The Indian government unveiled a working prototype today of a small tablet computer that it says will initially sell for $35. The same organization within the government, however, also announced a prototype $10 laptop last year amid initiatives to connect all of India's college-age students to learning resources. Obviously, $10 netbooks aren't flying off the shelves or in the hands of Bangalore's next generation of IT workers. So is this the real deal?
There's actually a fair amount of evidence to suggest that this one will see the light of day, although one has to wonder if $35 is reasonable outside of India where government subsidies could keep costs down. Given rapidly falling equipment costs, though, $35-50 isn't outlandish, particularly with recent advances from Pixel Qi and potential ODM interest in Taiwan to manufacture these devices at scale.
Further examination of the specs and video of a working prototype inspire a bit more confidence in this iteration as well:
Again, while Nicholas Negroponte is known for his accuracy in predicting prices for OLPC products, he is seeing $75 as a price point for a proposed tablet-based iteration of the OLPC XO. Clearly, $75 is the price to beat for schools and education ministries to roll out any sort of tablet on truly large scales, but the $35 tablet, with no internal storage, also presumes a set of cloud applications to support learning efforts. These web applications will need to leverage emerging mobile technologies to ensure that they are touch optimized, fast, and rich in ways that HTML 5 continues to promise.
No word on which version of Linux will power the device, assuming it comes to market, or how it will cultivate a developer ecosystem, but it seems pretty likely that 2011 will see a host of inexpensive tablet devices that could be quickly deployed in educational settings if the software and apps are there to support it. Hey, what was that I was saying about living in an app world?