By Greg Mills
There is a story in the international press today that tells how the government of India is touting an Internet connecting touch screen pad that runs Linux, with a browser, has PDF display capabilities, WiFi, 2GBs of memory and potentially email and other features.
India has 250,000 villages that need to be dragged into age of the Internet. The prototyped device, called "Nano" is designed to offer communications for the government to interface with all the little villages and support educational programs, as well.
The second major stab at an affordable computer for the world's poor, the new pad has promise. It's set to launch in early 2011. The XO "One Laptop per Child" program has not been able to meet its goal of selling their units under $100, as hoped. The rock bottom, no frills devices are hardly comparable to anything we would use in the US, but they do fill a crying need.
The bill of materials alone, before assembly, makes the numbers questionable. Without donated parts the goals are unachievable. The plan is to start with one million devices going mostly to university students, with younger student getting their devices later. India is home to brilliant engineering minds, with access to some high tech firms opening electronic parts manufacturing plants in country. Some government strong-arming, cajoling and outright extortion can do miracles in India to get the right help to pull this off.
The call has gone out for help from the industry. If they can't produce an actual working device for the projected price, at least they they will cut the price down to a more affordable level. There is no doubt having access to even a primitive computer is better than no access at all. The 3G national WiFi radio spectrum is secured, and India hopes to build out the system in the same time frame as the launch of the pads.
While no one expects Apple to give away the crown jewels, it would be cool of Apple to help them with things like design. Good PR would be some relief for the beating Apple has taken in the press of late. With iPads in the wild to disassemble and reverse engineer, the Indians will get tips on world class engineering for touch screen slates anyway, why not put a good face on it and help them out? Apple can show some good heart here.
(Greg Mills is currently a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Married, with one daughter still at home, Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's web sites at http://www.gregmills.info . He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)