By Emeka Aginam
THEÂ Nigerian IT market, popularly known as Computer Village in Ikeja, Lagos, is a place where almost anything that has to do with ICT can be purchased. From wired and wireless appliances to cellphones and computer accessories and peripherals, virtually any item of use in the sector is available. But in addition, the market is also home to computer clones, attractingÂ high patronage from many buyers as a result of their relative cheap price.
CyberLIFE gathered that this development has continued to threaten the market for bothÂ foreign and local computer brands, including software developers as majority of software used in cloning are pirated, giving room for viruses.
For one thing, the issue of low priced cloned PCs and accessories is the main crime which branded PC makers have accused cloning experts of in the said market.
Technically, computer cloning, according to experts is a process that involves setting up the operating system, drivers, software, and patches on a single computer, then automatically replicating this same setup on other computers using specialized software. In computing, a clone is a hardware or software system that is designed to mimic another system. Compatibility with the original system is usually the explicit purpose of cloning hardware or low-level software such as operating systems.
However, a close monitoring of market activities last week in the Computer Village by CyberLIFE showed that despite its negative effects on the market of branded computers, computer cloning is growing the Nigerian IT market as a result of its relative cheap price, which makes end users patronise them.
As a result, the computer villageÂ market has grown into a big international market attracting patronage from West African markets including Togo, Ghana, Benin Republic among others.
The main attraction of cloning , according to findings, is pricing, which fits the budget of most end users,Â be it individuals or large organizations. Although both components are the same, further findings from the market indicate that not all branded PCs are compatible with cloned systems
With this development, marketers of both local and foreign PC brands and even software developers hate cloning experts in the Computer Village.
But take it or leave it, cloning has put PCs in the hands of many Nigerians who ordinarily may not afford the price of branded systems.
While branded new PCs in the market may go withinÂ N80,000 to N120,000 depending on the configuration, one can get cloned PCÂ with no warranty for as little as N40,000, according to findings. Also because of the low price which makes them more affordable, many computer pundits, IT training centers, including business centres, and cyber cafes, CyberLIFEÂ learnt,Â go forÂ cloned PCs not taking into consideration of possible implications.
Apart from pricing, the major difference between branded new PCs and cloned PCs,Â it was learnt is on the issue ofÂ Â warranty and life span. Cloned PCs, experts say may not give the expected results compared to branded new PCs which are factory-made with specifications for different models and markets. For many users who are not brand conscious, what matters isÂ functionalityÂ and affordability. The issue of brand does not mean much in as much as the PC can serve.
Although cloning may seen by many as a threatÂ to PCs brands, the apparent truth is that it has created jobs for may Nigerian hardware engineers thereby putting computers in many Nigerian homes.
â€œBut there is nothing wrong with cloning a PC. It is cheap for ordinary man. It has created jobs for many young Nigerians who couldÂ have been roaming the streets of major commercial nerve centres across the nation looking for jobs that are not enough to go round. Functionality is the key issue in a PC. Branding is not a big deal in as much the product can serve the user, be it individual or large organizations,â€ Mr Jude Egbumoke, Managing Director of Digital Warehouse, a hardware vendor in the computer village told CyberLIFE in an interaction last week in Lagos.
According to him, used or cloned PCs are the toast of many users as a result of the price, given the fact that many users cannotÂ afford new products.
â€œNot many can afford local brands like Beta Computers, Brian Computers, Zinox or Omatek. Not many users can also afford foreign brands like HP, Dell or IBM. So pricing is the issue. A lot of students now own PCs because of their of the availability of used or cloned PCs in the computer village,â€ he added, saying the only difference between cloned PCs and branded ones is the brand name, insisting tha the quality remains the same.
For David Okoye, a software engineer in the computer village too, both branded and cloned PCs have the same components manufactured by the company either in China or Dubai. Cloned systems, he said come without warranty but have the same funtionalities with the branded.system.
â€œLow income earners and large training organizationsÂ will always go for cloned systems which give the same value as branded systems. It is like a local tailor sowing clothes for people and branded companiess selling the material for people too. There is no difference except PC brands will give some warranty. But we have many creative clone experts who can compete with engineers working for foreign brands,â€ he said.
For the end users, the cloned PC can also serve the same purpose. â€œI have a system configured by a hardware engineer in the Computer Village. This is my third year of using it. It has never given me any problem unlike what people will think,â€ Morenike Adekoya said in an interaction at the University of Lagos business centre.
According to her, cloned systems whose price are relatively cheaper have the same software and hardware that the branded ones have, adding that the life span are same except that cloned systems may not come with warranty. But it serves the purpose.
â€œHowever, depending on the type of software you use, cloning can be done using a disk or other media, or over a network. No matter what software you use, cloning allows you to efficiently set up multiple computers, and can be done at any organization where you want to ensure that every workstation is configured the same way and with the same software,â€ she added.
For keen observers, there are obvious reasons to clone computers in a community technology center, but cloning according to them can also be a huge help for any organization that needs to configure multiple computers at once.
Setting up just one workstation manually, experts say,Â can take anywhere from a couple hours to an entire day; deploying an image on the same machine, in contrast, takes much less time. However, cloning works, experts say, isÂ best if all of the computers youâ€™re configuring have the same hardware and devices.
It would be recalled thatÂ when IBM announced the IBM PC in 1981, other companies such as Compaq decided to offer clones of the PC as a legal reimplementation from the PCâ€™s documentation or reverse engineering.
Because most of the components, except the PCâ€™s BIOS, were publicly available, all Compaq had to do was reverse-engineer the BIOS.
The result was a machine with better value than the archetypes that the machines resembled. The use of the term â€œPC cloneâ€ to describe IBM PC compatible computers fell out of use in the 1990s; the class of machines it now describes are simply called PCs.