MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Umno businessman denies 1MPad a 'crony' project

Although the tablet computer 1Malaysia Pad (1MPad) is yet to be seen in the market, it has already drawn a lot of harsh criticisms on the Internet.

Netizens are picking on its outdated software, "exorbitant price" and even exposed the executive chairman of the company that designed and produced the tablet computer, MalTechPro Sdn Bhd, as an Umno Youth leader.

NONEIn a telephone interview withMalaysiakini yesterday, MalTechPro executive chairman Sohaimi Shahadan (left) admitted to being an Umno member, but insisted that 1MPad is not a "crony project".

"I am indeed an Umno man... everyone can do business in Malaysia, whether you are from MIC, MCA, PKR, DAP or other political parties."

"Why is 1MPad called a crony (project)? Do we have to propose that Umno people cannot be involved in business?" Sohaimi asked.

Sohaimi is a member of the Umno Youth executive council and thehead of its economic and entrepreneur development bureau. 

He came under the spotlight before, when it was reported that he was among those involved in the infamous "cow head protest" in front of the Selangor state secretariat building. However, Sohaimi denied that he had instigated the protest.

Overpriced, if compared with other tablets

MalTechPro, which is 35 percent owned by Sohaimi, last Thursday invited Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Ismail Sabri to launch the 1MPad, which features a seven- inch screen and has call and camera functions. 

Some 5,000 units of 1MPad will be put on sale from next month, at RM999 each.

However, netizens and technology writers feel that it is overpriced, if compared with other tablet computers in the market.

"At its current high price listed, the tablet doesn't appear to be a fantastic deal," says technology website Engadget.com's senior associate editor Zach Honig.

Some also pointed out that an Ipad2 with minimum specifications costs only RM1,199 or a mere RM200 more than the 1MPad.

NONEIn addition, the tablet computer runs on the Andriod Gingerbread 2.3 operating system, which is considered outdated if compared with the latest Andriod 4.0 operating system, which is widely knowly as Ice Cream Sandwich.

The price is also seen as ridiculous, considering that the Thai government recently signed a deal with a manufacturer from China to provide seven- inch tablet computers equipped with the Andriod 4.0 operating system.

These tablet computers are to be provided to every Thai school child aged six to eight years at a price of US$81 or RM256 a unit, a comparison chart that went viral on Facebook points out.

DAP's Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi, who is familiar with the latest developments in computer technology, told Malaysiakini that a tablet computer with specifications similar to the 1MPad if mass produced in Shenzhen, China, would cost only US$110 to US$120 - or RM347 to RM380 a unit.

‘No government funds involved'

Some netizens also expressed concern that the price of the 1MPad would be subsidised by the government if forced on the 1.4 million university students under a discount card programme that covers the students.

"The price is too expensive. RM999 each for the first 5,000 units only. The news report also says it might substitute the 1Malaysia Netbook, which is now used by the students. At the end, the cost will still be borne by taxpayers," says a netizen in the Cari Chinese Forum who calls himself San Ye Cao Fu.

However, Sohaimi denied that the product, named with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's political slogan 1Malaysia, would be provided with subsidy from the government.

"All is done by me (and my business partners) on our own. It has nothing to do with the government."

NONESohaimi said any discount given to students would be borne by MalTechPro, as it is part of the company's corporate social responsibility.

The company would never persuade the government to make it compulsory for every student to buy the 1MPad as MalTechPro's intention is to give consumers an alternative to the dominant Apple Ipad and Samsung Galaxy Tab.

"Purchase at your liberty... We will not ask the government to provide every student with a 1MPad."

Asked whether the tablet was overpriced, Sohaimi replied, "Those who want to buy Ipad can still buy it at their liberty. We just want to provide an alternative."

Manufactured locally, not in China

He also denied that 1MPad was manufactured in China, as widely speculated by netizens. Sohaimi said it was produced at an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) plant in Selangor.

"However, the sources of the components are mixed, some are imported and some are locally manufactured."

A search with the Companies Commission of Malaysia showed that MalTechPro was registered only two months ago, on April 5, with a paid-up capital of RM1,000.

Sohaimi is one of the major shareholders, with a 35 percent stake, while the other three shareholders hold stakes of between 10 percent and 35 percent each.

Asked about the "newness" of the company, Sohaimi said MalTechPro was only one of the subsidiary companies that he and his partners had set up for their businesses, and that they have a "parent company".

However, he refused to name parent company and would only say that he has been involved in businesses for 15 years and that he and his partners have set up some 20 companies in all.

They have enough capital to expand the 1MPad business if needed. Therefore, the fact that MalTechPro's paid-up capital is only RM1,000 is irrelevant.

"We have a lot of money that we can pump into the company anytime," Sohaimi said.

"I am not a government official and this is not the first day of my business. So, there is no issue (of me) using government funds in this business."

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