Omatek Smartbook - A Local XO Laptop Competitor

   
   
   
   
   

Earlier this month, I had the luxury of inspecting a new Omatek Smartbook at the Ministry of Education in Ghana. The Smartbook is a low-cost laptop aimed at the education market, and one look at it and you know its an XO laptop derivative:

It also happens to be one of the many 4P Computers that are coming out of the developing world. Not content to leave the 4PC market to Asus, these local computer manufactures are making their own low-cost, highly-portable, power-efficient, and performance-relative computers for local and regional markets.

Omatek Computers is a Nigerian company with a computer assembly factory in Ghana. This allows Omatek to produce computers tax free for Ghana and Nigeria, within certain quotas, giving it a competitive advantage over international vendors.

Add in the reference designs shared freely by the chipset manufacturers and local companies like Omatek are the next wave of real innovation the in 4P Computing market - more creative than Intel or OLPC, and over the long term, more game-changing.

As soon as one of these vendors realizes the true untapped market - parents who want to give their children an educational edge - you will see an explosion in local design and assembly. Just the employment, investment, and empowerment that the developing world needs.

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9 Comments

YES!

Local manufacturing is the answer!
Not only do they produce low cost, import-duty-free laptops for the knowledge hungry children but they provide work for employees.
A whole industry builds up around deployment, maintenance and other spin-offs. Wifi access points spread out across the country. Schools become community information kiosks with villagers able to access the web.

Local software content should also follow on with region applicable activities. Sounds somewhat like Nepal. If only they could build their own laptops there.

"Add in the reference designs....more creative than Intel or OLPC, and over the long term, more game-changing."

more creative? how so? i agree that this could potentially be a pretty major thing, having the laptops manufactured over there and using local products as opposed to stuff overseas (thereby saving money and creating more jobs) not to mention the fact that having the machine made in the country that is using said laptop will allow for more of the locals to gain access to one of these netbooks, It would also make any issues such as repair or a bad part much easier to deal with since the product is created/made over there.

so...yes, i agree that it is in fact (potentially) game changing. however, i fail to see how it is more creative. it is simply a standard netbook (i'd wager a dollar that its an intel processor btw...virtually all the netbooks are using those) that is made in ghana.

you know i do admit this does present an interesting idea for other countries as well. organize and develop an infustructure between all the main organizations within that country which are needed to develop, build, and maintain a computer company. then do it. it doesnt need to be the next dell, it just needs to be as cost efficient and cheap as possible without gov subsidies (simply because if it is always desperate for money from the gov, there could be major financial problems later on). It would create jobs and potentially (if done correctly) reach many of the goals that olpc has had.

if this did magically happen (it in all likelihood won't, but you never know) then i wonder how companies would respond to it...they'd probably start putting as much money into R&D as possible so that they could create a product that was much better than what was being made locally. there might also be a huge drop in prices by companies like intel and amd and nvidia and other chip manufacturers in order to get countries to buy their product.

unless of course things were going along so well that alot of countries start producing their own parts as well...

ahh, its fun to speculate

I wouldn't hail them too much without seeing an independently reviewed, working unit. Too much vaporware nowadays.

Likely, they are nowhere in resources compared to even OLPC and you can easily see how a 1-year delay can happen with software development (Sugar is getting close(r) to promises only now and the first G1G1 was almost a year ago).

Note that the XO started as a reference design from AMD.

Most manufacturers of processors have ready-to-go designs for laptops that almost anyone with sufficient cash can craft into a product.

Buy LCD displays, keyboards, memory, batteries. Mold a plastic case and put it all together. The process is within reach of almost any country willing to invest in a little infrastructure.

Its just a question of local content.

@Robert Arrowsmith:
"Its just a question of local content."

And with Ubuntu netbook remix and Sugar, you even have a complete OS and software stack. And Ubuntu even supports a lot of the relevant languages (eg, Hausa and Ewe). Although I have no idea how well they do support it.

Winter

Before the usual suspects work themselves into a frenzy of anti-globalist jubilation does anyone know what the computers are going to/do cost?

All that "tax free" talk suggests high tariff barriers which doesn't mean the computers will be a bargain, or even affordable, just that they'll be cheaper then imported computers. The company web site doesn't appear to have any prices on it and I'm not inclined to go spelunking for the prices of Nigerian computers so if someone has a reasonably reliable figure in hand, I'd be interested to know what the computers will cost.

Allen, I note in the video from Wayan he mentioned under $500 US.
Personally I think thats way overpriced. More to do with low quantity than anything. Maybe in volume the price will drop.

You have to ask where is the advantage to locally made computers costing twice the price of mass produced chinese built and shipped machines.

If all the advantage was in local employment in Ghana in a factory with a few (hundred?) employees then I'd say its not worth it. After all, just because they are manufactured in Ghana does not mean that other industries will spring up in support of the manufacturer. Would someone start a battery factory down the road? Would an injection moulder start up in another street?

Imported product will just as easily produce spin-off industry in support of usage and content development.

Maybe a business will start building Wireless Access Points?

Allen, I note in the video from Wayan he mentioned under $500 US.
Personally I think thats way overpriced. More to do with low quantity than anything. Maybe in volume the price will drop.

You have to ask where is the advantage to locally made computers costing twice the price of mass produced chinese built and shipped machines.

If all the advantage was in local employment in Ghana in a factory with a few (hundred?) employees then I'd say its not worth it. After all, just because they are manufactured in Ghana does not mean that other industries will spring up in support of the manufacturer. Would someone start a battery factory down the road? Would an injection moulder start up in another street?

Imported product will just as easily produce spin-off industry in support of usage and content development.

Maybe a business will start building Wireless Access Points?

If the computers are overpriced due to their protected status won't the spin-off businesses be overpriced as well? The answer's "yes".

Market protection alway - always - ends up damaging the local economy.

Ghanians who might have bought a better computer for less are now forced to buy a lousier computer for more or forgo the purchase entirely. That depresses the entire computer industry however small that may yet be.

I doubt what claimed good that'll flow from this market protection scheme will be offset by the damage it does to the greater economy.

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