Do you have an old computer monitor that’s gathering dust someone in the corner of your house? Or do you have plans to buy a new PC for performing only basic computing tasks like writing documents, email, chatting, browsing websites, etc.

airtel net pcIf you said yes to any of the above questions, read this.

Bharti Airtel, the largest mobile operator here, has just launched a new device called Net PC, which as the name suggests, is a low cost computer designed specifically for cloud computing. The device is powered by Windows XP (not Linux as you would expect) and costs INR 5,000 (or $100) in India.

To get started, you just have to plug in the USB modem or the broadband Ethernet cable into the Net PC and you’re ready to go. The device weighs a mere 500 grams and is small enough (11.5cm x 11.5cm x 3.5cm) to fit in one of your trouser pockets.

When you think cloud computing, the first thing that strikes your mind is Google Docs but surprisingly, Airtel’s cloud computer comes pre-loaded with a rental copy of Microsoft Office so you can work on those documents and presentations even while you are not connected to the Internet.

Airtel Net PC is a subscription based device so you also need to pay a monthly rent for using the software in addition to your broadband bill.

To give you an example, the minimum plan costs somewhere around Rs 700 per month where Rs 200 is the software rent while you pay the rest for DSL broadband. This plan will get you 3GB of data transfer (at 256 KB/s), 10 GB of online storage space and a copy of Microsoft Office Standard that also includes Microsoft Outlook for your email needs. You can also transfer data out the Net PC box using any of the available USB ports.

The downside is that you can don’t have the privilege to install new software on the device so can’t use[*] Firefox or Google Chrome for browsing as XP only comes with IE. And I am not too sure if the Net PC is locked to Airtel or will it work with broadband services from other providers like Reliance or BSNL.

[*] Though you can’t install new software, I guess it should still be possible to run software that don’t require installation like the portable Google Browser.