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Education Handhelds Portables Linux

India's $35 Tablet Computer 294

NotBornYesterday was one of many readers sending in news that the Indian government has announced it is helping to develop a $35 tablet computer running Linux. "India has unveiled the prototype of a $35 basic touchscreen tablet aimed at students, which it hopes to bring into production by 2011. The government plans to subsidize the tablets so the cost to students could be $20; and eventually, they hope the cost will fall to $10 per unit. India's human resource development minister, Kapil Sibal, says, 'The motherboard, its chip, the processing, connectivity, all of them cumulatively cost around $35, including memory, display, everything.' Using a memory card instead of a hard drive, and running a Linux OS, the designers have managed to keep the price low, and are now looking for manufacturing partners. The tablet can be used for functions like word processing, Web browsing, and video conferencing. It has a solar power option too, which is important in India's less developed areas, though that add-on costs extra."
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India's $35 Tablet Computer

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  • At that price.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Walterk ( 124748 ) <dublet@NOsPAm.acm.org> on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:16AM (#33002608) Homepage Journal

    Sign me up for one. Maybe 5.

  • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:16AM (#33002614) Homepage

    ...but what kind? TFA didn't make any mention of it (or any specs, for that matter). Anyone have any additional info on this thing?

  • This is for us? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NotSoHeavyD3 ( 1400425 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:21AM (#33002688)
    I mean just doing a quick scan of the article it makes it sound like it's more for Indians (dot, not feather) and other 3rd worlders. You know, people that can't blow a thousand bucks on a computer. If it helps improve their standard of living more power to them. (Hopefully it gets further than that One Laptop thing.)
  • Re:AP link (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:23AM (#33002708) Homepage

    Pics are still less than satisfactory. What goes into this design, and what are the catches ? Slow as hell ? No touchscreen ?

    Incidentially the second part of the article is (potentially) revealing :

    "The aim is to reach such devices to the students of colleges and universities, and to provide these institutions a host of choices of low-cost access devices around Rs 1,500 ($35) or less in near future," the human resources ministry said at the launch of the computer.

    Meaning it's not this tablet that's $35, it's just that they're working on devices like that. Could this mean that they don't actually have device schematics for this device at $35 ?

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:35AM (#33002868) Homepage

    I guess it could have just as well an UI like ATMs or, basically, many "feature phones" - buttons around the screen (is it even color? Or maybe just CSTN, etc.?) corresponding to functionality. That would complicate some stuff of course - but it could even have a full mini keyboard? (mobile phone style? Kindle has it) Throw in USB for some external one, they're inexpensive.

    Or perhaps touchscreens have become in reality cheap enough, we just aren't allowed to experience it... (certainly it seems they can potentially become cheaper? - massively easier mechanical design, not much addition of electroncic stuff)

    I'm really glad from this announcement (and XO-3) - they show what the price really can be. Now, hopefully this category of devices won't be derailed a bit, like what basically happened to netbooks so far...

  • by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:40AM (#33002940)
    The only reason for a government to be involved in financing development of computers is where it is not profitable for private businesses to do so, i.e it's just another subsidy and probably another national pride project. They might get a better bang for the rupee by spending the same money on subsidizing purchases of existing cheap netbooks and such which are much more powerful than this device could possibly be at that price.
  • Re:At that price.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:41AM (#33002958)

    It will likely use a fraction of electricity that a modern laptop uses. If for no other reason than at that price point you can't get batteries with big capacities plus all the other components.

    So the bill won't be higher, even with 5. Now, if you did a beowulf cluster with 1000s, yeah, some pricier components probably will give better performance per electrical unit.

  • by Dashiva Dan ( 1786136 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:43AM (#33002976)
    Looking at the articles and pics of it, it does indeed have a colour screen.
    And your statement brings out my real question:
    If india can make a working tablet for $35 that, while probably underpowered, can do web, email, and wordprocessing,
    Why are the big companies cheapest products $200 or more?
    Hopefully, after (if) these get rolled out in India, the other manufacturers will start competing a little harder.
    Also, if this Indian tablet supports flash, I'll have a nice little chuckle.
  • Re:Here we go again. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:49AM (#33003028) Homepage Journal

    You can get a second-hand tablet for how much?

    I scored an X41 Tablet for about $150 total, with two worn batteries and a busted up stylus. Not a touch screen, but a tablet. Works fine, but that's not $35. I spend more than that for the recovery disk set. Yes, I am that obsessed.

    For even $100, this gives Negroponte's dream a run for the money.

    India strives for self-sufficiency. It;s not cheap to them, it's affordable and sustainable.

  • Re:Innovation! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pankajmay ( 1559865 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:49AM (#33003038)
    Rightly said!
    This is simply an example of countries trying to develop themselves and their resources. It may be shitty compared to what is available in the developed world, but its a start -- we have all paid through our noses for costly micro-processing power that sometimes are pathetically underutilized doing tasks such as browsing and occasional document composition.

    Though I am aware that the original article is sorely lacking details, and it seems more a marketing hype, but even if they manage to do take off with this, it will be marvelous and a little help to millions who at this point cannot even hope to achieve a life with basic necessities, leave alone sitting comfortably ordering a powerful computer.

    This is not for Americans, nor should it be expected that the hardware would be any comparable to what is considered minimal in America, but its a start; an attempt to introduce a bit of technology so people who would otherwise have no chance to even aim for a middle-class life are empowered.
  • Well, sometimes government gets involved because the private business are too busy running around each other to show any kind of creativity and explore a new market. That is not aways, mind you; not even most of the time. It is just that some times that happens.

  • At $35 a piece... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grumpyman ( 849537 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @11:06AM (#33003214)
    Compare to this [aliexpress.com] which is at $85 in volume without shipping, I'm not sure how it can get the cost down to $10. Some very cheap ARM with integrated flash/ram still cost $10.
  • Re:This is for us? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @11:12AM (#33003302) Homepage Journal

    I mean just doing a quick scan of the article it makes it sound like it's more for Indians ... and other 3rd worlders. ... If it helps improve their standard of living more power to them. (Hopefully it gets further than that One Laptop thing.)

    It's weird that this got a "troll" mod, when it's directly to the point. It's especially appropriate in comparison with all the posts saying in essence that it'll be a crappy machine for 1st-world countries. People have missed the point that wealthy populations aren't the intended customers. Don't expect to order one of these from Dell or Amazon. The customers are people whose annual income is less than most /. readers make in a day.

    The OLPC comparison is also relevant. One thing this price point should help with is that we might not see a repeat of Microsoft sending in reps to "talk to" the managers looking to order these machines. That was partially effective at limiting the OLPC, but it's clear that this machine is aimed at a market in areas where Windows is available, but people can't afford it even if they can get it free.

    This thing's main competitors are cheap phones, for which it is an upgrade. Comparing it with first-world laptops and desktops merely shows cluelessness.

    (Actually, comparing it with the iPhone/iPad pair might be relevant. But there's no real competition there, because they're aiming at a market in which an iPhone or iPad costs more than the mean annual income. ;-)

  • Re:Bad FA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tophermeyer ( 1573841 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @11:13AM (#33003308)

    Could not agree more. $35 for this would be incredible, at this price point it is even more attractive than simple e-readers. Like any other tablet this is perfect for portable internet browsing. But at this cheap price I would be more comfortable taking it into the kitchen to read recipes or out to the garage to review car repair walkthroughs, those are things I would not do with a $600 iPad.

    Though one point I wasn't exactly clear on in the article was the subsidy that India would provide to students purchasing this. I wonder if their claimed $35 cost already includes a hypothetical subsidy.

  • Fool me once... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @11:53AM (#33003802)

    This is wonderful. Talk about crashing through the $100 floor.

    Or not. Last year, Indian officials announced a $10 laptop for the masses, which turned out to be much more than $10, and nowhere close to a laptop [indiatimes.com].

    I wouldn't expect much from their "$35 tablet" announced when the OLPC XO-3 tablet is getting some attention.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:04PM (#33003944)

    according to the article the indian government plans to subsidise it so the cost for students would be $20

    The main reason we don't get things that cheap over here is:

    We can afford to pay more.

    It is entierly possible that India can get the components a bit cheaper than we would,
    alot of computer components have a fairly high profit margin and the big costs are up front (building the factories and equipment needed to produce them) , if a manufacturer has spare capacity they might benefit by selling the excess cheaper to the Indian government rather than trying to raise demand by lowering prices overall.

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:06PM (#33003962)

    I'm really glad from this announcement (and XO-3) - they show what the price really can be.

    Well, for some definition of "really can be". This seems to be very simil to the same thing that India first announced as a $10 laptop, then revealed not to be a laptop but to be some kind of device with storage and an LCD screen but no keyboard and actually be likely to cost $30. Now its a tablet with a hoped-for initial $35 price -- without any manufacturer lined up, and with nothing cited supporting the $35 price (and, since no manufacturer is lined up, it almost certainly based on any manufacturer's estimate of what they can actually produce the device for.)

    Its (comparatively) easy to put together a prototype and state a hoped-for mass production price and release date. Its often much harder to get a manufacturer that can mass produce the product at the price and meet the hoped-for release date.

  • Re:Innovation! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:21PM (#33004150)

    This is not for Americans, nor should it be expected that the hardware would be any comparable to what is considered minimal in America, but its a start; an attempt to introduce a bit of technology so people who would otherwise have no chance to even aim for a middle-class life are empowered.

    It should be. I have customers running my software at their office for whom this would be an ideal system for their employees to use in the field. It doesn't have to be a high-powered computer. It just has to be powerful enough to run a field version of my software, and have functioning wireless or an Ethernet port (either will work).

    If the unsubsidized price is low enough, this would have great small business marketability in the U.S.

  • Re:Innovation! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:24PM (#33004184)

    This is not for Americans

    Well, it will be. once someone's gathered the venture capital finance to acquire a company set up specifically to purchase, import, sell for $200, and (most important) squirrel the profits away in a tax-efficient, highly-leveraged off-shore subsidiary.

    Isn't that the American Way?

  • Re:Nice Job (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aicrules ( 819392 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:51PM (#33005244)
    Much like the super cheap car, once it comes to 1st world countries like the U.S. all of the pesky requirements like product safety will add a 300%+ premium to it. You may appreciate not absorbing your daily dose of lead or radiation, or having the possibility of the whole thing exploding, but if those things don't bother you, probably worth importing them yourself!
  • Re:Nice Job (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 23, 2010 @02:30PM (#33005768)

    Now the only question left is: when does it come to a shop near me?

    it won't.

    Making the best product for the least amount of money is not the main driver when designing hi-tech gadgets anymore.
    Keeping control and profit maximizing market segmentation are.

    So this thing will either suck, or it will be artificially made useless for us rich westerners somehow.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter