The notion is of course true, for most things. A profit seeking company doesn’t mind where their money comes from as long as it arrives. So you’d find cheap version (sachet packets) of common consumer items like soap or washing powder.
It is generally conceded that the so-called ‘luxury items’ rarely compete in this consumer market.
The Mint reports on an interesting scenario where the likes of Microsoft and Intel are cramming for space in the Laptops-for-the-poor Market.
“A programme to provide millions of low-cost laptops to students in poor countries is set to start production in September even as commercial competitors prepare to offer even cheaper models.
The idea from Nicholas Negroponte, a co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory, who proposed the project at the World Economic Forum in Davos two years ago, has moved closer to fruition.
“OLPC is in talks with Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Nigeria, Thailand, Pakistan, Russia, Rwanda and many other countries—but nothing definite just yet,” she said.
The new computers will not carry the symbolic price tag of $100 (Rs4,100), at least not right away. The first models will cost $175 and OLPC hopes the price will come down to $100 by 2009.
Negroponte wanted to have an innovative, specifically tailored laptop—called the XO— that would be very small, hardy, user-friendly and use the free Linux operating system, not Microsoft’s Windows, which dominates the world market.
The sharpest critic of the project is the world’s leading chip maker Intel Corp., which has dismissed the XO as a “gadget” and launched a rival commercial product.
Intel’s “Classmate,” manufactured in Taiwan, costs $285 and the price will drop to $200 at the end of the year, said Intel spokeswoman Agnes Kwan.
Several thousand units have been shipped to Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria, she said, and the target is 100,000 laptops by December. Pakistan has ordered 700,000 for 2009, she noted.
Aghast at this commercial rivalry, Olpc’s Negroponte said recently that “Intel should be ashamed of itself.” He accused the US microprocessor giant of selling the laptops below cost to destroy the XO, a charge Intel has denied.
Soon OLPC will have to contend with even more aggressive Indian competitors. The group Novatium Solutions Pvt. Ltd, based in Chennai, just brought out a basic “NetPC” for Rs3,280 ($80).
The market for the poor has become so enticing that Microsoft is preparing to launch a scaled-down software bundle of Windows and Office for three dollars for qualifying governments. ”
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