$35 tablet ... don't hold your breath

You might have come across stories of a guy planning to make a touchscreen tablet that sells for $35. My advice, don't hold your breath.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

You might have come across stories of a guy planning to make a touchscreen tablet that sells for $35. My advice, don't hold your breath.

Here's the deal:

India on Thursday unveiled a prototype tablet computer that would sell for a mere 1,500 rupees, or $35, with the price possibly dropping even further as R&D efforts continue.

Kapil Sibal, the country's Minister for Human Resource Development, showed off the super-cheap touch-screen device in New Delhi as part of a push to provide high-quality education to students across the country. The tablet also comes with a solar-power option that could make it more feasible for rural areas.

The Linux-based computer at first glance resembles an Apple iPad and features basic functions you'd expect to see in a tablet--a Web browser, multimedia player, PDF reader, Wi-Fi, and video conferencing ability. It has 2GB of RAM (but no hard disk, instead using a memory card) and USB ports and could be available to kids from primary school up to the university level as early as next year.

Uhhh, reality check time. I'm willing to bet that the $35/1,500 rupees number has been pulled out of the air more as a gimmick than an actual target. Recall the $100 OLPC that actually turned out to be $200. See, nothing makes for better headlines that giving someone the idea that they can get something for next to nothing.

But wait, there's more.

In an interview with Newsxlive,education expert Zubin Malhotra had the following to say:

This is just a prototype. We need to find people who will be able to manufacture these devices at these price points and continue to develop them going forward."

OK, right. While you're at it, can you make me a 52" TV for $50 and a $100 car too? See, pulling a number out of the air and then hoping that you can get people to build something for you at that price point isn't how things work in real life. Things need to be costed out.

Take a 16GB iPad. iSuppli estimate that the screen on that thing costs $65, the touchscreen assembly another $30, the 16GB of memory $29.50, the A4 processor another $19.50 and the battery another $21. All that stuff alone comes to $165. Now, you can assume that Apple are using good quality components, but you can also assume that Apple has driven down the prices as hard as it can too, because it's sourcing components and building these things by the millions.

Economies of scale.

You can build anything at any price is someone else is either willing to subsidize it or make a loss. But your business plan revolves around wishful thinking rather than facts. This $35 touchscreen tablet is little more than a snappy headline wrapped around wishful thinking.

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