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India Hopes to Make $10 Laptops a Reality 311

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the but-how-much-in-rupees dept.
sas-dot writes "We all know Nicholas Negroponte's $100 OLPC. India, which was a potential market, rejected it. India's Human Resources Development ministry's idea to make laptops at $10 is firmly taking shape with two designs already in and public sector undertaking Semiconductor Complex evincing interest to be a part of the project. So far, the cost of one laptop, after factoring in labor charges, is coming to $47 but the ministry feels the price will come down dramatically considering the fact that the demand would be for one million laptops."
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India Hopes to Make $10 Laptops a Reality

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  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Friday May 04, 2007 @02:58AM (#18984663) Homepage Journal
    Umm.. I never thought I would see competition for supplying education to the poor.

    What a strange time we live in.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kallu_be (1004575)
      I don't think it will happen anytime soon. Scientific calculators in India cost around 600RS(15$). How come a child laptop cost 10$.
      • by Paradise Pete (33184) on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:09AM (#18984733) Journal
        Scientific calculators in India cost around 600RS(15$). How come a child laptop cost 10$.

        The article doesn't actually say it will be a computer. Maybe it's just a slab of wood or something.

        • by EoN604 (909459) on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:18AM (#18984767) Homepage

          The article doesn't actually say it will be a computer. Maybe it's just a slab of wood or something.
          Pff. 'wood'. Look at me, I'm making people Happy! I'm the magical man, from Happy Land, who lives in a gumdrop house on Lolly Pop Lane! Try cardboard. At best.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by JavaIsGreat (977238)
          Which Calculator, CASIO is Japanese company. Local calculators are not costly.
          • by Secrity (742221)
            $15 scientific calculators are not costly.
            • by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday May 04, 2007 @09:44AM (#18987457)
              Yes, but that's what they cost here in the US already.

              Still though, if they are open minded with this thing, $10 *might* be acheivable. I'm talking about going with a non-x86 chip; whatever cheapo processor they can find. Believe me, once upon a time I surfed the web, checked email, wrote papers, and generated spreadsheets just fine on a 486 25mhz and 4MB of ram - using a full GUI. Previous to that the Amiga's and other computers were doing the same on less hardware than that.

              Custom code the OS (in assembler if you have to), realize that you're targeting people who have never used a computer and as such they won't find it "too slow", and you can do some amazing things on hardware that would be considered "obsolete" by our spoiled populace. As a matter of fact, give it a cheap, low-res mono-LCD display (kinda like a graphing calculator but a bit larger - at least 8") and put a text-based OS on there. Still give it networking, and put Lynx and Mutt on there. I guarantee kids will learn from it and be grateful.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by iamhassi (659463)
                " if they are open minded with this thing, $10 *might* be acheivable.... Believe me, once upon a time I surfed the web, checked email, wrote papers, and generated spreadsheets just fine on a 486 25mhz and 4MB of ram - using a full GUI. "

                This is more than a CPU issue. CPU, Ram, storage, motherboard, some kind of screen, keyboard and input device all cost $$$$. I don't believe for a second they can build a "laptop" for $10. Can you even buy a keyboard for $10? I'm talking new here, they can't build a m
          • by sid0 (1062444) on Friday May 04, 2007 @06:26AM (#18985735) Journal
            The Indian ones are usually quite shoddily built. I remember one, retailing for around Rs 200, in which the left parenthesis key didn't work. The general feel was quite clunky. Complex operations like integration took a hell of a lot more time on it.

            I'll stick with Casio, thank you.

            As someone below has pointed out, the Human Resources Development ministry hasn't put out one thing of technological repute. This laptop will probably be as bad as that calculator -- if it isn't really a wooden block, that is. After all, anything that can be placed on top of your lap could possibly be called a laptop.

            They should have gone for the OLPC laptops and called it a day. It would have saved a lot more money in R&D.
            • by cHALiTO (101461) <`elchalo' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday May 04, 2007 @08:20AM (#18986427) Homepage
              Yeah, god forbid they actually try and go around building their own tools, or *gasp* even maybe gain some experience in the field!! ZOMG! what are they thinking?? I mean, after all its INDIA, right? like they live in huts and are just now discovering 'electricity'!

              "Made in Japan" didn't mean much for quality right after WW2 either, you know. Look at them now. That doesn't mean India is going to pull it off, but sure as hell they should try, and that would be FAR more helpful for poor indian kids and their families than the laptops themselves.
              • by sid0 (1062444) on Friday May 04, 2007 @08:41AM (#18986669) Journal
                Actually, I AM an Indian. I live in India, and I have as much faith in the government as an atheist has in God.

                You may be interested to know that I don't get electricity for more than 18 hours a day in the summer months -- and that a large percentage of the population still lives in huts.
                • by cHALiTO (101461) <`elchalo' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday May 04, 2007 @09:07AM (#18986919) Homepage
                  Same thing used to happen here in Argentina (in some parts it still does), and that is IMO a even more of a reason to foster technological development in the country. The more you depend on imports for hi-tech tools which are more and more important each day, the harder it'd be for the local economy and general welfare to improve in a global capitalist society. Electronics produced in India (or in Argentina) may currently suck, but unless we push to help the local industry develop in that area, it will keep sucking.

                  Having kids get cheap PCs is great, but not nearly as much as having them produced in your own country, where many kids will benefit from the laptops, and many many other will benefit from their parent's jobs required to build them , etc.

                  Now, about the confidence in government.. well, that's a constant in 3rd world countries.. don't think for a second that I doubt my country's government is any different. However, one can't just say "they're all thieves and that's that". Sometimes (maybe in cases like this one) their interests run parallel to those of the people (win-win), and that can be encouraged, aside from obviously trying to actually do something, anything you can, no matter how little it is, to improve the situation.

                  Some of my friends ran off to europe or the us during the 2001 crisis to get better jobs, or to 'save' themselves. I've been offered jobs in europe and the us, but I didn't want to take them, because I didn't want to live better in another country, I want to be able to live better in THIS one.
        • by Dogtanian (588974) on Friday May 04, 2007 @05:55AM (#18985591) Homepage

          The article doesn't actually say it will be a computer. Maybe it's just a slab of wood or something.
          No... I've just figured out how they're going to build a laptop for $10. Here's the P-P-P-Prototype!!! [zug.com]
        • by mrbluze (1034940)
          They could of course make a laptop for $10 in the event of a massive rise in the value of the US dollar, say, ten times.
      • I don't think it will happen anytime soon. Scientific calculators in India cost around 600RS(15$).
        Are these calculators made in India?
    • I wonder if tech support will be outsourced to India?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by walt-sjc (145127)
        Nope. I heard China, but all support calls will be spoken in French. This will keep support costs low...
    • by Holmwood (899130)
      It's the nature of human beings to compete for things. Be they worthwhile or somewhat reprehensible.

      Moreover even evil capitalists like at least the idea of doing good.

      I don't find it at all surprising that there'd be competition to address this need. I find it somewhat surprising that it took so long.
      • by QuantumG (50515)

        I find it somewhat surprising that it took so long.
        Yeah.. that's what I was refering to.

        Hey everybody, let's all pool our money and buy a cape for Capt'n Obvious over here.

    • by NerveGas (168686) on Friday May 04, 2007 @04:49AM (#18985239)
      Watch "Born Into Brothels", and see just how much India is trying to do for the poor and unpriveliged. I could be wrong, but I think that India is the country with the starkest difference between the amount of wealth and the amount of adject poverty.
      • Here's a table (sortable, now!) which ranks nations by level of income inequality [wikipedia.org]; this isn't a perfect metric, since (for instance) wealth inequality tends to be far more dramatic, and a nation with high inequality but a high minimum standard of living may have fewer people in misery than a nation with low inequality, but a low average standard of living.

        That said, Bolivia leads the "richest 10%/poorest 10% ratio" category, at 168.1:1 (USA: 15.9:1); Sierra Leone leads "richest 20%/poorest 20% ratio" at 57
    • Don't forget that digital media and e-commerce are all converging around PCs. Computers may be mainly educational tools now, but one day, those laptops will be required to make the poor good consumers.
  • going once
    going twice
    Sold to the Redmond bidder

    Coming to an advertisement near you soon...

    Buy Windows Vista Pro Ultra Gold Genuine Advantage Home Platinum edition and get a free computer...
  • hmmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:00AM (#18984673)
    But could a Beowulf cluster of these beat a $100 laptop?
  • side note: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hanzie (16075) * on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:03AM (#18984689)
    I've always thought having a monitor that could detach to be stand-alone or attach with a standard mount would greatly help consumers. It wouldn't be too good for the manufacturers, who generally charge more for a replacement screen than a newer laptop would cost.

    With these gov't subsidized deals, though, I'm hopeful.

    It should help out by decreasing replacement costs (swap the main unit OR the screen, not both).

    Meanwhile, I can't wait to see these Indian cheapies on eBay!

    hanzie.
    • With these gov't subsidized deals, though, I'm hopeful.
      The article mentiones nothing about such a subsidy. It also says that $10 is the cost, which a subsidy can't change - a subsidy would just alter the selling price.
      • by mobby_6kl (668092)
        > It also says that $10 is the cost, which a subsidy can't change - a subsidy would just alter the selling price.

        There may or may not be as subsidy (I only scanned TFA for tech specs), but a subsidy can change the cost. The government could subsidize the labor, material, or basically any other input that goes into production of this laptop. The govt lets the manufacturer use a factory for $1 a month == subsidy == reduction of cost.
        • a subsidy can change the cost. The government could subsidize the labor, material, or basically any other input that goes into production of this laptop.
          Is that truly changing the cost, or just moving it around?
    • It wouldn't be too good for the manufacturers,

      You know what else really helps that? Having standard-sized screens. Up until recently, laptop LCDs were many different sizes.

      While most of the smaller sizes come in various settings, the biggest - 17" and 15.4" are both pretty much one size. You don't get manufacturers making 16.7", etc.

      And whenever something like that happens, parts start becoming standardized. And they are.

      In two years there probably will be lots of places to buy generic replacement LCD s
  • by Sneakernets (1026296) on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:08AM (#18984729) Journal
    I hope these could be sold in the states if they are made, lots of kids in the poorer southern states could benefit. Hell, anyone could benefit from a low cost multipurpose laptop!

    I bought a TI extensa for $25 and it's 100 MHz with 8 MB RAM and it lasted me through high school, and part of college (the DC jack broke and my wireless PC card broke too :( )


    If they could make this low cost laptop like the TI Extensa 710 (with a faster clock and more RAM of course) I think we'd find a low-cost solution. Perhaps some old technology chips could be made again for a low cost.
  • by AchiIIe (974900) on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:09AM (#18984735)
    That's nothing, at the current rate I fully expect Thailand (and other developing southern Asian countries) to hit back with a $1.00 laptop, with wireless, and wikipedia, openoffice (running really fast), and even Duke Nukem Forever
  • by evilviper (135110) on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:18AM (#18984765) Journal
    There is absolutely no information to be found here... Without some specs for the thing, they might as well say they're coming up with a toaster...

    If all you want is an digital text reader and work processor, yeah, you can do it for $10, easily enough. It's not going to compete in the same league as the OLPC, though.

    Adding a color screen drives prices through the roof. Adding wifi will be more expensive. Adding USB and a decent amount of Flash storage will make it more expensive... etc.

    I've argued several times before that the OLPC could do it's job just fine with far lower spec than even what it originally had, but I doubt they've got it right this time, at a price of just $10, and I'm extremely sure a device that cheap can't reasonably even be called a "Laptop" to begin with.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:38AM (#18984857) Journal
      A computer that can access Wikipedia and receive and send some mails, even only in black & white, even with only a text display, is still worth more than 10$. If they manage to do this, this could really be an impressive breakthrough in India's educative programs.
  • Remember Simputer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gopla (597381) on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:38AM (#18984861)

    Avery body here is aware of a project called Simputer, that was being run by IISc, Bangalore some 5 years ago. That project also had aim of providing computer at about Rs 5000 (@100 USD at rough rate of 50 Rs/USD). It turned out to be a huge failure.

    This seems to be another vapour ware project, whose main aim is to extract government money. A present even simple mouse costs more than Rs. 500.

    There is a saying in Sanskrit vachanesu kim dardratam . Why should you act as poor if only thing you have to do is to make promise. You can promise Rs 5.0 laptop, if you know that nobody is going to held you accountable at end of 5 year project and spending million dollar, and delivering nothing.

    Gopla
    • by ghoul (157158) on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:42AM (#18984881)
      Did IISc hire some US returned scientists? People in US academia have been playing this game of overpromising and underdelivering for a long long time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by suv4x4 (956391)
      This seems to be another vapour ware project, whose main aim is to extract government money.

      This not a vapour ware, government understand technology, Indian government - twice more!
      This a photo of top notch laptop:

      $10 Laptop Top Quality, Future Reality [dansdata.com]

      Scientists say, just $10, just attach to monitor, take anywhere. We're smart, not paying $100.
      Peace!
  • by ghoul (157158) on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:40AM (#18984869)
    Given the rate at which the dollar is falling and the time it takes to complete govt projects in India by the time it is finished Rs 1600 will be worth more than 100 dollar. They can still claim to make a Rs 1600 laptop but it would actually be a 100 dollar laptop not a 10 dollar laptop. On the flip side the Chinese flat screen Tvs we get for 400 dollars nowadays will cost us 4000 dollars at Walmart
  • by Anonymous Coward
    E.g. what kind of screen will it have? Even PDA screens are more expensive than 10$. Is it a 8x50 array of LEDs?
  • by N3wsByt3 (758224) <Newsbyte.freenethelp@org> on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:50AM (#18984931) Homepage Journal
    There is NO WAY in which a laptop can cost only $10, unless it is heavily subsidised by the state. Idian labour is cheap, but not THAT cheap (it's more expensive then china, for instance). Mass production will make things cheaper, but not THAT much cheaper (the raw materials and manufacturing still has a bottom price, after all).

    If they're ever going to create something that goes below the $20 it would be amazing enough, but even then it would be a (technological) marginal device and completely out of the league with even the OLPC. Maybe some sort of ultra-cheap non-expandable motherboard with an integrated 386-like CPU, a solid-state HD of 128MB and with a 3 inch screen, or something, just to run a simplified Word application and a lynx-based browser.
    • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:59AM (#18984987)
      Yeah, the power supplies for a typical laptop alone cost at least $5, even in amazing bulk. The extremely flexible and robust design of the OLPC project that can be mechanically powered instead of needing power grid or batteries is a big chunk of its cost. Bulk manufacturing helps lower prices, but you still have to pay for the keyboard components and the screen and CPU and the power supplies.
    • There is NO WAY in which a laptop can cost only $10

      No kidding. The XO (i.e., the "hundred-dollar laptop") genuinely qualifies as a laptop, but this could only be described as a "pocket organizer" or "PDA" at best.

    • Not Today (Score:3, Informative)

      by DrYak (748999)
      That's also what people have said about the OLPC when it was announced.
      Several year later it managed to provide prototypes at ~150$ ea.

      If you followed the link from TFA to "India" on-line newspaper, you got those informations :
      - Their planning to creat some home made special-purpose design, instead of replicating OLPC work.
      Just like this helped the OLPC going from a typical Dell or PowerBook price range to something cheaper using some specially built technology, the Indian project initiator hope to create s
      • OLPC (Score:3, Insightful)

        by N3wsByt3 (758224)
        "That's also what people have said about the OLPC when it was announced."

        Not true, at least not by people knowing something of IT/computers. By the time they proposed their OLPC project, there were already desktops on the market selling at $199 with better specifications (and a HD of 30GB) - though without screen, granted, but a 7,5 inch screen is not very expensive. It is fully in the realm of the possible to create a laptop with less good specifications for $145, and indeed, with mass-production even just
    • Sure, they'll lose money on each one--but they'll make it up in volume!
  • $10 Laptop? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Asmandeus (640419) on Friday May 04, 2007 @03:51AM (#18984937)
    It's a pad of paper and a really nice pencil.
  • by Kream (78601) <hoipolloi&gmail,com> on Friday May 04, 2007 @04:03AM (#18985009)
    I have to say

    a) The ministry in question has never ever (to my knowledge) developed anything that can even remotely be called technological hardware.
    b) The CPU, the RAM and many of the other components will have to be imported because India doesn't have a single factory that makes them.
    c) Is it even remotely possible to buy in bulk a laptop-grade battery for $10 ? My low-end cellphone battery costs (retail) more.
    d) What will the machine boot from ? a hard drive ? Flash? SSD?
    e) IF a laptop is being designed for India, it will have to support Indic languages. And as someone who works in Indic computing, the best input methods/rendering backends involve QT, GTK or MS. (Despite working on the wretched problem for years and years and spending crores of the taxpayer's money, there's still no reliable input method for entering Devanagari text on the 80x25 console.) MS is out because there's no way you can build an x86 based or WinCE based machine for $10. Maybe some ARM+Linux based machines could run QT/GTK. But, again, $10 seems awfully low.

    *sigh*

    Aniruddha Shankar
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Let me open by saying that I think that there is basically no chance of it even happening, let alone coming in under $40 or so (production cost). But I will respond to your points anyway;

      a) The ministry in question has never ever (to my knowledge) developed anything that can even remotely be called technological hardware.

      I doubt they were planning to build it themselves.

      b) The CPU, the RAM and many of the other components will have to be imported because India doesn't have a single factory that makes the

  • Then it can run Windows too.
  • by mattmacf (901678) <mattmacf@optonline.COMMAnet minus punct> on Friday May 04, 2007 @05:01AM (#18985301) Homepage
    And so begins the Ten-Laptops-Per-Child campaign
    • 2007: Ten laptop per child program begins design phase
      2009: Ten laptop per child program begins production
      August 4, 2010: Laptop population reaches Ten Laptops Per Child (TLPC) target
      August 29, 2010: Children become self aware, initiate intercontinental ballistic laptop piefight
  • Anyone else think that someone is just scamming someone else, and maybe they oversold the idea a bit?
  • I guess they'll have to have them made in China, for that kind of money.
  • well I'll make a $5 laptop!!! beat that India!

    Frankly it's really immature and naive to think it's possible with todays tech. Even the XO is costing over $100 to make in decent bulk quantities. A $10 laptop would really be cheap, and probably of next to no use to anyone. Hell I bet the case and screen of the XO costs more than $10. Let alone the logic board, keyboard, power supply, etc...

    I think this is just a sign of things to come. Intel with their version of the XO, now India ... I'm sure China has
  • will they run windows?
  • Ever used computer with less than megabyte of ram? I have.
    Ever used computer with less than megabyte of persistent storage? I have.
    Now lets talk about silicon costs.
    Putting few megabytes of ram, all periphelia controllers and tiny CPU, and some flash [non-compatible, designed locally to avoid IP issues], could be put on 3$ chip.

    Thats right, computer as powerfull as early 90's computer could be build in single really cheap chip.
    No it won't run quake 2. Perhaps you could port first quake for it though.
    • by nasor (690345)
      Ok, you've got your chip. Now you have to build a laptop around it. I would be astounded if the power upply could be had for under $5. That leaves you with $2 to pay for your screen, keyboard, the case, some sort of data I/O port, and labor.
  • Times Of India link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Phoe6 (705194) on Friday May 04, 2007 @08:27AM (#18986497) Homepage Journal
    Any reasonable Indian, when he comes across this story and finds the news hyperlinked to "Times of India" is sure to ignore the news and wait for information from more worthy resources. TOI, has an habit of creating all news as sensational, and some times to the point of 'formatting a misleading' news. The project could have been yet-another-cheap laptop project with no relation to any price tag or information on OLPC.
  • Airbus is a prime example

    "We're going to make the biggest, fastest, dreamiest jet in the world, and it'll be the cheapest jet money can buy!!!!!"

    "Oh, by the way, oh pretty please can we have $5 billion in free money to build it with? Thanks citizens of Europe!!!"

  • The only ten dollar laptop I know of involves a stripper named Candy.
  • Why didn't the senior from the Vellore Institute of Technology who supposedly designed this $10 laptop take his design to a VC ? Upwards of a few billion dollars is looking to park its ass in India. Any VC would fund this project in a heartbeat if the design is sound. Same with the IISc designers. Why are they so scared of the markets ? Instead, both parties approach the Government of India, definitely the most corrupt+inefficient entity on the entire planet, and hand over their super-secretive design to th

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