    optimized for the hardware, making it exceptionally slow. On top of that,
    OpenOffice slowed things down even more.

  • Any old workstation-grade Linux will not work without a
    lot of installation tuning. A lighter, leaner, more optimized variant such
    as Linspire ($50 at linspire.com) works much better.

  • It’s possible that free and light Linux strains such as
    Novell Desktop Linux (NDL) could work well. However, our tests weren’t
    conclusive; NDL required some ‘tuning’ for the VIA processor
    environment, not a recommended end-user step. Vendors should explore this,
    though.

  • Doubling the RAM to 256 MB (a Rs 500 difference if you
    buy the PC with that spec in the first place) significantly improved
    performance, even with Linux.

  • Interestingly, Windows performed the best on these entry
    PCs, outperforming Linux by far. That included both Windows XP Professional
    and XP Home editions. These would push up the OEM cost by over Rs 4,000 and
    Rs 6,000 respectively.

  • The most likely scenario with these PCs in India is that
    users will copy Windows XP Pro or Home, pirated, onto them.

  • The best bet for vendor, buyer and Microsoft seems to be
    to put Windows XP Starter Edition (XPSE) on them. XPSE isn’t on the
    shelves: it’s OEM only, and this is an opportunity for Microsoft.
    Estimated OEM cost addition: Rs 1.5k

  • Hence total end-user cost of a CyberMedia
    Labs-recommended "workable" entry configuration, with 256 MB RAM,
    and with either Windows XPSE or Linspire, is about 13.5k

  • This is the spec that vendors and the channels need to
    target, working on bringing that spec down to Rs 9,999. Estimated Time of
    Arrival: early 2006

  • These are VIA based systems carrying Linux. They are
    potentially a big opportunity for Microsoft, Intel and AMD.

Dataquest’s take: Despite vendor claims that these
are PCs for FTUs (first time users) who won’t miss the power, we believe that
today’s apps demand a minimum level of performance, especially home,
education, multimedia or small business/accounting apps. FTUs quickly outgrow
entry-level performance.

And finally, contrary to vendor belief, institutional
purchase is an important target for a 10k PC. Workplace PCs are often Rs 15k
entry configurations sans CD, floppy, sound, modem, and mostly run light,
dedicated single apps. Home PCs are power-packed and run multimedia and online
apps. A CIO would be very interested in a purchase where he could save Rs 5 to
10 lakh on 100 desktops and still be assured of usability and reliability.

The
Specs

Xenitis
Apna PC

HCL
Ezeebee Pride 7741

Processor

VIA 800 MHz

 VIA 1 GHz

Memory

128 MB DDR 333

128 MB DDR 400

Hard drive

40 GB (IDE 7,200)

40 GB (IDE 5,400)

Optical drive

None

52x CD ROM

Bundled OS

None

Linux

Mouse

Optical PS/2

Ball PS/2

USB Ports

4 + 2

2

Price

 Rs 11,560

Rs 11,600 

Both PC shipped with 15"
color displays, RJ45 LAN port, Multimedia Keyboard and floppy drive

Lab Notes
The HCL PC shipped with Red Hat Linux, Workstation version. The Xenitis is
supposed to be shipping with Linux, but we did not get any OS on it.

Red Hat Linux, Workstation Version: We tried to use the HCL
PC for standard office tasks such as internet browsing, document creation (using
the bundled OpenOffice), and e-mail. We were very disappointed by the
performance. It took over a minute to start up any software, frankly, for all
practical purposes, this PC as it ships is very difficult to use.

Novell Linux Desktop: Given that the HCL machine’s
performance was not up to the mark with Red Hat Linux, workstation version, we
then tried Novell Linux for Desktop (NLD) Version 9 on both the machines.

The Xenitis system performed better than the HCL PC,
primarily due to the faster hard disk. However, the NLD installation was not
stable. We suspect that the OS as it ships is not optimised for the VIA
processor, and needs some tuning work.

Between the two, to sum up, we found the Xenitis PC to be the
better performer.

We also tried Windows XP Home. Both systems ran Office 2003
well, and we could open multiple windows without any problems!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *