Malaysian company debuts first local tablet, 1Malaysia Pad. Yay or nay?

Malaysian company, MalTech Pro, debuts their own Android powered tablet.

Couple of days ago, there was an announcement which caught our attention: Malaysia is debutting its very own tablet called 1Malaysia Pad. Developed by MalTechPro Sdn Bhd, the tablet is the first Malaysian made tablet, and will join the array of tablet products in competing for a piece of the Malaysian market, which was reported earlier this month as the largest tablet market in Southeast Asia. The tablet is priced at an introductory price of RM999 (US$ 320), which is RM200(US$65) cheaper than Apple’s iPad 2 and RM150 (US$48) cheaper than Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Differentiating factor for 1Malaysia Pad

To compete with the other tablets out there, MalTechPro differentiates itself by being able to customize and build apps for corporate clients who are interested in bulk buying the 1Malaysia Pad. “Let’s say a company wants 500 units. We can customise the apps to do whatever they need, and these apps will be exclusive to that particular company,” Datuk Sohaimi Shahadan, MalTechPro Executive Chairman, also the exco of the UMNO Youth, said during the product’s soft launch.

Responses from Malaysia’s tech forum: Lowyat on 1Malaysia Pad’s specs

The 7 inch 1Malaysia Pad which runs on Android Gingerbread Operating system, comes with two cameras – 3.0 megapixel device at the back and a 0.3 megapixel in the front. Other specs include WiFi and 3G data capabilities, a Li-Polymer 4000mAH battery and a 32GB micro SD memory card. There has been quite a number of discussion on Malaysia’s main gadget forum, Lowyat.net on whether the 1Malaysia pad will be usable, and taking a look at the Android Gingerbread build, which is Android’s version 2.3 (latest build = 4.04), the 1Malaysia Pad seemed somewhat unconvincing to tech savvy Malaysians in Malaysia. Most of the forum users seemed to agreed on this, which saw comments such as “boleh untuk baling anjing” (loosely translate as, “can be used to throw at dogs.”) on the forum. Many of the users on Lowyat too commented that the unimpressive tablet bears much similarity to tablets sold in China.

Photo: 1Malaysia Pad vs NextBook

What does local developer has to say

When reached out to local developer on his comments of the 1Malaysia Pad, Felix Leong, who help runs WebCamp KL questions the motivation and logic behind the 1Malaysia Pad. Assuming the tablet is launched with government financial backing (considering the background of the executive chairman and the usage of the 1Malaysia tagline), the question of what problem are they trying to solve with the launch of 1Malaysia Pad comes to Felix’s mind.

“I seriously doubt a cheap tablet is going to help to boost IT literacy among Malaysians, especially the rural poor. After all, being priced at RM999 (66% of the first generation Samsung Galaxy Tab if my memory serve me right), the rural poor must be able afford it together with a bundle broadband package to reap the complete benefits. But wait, isn’t the 1Malaysia Pad supposed to be a private business venture? As a private business venture, I’d probably say “nice try, good luck”. But if my assumption that it’s meant to be a national initiative (read: government) towards something, I really can’t understand what’s the logic and big goal that they are trying to achieve other than just happily slapping the 1Malaysia slogan on everything they can see.”

If its objective is to increase the literacy or helping students, the steep price might be counter effective. Thailand, Malaysia’s neighbouring country, seemed to be able to do a better job as it recently launched what is called the world largest educational tablet distribution to its first graders in hopes to trigger an education revolution. The seven inch tablet too comes at a cheaper price USD$81 (RM251) at a higher specs (Android Icecream Sandwich 1GB of RAM together with 8GB of storage and the feature of GPS), which makes one wonder, how is Thailand able to provide its educational tablet at such a low price point while 1Malaysia Pad could not do so?

1Malaysia Pad vs NextBook offered as a group buying deal

Digging a bit deeper, we also stumbled upon a recent tablet deal offered by Groupsmore (Groupon Malaysia), concluded on October 2011. The deal saw DinoDirect offering its Nextbook premium 7Android Tablet for RM499 instead of RM1260. The 7 inch Nextbook which also runs on Gingerbread 2.3, has quite a similar specs with the 1Malaysia pad. The similarities between the NextBook and the 1Malaysia Pad in terms of hardware specifications indicates that the 1Malaysia Pad may have a large profit margin, which defeats the purpose of appealing to the lower income group in Malaysia.

Photo: Groupsmore's NextBook deal

New players in the 7 inch tablet market

Finally, as Google and Asus is rumored to be jointly releasing its new 7 inch tablet to the market this coming June, which comes pre-loaded with the next version of Android, perhaps it would be more convincing for 1Malaysia Pad to launch an equivalent version of an Android tablet device, rather than a scaled down version of it. Apple too is also rumored to be be debutting its own 7 inch iPad at USD$200 – USD$250 in October 2012.

Jacky Yap

Having spent one year abroad in Shanghai under the NUS Overseas College Programme, Jacky has an avid interest in entrepreneurship and web based startups. Jacky used to run N-House, Singapore's first entrepreneurial themed residence in NUS, and was also part of the organizing team for Startup Weekend Singapore 2012. You can reach him at jacky [at] e27 [dot] co

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