Telecom service provider, Vodafone has launched a new internet access device called Webbox in the Indian state of Haryana, reports Tech2. Available initially in Ambala, Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra and Sonipat, the device comes in the form of a keyboard, which needs to be connected to a television by an RCA/AV cable. It runs the Android operating system, enabling users to access the internet via the Opera Mini web browser, in addition to offering some other value added features including games, FM radio, a music player, and SMS, among others.

Sadly, the device only offers 2.5G or Edge connectivity, when Vodafone has rolled out 3G in many of its circles.  The device also supports external SD Cards for data storage. It is priced at Rs. 5,799 and includes a 2GB SD Card, and 12 GB data usage valid for a period of 6 months. Vodafone also intends to make the device available on a 24 month contract and launch the product all over India soon. The report also indicates that the device might not have Android Market installed, which means that end-users will not be able to install new apps on it. The device was first launched in South Africa through Vodafone’s subsidiary Vodacom, and is specially targeted at emerging markets in Africa, Turkey and India.

There was initially a report by TelecomTalk, which had said that Vodafone was testing the device in the Kerela circle. Clearly, the company is not targeting subscribers from metro cities, and intends to make internet connectivity at low costs, the focus of the device. Remember, 3G data tariffs are much higher, compared to Edge. This is also evident from the fact that the Webbox does not offer support for high end connectivity options such as HDMI and WiFi.

Will People Buy?

The device lowers the entry barrier associated with a connected computing device: There are more televisions than there are computers in Indian homes, but thin client initiatives in the past don’t appear to have gotten scale: Airtel, Tata Teleservices and BSNL have bundled thin client devices from hardware manufacturers such as Novatium and Nivio, with bundled internet data plans. Although these devices offered Internet connectivity, the lack of storage space and applications prevented them from getting widespread acceptance. Also, access was only possible after taking a wireline broadband connection.

In comparison, Vodafone’s Webbox uses mobile Internet for connectivity, and getting a new connection is as simple as buying a new prepaid SIM card. So access isn’t as difficult, but with GPRS (or even 3G pricing if it upgrades), it will probably be more expensive than wireline access.

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