Why the $35 Tablet PC Isn't Ready for the World
How many times will we be burned by the promise of ultra low-cost computers, like the $35 touch screen PC the Indian government just announced?
India has a prototype of the cheap computer, and plans to roll the real thing out to Indian schoolchildren and higher education students in 2011. It’ll have a Linux-based operating system, a USB port, a 2 GB memory card and other unspecified specs, the Guardian reports. But as fascinating as the super cheap laptop concept may be, there’s always some snag, gotcha or fatal flaw that prevents the promises from matching up with reality.
In the case of One Laptop Per Child, the goal of a $100 laptop was never achieved. Even in the second-hand eBay market, asking prices are closer to $200. Earlier this year, a website claimed to offer $98 laptops running Windows CE, but that site is now defunct. Another company called Cherrypal has tried making a name for itself with dirt-cheap laptops, like the 7-inch model running Android for $100, but getting one can be a hassle, as one customer has documented.
The $35 tablet’s problem is already clear if you read the AP’s coverage: India wants to get the price down to around $20 in order to sell the tablet at home, but to do that, the country either needs to subsidize the cost itself — a tall order with 110 million kids targeted in the initial roll out — or convince manufacturers to set higher prices in the developed world.
In other words, the $35 tablet’s manufacturing cost alone would be more expensive outside of India. Let’s make the grand assumption that manufacturers would even want to deal with thinner profit margins than netbooks; I wonder whether consumers in the developed world would be willing to pay for a tablet with no memory, an unknown operating system and other specs that apparently can’t even be mentioned at this point in time.