Touch and go: iPad’s rival to cost just €27

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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