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February 2, 2009

The $20 laptop — Nick Negroponte's $100 iteration is so over

MacBook-pro-24-carat-Gold-1

Not to mention Apple's latest MacBook Pro (above, in 24kt gold), which runs $2,000 and up.

Way up, if you want the luxe gold iteration.

But I digress.

Long story by James Lamont in today's Financial Times short: "India's Sakshat laptop is intended to boost distance learning to help India fulfil its overwhelming educational needs."

More: "R.P. Agrawal, secretary of secondary and higher education, said last week that the cost of the laptop was about $20 a unit, but he expected that to fall. He also said he expected the units to be commercially available in six months."

I'll take two.

Here's the FT article.
•••••••••••••••••••

India to follow $2,000 car with $20 laptop

India is planning to produce a laptop computer for the knockdown price of about $20, having come up with the Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car at Rs100,000 ($2,050) a vehicle.

The project, backed by New Delhi, would considerably undercut the so-called "$100 laptop", otherwise known as the Children's Machine or XO, which was designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of the US.

That laptop is the centrepiece of the One Laptop Per Child charity initiative launched by Nicholas Negroponte, the computer scientist and former director of MIT's Media Lab. Intel launched a similar product, called Classmate, in response. But the Children's Machine received a cool reception in India.

India's $20 laptop would also undercut the EeePC, made by Taiwan's Asustek. The EeePC was the first ultra-cheap, scaled-down laptop (a new category known as a netbook) launched worldwide through commercial channels. It has no hard drive and sells for $200-$400.

India's "Sakshat" laptop is intended to boost distance learning to help India fulfil its overwhelming educational needs. It forms part of a broader plan to improve e-learning at more than 18,000 colleges and 400 universities. However, some analysts are sceptical that a $20 laptop would be commercially sustainable and the project has yet to attract a commercial partner.

A prototype will go on show at a National Mission on Education launch in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, tomorrow. Pioneered in India by scientists at the Vellore Institute of Technology, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras and at the state-controlled Semiconductor Complex, the laptop has 2Gb Ram capacity and wireless connectivity.

R.P. Agrawal, secretary of secondary and higher education, said last week that the cost of the laptop was about $20 a unit, but he expected that to fall. He also said he expected the units to be commercially available in six months.

India faces the huge challenge of finding ways to equip its large population, more than 550m of whom are under the age of 25, with contemporary skills. It needs to sustain high economic growth and spread development across the country.

Over the next six years, by some estimates, India will need to create another 1,500 universities. Educational institutions in the UK and US are lining up to become partners to help with this huge projected tertiary-level expansion.

Pressure is building on the government to permit foreign investment into the sector and use public-private partnerships to meet some of the demand. Leading universities across the world, such as Kellogg School of Management in the US and Imperial College in the UK, are exploring different models, including faculty partnerships, distance learning and setting up campuses.

But the government appears to favour turning to technology ahead of international partnerships to bring people into higher education.

February 2, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Comments

Unfortunately, this isn't actually a laptop. Exactly what it is isn't entirely clear, but it seems to, in essence, be a thumb-drive with WiFi and Ethernet connectivity. No keyboard, no screen (well, maybe a small calculator-type display).

Posted by: Daniel Rutter | Feb 5, 2009 12:09:21 AM

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