Sunday, February 8, 2009

A $10 Laptop

A $10 Laptop In India?

Published February 03, 2009 @ 07:54AM PST

The tech blogosophere is aflutter with news that Indian government officials are planning to announce a new $10 laptop as the centerpiece of an ambitious e-learning campaign to connect thousands of colleges around the country.

From the Guardian:

The computer, known as Sakshat, which translates as "before your eyes", will be launched as part of a new Rs46bn "national mission for education". This envisages a network of laptops from which students can access lectures, coursework and specialist help from anywhere in India, triggering a revolution in education. A number of publishers have reportedly agreed to upload portions of their textbooks on to the system.

The only specs they've released suggest that the laptop will have Wi-Fi and about 2GB RAM. Although Indian companies has a history of launching super cheap products (such as the Tato Nano $2,500 car) there are many who are skeptical that the computer can actually be produced as cheaply as is being suggested:

Rajesh Jain, managing director of Netcore Solutions and a pioneer of low-cost computing in India, said: "You cannot even [make] a computer screen for $20. And India does not build much computer hardware. So where will the savings come from?"

I hope that the Indian government is actually able to deliver on this. They only have a prototype and no manufacturing partner right now, but regardless, the downward pressure on the computer industry is a good thing. One Laptop Per Child hasn't been the magic bullet it intended, but it's certainly opened a conversation about cheap computing that is incredibly important. There need to be financially viable computing options for the developing world. And even though I think mobiles will get people online faster than computers, there are still serious advantages for people having a cheap, capable laptop.

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