Evaluating the $35 Indian Computer

Indian government unveils what looks like a scandalously cheap iPad--but does it work?

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The Indian government unveiled the prototype for a new $35 tablet computer Friday. Powered by Marvell's Moby platform, Indian officials are already calling the device "our answer to MIT's $100 computer." But is it any good?

  • No Frills  "Rickety," was Seth Weintraub of Fortune's initial impression of the device's construction. For the money though, he argues it might not matter. "I could see Marvel's device also being used in the first world for schooling and for general purposes around the home," writes Weintraub. "With the poor economy, a cheap tablet with the right mix of features to turn into a commercial success."

  • Hidden Catch  PC World's Jared Newman is skeptical of the Indian government's business model for selling the devices. Writes Newman:

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.

  • Bigger Problems  In India, news of the tablet has been greeted with skepticism, writes Ajay Vaishnav of the Time of India.

Let's say the government actually succeeds in distributing low-cost computers to kids across the country, itself a charitable assumption. Computers are of little value without internet access. But how far is the internet available in backward and remote areas? Do they even have electricity, which needs to be at least intermittently available in order to power computers? Can we ensure maintenance of millions of computers across the country?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.