I read with interest a story in today’s local paper. It was all about the latest computer technology advance out of India. International demand for the Apple iPad has hardly slowed since its initial introduction, despite its hefty price tag. Unfortunately, the Apple price point is simply out of reach for the vast majority of the Indian population, so the demand for less expensive computers is incredibly high. When the under-$300 PC was introduced, it was a solid hit, but the Indian tech gurus may have knocked it out the ballpark this time.
If you have read any of my previous blog entries, you know that I am often referring to the TED conferences and the innovations that stem from them. In 2005, Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, proposed a $100 laptop that would be distributed in developing countries like China and India. The laptops would be distributed in schools to students as a way to aid the learning process and give them more connectivity to the rest of the world. He called the program One Laptop Per Child. Ironically, India rejected OLPC as being “too expensive” and set out to create their own computers that would be even cheaper.
Which brings us to the $35 tablet PC unveiled earlier this week. Of course, $35 is the high end of the price range. The development team is hoping that they can get the cost down to $10 per unit once they go into full-steam production next year. It will have connectivity similar to that of the iPad, but it runs the Linux system and operates with a USB-type storage device instead of an installed hard drive. All of these factors help with the price reduction, but the developers have also shopped the globe looking for companies willing to produce a portion of the system for a low cost. By farming out the components and using open-source software, India seems to have done the impossible. And if that were not enough, the Indian government has also said that they will be willing to help subsidize the cost of the tablet computers for students, so they will run around $20 each. Functionality might be limited on these machines, but if there was a device that could surf the web, bounce out to YouTube, check email and do basic word processing for 20 bucks, wouldn’t you jump on it?
People in the United States used to joke when India first started “stealing” phone support jobs, but with the advent of a variety of modern technologies being produced at a much lower cost that the rest of the world, India is a player to watch. I know I could swing $20 for a new computer. I just have to come up with the money to move to India . . .
To view the entire Associated Press article, click here.