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Simputer Available? 194

Posted by michael
from the virtually-available dept.
Anonymous Coward writes "The Simputer (marketed by PicoPeta, the inventors and manufactured by the Defence Electronics PSU - BEL) has a website now and is available for sale (including outside India). Some pics can be found at the picture gallery. This story has been discussed a few times before here at /. here, here and here. Of particular note are some of the features, notably the device goes beyond the typical handheld/PDA and has some brand new innovations. For instance, it uses accelerometers to sense motion and this is used to give commands to the computer (for instance, to zoom a picture, you just have to move the Simputer towards you and to turn a page, you flick it like you would turn a page for a book. Also has an integrated smart card reader plus writer, very useful for several business applications."
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Simputer Available?

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  • I hear (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 27, 2004 @03:26PM (#8690186)
    Simputer is planning to outsource the tech support to America because it's cheaper. I bet people in India won't be happy about that.
    • Re:I hear (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Bharti in IT outsourcing deal with IBM
      http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/business /inte rnational/8287792.htm

      International Business Machines, the US computing and information technology services group, yesterday won a 10-year outsourcing contract worth up to $750m -- from an Indian company.

      So, Is it time for Indians to start shouting "STOP US companies from stealing Indian jobs"???

      Grow up!!
      • Re:I hear (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DAldredge (2353)
        About 200 Bharti computer engineers will be transferred to IBM's Indian unit. However, some of the work will be transfered to the US and elsewhere.

        Most of that work will still be done in India.
  • Over-correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @03:27PM (#8690190) Homepage
    Although I don't have the problem yet, many old folks have problems focusing at certain distances.. this causes them to move paper or a PDA back and forth.. which would zoom/shrink. They aren't necessarily zooming, so much as finding a focal point... this might lead to some serious over-correction as you try and find a usable size and focal point. hope you can turn it off.
  • Vehicles (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gid13 (620803) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @03:27PM (#8690191)
    Accelerometers sense motion to zoom, eh?

    They had BETTER have an option to turn that off, or else it sure would make using it on a bus interesting.
  • by rokzy (687636) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @03:28PM (#8690194)
    accelerometers. seems like an over-engineered solution to trivial problems, and it's easy to imagine it being more annoying than useful e.g. when looking something up while walking.

    look at the modern mobile phones e.g. Sony Ericsson P900 5-way jog-wheel, that's an excellent example of innovation - very simple and very effective.
    • by Timesprout (579035) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @03:37PM (#8690247)
      The accelerometers are not intended for the user. They are for the benifit of the Simputer so it realises when it has been dropped or flung in the direction of a wall by an irate user and has time to say its prayers
      • I believe it was Jim Gettys who once pointed out that the accelerometers (which were in at least prototype iPaq sleeves) allow the device to keep the screen image right-side-up all the way to the ground :-). Put a paniced call for help on there for a poignant moment, and add an audio scream for effect.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Overengineered?

      How about simple and cheap as hell?

      Now an accelerometer is just another surface feature on a chip. It's cheaper than a button.
    • Independent of the applications' use of accelerometers, this would be the perfect candidate for the controller in a roaming home robot. Using the accelerometer you could significantly improve on its navigation capabilities. I just ran across a book on this last weekend The Ultimate Palm Robot [amazon.com], by Kevin Mukhar and Dave Johnson. And now I find the perfect controller for it, too. Coincidence or Kismet?
    • a little video camera connected to an custom image processing ASIC seems like an over-engineered solution to a trivial problem. But, it reduces the parts count and maintence, and one day I suspect it'll soon be cheaper to manufacture than mechanical mice.

      Accelerometers may sound spiffy today, but in reality, it's just a special process applied to the chips & can be made in bulk. The lack of dust openings and the ability to integrate into other chips may also make it cheaper in the long run.
      • I don't just mean the technology, I mean the implementation in general.

        e.g. turning pages by turning the PDA seems "intuitive", but what about when you turn the PDA to show someone else or for any other reason? imo, compared with something like a mouse wheel or a touch-screen "next" button, the acceleromaters make things more complicated and cause more problems than they solve.
        • I envision a "hold" button that might be on the device, so any sort of movement wouldn't change the screen in any way. Too simple? Probably...
        • I agree... sorry, that was a thought that crossed my mind, but I didn't put it into my post. There may be problems with what they actually do with the data, but (like you said) it's not the technology's fault.

          OT:
          I wish a cell phone had an accelerometer and could judge it's situation to provide the correct ring. This would also include a sample from it's microphone (which would be easy to do with existing hardware) and select the correct thing:
          - use the vibrator only when it's likely in contact with a perso
          • I wish a cell phone had an accelerometer and could judge it's situation to provide the correct ring. This would also include a sample from it's microphone (which would be easy to do with existing hardware) and select the correct thing:
            - use the vibrator only when it's likely in contact with a person - if it's been sitting on the table, then use a light ding instead
            - otherwise, if its on your person, sense the ambient noise & ring loudly only if needed. (there would be a pocket/hip/purse setting to know

    • It's not for Zooming. Its the first Digital Etch-A-Sketch!

      Just shake it to erase.
  • /.ed (Score:4, Informative)

    by amigoro (761348) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @03:28PM (#8690200) Homepage Journal
    Original site has no cache: However, here is the A google cache of simputer.com [google.co.th]

    Moderate this comment
    Negative: Offtopic [mithuro.com] Flamebait [mithuro.com] Troll [mithuro.com] Redundant [mithuro.com]
    Positive: Insightful [mithuro.com] Interesting [mithuro.com] Informative [mithuro.com] Funny [mithuro.com]

  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @03:37PM (#8690251) Homepage Journal
    My guess is that it stands for SIMple+comPUTER

    From the Google cache: [216.239.57.104]

    What is a Simputer?
    Bridging the Great Digital Divide

    The Simputer is a low cost portable alternative to PCs, by which the benefits of IT can reach the common man.

    It has a special role in the third world because it ensures that illiteracy is no longer a barrier to handling a computer.

    The key to bridging the digital divide is to have shared devices that permit truly simple and natural user interfaces based on sight, touch and audio.

    The Simputer meets these demands through a browser for the Information Markup Language (IML). IML has been created to provide a uniform experience to users and to allow rapid development of solutions on any platform.

  • by code_rage (130128) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @03:38PM (#8690258)
    Whether you think this should be a patentable idea or not, using accelerometers to scroll a PDA display has been patented. I wonder if Simputer will be getting a "cease and desist" letter in the mail. Of course it's possible that they have already licensed it from the patent holder.

    Patent number 6,466,198:
    "View navigation and magnification of a hand-held device with a display" [uspto.gov]

    The patent holder is called Innoventions [rotoview.com]
    • It is a joke as Digital did the itsy back in mid 90's, which used accelometer. The patent was filed in 2000. Loads of prior art.
      • Question for you and the AC who mentioned prior art. I don't really know how the USPTO does prior art research, but if the one I mentioned really is the same, then how could they have missed it?

        My understanding is that if Patent Application B makes even fairly minor changes to Awarded Patent A, B is valid. It still has to pass the "novel" and "not obvious" tests. But it's possible that the Prior Art was narrow enough that the new patent is different enough to be valid.
        • To know about unpatented prior art, you have to be in industry and have a good knowledge of what is going on. These guys almost certainly can not be doing that.
          Consider that the itsy comes from about 1995. It was written up a bit, but nothing major. In fact, it was mostly known in the OSS world. So the likelyhood of somebody outside knowing about it is slim. Now the folks doing patents are not all idiots, but if they are working on patents they no longer have time to work in the field.
          Personally, I think th
  • ...well, it's mostly /.'ed, but i saw the first shot of the hot girl using it as an mp3 player and i don't care what it is, i neeed it.

    i need the hot chicks. Come on, this is slashdot, you were thinking it too.
    • by steveoc (2661) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @04:02PM (#8690394)
      To quote from the simputer site :

      http://www.amidasimputer.com/tour/stop4.php

      "Along with a chikki, you can play hours and hours of CD-quality music "

      So, Im not sure I read the advert correctly, but it sounds like you DO actually get a Chikki with each simputer.

      Either that, or they are available for purchase direct from the site. (Chikki may be available for purchase online, pursuant to the governing laws of your State)

  • by wehe (135130) <weheNO@SPAMtuxmobil.org> on Saturday March 27, 2004 @03:42PM (#8690275) Homepage Journal
    Congratulations to Amida, you made it. There are some Linux PDAs, which where announced, but never became available for sale. See this survey about Linux on PDAs [tuxmobil.org].
  • webserver! Buckled to it's knees with only 20 /. comments....

  • sounds like an answer to a question nobody asked. Or is it just me?
    • Just you, IMO. People use hand gestures much more than the keyboard (/. excepted :-) The accelerometer can be used for many different purposes, or not used at all. If you like it, great. If you hate it, turn it off.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Just you. It feels really natural for scrolling, for example - just tilt the device a bit to scroll (note that I am not talking about the simputer specifically, but a research device I built, but I imagine unless the simputer folk _really_ screwed up, it would feel much the same).

      On a small display like a PDA or mobile phone, it makes viewing and reading pretty much "normal sized" web pages possible - while it's basically impossible to put up with reading a 100 page pdf when you have to use a stylus to mo
  • by downix (84795) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @03:44PM (#8690289) Homepage
    I tried to contact the simputer folk on 3 different occasions to license the design to no responce. For being an "open" platform, the docs and schematics are similarly locked-down making it impossible to even do a review.
  • I don't get it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dont_think_twice (731805) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @03:45PM (#8690298) Homepage
    Why is this the right type of computer for India? What is wrong with desktop PC's? We all know that a laptop costs way more then a desktop, and a tablet PC costs way more than that. This simputer sounds alot more like a tablet PC than a desktop, so I would guess it's cost would be similar.

    Shouldn't the overriding factor for underdeveloped countries be the cost? Not portability and gee-whiz features like zooming by acceleratometers?
    • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Informative)

      by InfiniteWisdom (530090) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @03:56PM (#8690355) Homepage
      Perhaps the reason you don't get it is because you're just making wild guesses without bothering to try find out any facts? It currently costs Rs.17000 (~$377) and is expected to cost about Rs.9000 ($200) when mass-produced. Even at $377 it costs way less than high-end PDAs

      Try guessing a little less, and obtaining a little more information next time.
      • If they can build a handheld for under 400, they should be able to build a desktop for under 150 or so. That was my point. Rather than focusing on building a cheap portable, they should focus on building a cheap desktop, because it is nearly a rule of computers that desktops are cheaper than portables.
        • Re:I don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

          by tftp (111690)
          A desktop is different from a portable (in case it is not blatantly obvious :-) This simputer thingy runs on batteries, and you can have it with you anywhere. A desktop would be sitting at your house, and you can use it only when you are at home.
      • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kaboom13 (235759)
        $377 is more expensive then most PocketPC's. The top of the line Dell Axim X3 is $315. The specs on it far exceed the stats I've found(not 100% about their accuracy for the final model) for this Simputer. The cheap X3, at $200, still beats it. While it might have it's niche, it's definitly not cheap.
      • Re:I don't get it (Score:2, Interesting)

        by maeka (518272)
        This device (excluding the smartcard slot and USB ports) has the features of a (very) low end PalmOS machine with the price of a (very) high end PocketPC.
        The model that is expected to cost $200 dollars has a faster - more battery hungry - processor than my old Palm III, but not much more in terms of capability.
    • Re:I don't get it (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This simputer sounds alot more like a tablet PC than a desktop, so I would guess it's cost would be similar. Shouldn't the overriding factor for underdeveloped countries be the cost?
      Well, your guess is wrong. The cost of a simputer is meant to be in the sub-$200 range, far cheaper than any desktop, laptop, or tablet PC.
      • I should have phrased that "the cost ratio would be similar". Obviously, they are not selling 3000 dollar simputers in India. But if they can build relatively cheap portables, they should be able to build cheap desktops for even less.
    • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dwave (701156)

      The group of scientists "Bangalore Seven" developed the Simputer with the average user in mind. The average user lives in a indian village and is much different from the western users. So the design is also different to fit the specific needs of it's customers:

      # Power supply in rural India is pretty bad, with frequent "load-shedding" blackouts. Without an UPS you can't run a desktop. The simputer runs on three AAA batteries.

      # Your average user may has never used a computer before. So you'll have to k
    • Re:I don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gabbarbhai (719706)
      Desktop PCs are still too unwieldy for most folk in India, who have not been through schooling. Especially more so, when they keep spontaneously rebooting because of the bootlegged winblows operating system they use.
      Something one can carry around or pass around is very important: People tend to have a very significant communal tendency in India, and sharing/passing around a computer to look up crop prices or weather or stock prices is important. So, small size is definitely a plus there: one simputer can
    • Re:I don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

      by davekebab (613420)
      Power, Ugrades, Space

      I think you'll find that mains power is rare in the market it is intended for - Rural or marginal India. Batteries rule while power surges are frequent.

      Desktops need a lot of maintenance and upgrading to keep them sustainable/viable for more than three or four years. Just one person can carry a dozen of these on a bus to the city for flash upgrades.

      In a place where families can share a single room the standard amount of space required is not the same as Padsville, USA. Finding a se
  • by meeotch (524339)
    "For instance, it uses accelerometers to sense motion and this is used to give commands to the computer"

    This does not simpute. Simputer will return after deciding your punishment.

    mitch

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I hereby propose one: the comment. A comment is the unit measurement of how fast a server can be swept over by the Mongol-Tartars. [slashdot.org] Used to describe how quickly something gets slashdotted, though not limited to slashdot itself. Eventual spread to other areas is encouraged. See also: FWICE!

    example:
    "Man, that was only like 10 comments before my AMD Palomino core with no heatsink melted the motherboard."
  • connectivity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by simpl3x (238301) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @04:15PM (#8690463)
    bluetooth certainly adds cost to the computer, but i wonder why such technology wasn't built in, or capabilities for it added--card slot of some sort. if i recall correctly the cost was supposed to come in around 4-5 hundred dollars, which isn't bad at all. i'd love to see a review of the software--and hardware. it looks pretty polished.
  • Since their site is overwhelmed with hits, thought I should start this thread. This is good for research in India. We have all known that India is now a major player in the outsourcing market. With many other institutes also setting up R&D units in India, India's contribution to the world of research and technology will increase. This project came out of IISc - Indian Institute of Science , Bangalore and is a major step forward in the research to commercial movement in India, an area which the USA has
  • by MaximusTheGreat (248770) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @04:35PM (#8690551) Homepage
    For those who can't access the site because it is /.ed or do not want to read the site in the ususal /. tradition, here is a summary of major features
    1. Runs Linux
    2. Can connect to Internet though a regular phone line or CDMA cellphone
    3. Has 2 USB ports built in
    4. Has a inbuilt voice recorder
    5. Aslo works as a MP3 and movie player(combine with the USB storage and ...you get the idea)
    6. Has lots of inbuilt apps including internet browser, email, accounting and a panchanga ( Indian calender system used to figure out auspicious inauspicious days) etc.
    7. Can wrie in multiple languages using a "bhasha" notebook software inbuilt and a special keyboard.
    8. Gesture input using a inbuilt accelerometer

    Other benefits
    http://amidasimputer.com/benefits/
    And you can buy it from here:
    http://www.amidasimputer.com/buy
    • by mjprobst (95305) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @06:05PM (#8691159) Homepage Journal
      The item that seems most interesting to me, and the one that makes this device something between a lightweight desktop and a PDA, is the combined fact that

      * it has 2 USB adapters
      * the USB code is based on a freely available kernel

      There are some devices that have USB, but most of them only act as a USB _peripheral_. This can be a USB _host_. While it might seem more useful to use CF or SD for storage needs, the use of USB opens up the possibility of using lots of peripheral devices not usually open to PDAs, especially since designing drivers for Linux is generally understood.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 27, 2004 @04:42PM (#8690589)
    Why is it that roughly 80% of the initial posts involve some sort of derision of this product? It is a computer built in India and its made to be simple yet slashdotters automatically start associating it as something cheap or stupid. Grow up people. Indians have just as much a right as anyone else to pioneer in the field of technology and they did not fucking make fun of you idiots during the dot-com bubble so don't bash their innovations.

    No I am not from India. I live in North America and I am a starving coder also. I just have respect for development of technology no matter where it is made.
  • by randomErr (172078) <ervin@kosch.gmail@com> on Saturday March 27, 2004 @04:45PM (#8690598) Homepage Journal
    Ya know I saw a Leapster [amazon.com] at a local big box store. It can do color and decent sound via Flash 5 [actionscript.com] and uses normal batteries. Plus the Leapster costs less then half of the price of the Simputer.

    When the Simputer was first announced it was a great idea, cheap portable computing. Now I can get alomst the same thing as a toy.
  • I find it very funny that people want to use MySQL anywhere, when most of the /. effect victims fall prey to it. Even /. itself...
    • Why don't you show us an equivalent database that would handle the same traffic without error? Because you can't? Oh..
      • >
        Why don't you show us an equivalent database that would handle the same traffic without error?

        Because everyone knows them: PostgreSQL and Interbase and SAPdb AKA MaxDB... or if one doesn't care for freedom, IBM DB2 or Sybase SQL Server.

  • For instance, it uses accelerometers to sense motion and this is used to give commands to the computer ...

    Great for sex-toy mods!

  • by wornst (317182) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @05:27PM (#8690915)
    6. Q: When will the Simputer be available?

    A: If all goes well, by March 2002 you should be able to buy one of them.

    I guess all didn't go, "well."
  • by Kiyooka (738862) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @06:58PM (#8691498)
    to zoom a picture, you just have to move the Simputer towards you and to turn a page, you flick it like you would turn a page for a book

    One-handed photo enlargement, huh? one-handed next-pic viewing? very nice...

    Oh wait, did I say pic? I meant page. ya, page.

    Might be a "jerky" experience though...

  • Can you imagine (Score:2, Insightful)

    Can you imagine using this contraption in a car or on a train? Hit a bump, and the damn thing starts zooming in and out, flip through pages, and all sorts of crap.. take it on a roller coaster and it'll format the hard drive on the loop de loop.
  • by $exyNerdie (683214) on Saturday March 27, 2004 @07:55PM (#8691803) Homepage Journal
    Since the site is getting /.ed (just got this error- Warning: Too many connections in /var/amidasimp/includes/connectdb.php on line 4 Cannot Connect to MySQL), I decided to copy and paste from my browser cache:

    Why Amida? - Innovations
    Power and Simplicity Built-in
    The Amida Simputer was built on the premise that a computer is more useful when if it is easy-to-use. To achieve that simplicity however, our engineers have toiled hard. And, introduced a number of innovations, so that you (the user) can have the most versatile, most mobile personal computer in the world. Here are the top ten innovations:

    Doodle n' Mail: Amida allows you to scribble on any screen using a stylus, and email it. is the world's first instance of any computer (handheld or otherwise) permitting annotation on every screen

    Flip Flip Motion Sensor: Amida is the world's first and only computer that responds to your gestures - eg. you can turn the pages of an e-book with a flick of your wrist

    Indian Languages: The Amida Simputer allows you to work and play in the language of your choice

    Amida Chikki: Easy way to carry programs, music, movies, pictures...

    Connectivity: Amida is the world's first handheld computer to have two USB slots (master and slave. Helps it work well with a range of other devices - Reliance CDMA phones (for Internet connectivity), PCs, digital cameras etc.

    Pocket Hercules: The Amida Simputer combines portability and power in a manner that no other handheld in the world does. Check out the specs

    Simplicity: The Amida Simputer includes a number of innovations that makes computing simple and enjoyable. If you want to work (and play) with consummate ease, then the world's easiest-to-use computer is for you!

    Auto Updates: If you need to update your Amida Software, all you have to do is, open an application called Package Manager, connect to the Internet and tap "Update" - no "Install Managers", no visits to showrooms!

    SmartCard Reader / Writer: The Simputer is the world's first computer to have an integrated SmartCard readr / writer. Use it for identification, sharing and security

    Personalize: Amida lets you transform its appearance to suit your unique tastes and needs

    Amida as coffee-maker: No, Amida does not do this. Not yet, anyway!

  • shake it up and to get a feature to work. I do that with any malfunctioning handheld device.

It seems that more and more mathematicians are using a new, high level language named "research student".

Working...