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Portables Hardware

India Will Show Its $10 Laptop Prototype 374

Posted by timothy
from the better-than-a-chicken-in-every-pot dept.
Tech Ticker writes "The Indian Government last year announced the development of a cheap $10 laptop, but was later rectified as $100 laptop. Now the government has announced that HRD minister Arjun Singh will unveil the prototype of a Rs. 500 ($10) computer. The computer is developed by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Chennai. No specifications were revealed but DNA, a daily newspaper, has mentioned that it will be small and portable, will feature Wi-Fi, LAN, and expandable memory, and will operate on 2 watts of power."
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India Will Show Its $10 Laptop Prototype

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  • Imagine... (Score:5, Funny)

    by AdeBaumann (126557) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:13AM (#26665131) Homepage

    ... a $1000 beowulf cluster of those!

    Sorry, had to be done...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ozmanjusri (601766)
      But does it run Vista?
      • Re:Imagine... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:46AM (#26665405) Homepage Journal

        But does it run Vista?

        For $10, they can't even afford to put the Vista sticker on these things.

        Which, by the way, is a plus. I just bought my daughter a new laptop, and they put more stickers on that thing than Dale Jr's NASCAR ride.

        The really nasty thing is that not all of the stickers come off, either. A couple of them I was able to remove cleanly, but the one advertising the processor, and of course the "Vista fer Sure!" sticker seemed pretty immutable.

        Hell fire, I'll take half a dozen of those sawbuck laptops right now if they just leave the friggin' stickers off.

    • Re:Imagine... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 30, 2009 @10:06AM (#26666347)

      Ok... 2W each required for power. $1000 buys you 100 of them, max RAM 2GB. So total power consumption for 100 laptops = 200W, or less than one desktop PC.

      Buy a some cheap NAS and a few $30 Gb switches at BestBuy.

      Run ESXi (if you can) on each (free license). Run 4 Linux-based VMs at 512MB each on each laptop. Throw as many laptops as you can into HA/DRS clusters.

      Configure each Linux VM as a beowulf node if you like, or not. Who cares, you're maximizing/balancing the resources on all 100 machines, do what you like with them.

      You now have about 400 Linux VMs running on about $1500 worth of hardware.

      Poor Man's Datacenter for about the price of one gaming PC. Oh sorry, you'd probably need at least one decent-sized room fan somewhere nearby too, $30 at Home Depot.

  • I hope they succeed. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:16AM (#26665139)
    I don't see why Negroponte's OLPC project didn't succeed before. I can buy a netbook on Newegg for 250$... yet a laptop with a quarter of the power and less functionality can't be built for less than 200$ for the OLPC.

    Best of luck to India.
    • by Cheerio Boy (82178) * on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:21AM (#26665167) Homepage Journal

      I don't see why Negroponte's OLPC project didn't succeed before. I can buy a netbook on Newegg for 250$... yet a laptop with a quarter of the power and less functionality can't be built for less than 200$ for the OLPC.

      It didn't succeed because Negroponte wouldn't let anyone who wanted one buy it. It's that simple. Had he done that he would have sold enough of them to get them into the field and had money to continue development and produce them faster.

      So what stopped Negroponte was....Negroponte.

      • by pz (113803) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:42AM (#26665381) Journal

        It didn't succeed because Negroponte wouldn't let anyone who wanted one buy it. It's that simple. Had he done that he would have sold enough of them to get them into the field and had money to continue development and produce them faster.

        So what stopped Negroponte was....Negroponte.

        Uhm, sources for this, please? According to the Wikipedia entry, there's an estimated 1,000,000 units sold http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Laptop_per_Child#Summary_of_laptop_orders [wikipedia.org] and according to a recent written interview with Negroponte, they're about to deploy the 1,000,000th unit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Laptop_per_Child#Summary_of_laptop_orders [wikipedia.org] --- so I fail to see where your assertion holds together. You can't take orders for a million units and be all that selective about who buys them. Through the B1G1 / G1G1 programs anyone with a valid credit card could purchase. That certainly sounds like an open door.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by grumbel (592662)

          G1G1 was a special time limited, was USA only and cost twice as much as a normal OLPC. Not exactly an 'open door'.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:51AM (#26665441)

          Simple. I, as a consumer in the U.S., couldn't simply buy one. I had to use the Buy-one, Give-one program. A much better program would be to let anyone buy them, in any amount without doubling the price. If it was a hit in the retail market, the price would have come down.

          It failed before it started.

        • by Cheerio Boy (82178) * on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:56AM (#26665495) Homepage Journal
          The G1G1 _doubled_ the price of the laptop for a lone purchaser thus putting it closer to the range of a standard cheap notebook for the average purchaser. This alone was enough to push people away from purchasing it for their own use.

          If he had just let people buy them in single units for the stated original cost he would have considerably more money to produce more units and would have likely hit that one million unit mark much much sooner.

          He also started the G1G1 program only AFTER people complained they couldn't buy one for themselves. Furthermore he STOPPED the program instead of just letting it run and gaining whatever money he could get out of it.

          As for citations do your own damn research - the rest of us have been watching this train wreck since it started.
          • by liquidpele (663430) on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:33AM (#26665911) Journal
            Not to mention:

            1) people don't like to be forced into things - so forcing them to effectively buy 2 and give one away I'm sure didn't sit well with most people.

            2) Browsing the web and email etc is fine... but his whole purpose was to help education in developing countries... but from what I've seen there wasn't really much benefit for people in developing countries besides being able to research stuff online... Perhaps it would have fared better if it came with free e-textbooks or had lessons and quizes and translations of different books built in so that it was obvious what the real benefits where.
            • ,,, is for you to find uses for them.

              That would have been part of the educational experience...

            • by ericlondaits (32714) on Friday January 30, 2009 @12:57PM (#26668757) Homepage

              Each country has its own education policy... they'd never accept the OLPC if it imposed its own educational curricula. There's no such thing as a "neutral" educational material...

              I know what you're thinking, but no, not even for math! ... during the years of military government here in Argentina it was forbidden to teach through Sets theory. It became the norm later, when democracy returned. ... Even without that craziness, there are a lot of ways to approach math.

          • by aliquis (678370)

            +1 on all of it, no chance in hell I'd buy an OLPC for the cost they ask from normal people, which is closer to current netbooks than $100.

        • by aliquis (678370)

          He probably mean that if normal people could buy ONE cheap instead of having to buy one and give the other one away he'd have more orders from normal/rich/whatever people, which would raise the production amount and his income which eventually would lower prices even more.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by murdocj (543661)

          There was an article on Slashdot in the last day or two that listed the 1,000,000 number but also said that 300,000 had been sold via a government contract to one South American country, and 600,000 to another (one of the countries was Peru, not sure of the other). So basically that one million was two individual very large deals, not lots and lots of people suddenly developing an interest in buying the product. The problem with having a few big deals is that if you don't get the next big deal, you are ou

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Cheerio Boy (82178) *
          It was always about the cash for production. From Businessweek [businessweek.com] at about the time of the G1G1 promotion opening:

          "While the highly quotable Negroponte has been a master at getting publicity for OLPC, this effort is mostly about cash: "It has become important for us to raise money this way," says Negroponte. "I have met with about 30 heads of state. They're all enthusiastic. But there's a huge gulf between a head of state shaking your hand and a minister making a bank transfer." Negroponte won't predict how
      • by FlopEJoe (784551)

        It didn't succeed because Negroponte wouldn't let anyone who wanted one buy it.

        Wouldn't or couldn't? I still wonder if they really got the price point right in parts and manufacturing. Maybe it wasn't getting the power and functionality but all the durability issues that caused the profit loss. So they could afford to take the loss as long as the massive consumer machine of the big countries didn't come crashing in.

        • It didn't succeed because Negroponte wouldn't let anyone who wanted one buy it.

          Wouldn't or couldn't? I still wonder if they really got the price point right in parts and manufacturing. Maybe it wasn't getting the power and functionality but all the durability issues that caused the profit loss. So they could afford to take the loss as long as the massive consumer machine of the big countries didn't come crashing in.

          Possible but if he had generated more cash by allowing the average person to buy one at the regular price it probably wouldn't have been an issue.

      • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:36AM (#26665947)

        I can buy a netbook on Newegg for 250$... yet a laptop with a quarter of the power and less functionality can't be built for less than 200$ for the OLPC.

        The OLPC's laptop may have a quarter of the processing power of your $250 netbook, but it also only consumed a quarter of the current. Price and performance were not the only factors considered when designing the XO-1.

        Had he done that he would have sold enough of them to get them into the field and had money to continue development and produce them faster.

        Open sales are great if you have the manufacturing capacity to deliver them, but the XO-1 project didn't. I guess you weren't involved in the "Give One, Get None" debacle of 2007; I didn't receive mine until mid-Spring 2008 because of their supply chain and distribution issues.

    • I don't see why Negroponte's OLPC project didn't succeed before.

      Politics/idealism, related to "economies of scale don't work that way".

    • The problem is there is a limit to things like how small/low res you can make the screen and still have something people would consider a laptop, netbooks are getting pretty close to that limit IMO. You may be able to skimp a bit on the processor but really how much cheaper is what OLPC was using than the celerons in the cheap netbooks.

      Plus they were trying to make the thing very rugged and child-proof.

      But IMO the most important issue was by refusing to release it on the general market (except as part of G1

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:10AM (#26665649) Homepage

      because you know nothing abotu the OLPC project.

      your netbook is a toy that if dropped once in the sand or mud it will be dead.

      the OLPC is a cheap panasonic toughbook. the OLPC is designed to survive in 3rd world conditions Operate from 0% humidity to 100% humidity in 120 degree heat.

      Your netbook is a child's toy compared to what the OLPC was supposed to be. It's like how the top of the line Alienware or Dell XPS is a complete joke to a Toughbook 30.

      and it's why a toughbook 30 is $5800.00 for lessthan 1/2 the processing power of the Alienware laptop.

      OLPC = toughbook netbook. They cost more plus they dont want to force all cultures to learn english to use it. Unlike all netbooks.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kabocox (199019)

        and it's why a toughbook 30 is $5800.00 for lessthan 1/2 the processing power of the Alienware laptop.
        OLPC = toughbook netbook. They cost more plus they dont want to force all cultures to learn english to use it. Unlike all netbooks.

        Which is the main reason their main customers the police have been moving away in droves. First it was the CF-48 semi-rugged for $1.6K. After 5 years of that, it was why can't we just use off the shelf Dells. So now we are spending just under 1K for Dell laptops. Generally the C

    • by KeithJM (1024071)

      yet a laptop with a quarter of the power and less functionality can't be built for less than 200$

      It's a quarter of the power, but it has some additional functionality. It needed to use about 10% of the electricity that a netbook uses, needed to be rechargeable with a hand crank, and needed a new OS written for it (yes, I know, they could have used Linux, but we're talking about seriously underpowered laptops). It also has to be solid enough to deal with temperature extremes and potentially rough treatment (it doesn't come with a nice padded laptop bag). In a way your argument is similar to the compl

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by DrSkwid (118965)

      > I don't see why Negroponte's OLPC project didn't succeed before.

      the N word

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      yet a laptop with a quarter of the power and less functionality can't be built for less than 200$ for the OLPC.

      I don't know. The more I hear about this "laptop" (portable, operating off of 2 watts, expandable memory...) the more I'm convinced it's the real deal.

      Soon, all Indian children will have calculators.

  • 2 watts! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Great scott! The only thing capable of generating 2 watts is a battery.

  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:20AM (#26665159) Homepage Journal

    No specifications were revealed but DNA, a daily newspaper, has mentioned that it will be small and portable, will feature Wi-Fi, LAN, and expandable memory, and will operate on 2 watts of power.

    A little critical thinking here: How, exactly, would anyone build that for $10? How much is the cheapest of cheap WiFi adapters at retail? $30? $20? Okay, now how thin are those margins?

    I just don't see how they can pull all that off for $10.

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:43AM (#26665385) Journal

      That'll save you a bundle right there. If you write the engineering off as a total loss after you take the first corporation bankrupt and then you stiff the IP owners on royalties when you build them, you'll be on the way to getting it done. It will be flimsy, not include batteries (for 2W you can buy rechargeables), and have a very poor screen, and the $10 won't include packaging, marketing, distribution, or profit. The QA will be poor too, so there will be lots of failures, but at that price point most won't bother to send it back for repairs.

    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      I just don't see how they can pull all that off for $10.

      TFA sure doesn't shed any light on that question. I suppose you can sell laptops at any price you want, as long as you don't care about breaking even.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      I just don't see how they can pull all that off for $10.

      I bet the guys that built the ENIAC were thinking, "They'll never fit anything THAT powerful in a suitcase" too.

      "And it's foolish to even THINK that you'd be able to buy anything as powerful as ENIAC at Wal-Mart for under $300" were their very next words.

      [Yes, I'm aware that there was no Wal-Mart in 1946. That's why they call it "hyperbole" - P.R.]

      • Big difference between "I don't see how they can"(statement about present/immediate future) and "They'll never"(statement about possibility generally or longer term future.

        You'd be a moron to say that they'll never have a device like this for $10. They almost certainly will. There are, though, some very plausible doubts about their having such a device now, or within the immediate future.
      • I bet the guys that built the ENIAC were thinking, "They'll never fit anything THAT powerful in a suitcase" too.

        In that case, "never" turned out to be about 30 years, and would not have been possible without a series of technological breakthroughs (including, most importantly, the transistor).

        In this case, somebody is saying that "never" is already here, in that sufficient technology exists to build the $10 laptop today. Even if it takes 3 years to get from prototype to production, it's still an absurd cla

    • by SharpFang (651121) on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:01AM (#26665559) Homepage Journal

      1) Get everything on one chip. The difference between cost of production of a CPU chip vs a CPU + a dozen periferials are marginal. And then you save on motherboards, adapters, communication etc.
      2) Retail takes some 50% cut. Other middlemen, another 30%. The actual cost of production is like 5-10% of the retail price. I've seen your $10 USB hubs I've bought for 3PLN (that is $1) in retail in Poland. That is including tax, shipping to Polish retailer, and a bunch of other fees after they left the hands of the manufacturer. So, yes, the margins are ENORMOUS.
      3) Development is half or more of the actual cost of the device. If the development is 100% government funded, and you pay only for your physical copy of the laptop, not for license to all the firmware and hardware design, the cost goes down by a huge margin.
      4) They have all the technology. Intel, NVidia, LG, whatever brand name you mention, they likely have their factories in India. And the government may simply declare any NDA null and void by fiat, hire their employees, and have them re-create whatever they had made at their original employees. Not saying this will certainly happen, but it's not impossible - all the licensing, sublicensing, sub-sublicensing costs for all the little parts, protocols, interfaces, patents and so on, are another HUGE chunk of the cost. And if it's not a direct copy, but a rewrite, and all hidden inside one dedicated chip, who is ever going to find out?

      • by TheKidWho (705796)

        And what makes you think those $1 USB hubs aren't Chinese knockoffs?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Fjandr (66656)

          The original would likely have been Chinese to begin with, so being a Chinese knockoff wouldn't necessarily mean anything. :)

      • by gad_zuki! (70830)

        >Retail takes some 50% cut. Other middlemen, another 30%. The actual cost of production is like 5-10% of the retail price.

        Yeah, thats not true. Retail is a 50% markup but another mysterious 30% middle-man (who?) and then another 10 to 15% missing? Hell, wholesale markup is usually only 20%. The cost of goods with profit to pay salaries, R&D, etc is usually 50% of the retail price. Shave off salaries, r&d, and you can perhaps pull out another 20-30%. You aint getting down to 5% of retail cost. You

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ChatHuant (801522)

        Retail takes some 50% cut. Other middlemen, another 30%. The actual cost of production is like 5-10% of the retail price. I've seen your $10 USB hubs I've bought for 3PLN (that is $1) in retail in Poland. That is including tax, shipping to Polish retailer, and a bunch of other fees after they left the hands of the manufacturer. So, yes, the margins are ENORMOUS.

        But you're wrong in assuming that the x% + y% plus whatnot are just profiteering. Yes, the manufacturing cost may be relatively small compared to

    • Somebody must be getting a computer and a calculator mixed up.

      Would make a certain amount of sense. Somebody wants to get lots of free advertising, so they make a fancy calculator and say it's a computer.

      Who knows, maybe I'm even right.

      (Okay, after RTFA it's the Gov't looking for free publicity and votes).

      I suppose we'll see Feb 3rd.

  • by denzacar (181829) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:20AM (#26665161) Journal

    But they hope for a lower price with mass production.

    "At this stage, the price is working out to be $20 but with mass production it is bound to come down," R P Agarwal, secretary, higher education said.

    Meanwhile, this laptop [amazon.com] is still priced at $12.25.

  • crore = 10 million
    lakh = 100,000

    As for the article's statement that "In this context, government would give Rs 2.5 lakh per institution for 10 Kbps connection and subsidise 25% of costs for private and state government colleges," I think this is probably a misprint.
  • Using cheap local labor in order to strengthen the local education is a very good move, both industrially and PR-wise. If they manage to mass-produce it, they will probably be able to sell the same machines for 20$ or 30$ abroad. It could give them a foot in a field that is China's stronghold. And I, for one, would prefer to see India (World's first democracy) to be labeled the World Factory than the People's Republic of China.
    • Might also help with political stability, if you know about science, technology and reason its a lot harder to go round killing innocent people.

      • by Bert64 (520050)

        Not really...
        If the government is powerful enough, and makes the population feel that they are not powerless (even if they are), then those in power can go around doing pretty much anything they want, and cover it all up so people never find out, and if a small number of people do find out they can easily be branded insane and locked up.

    • by CSHARP123 (904951)
      India has been attributed to World's Largest Democracy. I am not sure if it has been attributed to Oldest Democracy. Do you have any links that points to that?
      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        The idea behind the expression "world's first democracy" is that the only democratic way to rank democracies is by population. Age, wealth, military power are (or should be) irrelevant.
  • I Smell Crap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by curmudgeon99 (1040054) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:25AM (#26665223)
    Forgive me but how reliable could such a cheap product be? I am willing to suspend disbelief but this sounds like good old fashioned BS.
    • 5 years ago a cell phone like the one i have cost 150 bucks

      I lost my brick recently and bought this one for a whopping 10 bucks.

      I pay almost as much for fast food.

      That, of course, is US retail, which means it should cost 3 in developing nations and still make companies a profit.

      • by TheKidWho (705796)

        Uhh... You realize cell phones are subsidized by the service provider?

  • Am I the only one that finds a $20 price-tag utterly ridiculous?

    Even if you use a TV for output, the SoC with wi-fi, cell-phone-style power supply, a keyboard and a GB of RAM cannot go for less than $20 and will not go for 2 watts.

    This is seriously wrong and, when I see a government official making such lunatic claims, I expect the people being ripped off.

  • I thought China would do this before India because all I see around is stuff with the label "Made in China." I hear they (the Chinese), even made an iphone rip-off [popsci.com], but I have not seen it anywhere! So where is China's innovation?

    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      all I see around is stuff with the label "Made in China."

      Yes, but the stuff made in China is generally designed in Europe or America. That will change, but it will take a few decades. Japan was building cheap knock-off products through the 1950's and '60's, and didn't begin to really rival U.S. design and engineering until the '80's. If China follows the same path then we're about 10-15 year away from quality products designed in China.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kokuyo (549451)

      China does not have innovation. Unlike Japan, China does not feel the need to rise above simply copying stuff poorly and selling the resulting product for less than the original.

      And frankly, to me it seems their strategy is paying off.

    • technology like this is too dangerous to the PRC.

    • by nbharatvarma (784546) on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:01AM (#26665553)
      I have seen IPhone rip-offs for Rs. 2500/-. At the current rate of exchange, it would be around $50. These phones don't even have IMEI numbers and the government has banned the phones for that reason.
      I have seen the phone in action and it works just fine.
      I am guessing you will never get these mobiles in the U.S. :)
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:52AM (#26665457)

    Your average chinese MP3 player or cellphone with an added keyboard could be repurposed as a very cheap "laptop".

  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:55AM (#26665489)
    Included will be a voucher for your trial version of Duke Nukem Forever.

    Also, a calendar going up to 2050 specifying exactly the year of "Linux on the Desktop."
  • No specifications were revealed but DNA, a daily newspaper, has mentioned that it will be small and portable, will feature Wi-Fi, LAN, and expandable memory, and will operate on 2 watts of power."

    Not only will it be able to play doom/quake/unreal, but it will come with a pony too!

  • the quality will be laughable. Like I always say: cheap, quality, expandable: pick two.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by HikingStick (878216)
      You've not been following the Indian manufacturing industry. They are making leaps and bounds in quality, and it should not be assumed that Indian goods are junk.
  • Oh, huh. (Score:4, Funny)

    by trudyscousin (258684) on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:33AM (#26665905)

    The sheer hubris of this announcement made me wonder: When did M. Night Shyamalan start making computers?

  • by Dystopian Rebel (714995) * on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:54AM (#26666199) Journal

    A $10 notebook is yet more proof that free markets, competition and Globalization will ensure the future strength prosperity of Western Civilization!

    But can we get that price lower? I think we *can*!

    1.) First, we have to trim the lowest 10% of performers from every organization. (Pay bonuses to executives for doing this effectively.) Tip: trim Human Resources last -- we need them to do the hatchet work while senior management strokes the shareholders and analysts.

    2.) Repeat 1.) a few times and what will remain is a lean and absolutely *amazing* company of workers who do more error-free work with a facial muscle spasm than other schmucks do in 6 months with both hands and 20/20 vision!

    3.) Next, we find cheaper workers. India's labour costs are a big part of that $10. Whom will we get to do the work? EASY... we train bonobos. We don't even have to feed them much -- those suckers are pretty lean.

    4.) Sack all Testing and Quality Assurance people. With our lean, superproductive staff and well-trained bonobos, we won't need to test. And if there's a problem, we'll silence talk of it with legal threats and "promise" to fix the bug(s) in a future release. (Ha ha!)

    5.) Squeeze as much free money as we can out of the government. If the government is Pro-Business, say we're creating new jobs in a cutting-edge market. If the government is Green, say we're saving the bonobos. If it's a coalition, say whatever you have to say no matter how self-contradictory or idiotic.

    6.) Spend cash from 5.) on bribes to steal someone else's technology. R&D is for losers.

    7.) Throw the product over the wall and pump up the advertising! If it fails, lock the workers out and give senior management a round of bonuses. But it won't fail, because using the above strategy, I think we have the $10 notebook down to $2.35.

    Unless of course "$10" is a typo.

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