Prototype of $35 Tablet PC from India
As more and more power has been packed in to our computers, it is now a ubiquitous device for most of the population enhancing lifestyles. However its higher costs inhibit many to own their own personal devices and this is set to change with the low-cost computing devices surfacing in the market in the recent times. So itís time for one-to-one computing using the low-cost computing devices to make a big difference in the developing world.
A low-cost device could be a low-end pc such as the netbook of tablet pc, which is priced affordably for common consumption. Considering the need for such devices in large number say for the purpose of education, has made several indigenous projects as well as projects reasonably successful.
The recent launch of the 35$ tablet PC running on Linux-variant platform from India is certainly a milestone in this direction. For the mere cost of 1500Rs, one can get a touch-screen device that is Web-enabled with built-in browser and video conferencing capabilities. Lack of internal memory is altered with memory card-based storage slot and it can run on solar-power if necessary.
Considering some of the features commonly expected in such low-cost devices the following emerge on top:
∑ Power consumption and alternative sources
∑ Portability and durability
∑ Simplicity in interface including touch-screen capabilities
∑ Alternate mean of storage including flash or card-based memory
The Indiaís tablet PC prototype seems to be a best fit in all the above features. The next phase will see industry coming forward to manufacture this prototype in large number and project management for distribution via suitable channels to the educational sector and the low-income communities. Having said that Indiaís existing Internet infrastructure is making leaps and such connectivity through low-cost devices is expected to make a significant economic impact in the long run.
Earlier MIT had pioneered the XO-1 laptop was developed by the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) trade association in a move toward equipping each child with 1 laptop. Along with the backup of the UNDP the large scale roll-out of this laptop was considered for execution in several countries including Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, and Thailand.
Here are a few other initiatives from around the world to promote the development of low-cost computing devices. Note that most are either linked-to or funded by government sponsors and target developing countries.
∑ Longmeng (Dragon Dream) by the Institute of Computing Technology, China
∑ Programa miPC, Argentina
∑ PC Conectado & Computador Para Todos, Brazil
∑ Gyanotkarsh, Gyanjyoti of India
∑ PC Gemilang, from Malaysia
∑ Computers for All Nigerians Initiative (CANi) of Nigeria
∑ Peopleís PC Program in Philippines & Thailand
∑ Saudi Arabian Home Computing Initiative
Considering such light-weight front-end devices, the future of computing seems to be based on Cloud Computing. The concept of cloud computing is about pooling resources, software, and information in clouds and accessing these through the Internet via thin-client machines (including the Internet-enabled devices).
In reality the basic mobile phones, growing with smart capabilities are the true low-cost devices that masses can afford and adopt instantly. However their screen size, resolutions and energy constraints give in room for hand-held devices like pads or tablets to grow in the market.
The infrastructure based on Cloud sources eliminates the need for high powered client devices and there by connectivity and user-friendly interface are adequate for workforce as well as common users. The proliferation of low-cost computing devices will further the concept of computing on the go and free the workforce from their need to be tethered to physical workstations at physical office locations.
The author is a technology evangelist working as consultant at the Information Technology Authority of Oman and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://digitaloman.blogspot.com or http://twitter.com/sangitasri