Hewlett Packard India has created an internet access device that can be connected to a TV set allowing users to surf the internet on the same screen, reports The Times of India. Dubbed as the Vayu Internet Device, the set-top-box, based on Linux, will offer internet browsing as well as small applications called tasklets through an application store. According to the report, the device can be used with existing tv remotes, without the need for a keyboard or mouse, since it allows users to create categories for websites and access them without keying in URLs, although users comfortable with the input devices can also plug them in.

Features: Vayu can connect to the internet through a Wifi or ethernet based connection or through a 3G USB donfle. The device also has built in storage that can store media such as photos, videos, music and other documents. It also offers device to device content sharing and video conferencing abilities. It can also hook up with a mobile phone, likely through Bluetooth or Wifi, to receive messages and web URLs. The report mentions, that the device will feature an intuitive interface, however we’ve still not seen any visual depiction. Most likely, it will be based on a customized shell, since core Linux experiences barring a few such as Ubuntu, are not really user friendly, in our opinion.

Specifications: Vayu comes with 1GB of RAM, an 8GB internal flash memory, USB Ports, WIfi and Bluetooth connectivity, in addition to a microphone, speakers,and a display. It can be connected to TV sets through an HDMI or a normal RCA (Audio-Video) cable. It can run all Linux applications and supports popular multimedia codecs.

Pricing: The report claims that the total cost of the components is around $100 or a bit above Rs 5,000. However, HP has still not finalized the market price for the product.

Positioning:  Now the problem here is that the company on one hand appears to be targeting homes that don’t have a PC or an internet access device. We all know that more people in India use their mobile to access the web. So the company will have to offer something which offers more than just internet access, and that too at a reasonable price. As we’ve said in the past, thin client based devices have failed to achieve scale since they failed to offer additional applications, and storage. If it’s offering a web add-on device that will allow users convert their normal TVs into Smart TVs, it will have to target a different segment, and focus on content and apps.

Cheap connectivity?:  Thin clients offered by ISPs relied on broadband connections, which need infrastructure to be in place. Now Vodafone also launched an Android based internet device which was based on GPRS connectivity which appeared to tackle this problem, but we don’t know how the device faired in the market. The cost of mobile internet is still high compared to broadband tariffs and we’re not even talking about 3G. So, if a company really wants to reach out to first time internet users, it will have to focus on offering a cheaper connectivity solution and tie-up with telcos, and not stress too much on the bells and whistles.

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