Saturday, February 7, 2009

$10 laptop: not a subsidized product, says Govt

N.K.Sinha, Joint Secretary, Bureau of Technical Education, Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, says the device does not require to be connected to a laptop.

BANGALORE: Officials have dispelled all the apprehensions over the Rs 500 computing device launched by Govt of India in Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh.

When Media asked N.K.Sinha, Joint Secretary, Bureau of Technical Education, Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, on Wednesday as to how was it made possible to launch a laptop at such a low price ,he said: "A functional concept prototype has been displayed. There are many milestones to be crossed. Uptill now, it is the combined voluntary and sincere effort of academia, entrepreneurs and technical organizations."

He said the device is an ultra low cost and low power consuming access-cum-computing device which would meet the e-content access and computing requirements of the targeted learners under the ambitious Mission.

"The device does not require to be connected to a laptop. It connects to broadband connection through a LAN port. Display is integral to the device and it is NOT an LCD display," said N.K.Sinha, adding, "Frills have had to be cut out. One could add them separately. Extensive user trials and refinements and also the field trials are proposed."

At the cost front, he said there has been a paradigm shift in attempting this design. "Open source technologies are being used to a good measure. Integration and massive volumes are the key to cost reduction. Several other teams are competing against each other in this direction."

According to him, the cost to the manufacturer and the price charged for the product could be two different things. "For any development, most of the costs are R&D and IPR costs. Efforts for reduction of cost to targeted levels have to continue," he added.

However, there is no plan to give subsidy for price reduction of the device up to the targeted levels, he clarified. "Subsidy could be considered for those under privileged who could find it difficult to afford it at even those ultra low prices."

When asked whether the government is planning any manufacturing facilities specially for this project, Sinha said it is too early to say anything on that front though it could be a promising option.

As far as the marketing of the device is concerned, he said public sector channels could be a promising option though it is too early say anything on that.

So, if one can make a computing device at such a low price it is natural for the common user to wonder, whether big manufacturers were making huge profit on normal PCs and laptops. When we asked Sinha as to what he was thinking about it, he evaded it saying, "Controversial question - best left to the pundits."

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