Olive Telecom has beaten Apple on one count. It has launched its touchscreen tablet, the OlivePad, in India, months before the iconic iPad. Now, it remains to be seen whether Olive’s first-mover advantage, coupled with the OlivePad’s additional features, can grab the market.
It is the clash of the tablet titans in India! While Bangalore-based Notion Ink’s Adam and Apple’s iPad created waves, both are slated to hit the Indian market only by the year-end. Meanwhile, Olive Telecom has launched the OlivePad — India’s first 3.5G Android tablet PC. Priced at Rs 25,000 (inclusive of the memory card), this 17.78 cm (7 inch) 800×480 capacitive touchscreen device beckons gadget freaks at Croma stores. Olive Telecom is betting on OlivePad’s features, coupled with its first-mover advantage, to sweep the Indian market.
“We are looking at OlivePad as the ultimate touchscreen to replace others. Our first-mover advantage, coupled with the additional features of it being a smartphone with cameras, makes for a compelling consumer statement. We are looking at a market size of over a 100,000 this calendar year,” says Arun Khanna, chairman, Olive Telecom.
However, with the Android OS devices frenzy still to catch on in India, the road is not hassle-free. “Being the first in the market comes with challenges too, not just advantages. On one hand, we are looking at concentrating on promoting OlivePad, and not open source/Android, per se. Along with that, we are working on playing an educative role (with respect to open source) while stressing on our product’s plus-points,” says Khanna.
Features — the game winner for Olive Telecom
“It is a true convergence device that brings together computer, mobile phone and entertainment features on to one platform. It promises easy on-the-move connectivity, making it the consumer’s true window to the world. This is what will win over the Indian market,” says Kshitij Keote, vice-president, product engineering and technology, Olive Telecom. Let’s take a quick look at the features.
Power of 3G
The OlivePad supports 3.5G HSUPA, allowing users to stay connected even outside Wi-Fi hotspots. “The 3G network access speeds are 7.2 MBps for downloads, and 5.6 MBps for uploads,” says Keote.
Doubles up as a mobile phone
The device can also be used as a video/voice-call smartphone. “The OlivePad has a 3G SIM card slot, which allows it to be used as a super smartphone. Further, there is an auto-focus 3 mega-pixel camera behind the tablet, and a VGA camera in front, making video calling easy. The two built-in speakers, coupled with the A2DP (stereo Bluetooth), and the device’s compatibility with MPEG4 and 3GP file formats for video, makes it an ideal video-calling device,” says Keote.
The strong backing of Android
Further, OlivePad operates on the Android 2.1 operating system. This being an open platform, it allowed Olive Telecom to provide users access to the entire Android applications marketplace, lowered cost barriers, and sped up product development.
“Today, Android is an upcoming operating system, and most mobile device players are moving towards it. Besides, consumers (in India too) are getting more comfortable with the OS. Further, the OS was a perfect fit for our device, as it was built for touchscreen devices like the OlivePad,” says Keote.
But has Android lived up to expectations? Yes, it has, says Keote. “Time to market was a huge challenge, as we wanted the first-mover advantage. Android has helped a lot there, as it comes with a standard OS and an SDK that allowed us to customise it easily, resulting in faster time to market. The base Android OS was first customised on a lower level, wherein network parameters were preloaded, etc. Thereafter, there was a second level of customisation at the user interface level, which included market-specific applications,” says Keote.
Talking about market-specific applications, the Android Market gives the user access to 70,000 downloadable applications. Further, Olive Telecom is moving fast on its own. “OlivePad is working on embedding a map application, apart from Google Maps, for which one needs data connectivity. This application, developed by Map My India, allows the user to get the most minute details, like turn-by-turn directions. Further, we are working on the specifications of a Web-based application that would allow people to watch good-quality live TV on our 17+ cm device. We are still in talks with vendors, and will be embedding this application in our product soon,” says Keote. Some of these embedded applications will be free, while some will be paid for. “The map application is free, and we hope to offer free service for the mobile TV application for the first three to six months. Thereafter, it will be a paid service,” says Keote.
But, are one or two applications specific to the device enough, especially when the main competitor, Apple’s iPad, has the backing of 200,000 applications from the Apple App Store, of which 23,000 are exclusively for the iPad? “We have an in-house application development team, but it is a huge challenge to develop everything internally. We do realise the need to collaborate with third-party developers, and are in talks with them to create apps that can be found on the OlivePad. We are already receiving calls to build consumer and enterprise applications for OlivePad. We are mostly looking at embedding applications with a local flavour. We also plan to have a developer challenge to build Android applications specific to the OlivePad, and will offer incentives to third-party developers, similar to our competitors,” says Keote.
Support has been a constant problem for open source OS devices. The OlivePad, however, has a good strategy. Apart from the India service network of 211 customer-friendly service centres, customer care will be available on a toll-free dial-in number, 1800 266 65483. Along with this, Google will provide support for the OS, but inherent software issues pertaining to the OS and embedded applications will be taken care of by Olive Telecom.
The OlivePad comes with a 3240 mAh battery, providing 400-500 hours in standby mode. The display is power efficient; and the device offers micro-SD card storage, expandable up to 32 GB. The OlivePad is based on the new Qualcomm MSM7227 chip-set, which, according to Keote, fitted right into the firm’s strategy of going for neither a very high-end nor a very low-end processor. “The 600 MHz Qualcomm processor is just right for the OlivePad, in terms of processing speed. Further, it gave us the leverage to launch the OlivePad as a video/voice device,” says Keote.
|A quick comparison|
|Price (in INR)||32,000 to 36,000 (approx.)||25,000||15,700 to 38,400 (approx.)|
The Indian connection from scratch
About 70 per cent of the work on OlivePad has happened in India. A team of 50 R&D professionals spent six months working on specifications development, testing, design, and software development for the OlivePad.
Roadmap for the future
Looking ahead, Olive Telecom is working on upgrading the OlivePad to Android 2.2 (Froyo), and expanding to other markets. “Starting from India, we will be looking at the Indonesian and Philippine markets in Asia, and then moving forward to Russia, Belarus, etc. There has been significant interest even in the UK and America. Our strategy will remain similar — with a local accent,” says Khanna.