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Saturday, February 17, 2007

RH: A Future-proof PC, Sony?

From: Robert Ho (ho3@pacific.net.sg)
Subject: RH: A Future-proof PC, Sony?

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Newsgroups: soc.culture.singapore
Date: 2004-03-09 06:10:40 PST


Dear Sony,

1. For the past 10 years or more, personal computers (pc's) have
improved very, very fast. New Intel CPUs have come out every few
months. Hard disk drives improve also every few months. New SDRAM
chips improve also every few months. New buses improve also every few
months. New Microsoft operating systems improve every year. Therefore, new models of pc's are made every few months.

2. All these improvements are generally good. But they make pc's
expensive and buyers hesitate to buy because they don't want something that will be out of date in a few months.

3. PC and parts manufacturers have to very quickly write off
investments in plant and machinery because the parts are no longer up
to date. On the other hand, they also have to invest in NEW plant and
machinery to make the new, improved and better parts and pc's. These
all cost money. On the one hand, pc and parts manufacturers have a
very short time to make back their investment money and they have to
charge high prices for their NEW products to make back their
investments in NEW plant and machinery. This is why pc's are still
quite expensive and there is no such thing as a pc that sells for
under US$200. This suggestion of mine is to suggest that Sony, as the
world's largest maker of consumer electronics, produce a range of pc's that are as cheap as a Sony VCR and most importantly, LAST FOR MANY YEARS WITHOUT BECOMING OUT OF DATE.

4. In other words, we have to come up with a New Busines Model of
doing things. We should not just blindly keep making pc's with better
and better features and then keep trying to sell these to the early
adopters or those upgrading from old models. We need to produce a
range of pc's that will have STANDARD PARTS that are easy for Sony
salesmen to understand and sell worldwide; and Sony spare parts
departments to keep in stock for many years so that these STANDARD PCs can be repaired and serviced for many years.

5. The simplest of these FUTURE-PROOF PCs can be price-point targeted at UNDER US$200 or thereabouts. For example, it can be a Pentium III
of about 733MHz, 128MB SDRAM, 10G hard disk drive and run Windows 98
Second Edition. In other words, this Business Model is to give up
chasing the "latest and greatest" and to concentrate on VALUE so that
even the poorest family in Asia or Africa or South America can afford
one. This can be a socially important thing as well as profitable for

6. A whole range of pc's can be developed, from the basic Under
US$200 model to the latest one running Windows XP. The important thing is to use STANDARD PARTS that will not change for a few years. Your Sony salesmen, repair technicians, etc, will become experts in these few models and will be able to support them for many years.
Independent service technicians will also become very capable in
servicing and repairing these pc's so the cost of servicing and
repairs will also go down.

7. By using standard parts that are "frozen in time", you will be
able to produce them for much longer than is now possible. Your plant
and machinery will have more years to make back their original
investment costs. This will make it possible to produce the pc's more
cheaply. Even old chip plants will have business to continue producing these standard parts instead of having to retool everything to produce newer and newer parts that won't last long.

8. In other words, you will make these range of pc's as though they
are Sony Consumer Electronics products. Each will last several years.
Sony will guarantee that service, repair and spare parts will be
available for at least 4 or 5 years, etc, from date of purchase. This
is important.

9. If Sony alone does not have the volume to do this, Sony can join
up with others like Toshiba, Panasonic, Sharp, Acer, Dell, Hewlett
Packard, etc, to produce standard pc's.

10. If there is enough volume, even software makers will want to make
their software compatible with these standard pc's. For example, you
can create a standard logo for the software (or even hardware) that
says "Compatible with FPCs" (FPCs means Future-Proof Computers). If
there are many models of FPCs, then you may have to give them Version
Numbers, like, FPC 00001, etc.

11. I believe that now is the right time to produce FPCs. More and
more people are refusing to change their pc's every few years. More
and more people are refusing to change to new Windows operating
systems. Most people are happy enough with Windows 98 SE, which is a
good system. Most software makers make their new software compatible
with Win98SE and if you push for FPCs, most of them will make all
their new software compatible. For Microsoft, selling more Win98SE
licences is better than no sale at all, so Microsoft can sell it very, very cheaply and still make money. If Microsoft does not want to sell it cheaply, you can always try Linux, which is free.

12. These FPCs, especially the basic model, can create a whole NEW
MARKET that now cannot afford a pc. It can mean a profitable new
Business Model. It can bring the joy and wonders of the computer to
large portions of the world that now cannot afford it. Because it is
standard and predictable, it will become EASY to learn (and for the
teachers to teach), EASY to repair, EASY to swap parts and salvage
parts of FPCs beyond repair. It will make the pc EASY to large numbers of people in the world. With FPCs, there will be less need for expensive repair and service technicians. Many more people will be able to diagnose and repair FPCs. It will be just what the poorer
parts of the world need. Poor Governments can afford many for their
children's education. The established body of knowledge that will be
compiled for each FPC (in every language) will mean that anyone can
learn this EASY pc. It can become EASIER than a Sony VCR!

13. I hope you will consider this suggestion. If this suggestion makes money for you, you owe me one.

Robert Ho
13 Jun 02


1. My mistake was to send this email to Sony. Sony has a culture of
being 'innovative' and 'inventing the next big thing'. Thus, they
probably took one look at this idea and shrank back in horror, "What?
Make 'old' PCs?"

In other words, it is more a marketing idea than a technical one and
the Japanese traditionally, have been better at manufacturing than

2. However, it is also possible that Sony alone does not have the
volume to make the idea work. It takes millions of these FPCs to be in use around the world before new hardware and software makers feel
compelled to make their new offerings backward compatible with FPCs,
which is necessary.

Also, it is difficult for Sony to try to lead a consortium of pc
makers to gain the volume necessary for FPCs to take off. It is far
easier to do things in your own company than to persuade and lead
others in a consortium. This is a problem of companies, like
individuals, having difficulty getting together.

3. Having said all that, there may be enough volume in China and
India to make the idea work. Each has proven expertise in the pc
business. Each has a huge market. Each would be able to offer a
low-cost FPC and still make money in a way that American companies
would not be interested in. So, perhaps, China and India would like to take up this idea?

4. If the UN is interested in more than just lip service on 'bridging the digital divide' between rich and poor, then it could take up this idea and push it. All it takes is a push and some organisation. The rest of the idea is so easy that it sells itself.

5. It is a win-win idea for everybody. The poor in every country
would be able to buy one. Schools would be able to buy many. Makers
would be able to make money [don't forget my share]. And a huge, new
market would be opened up which would otherwise not exist. And this
huge, new market would hardly cannibalise existing or future markets
because it creates its own market instead of most existing or new
technologies which have to compete to even survive.

6. And yes, it cuts wastes, too.

Robert Ho
10 Mar 04
UK 1402 Singapore 2202