Adam, India’s challenger to iPad, winning big

Notion Ink’s Adam tablet computer looks like India’s first winning computer product on the international market. It is poised to do what the Simputer, the hand-held computer of 1990s vintage, promised to do but fell disappointingly short.

At this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas – the show that can make or break a product – the Bangalore-based startup was unofficially crowned the best challenger to Apple’s iPad. That is high praise for a product whose details have been scant so far.

Taking a cue from Steve Jobs, or merely reflecting the culture of Silicon Valley startups, Notion Ink has stubbornly remained secretive, sharing little since announcing the Adam over a year ago. Until this week, nobody had touched the Adam, much less used it. The most anyone knew was it would use the Android operating system, developed from open source by Google, and use an Nvidia Tegra processor, a mystery since it was a processor untested on tablet PCs.

Notion Ink’s chutzpah seems to have paid off big. It selectively leaked details and published teasers on its own web site, all of which was enough to make users seek the Adam. Even when it began accepting pre-orders on its Web site, it had revealed little. Senitill, users flocked to place orders, crashing the site. Soon, the company also closed pre-orders saying its planned initial run had been sold out.

Of course, we now know a lot more about Adam, thanks to Engadget and Slashgear. Writers at these two blogs were given hands-on time on the Adam, as Notion Ink ignored high-profile writers such as Walt Mossberg or high-profile tech sites such as TechCrunch. Both blogs came out with glowing reviews, placing it ahead of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and even the iPad on several fronts. Crucially, they give a thumbs up to the Nvidia Tegra processor, and its graphics capability and to its all-plastic body. At least one blog hails Notion Ink’s own user interface, called Eden.

So, who are these guys who came up with the Adam?

Shravan and his co-founders are all from the famed IITs. Some are from IIT-Delhi and some others are from IIT-Kharagpur. Shravan has experience in industrial design and embedded electronic devices. We don’t know too much about the others but I suspect most have never worked abroad or for any large computer company. Regardless, I think we have a big winner.