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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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  • 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 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:50AM (#26665431) Homepage Journal

    You think India is "third world"?

    Let me guess, you're an American, right?

  • 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 Kokuyo (549451) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:56AM (#26665501) Journal

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:01AM (#26665547)

    Let me guess, you've never been to India. Sure, there are places that are modern and very livable, but you also have many areas with slum conditions unimaginable in Western Europe and North America.

    Have you ever seen a river of shit and waste with a plank over it leading to someone's home?

  • 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 Dunbal (464142) on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:04AM (#26665581)

    China does not have innovation. Unlike Japan,

          Perhaps if you were just a little older, you would remember when all Japan could do was copy Western technology. However today Japan can innovate. Give China another 30 years, and then watch out!

  • by lightningrod220 (705243) on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:04AM (#26665595)
    the quality will be laughable. Like I always say: cheap, quality, expandable: pick two.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:43AM (#26666037)

    That is a cheap graphing calculator!

    The TI-85 I needed for my high school algebra classes cost $90. A decade and a half later, that same model still exists and still costs $90. As far as I can tell, all they've changed in that time is the faceplate and replaced the proprietary serial connector with a USB plug.

    If the graphing calculator market had followed the same price/performance curve that personal computers have, we'd have plenty of powerful $10 calculators today.

  • by amilo100 (1345883) on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:43AM (#26666045)
    Have you ever seen a river of shit and waste with a plank over it leading to someone's home?

    India must be bad. I live in a 3rd world country and have never seen rivers of shit.

    The only rivers of shit I've seen is in rich coastal towns (where sewage is stored in tanks and sometimes overflows).
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 30, 2009 @10:29AM (#26666639) Homepage Journal

    The vast majority of their population still live like animals.

    As opposed to some other country, where the majority of the population live like plants? I guess you're right: too many USA residents have become couch potatoes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 30, 2009 @10:53AM (#26666929)

    Yes, we're going to get ourselves out of debt by spending another $820 billion - on top of the already $700+ billion that was approved right before Bush fled office. Can we please elect some people who are familiar with the basic concepts of addition and subtraction?

    I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but...

    The theory behind spending in this way is sound if you accept that the current situation is of a very specific type. Namely, that the economic slump and credit crunch are both persisting, at the core, because of depressed expectations about future economic output. The idea is that perhaps this downturn is more a feedback effect than a legitimate economic failure, such as would occur if there were severe infrastructure problems that fundamentally limited our real potential for wealth creation.

    So the theory goes, our current economic state is under-performing relative to our actual potential output, and since this is just caused by a bad feedback (financial crisis causes credit to freeze, which causes problems for businesses that rely on credit for day-to-day operations, which leads to depressed expected future values, which feeds right back into the financial downturn, etc.), all that needs to happen is to bump the system back against this feedback. In other words, put gobs of money into the system, and it will (artificially, if you wish) increase expected revenues, which will increase valuations, which will make the numbers guys tell the business guys that things are looking better, and the credit markets will open up again, which will help to unclog the arteries of the rest of the economy.

    So it's a perfectly valid theory, and amounts to sacrificing a bit of long term economic performance to (try to) achieve short term stability; considering that "short term" might mean half a decade or more, this is not altogether unreasonable. But it all depends crucially on the assumption that the economy is fundamentally sound and that this is just a departure from its normal operations; if it turns out that what we thought was our "normal" economic state was really the fluke (leverage + credit insanity = unsustainable growth), then it won't help things one bit.

    Of course, if that's the case then we're probably screwed anyways, and a few trillion in debt here and there are the least of our problems.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 30, 2009 @11:04AM (#26667097)
    Third world might be out of date, but developing world is not the new euphemism. "Developing" countries are now, and always have been second world countries, which is where much of India falls right now. A country the size and population of India can not be classified as any one thing. At its best, it looks like any "first world" country, at its worst (not counting natural disasters) it looks like any "third" world country. The US, seldom looks third world (again, discounting natural disasters), though there are areas that would definitely look at home in a second world country.
  • by kabocox (199019) on Friday January 30, 2009 @11:31AM (#26667499)

    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 CF-48s would last 5 years with only 3 classes of issues. 1 batteries need to be replaced at the 2-3 year mark. 2 a few HD crashes. 3 wrecks total the car. The insurance pays for the cost the laptop in that case. (Trust me we didn't like putting the fully rugged CF-25s back into service after wrecks even though we could.)

    Now we've only had the Dells for about a year and a half. We've not had any wrecks or HD crashes yet. We've had a charging issue or two. Usually that's due to the car electrical stuff being wired wrong and not the laptop though.

    Trust me, if those $350 minilaptops could run our 3rd party software, we'd seriously think about sticking those in the cars. So cheaper laptops are taking over due to price where fully rugged laptops used to completely monopolize the niche. If we tried mounting one of those minilaptops in a police car the two issues that we will run into are mounts and power chargers for them. That's the two issues we have for any different models of laptops that we chose to stick in there though.

    Now, sure netbooks can't hold a candle to real toughbooks, but about the only one's that can really afford real toughbooks are the US military. No one else can afford the price/performance penalty. You were usually 2 generations behind off the shelf laptop tech in a toughbook. This was due to heat build up and being completely sealed.

    You imagine that you can build a toughbook for less than $100? Trust me, even your third world folks are more realistic than that. If it were remotely easy for a slight price increase every freaking laptop on the market would have toughbook standard features. It's not a cheap or easy add on though so you rarely see semi-rugged much less rugged laptops.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 30, 2009 @02:25PM (#26670097)
    First you claim to not know who the mystery middle-men are, and they you lecture on their expenses?

    A seat, take one.
  • by ChatHuant (801522) on Friday January 30, 2009 @04:24PM (#26671527)

    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 the retail cost, but the difference is not all due to markups. More expenses are required in order to get the manufactured product to the consumer: transport, warehousing, salespeople, the logistics of moving the things arouns, loss on damaged goods, and so on. Even if you set up Costco-style warehouses, there is still a cost that needs to be passed on to the customer.

I am here by the will of the people and I won't leave until I get my raincoat back. - a slogan of the anarchists in Richard Kadrey's "Metrophage"

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