Here comes another announcement heralding the arrival of an inexpensive computer made in India. Is it the Sakshit? No. Is it the Simputer? No. This time it’s a new red herring… an as-yet unnamed tablet unveiled by an Indian politician, Kapil Sibal, who is currently the head honcho at the Indian Human Resources Ministry. It would seem that what is really behind these proclamations are not technological advances, but in fact bureaucrats and politicians who are desperately trying to best each other with impossible to believe price points. The fact that these prices turn out to be, well, impossible, is apparently a minor detail that we are not supposed to pay attention to.
For the historically inclined, we’ve covered this cheap computer fetish in the past. Here’s coverage from when the Indian press was going wild about the launch of a $10 computer, the Sakshat, which turned out to be a complete lemon.
To summarize, the Indian HR ministry would have us believe that they have chanced upon a secret formula that will deliver a touchscreen tablet capable of running Linux (or Android… Open Office is specifically referred to as a supported application), with 2GB of RAM, a battery and plenty of other features, for the low price of $35. Never mind that India doesn’t build processors and will have to import them at costs set, not by the HR Ministry, but by international suppliers. Never mind that India doesn’t build these touchscreens and that they would consume almost the entire $35 budget at current international prices. Never mind that RAM has a globally-set commodity price which is as closely tracked as precious metals or other commodities, and 2GB of RAM will *not* be available to the Indian HR Ministry for a cost that would be consistent with the $35 price target of the device. When you’re pulling numbers from the air (or from somewhere else) what does reality have to do with it?
But you know what’s even better? “In volume”, says Mr. Kapil Sibal, this tablet will cost $10. Mmmhmm.
When will this product be available? No news. What processor does it have? No news. What kind of touchscreen does it use? No news. How are all these components being sourced from a global supply chain for only $35? No news.
So, ladies and gentlemen, we now have Chapter 3 in the fascinating saga of Indian politicans and their love for cheap, albeit, nonexistent ethereal computers. I am sure this is not what the industry meant when it said we’re all migrating to “computing in the cloud”, Mr. Sibal. You can can extract your head from the stratosphere now. Thank you.