At a press event in New Dehli, India’s Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal showed off prototype touchscreen computers the country hopes to roll out to students beginning next year—and the end cost could be as low as $35, which the government hopes get down to the $20 or even $10 range.
Unveiling the still-unnamed device as a response to the OLPC‘s so-called “$100 laptop” project—which have yet to hit a $100 price point—the prototype devices have a color display and can handle Web browsing, email, word processing, and even display YouTube videos. The devices run the open source Linux operating system, although the minister was vague on the specifications of the device—some reports have the tablets bearing 2 GB of RAM, USB ports, and integrated Wi-Fi connectivity. Users will also apparently be able to get a solar-power add-on that will enable them to charge the tablet using sunlight, rather than having to be in range of wall power at all times. Sibal indicated that the ministry plans to introduce the tablets to higher education institutions next year,
To develop the tablet, the ministry says it turned to the Indian Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Science after the designs received muted interest from the private sector. Now that the prototypes are done, Mamta Varma, a ministry spokesperson, says several major manufacturers—including one in Taiwan—have expressed interest in manufacturing the device. Varma declined to name any of the companies and emphasized no deals were currently in place.
The promise of $35 touch-screen tablets running Linux definitely has some appeal; however, the ministry doesn’t have a great track record with following through on technological promises: last year, the same ministry announced it was on the verge of unveiling a $10 “Sakshat” notebook computer; that turned out to be a prototype handheld device, which never saw the light of day.
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