It's taken a long time, but the first indigenous handheld computer by and for the Indian market is getting ready to roll. The Simputer -- Simple, Inexpensive, Multilingual -- is a slightly chunkier Palm-alike, runs Linux and connects to the Net. It's supposed to be a much cheaper and more flexible alternative to PCs, especially since it can be shared among many users by means of smartcards, much as GSM phones can swap SIMs.
But it's going to cost $250 ($300 colour), which seems a lot. It was planned to be $200, so presumably they really did have problems getting the costs down, but when you can buy a Game Boy Advance for $70 it seems a shame they couldn't have got closer to their original price point. There's a lot of scope here for some of the big European or American companies to put a bit of money where their mouths are and chip in to discount the price -- perhaps in return for distribution rights in the rich world.
We know that the cool factor of owning a bit of genuine non-consumer tech is high: look at the success of the Freeplay radios, so there's every chance that with a bit of off-beat marketing some tidy sales of the Simputer over here could offset the cost over there. That's before the social benefits of having a computer-literate, connected population right where the information can do the most good.