Wednesday, December 22, 2010

India's iPad Killer Sold Out, But Creates Controversy Too!

. Wednesday, December 22, 2010

By stockOzone team

Rohan Shravan and his Adam tablet PC have once again brought on something of an online delirium amongst gadget freaks and technophiles around the world.

Shravan's Bangalore-based company Notion Ink opened up the Android-based tablet for pre-orders earlier this month and the tablets were sold out within days. Notion Ink's homepage has a big `Sold out' sign. This has, however, been accompanied by a good amount of controversy.

But before we get into that, here's something to jog everybody's memories about Adam. The tablet first generated enormous buzz when an early prototype was demonstrated at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show), the world's largest consumer tech trade show in Las Vegas in January this year. It has since been seen as a worthy challenger to the Apple iPad. The company, founded by six IITians and an MBA graduate, all aged between 23 and 25 years, was initially based in Hyderabad but shifted to Bangalore earlier this year.

Adam is said to be the first device in the world to integrate two breakthrough power saving components -- nVidia's Tegra 2 chip and a Pixel Qi screen. Together, they are expected to help it achieve twice the battery life and performance of the iPad. The Pixel Qi screen has been one of the reasons for the pre-order scramble, it allows you to read in bright sunlight like an e-reader. With the backlight off, the company claims it can increase battery life between charges by a factor of five.

Many of these claims are not fully verified yet. And that was one of the reasons for the controversy during pre-order, apart from the fact that the pre-order process itself was marred by server crashes, and what potential buyers described online as an unprofessional approach by Notion Ink to dealing with the issues. "Handling transaction with an untested system definitely scares away customers. I do not want to use my credit card in a system which is unstable in the first place," wrote one person.

The biggest grouse, however, has been that next to nothing has so far been seen of the final product. The company has been very secretive. Prior to the pre-orders, it did not offer the product for reviews by experts. Some would say Apple too is secretive to the extreme, but others point out that Notion Ink being a startup cannot act the same way.

Shravan responded to the criticism with explanations and an apology. He wrote in his blog: "CES (in Las Vegas next month) is where we intended to demo, show everything and allow for review, else there is no point for a good CES event. Pre-order was essentially for those who wanted to pre-book before Adam goes out of stock...But now reading your comments it feels extremely unfair on our part in not releasing videos, run through and other important things you need to know."

On December 19, he promised in his blog that Notion Ink would be sharing one video per day per application or principle that comes with Adam. And since then, videos showcasing the product have been available on sites like Android Police, a source for Android news and applications. Shravan also answered numerous questions from readers of Android Police.

One of the first videos shows Adam working for a heavy user, by keeping a number of applications and panels open simultaneously, something that the iPad cannot do.

Criticisms appear to have been tempered since the videos started appearing. There is also a lot of appreciation. "I like the UI (user interface) which automatically arranges the open apps in panels which can be easily viewed and arranged; efficient way of working with multiple applications," said one online comment.

But there are also other comments such as this: "Buy yourself a good laptop. These type of devices are not supposed to be this bulky, heavy and expensive." There has been some criticism that prices of some versions, especially those with Pixel Qi, are higher than promised earlier. Adam prices range between $375 and $550.

Notion Ink's secrecy, combined with some interpretations, has also provoked to suggest that Notion Ink might just be using a ready-made solution sold by Foxconn or some other ODM (original design manufacturer) with a custom outer cover and UI. "No that isn't bad, but makes clear to me that Notion Ink isn't developing the internals of the tablet, just the attachments like the camera placement, body and UI," says the site.

We sent a mail to Shravan asking for a response to the latest issues, but did not receive a response at the time of going to print. However, he seems to recognize the challenges he is up against. He writes in his blog: "Involving everyone in the process of creation has its benefits and losses...We are learning. As we have said earlier, we are here to stay. Ups and downs are a part of any journey, but we will try to smoothen the process for anyone who is linked to us. My next goal is to make Notion Ink best in its customer relations and whole of my energy will go into making this happen...Warm thanks for those who still support, apologies to those who felt disappointed. But as of now seeking more strength."

CES in Las Vegas from January 6 to 9 will give some indication of how far this little Indian company may go.
Disclosure: None.

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