A student computer for $35

India has developed a $35 computer for students which will be introduced at colleges and universities in 2011. The cost is expected to fall gradually to $10.

The Linux-based computer is equipped with an Internet browser, a PDF reader and several other facilities.

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  1. Periodically, someone comes along promising something for almost nothing. Every time if happens, people get all excited, but that’s before the “gotchas” become apparent. I don’t know what the shortcomings of this device are, but I will predict two things, based on previous devices that have been announced with such fanfare:

    1) It will never ship for a pice anywhere close to what they claim, even if it ships at all — which is unlikely.

    2) It will have shortcomings that will cause pretty much everybody here to lose interest in the real world.

    This is going to be another CrunchPad (aka JooJoo) or OLPC XO-1. And you KNOW you see tons of those around, right? 😉

  2. Given that they don’t yet have a manufacturer, I question whether the $35 number is at all meaningful.

  3. Unfortunately India seems prone to this sort of thing.

    Does anyone remember the Simputer? Then there was an announcement of a $50 computer in the wake of the announcement of the OLPC computer.

    Both big nothings and this announcement seems to be of a similar type.

    Oh well, someday for sure. Just not today.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    Two years ago we had an announcement of a $100 computer from India.


    I don’t know if it ever shipped, so I’m kinda skeptical about *this* announcement. But …

    What is interesting is that one can actually purchase a $100 computer today, not including a monitor. This is one example: http://www.marvell.com/platforms/plug_computer/

    A $35 computer is actually plausible in a year or two, if you are willing to put up with SheevaPlug type compromises: price doesn’t include a monitor, you only get ½ GB of RAM and only ½ GB of FLASH drive storage, it doesn’t run MS-Windows.

    This isn’t actually an unreasonable base machine (except for the lack of hard drive, this is more powerful than most of the machines normal people were using in the late 1990s), but we need to realize that the $35 (or $100) computer isn’t going to be just a cheap version of what most people with computers have on their desktops today.

    -Mark Roulo

  5. Mark, you can certainly purchase a cheap computer, but is it a device that people actually WANT and will find useful? I don’t think so.

    You can currently buy an $80 laptop, so why do people still buy $1,200 laptops instead? Is it because they’re just eager to get rid of money? No, it’s because designing a tech device involves a series of tradeoffs. If you produce something that cheap, you’re using cheap components that are cheap for a reason. They generally provide a lousy experience. People want a good experience in a device they’re going to be using so much, so most people are willing to pay more for a better experience. Some people are willing to settle for a (lousy) $500 laptop. Others want a decent $1,200 laptop. Still others want fewer compromises and are willing to pay top dollar to get the best experience possible today.

    So I don’t have any doubt that a computer CAN be built really cheaply. I just question whether the resulting product is anything that people want to buy. Might it find a market among people who are so poor they’ve never seen a computer and have nothing to compare it to? Maybe. But in this country, there’s almost nobody who doesn’t have a much different notion of what a computer is (and what it should do) than what you’ll be able to buy for the price of this piece of junk.

    I’ve certainly been wrong before, but the history of the tech industry is littered with examples of cheapo products being announced, but either never shipping or else shipping but never finding an audience. Check back in a year (or even five years). I can confidently predict that this device won’t be on the market for anything close to what the Indian government claims.

  6. Walter_E_Wallis says:

    Sounds like “Get a horse!”
    I recall when a $100 4-banger calculator was predicted.
    I expect an I-Pad/Kindle equivalent sub hundred in a couple of years.

  7. SuperSub says:

    Walter –
    There’s already around-100 IPad clones right now coming out of China. I got mine for under 100 due to a sale and a coupon. As expected, the hardware is a much lower quality but runs Google’s Android OS… which actually helps performance because its designed for cell phones.
    Am I going to be watching HD movies on it? No. But I can check my email, Facebook, browse the web. There’s an Office-like suite for it and I can stream Pandora.

    There was an article in one of the major tech magazines recently predicting the demise of the desktop computer amond average consumers… most people only use the computer for communication and other web-based applications. If you limit a computer to those functions, the hardware requirements are quite low.

    My guess is that with the lower labor and material costs, the goal of a sub-100 limited-use computer is realistic. There is also the possibility of a government subsidy for the manufacturer since this seems to be a significant government initiative.

  8. SuperSub says:

    Walter –
    Oh, and if you want a cheap Kindle, Amazon sells refurbs in the 120-130 price range.


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