India’s $35 laptop/tablet, a concept that I’ve been skeptical about since its announcement a year ago, is close to completion — as long as you ignore a few signs that it’s not.
According to the New York Times’ Bits blog, the Indian government will deliver on its promise of a dirt-cheap Linux or Android device in several weeks. “All the naysayers will be unpleasantly surprised,” said Kapil Sibal, India’s minister for human resource development.
But that’s pretty much all that Sibal is saying right now. Here’s why I still won’t believe it until I see it:
- Sibal claims that a version of the $35 laptop is already in his possession, but he wouldn’t show it to the Times because he apparently left it at home.
- Sibal’s office wouldn’t say who’s making the device, or whether production has begun.
- The Times’ story offers no further details on the $35 laptop’s specs or design.
The last time I wrote about the $35 laptop, the Indian government had run into some financial misunderstandings with its hardware vendor. Meanwhile, one government source told India’s Economic Times that the device’s component costs alone exceeded $125, and Gartner analyst Vishal Bhatnagar estimated that $35 wouldn’t even cover the cost of a touch screen and microprocessor. Skeptics may also remember India’s earlier promise of a $10 laptop in 2009, which turned out to be, well, not a laptop.
I’d still love to see India pull this off — the whole point of the project is to sell cheap computers to students — but empty promises don’t inspire confidence.