India unveils $10 laptop

India’s new 500-rupee ($10) laptop, the world’s cheapest computer, will be the centerpiece of an e-learning program to link 18,000 colleges and 400 universities.  “A number of publishers have reportedly agreed to upload portions of their textbooks on to the system,” reports The Guardian.

Will the computer really cost only $10? So far, the cheapest computers cost $200.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Hope this really becomes possible and definitely India has technology geeks to make this happen.

  2. Right now the technology for a $10 laptop simply doesn’t exist. Even the new form-factor, the net book, that’s emerged partly as a result of the OLPC initiative, is far above that price-point so any $10 laptop is going to have to involve a redefinition of the term “laptop”.

    So far there’s still essentially nothing in the way of technical detail or a mock up.

    While I’d be pleased to be proven wrong, I think this is just a case of misplaced national pride or some headline grabbing by whoever stands to benefit from all the publicity.

  3. My abacus is laptop sized and I can buy one for under $10.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    …any $10 laptop is going to have to involve a redefinition of the term “laptop”.

    Or a subsidy. The cost might be $100, but the price to the targeted audience might be $10.

    With 2Gb (which is either 256MB or a typo for 2GB), the RAM is probably $2-$3. Figure a few dollars for the CPU and chipset, then you only have *maybe* $5 left over for a power supply, case and display. I just don’t see a $10 *cost*, but a $10 price is possible …

    -Mark Roulo

  5. Richard Nieporent says:

    Or as the old joke goes, they lose money on each sale, but make it up on volume.

  6. > Or a subsidy. The cost might be $100, but the price to the targeted audience might be $10.

    Didn’t think about a subsidized price. Probably because there wasn’t any mention of it. The story’s actually been perking for a while. I think the last time it popped up it was either the $50 laptop or the $20 laptop.

    Of course if the Indian government’s going to spring for the price of the gadgets then all bets are off but I got the distinct impression that, other then the involvement of various schools, there was no government involvement.

  7. Mark Roulo says:

    Didn’t think about a subsidized price. Probably because there wasn’t any mention of it.

    I thought of it because it is the only way I can find to make this work. The details released make very little sense …

    Infoweek has an article up that says this:

    India’s $20 laptop computer was formally unveiled Tuesday, and while there are questions whether the device can be made and sold at that price point, officials responsible for the “Sakshat” laptop are promising it will be available for $10 six months after it goes into mass production.

    The Sakshat model scheduled for display in the city of Tirupati Tuesday has 2 GB of memory, which is expandable. It has Wi-Fi and fixed Ethernet capability and will consume just 2 watts of power. The laptop was created over several months in a cooperative effort involving government, academic, and commercial interests.

    Okay … so we have some problems. India doesn’t manufacture DRAM, so they’ll have to purchase it for these machines. 2 GB of DRAM is a lot closer to $20 than it is to $10. Spot prices can be monitored here http://www.dramexchange.com/. Note that the prices are for Gigabits (or Megabits), so multiply by 8 to get GB. It looks like about $10/GB. So 2GB per laptop is $20 just there!

    Again, WiFi chips aren’t *free*, nor are Ethernet ports. Cheap, yes, but not free.

    I’d be surprised if they could get a display for much less than $20 (again, India doesn’t manufacture them, so they’ll have to pay the going rate).

    Then we have this oddity from the Guardian article:

    Officials have been reluctant to talk about the project ahead of the launch, however, one did say that costs have been kept low by using students and researchers to do much of the designing.

    But … skimping on design isn’t going to lower the *manufacturing* costs!

    -Mark Roulo

  8. I’m not sure what’s actually being quoted at dramexchange.com but over at pricewatch.com, a retail price conglomerator, they’ve got 2Gb DDR2, 800Mhz RAM modules starting at $17.11.

    That’s a per piece, retail price. I’ve got to think a manufacturer can drive a harder bargain then I can but still, that $10 *price* point is just outside the realm of possibility now for anything that looks like a laptop i.e. keyboard, storage, display, communication, etc.

    What’s really silly is that the Indians seem as transfixed by hardware as Americans even though they have our, literally, decades of failure with the use of computers in education to draw on.

    In general people buy computers to solve some specific, defined problem but when it comes to education there’s a real “if you build it they will learn” vibe that’s resistant to any questioning.

  9. Mark Roulo says:

    What’s really silly is that the Indians seem as transfixed by hardware as Americans even though they have our, literally, decades of failure with the use of computers in education to draw on.

    The problem they have is that they have hundreds of millions of poor people in rural areas that they want to educate. They don’t have enough human teachers. It isn’t even close. So they are trying something else. Even if it doesn’t work as well as human teachers, it might work better than what they have now.

    -Mark Roulo

  10. I’d be interested to know the case that was made in view of the fact that no one, as far as I know, has come anywhere near making computers worth their while in the education.

    Unless the Indians behind this computer have something else up their sleeve this is just a cheaper way to put computers in front of kids. If that’s all they’re doing, putting computers in front of kids as has been done here in the U.S., then they ought to get the same results which is, not much.

    If they’ve got that ‘something else’ up their sleeve, the means by which computer use in education becomes worthwhile, they ought to noise that around. It’s that insight that’s been wanting since people have been using computers in education since the early 1960′s.

  11. Mark Roulo says:

    Update on this:

    http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/kit-eaton/technomix/why-indias-10-laptop-scheme-load-hype

    It looks like the laptop is a 2GB flash stick, with an ethernet port and a wireless chip.

    $10 for one of these is quite plausible.

    But is isn’t a computer (missing both the *compute* part and a display to see the results of the compute).

    Sigh.

    -Mark Roulo