India's $10 Laptop Isn't A Laptop… And Nobody's Sure Exactly What It Is

from the land-of-confusion dept

Earlier in the week, I posted that a new cheap laptop initiative from the Indian government was following the OLPC project’s strategy of forging ahead on its own, instead of collaborating with market players and taking advantage of the benefits such collaboration could offer. Some more details about the project have emerged, and I’m glad to report they weren’t doing what I predicted, in that they didn’t launch a new student-focused netbook; instead, they launched… well, this thing that isn’t a laptop. The problem is it’s not very clear at all what, exactly, the device is. The Times of India calls it “a damp squib,” and a storage device that could lead to the development of a $60 laptop. Photos aren’t a lot of help, nor is the description that it “helps e-learners access the Web easily.” Even the most detailed list of specs doesn’t help. As far as we can tell, it’s some sort of glorified 2GB thumb drive, in a 10-inch by 5-inch case, that may or may not include some networking technology. It’s somehow related to a project to put textbook information online so it can more easily be accessed in remote parts of the country. So, congrats to the Indian government for not going down the laptop path, but if they could better explain just what they hell they have made, everybody would be grateful.

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Comments on “India's $10 Laptop Isn't A Laptop… And Nobody's Sure Exactly What It Is”

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Kirk says:

A Guess

The 10” long and 5” wide hand-held device, resembling a palmtop or a modem, helps e-learners access the Web easily. Priced versions of e-content available on the Net can be accessed through this device.

Priced content. Could it be somekind of decryption module, with each unit using a unique key? If so, it’s a pity. Some are still focused on locking up content. Here’s hoping that’s a silly guess.

Jeff (profile) says:

What it sounds like to me is a content cache device that would allow access of Internet content in locations where Internet access is not an option for one reason or another.

Problem is that with so much of the internet being data driven, the flexibility is limited to sites whose content is static. Good for research or teaching material, if presented correctly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Okay, seriously, anybody that thinks there could ever be a $10 laptop that could run any sort of modern application (or even OS, for that matter) is seriously delusional. I mean come on, $10 may get you a decent flash drive these days, but nothing like a full computer. Even the $100 OLPC never materialized, because there’s a limit on how much you can cheapen down a machine. Netbooks are pretty much the low end limit for basic computers right now, and those are generally around the ballpark of $300-400. Even if a $10 laptop were available, I would never waste the money on it, because it would be so weak, it would be completely useless.

If anything, this looks like a more modern version of the old internet appliances that just never really took off, machines running some proprietary stripped-down OS that let you access basic email and websites, and nothing else. If it really is sub-$100, I’m guessing that’s all it’s really going to be capable of doing.

laughter says:

Biggest joke sponsored by Indian Gov.

There’re lots of people in the world living on government-backed projects. And lots of those project are way too expensive. They normally are purely for propaganda purpose and mostly will not go anywhere at the end (if there is an end). However, they do bring a high quality of life to those people are able to get those projects.

So what I’m thinking is that this is just another joke sponsored by the Indian government.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

A Question

If this device was created to get online and access textbooks, why can’t they create something like the Kindle with a wireless card? They already do? It’s called the Kindle? Than why don’t they start there and figure out how to cut the price by 2/3rds?

In this $10( or $20 or $100 or whatever the true translation is) computer, douse it include the monitor keyboard and mouse?

Anonymous Coward says:

populist research...

In 2000-2002, a very similar device was created and drummed up by the Indian politicians. It was called a “simputer”, a simple palmtop kind of device that cost less that $200 (cost of similar devices was at least $400-500 at that time). It was a decent device (probably the first open source mobile device), but ultimately didn’t had any impact whatsoever. See the wikipedia article for more detail.

Indian research institutes do have decent labs and creative people. But usually the funding process is not as open as in europe or US. Ultimately professors have to pimp their research to politicians and only such populist, but utterly useless inventions get the media coverage and funding.

TW Burger (profile) says:

damp squib indeed

The Times of India calling it “a damp squib” is being generous and kind. This smells of a typical con job to get government funding followed by the products failure and no retribution due to official embarrassment. Politicians mean well but few understand technology. This would be amusing if it was not wasting the taxpayers money.

I hope that after the shock of the IT outsourcing giant Satyam’s $1 billion fraud the government will be cautious.

mars says:

It is a desktop NOT a LAPTOP

desktop without keyboard, monitor, using an OS which runs on a flash drive (no hard drive/no optical drive). something like a net-top box but probably using an ARM processor found in mobile phones and MP3 players. It has both wi-fi(wireless) and lan(wired) capabilities built in.
This is an interesting initiative. I am sure x86 processor companies are not going to like this.

byron says:

Calling this device a “laptop” seems intentionally deceptive since it has no input(key board) output(screen) function of its own. It sounds like a stripped down version of the mac mini.

Why not just add a screen and keyboard and market it as a cheap desktop, for something like ~$50 (I’m guessing), it’s no laptop, but a step in the right direction to close the digital divide.

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