From the Press Release for zha-kanini
introduction function on 01 February 2004, at Loyola College
Hall, Chennai, TamilNadu:
Will a Tamil PC Sell? Is there a real need for a TamilPC or
is it just hype? Can I afford it? Is English knowledge a
prerequisite to own a PC? Would a not-so-computer-savvy person
like me find it easy? Attendees of zha-kanini introduction
function on 01 February 2004, came with dozens of such questions
in their minds. Lawrence Sundaram Hall at Loyola College Chennai
was filled with curious faces from diverse backgrounds. They had
assembled to witness the launch of Zha Kanini, a Linux-based
all-Tamil PC developed by TamilPC Team, Chennai.
Many of the 250-strong attendees had come on the open invitation
of Writer Sujatha Rangarajan in Ananda Vikatan, a popular Tamil
weekly, to have a look at zha-kanini. Zha kanini is an answer to
the computing needs of not-so-computer-savvy,
non-English-speaking value-conscious segment of the Tamil
population. A good number of student enthusiasts, press people
also attended the meeting.
The agenda of the meeting was to showcase the 95%-complete Tamil
version of Linux KDE Desktop and to gauge the response levels of
various segments to such a product, apart from seeking funds for
further development. With the help of volunteers from various
fields, Zha-kanini Team has managed to accelerate the
translation process which was collaboratively done by various
individuals and groups across the globe at a slow pace.
Mr Ma Sivakumar explained the concept of Open Source and how
developing countries can leverage on this. "Free in open source
means freedom, and not free-of-cost", he clarified. "Since the
ongoing Internationalization process was going at a sluggish
pace, it was the need of the hour to integrate resources from
various fronts to accelerate and keep Tamil ahead".
Ms Jayaradha, of the zha-kanini team welcomed the audience with
a brief introduction to the product. She had spearheaded the
accelerated translation process by running a series of
translathons by Tamil & Linux enthusiasts and roping in MOP
Vaishnav & Loyola College students into the task.
Mr Rangarajan (better known as Sujatha), who has been
pivotal in the entire project, explained about the product
and its scope. He began his speech describing how it all
started from his article in Vikatan 'Dollar bait by Bill
Gates'. He explained how the translation team had worked on
intuition and user-friendliness than translating verbatim.
The mammoth task of translating 70,000 strings was made
possible due to his able guidance and tireless efforts of
The mission of the zha-kanini team is to bring out an
easy-to-use all-Tamil computer to benefit the Tamil masses
without English knowledge and Computer literacy. The team which
set out its journey as TamilPC team has branded its product 'zha-kanini'
named after the special alphabet 'zha' in Tamil (kanini is the
Tamil word for Computer).
Mr Shanthakumar outlined the roadmap for zha discussing the
market potential for Tamil Computers. IDC predicting a whopping
30 Lakhs PC Sales for the year and 52% expected to be in
non-metros, there is huge market potential for a low-cost,
all-Tamil computer, he illustrated. Zha team solicited active or
passive investment support from companies with interest in
Tamil, Computing or Philanthropy. State/Central Governments are
also welcome, Shanthakumar added.
The question & answer session that followed the presentations
was an eye-opener breaking several apprehensions of users.
Queries relating to technical aspects of Linux, Tamil fonts,
usage, translation bugs were also answered.
Mr Hariram demonstrated zha kanini. A browser, a mail-client,
OpenOffice suite and a few games were shown. In its current
form, zha is nothing but a completely localised KDE desktop. But
the team is planning for simplification of the Desktop so that a
layperson without computer knowledge can find it intuitive and
Mrs Leena explained the CD-based installation procedure. She
demonstrated installation of Zha KDE, Zha OpenOffice, and Zha
Keyboard. The CD is just an interim solution till zha evolves
further. The team is planning for factory integration of
Hardware-OS, as Apple does (Sun is also planning for the same).
The zha-kanini CD was released by Mr Sujatha Rangarajan and the
first copy was received by Professor Krishnamurthy. The team
also felicitated the students and management of MOP Vaishnav
College and Loyola College for their contribution.
At the end of the function, many people were seen buying CDs to
try out zha kanini KDE. The crowd dissolving after the function
seemed convinced that zha is their dream machine: an affordable,
easy-to-use, intuitive and yes, all-Tamil Computer.