By The Associated Press
First the Nano, now the “Nano” computer.
Tata won praise world-wide for developing the world’s cheapest car, an innovation designed to put millions of Indians behind the wheel. The Indian government Thursday unveiled a computer it hopes will put millions of Indians in front of a keyboard.
As the iPad spreads globally, along with its hefty price tag, this new computer, aimed at students, costs the same as the country’s cheapest cell phones.
“This is real, tangible and we will take it forward,” Kapil Sibal, minister for human resource development, said at a press conference in New Delhi. The touchscreen tablet will cost about $35, or 1,500 rupees, when it hits markets by early 2011.
The device was developed by students and professors at India’s premier technological institutes, using open-source programming, according to the Associated Press. The Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, Mumbai, Chennai and Kharagpur and the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore researched it in collaboration with the government-operated National Mission on Education.
The National Mission on Education is working to spread connectivity to India’s universities and colleges.
“We have made the breakthrough and are now ready to capture the market,” Mamta Varma, spokeswoman for the human-resource-development ministry, said Friday.
Ms. Varma said the government plans to roll out one million such computers for university students during the first phase, and expand later to primary and secondary schools.
Last month, Uruguay awarded the nonprofit One Laptop per Child a contract to provide 90,000 of its XO laptops for high-school students in the country. The group hopes in the future to price its durable device around $100; right now it sells for more than that.
India’s new device is an improvement over another hardy computer for the masses launched at Tirupathi in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh last year that had been criticized for its cost, among other things.
Ms. Varma said the ministry has also made open invitation to national and global manufacturers to improve upon the prototype unveiled Thursday.
If more innovations will emerge, the cost of the gadget might be further reduced to $20 or $10,” she said.
The yet-to-be-named device, which has the look of an iPad, has the option of charging by a sleek solar panel. It will have features that include an Internet browser, a multimedia player, a searchable PDF reader, video conferencing capability and wi-fi connectivity. It is supported by a two-watt backup source for places where power supply may be poor. It also comes with a small, 2-gigabyte memory but no hard disk.