Why Kindle when you can PI, Kindle Killer from India

Indian entrepreneurs clearly have been on the back seat when it comes to innovation and products, don’t get me wrong. We are amazing at making the same for others, like Google Earth, Tridium from Honeywell and other path breaking innovations that the world currently enjoys. But like I have been saying, it’s our inability to produce successfully and monetize ingenious products branded and labeled as ‘Made In India’ that is the worry. That has not deterred us from trying though. In my previous post about Indian Innovation I did mention of Discovery Channel covering a few innovations from India. However, these do not seem to be the ones that are commercially successful. Of a lot of people I have been waiting for that device or software that could challenge the world’s best and come out surviving. And I think my wait is nearing its end…. My post today is a salute to an innovation that is coming out of India, which will take on the Bull by the horns and hope to succeed in taming it, or so to speak.

Vishal Mehta, a name we are all going to hear a lot more in the coming days, with an Engineering Degree from Cornell, an MBA from MIT-Sloan, settled life in Seattle, and experience working for giants like Dell, Amazon etc deceided one day to leave it all and move back to Ahmedabad. He wanted to start his own online retail venture. With Infibeam.com Vishal realized that dream. Infibeam is an Online retailer that sells everything from flowers, jewellery, books to electronic goods, and has a repository of more than one Lakh Books (1,00,000). But this post is not about the website itself. NDTV Gadgets covered the launch of PI, an e-book reader that looks like the Amazon Kindle, has the same e-Ink screen that the Kindle sports, and has a rights architecture than is more open than the Kindle. The Infibeam Pi, which can now be ordered online and will start shipping in February, is priced at Rs 10,000. About Rs 8,000 cheaper than its American counterpart The Amazon Kindle.

What makes the PI even more attractive to the Subcontinent is its inbuilt support for 13 Indian Languages, giving access to more than One Lakh Boks from the Infibeam repository. The Pi can also be used to read any documents (word or pdf, for instance) you have. This opens up interesting uses for the device. A test preparation firm can load their proprietary content on this device and give it to students, without worrying that the material will get passed around. Entire Syllabus can be loaded into it for a Engineering student making carrying huge reference books a thing of the past. The device can also be used by chartered accountants, lawyers or doctors who needs instant searchable access to a large amount of information. The Pi can store about 600 ebooks in its internal memory. It also has space for a 4GB card—that means about 3,000 ebooks can be carried around. You like to listen to music while reading? No problem, Pi can play music as well.

Mehta is in talks with a number of newspapers and magazines in several Indian languages; and expects to close deals with some publishers soon. But at this stage, newspapers need to be downloaded and then transferred to the Pi. The real deal will be when newspapers can be downloaded to the device every morning. If you spent a lot of time in training your dog to fetch the newspaper every morning, the trick will soon be redundant.

The only downside for it at the moment, is that the reader has no wireless connectivity, however. “It’s pointless in India, there is no 3G,” Mehta says, adding that subsequent iterations of the device will likely have wireless connectivity. On the Kindle, wireless connectivity can only be used to browse the Amazon bookstore and Wikipedia. “When we have wireless connectivity, we probably won’t restrict what users can browse,” Mehta says. “Our essential philosophy is to be as open as possible.” The Pi has a micro USB port to connect to a PC. Users will need to create an account with Infibeam.com, register the device and then download the ebooks. The ebooks can be read on the PC as well as on the Pi. The ebooks typically cost 5-20% less than the hard copy versions, but in some cases, especially with bestsellers, digital rights are expensive and it’s cheaper to buy the physical books.

For more details and detailed Specifications head over to the PI website.

  1. February 13th, 2010

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