IT looks like an iPad, only it’s 1/14th the cost: India has unveiled the prototype of a $35 (€27) basic touchscreen tablet aimed at students, which it hopes to bring into production by 2011.
If the government can find a manufacturer, the Linux operating system-based computer would be the latest in a string of “world’s cheapest” innovations to hit the market out of India, which is home to the 100,000 rupee (€1,653) compact Nano car, the 749 rupees (€12) water purifier and the €1,555 open-heart surgery.
The tablet can be used for functions like word processing, web browsing and video-conferencing.
It has a solar power option too – important for India’s energy-starved hinterlands – though that add-on costs extra.
“This is our answer to MIT’s $100 computer,” human resource development minister Kapil Sibal told the Economic Times when he unveiled the device on Thursday.
In 2005, Nicholas Negroponte – co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab – unveiled a prototype of a $100 laptop for children in the developing world.
India rejected that as too expensive and embarked on a multi-year effort to develop a cheaper option of its own.
Negroponte’s laptop ended up costing about $200, but in May his nonprofit association, One Laptop Per Child, said it plans to launch a basic tablet computer for $99.
Sibal turned to students and professors at India’s elite technical universities to develop the $35 tablet after receiving a “lukewarm” response from private sector players.
He hopes to get the cost down to $10 eventually.
Mamta Varma, a ministry spokeswoman, said falling hardware costs and intelligent design make the price tag plausible.
The tablet doesn’t have a hard disk, but instead uses a memory card, much like a mobile phone.
Ms Varma said several global manufacturers have shown interest in making the low-cost device, but no manufacturing or distribution deals have been finalised. India plans to subsidise the cost of the tablet for its students, bringing the purchase price down to about $20.
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