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30 dollar Linux tablet?
July 23, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

An Indian laptop priced at just Rs.1,500 ($30) and touted as the world's cheapest will come as a godsend for students for whom it has been specifically designed.

More information from the same source

More information from My Bangalore

The computer comes as the result of a government initiative to produce a cheap and efficient portable computer. My Bangalore lists the main functions of the tablet to be...
Low-cost computer features:
1. Support for video web conferencing facility
2. Multimedia Content Viewer
3. Searchable PDF reader
4. Possibility of installing suitable filmware upgradation
5. Media player capable
6. Internet browsing with flash plug-in
7. Cloud computing option
8. Remote device management capability
9. Embedded webcam
10. Wireless communication for audio/video input and output
The Economic Times reports: The device has been indigenously developed through a unique collaborative effort, which included the ministry, institutes like the IITs, IISc and VIT, Vellore and students. The idea for a low-cost computer has been in the works for nearly a decade now, with efforts being made by Murli Manohar Joshi in his tenure during the NDA regime, and then by Arjun Singh during UPA-I. Given the lukewarm response from IT sector companies, the ministry began discussions with professors and experts at IISc Bangalore, IIT Kanpur, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Madras and IIT Bombay. Undergraduate and postgraduate students participated by working on the development of a mother board for a low-cost device with ample flexibility to change components. Initially, the device came at a cost of $47, however further collaborations across institutes led to refinements which helped reduce price. “When we started the project, the response from the private sector was lukewarm. Now, many are willing to join the innovation,” Mr Sibal said.
posted by codacorolla (48 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's a cheap meal, once you add the 50% off sushi.

I kid; saw this earlier today, and it is indeed awesome.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:09 PM on July 23, 2010


9. Embedded webcam

Will anyone ever see this as a good "for the students!" feature ever again?
posted by hermitosis at 1:14 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It only consumes 30 watts? Goddamn, that's incredible.
posted by boo_radley at 1:14 PM on July 23, 2010


The manufacturer of the device and the distribution system are yet to be finalised.
Color me slightly doubtful.
posted by tmcw at 1:17 PM on July 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


Interesting, but frankly I'll believe it only when they start shipping in volume. Their track record on things like this is .... not so good.
posted by aramaic at 1:17 PM on July 23, 2010


I saw a news clip about this, and it looks pretty amazing. I'm curious how much meat there actually is underneath it: most of the features they're listing are software-only, but can be processor intensive. I wonder if the device has enough horsepower to pull off what they're talking about.

It sounds like $30 is the cost of the raw components?
posted by verb at 1:18 PM on July 23, 2010


Fast company wrote a really snarky article about why this tablet is likely fake. Of course, they cite no sources.
posted by tuck_nroll at 1:19 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remember seeing some Indian engineer show off some tablet system a while back, and I wonder if this is related or a completely different project. I have a feeling it's different. Still --- I'm a huge fan of tablets. More competition is good!
posted by symbioid at 1:20 PM on July 23, 2010


It sounds like $30 is the cost of the raw components?

That was my take on it. Plus it's been developed mostly with student and government labor, will be subsidised by the government, and will be run as a non-profit. I'm cautiously optimistic for it, despite the track record of ventures like this.
posted by codacorolla at 1:27 PM on July 23, 2010


From Computerworld earlier today: "Why the $35 tablet will never exist Why does the media fall for the same hoax again and again?"

"Because the mainstream media is too gullible, shameless and lazy to report this story with even the slightest hint of skepticism, let me spell out what is almost certainly going on here.

Indian politicians have discovered that announcing technological "breakthroughs" that leverage Indian engineering prowess to deliver computers to everybody helps get press and win votes. It's a cheap gimmick that works because of the gullibility of the media."

posted by not_the_water at 1:40 PM on July 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm skeptical. That is way too cheap for its components -- touchscreens, LCDs, webcams, microprocessors... these things add up quickly. They'd have to expect massive sales volume to get that sort of pricing, but I'm doubtful even with economies of scale.

But who knows, IIT has some pretty god damned smart people there. Here's to hoping I'm wrong in my skepticism.
posted by spiderskull at 1:40 PM on July 23, 2010


Tablet's are no more useful now than before Apple released their iTampon. People need large physical keyboards for any sustained productive interaction with computers, especially learning programming or writing up homeworks. An iMac form factor sub $30 linux desktop would be revolutionary, even more so with internet access.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:42 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tablet's are no more useful now than before Apple released their iTampon. People need large physical keyboards for any sustained productive interaction with computers, especially learning programming or writing up homeworks.

If productivity were the only criterion for the usefulness of a computing device, then I would agree with you. I'd say the iPad is significantly more intended for consumption than production, however, and in that regard succeeds quite well.

That said, while I wouldn't turn down a free iPad (or indeed sub ~$150), I can't imagine ever paying for one as they are currently priced.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:03 PM on July 23, 2010


4. Possibility of installing suitable filmware upgradation

This is a crucial feature but only if done right.

The filmware would need to be licenced from either Stardust or Filmfare magazine; anything else would be a second-rate app.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:05 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing it's fake.

But if it's not, I'm going to have loads of fun doing goofy shit with these. The possibilities of something like this as an anonymous proxy server stashed on the roof of a building leeching off of some businesses free wifi comes to mind.
posted by quin at 2:09 PM on July 23, 2010


...but does it play Flash?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:22 PM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


30W is kind of a lot. My MacBook, with its backlit screen, dual-core 2GHz CPU and disk drive typically consumes 18-24W.

Also, even if all the labor were contributed free, so you totally discount any development & assembly costs, I'm still skeptical you could source all the components for $30.

But we'll see - it'd be great if it's real!
posted by kcds at 2:30 PM on July 23, 2010


Something something Beowulf cluster something something.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:31 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:32 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


But will it blend? That is the question.
posted by mecran01 at 2:37 PM on July 23, 2010


i heard it grants wishes and gives blowjobs
posted by nathancaswell at 2:38 PM on July 23, 2010


11. Amazing new touch screen technology displays high contrast images outdoors while drawing almost no power!*

*Etch A Sketch is a registered trade mark of the Ohio Art Company
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:08 PM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Vaporware.
posted by zardoz at 3:08 PM on July 23, 2010


Tablet's are no more useful now than before Apple released their iTampon. People need large physical keyboards for any sustained productive interaction with computers, especially learning programming or writing up homeworks.

Yes. Precisely. This is too often overlooked. Steve Jobs has said something about how he's going to solve this problem in the future, but he hasn't said how, and I really can't see it happening.
posted by Dasein at 3:38 PM on July 23, 2010


People need large physical keyboards for any sustained productive interaction with computers, especially learning programming or writing up homeworks.

Unless they're musicians, visual artists, photographers, vidiots etc.; I could see some interesting and "productive" applications being written for a tablet that could eschew keyboard-model input entirely.
posted by jtron at 3:46 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The iPad connects to a physical keyboard via bluetooth. Or you can use the keyboard dock.
posted by jamaro at 3:46 PM on July 23, 2010


Maybe it's fake, but $35 doesn't seem impossible to me. There are already sub-$100 android tablets shipping today, and those are for profit ventures. Take out the need to make a profit, throw in some government support and the potential to buy parts in huge volumes I think $35 is possible.
posted by ill3 at 3:58 PM on July 23, 2010


I guess it's kind of inevitable that comparisons would come up, but geeze. I own an iPad and I was hoping for more discussion of the actual device that was announced before we veered off into Apple-Land.
posted by verb at 4:00 PM on July 23, 2010


Me too, actually. Sorry for contributing to the derail.
posted by jamaro at 4:02 PM on July 23, 2010


Found it -- Notion Ink Adam (youtube link)
posted by symbioid at 4:53 PM on July 23, 2010


Low-cost computer features:
1. Support for video web conferencing facility
2. Multimedia Content Viewer
3. Searchable PDF reader
....

Oh fer Chrissakes that's not we need in a computer, that's greasy kid stuff.

I want:

1. No caps lock key.
2. Nice smelling screen.
3. um, some software
4. labels
5. kick pedal.

And guess what? I can do that already for < 786 Rupees, my friend. Fool me once, etc.
posted by storybored at 5:41 PM on July 23, 2010


I scoffed when that sub $100 laptop was announced a few years ago, but with the rise and fall of netbook popularity and prices you can easily buy a off brand windows ce netbook for under $88 right along side a whole gaggle of android-based tablets hovering around the low $100 mark, a $35 dollar tablet cant be that far off at this point.
posted by edman at 6:14 PM on July 23, 2010


People need large physical keyboards for any some sustained productive interaction with computers, especially like learning programming or writing up homeworks.

That's closer to the truth.

Keyboards are not going away. They're great for producing large volumes of text quickly if you've learned to more or less touch type.

But not all computing tasks that are about volume of text. Heck, unless you're writing in Java or something similarly verbose, you could argue that typing is one of the least important parts of programming... or working out a math or physics problem, or outlining stuff you're reading for later review, or reviewing things you've already outlined. Much less, say, drawing or tweaking audio or video.

I love text as much as the next guy -- I grew up with text prompts and command lines and vim is my favorite editor in part because my fingers like to be on the keyboard. And for fun, I type text into boxes on Metafilter. But I'm sure glad that we've got other ways of interacting with these marvelous machines other than typing text, because for some things, it's not the best way.
posted by weston at 6:17 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Couldn't agree with you more, weston. That's probably the #1 misconception about programming right there. Honestly, if you are sitting there typig away madly it is more likely that you are a shitty programmer than a good one.

The one use case that makes heaviest use of kayboard skills is bloviating about crap with your friends on the Internet, which is why there will always be such a vocal contingent criticizing keyboardless devices.

Posted from my touchscreen phone.
posted by breath at 12:51 AM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Touchscreen also frees up language and script issues, since a keyboard maybe programmed to handle one or two. India has 14 official scripts I think, or some such number on their currency notes...
posted by infini at 1:13 AM on July 24, 2010


Someone posted the other day about a video game machine that was made for like $3 in parts. It was all done in software including generating frame-bufferless video. Of course, you needed to attach it to a TV.

The actual computer is taken care of, hardly costs more then dirt these days. The really expensive part would be the screen, as far as I know. But given that we had a "$100 laptop" a couple of years ago, and mores law, why couldn't we have a $35 netbook today? The only reason netbooks cost as much as they do is that that's what people will pay for them. They could be a lot cheaper but there's no market in the U.S. for a $35 PC.
posted by delmoi at 1:41 AM on July 24, 2010


As far as not needing a good keyboard to program, I disagree totally. Sure you spend more time thinking, but it depends on what you're doing. Programming can be "THINK TYPE THINK TYPE THINK TYPE" or it can be "THINK THINK THINK TYPE TYPE TYPE". The better the programmer the lower the 'frequency' of switching between thinking and typing. You design more of the program in your head possibly even away from a computer, and then type it out.

But the problem is switching to a tiny or virtual keyboard can slow down your typing emensly especially for programming which requires a ton of special characters. Can you imagine typing something like for(int i = 0; i <> on a cellphone? That would not be fun.

And the other thing is that you frequently re-use ideas and structures you've seen or used before. (this is the basis for the concept of "design patterns"). If you already know exactly how the code is going to work, you don't need to think it through again. And of course Unit tests don't require a ton of thought before typing away

And nowadays IDEs will catch syntax errors as you type, so debugging is mostly searching for run-time errors, which can take up some time too.

posted by delmoi at 1:53 AM on July 24, 2010


Its interesting to contemplate what little Indian kids are going to program once they get their hands on these. Recently in the news was Dr Sugata Mitra of the touchscreen in a hole in the wall experiment fame.
posted by infini at 2:25 AM on July 24, 2010


Need not necessarily be a _hoax_ - there are pictures after all, and neither Kapil Sibal nor IIT are necessarily vote-grabbers - but it could end up being a vapourware.

As much as it pains me to say this, the reality is that Indian public sector has had tremendous problems in bringing technological solutions to fruition. In fact, I'll even say this: given the monopolistic nature of the eco-systems involved, even _successful_ national technology roll-outs in India, the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and the Indian Railways' booking system, are exceptions to the rule.
posted by the cydonian at 3:19 AM on July 24, 2010


But they're showing up more frequently nowadays no?
posted by infini at 4:36 AM on July 24, 2010


Naturally. We're in the Kali Yuga.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:41 AM on July 24, 2010


now Ubu, that's scary
posted by infini at 4:45 AM on July 24, 2010


Maybe, but we still have another 426,000 years or so until Lord Vishnu remanifests as Kalki to wipe this era from the face of the cosmos, so there's not a whole lot you or I need to worry about, other than preserving the Dharma as best we can in the interim. Try to think of flagging bad posts as a form of puja.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:08 AM on July 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Its bad enough the other day I convinced everyone we were having a havan in the park...
posted by infini at 6:05 AM on July 24, 2010


Obviously a hoax. People keep trying to convince me that this "India" exists, but they can't fool me- it was just something that Kipling made up for his "Gunga Din" SciFi series.
posted by happyroach at 10:28 AM on July 24, 2010


i heard it grants wishes and gives blowjobs

So...redundant systems?
posted by electroboy at 1:12 PM on July 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Won't it be even worse for the environment?
posted by maiamaia at 3:56 PM on July 27, 2010


With 500 million learners under age 25, sure it will be - perhaps its best India not make cars or computers for her population for fear of harming the environment.
posted by infini at 11:32 PM on July 27, 2010


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