The Real $35 Tablet from India: an OLPC Complement, not Competitor


Original published as India's $35 tablet is based on AllGo Systems design (specs inside) on

Indian minister for HR Development HRD, Kapil Sibal announces $35 tablet project. It seems to be based on the Freescale i.MX233 system on chip, with a 7″ resistive 800×480 touch screen. Here's my video with AllGo Embedded Systems, a R&D company based in Bangalore India, where they are showcasing their $35 tablet reference design at the Freescale Technology Forum in Orlando last month. This is likely to be the tablet that India's HRD Minister is talking about:

The Bill Of Material is as following:

  • ARM9 Processor: $5 (Freescale i.MX233)
  • Memory: $3
  • WiFi B/G: $4
  • Other discret components: $3
  • Battery: $5
  • 7″ 800×480 resistive touch screen: $15
  • Total bill of material: $35

It is of course an honor for me that the Indian Government watches my videos and bases their Government projects on those. I just wish India's HRD would stop attacking the One Laptop Per Child efforts all the time. That Minister is quoted as saying that this project is their "answer to MIT's $100 computer". Why can't he say that this is their answer to the $640 Apple iPad? Why does the Indian Ministry of Human Ressources have to attack the non-profit OLPC organization?

India's HRD should stop bashing OLPC

Already back in 2006, the HRD published very harsh statements against the OLPC project such as "India must not allow itself to be used for experimentation with children in this area". After which HRD announced a totally bogus $10 laptop project which resulted in a USB stick. The result of which being, 4 years has passed, and very little has been done to help Indian children at getting any hope at getting a better education using technology.

The $75 OLPC XO-3 design uses a more powerful ARMv7 class processor (3x faster), a 10″ capacitive touch screen on an unbreakable plastic Pixel Qi LCD screen that allows it to run 40 hours on a battery instead of 4 hours of this India HRD project! The screen is a very important component, maybe the most important component to make this a revolutionizing success in the whole of India to hundreds of millions of children.

Let's make it India HRD + OLPC vs Apple iPad + Intel netbooks

So if HRD wants to make a difference for the Children of India, they need to be open about the specifications of their open source hardware designs, they need to present the options in which ARM Processors they are trying to use, which features that would be included in the SoC and how much HRD would like to support the mass manufacturing of sunlight readable Pixel Qi LCD screen technology. And they should stop positioning this as India HRD vs OLPC but talk about it as India HRD + OLPC vs Apple iPad + Intel netbooks.

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As Satish Jha was quoted, OLPC India would like to support any initiative of the Indian Government to bring down the cost of delivering quality education to its poorest. Then why is Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) hell bent on attacking O... [more]


"It is of course an honor for me that the Indian Government watches my videos and bases their Government projects on those." - Haha, I know it's only Monday but this has got to be the most hilarous phrase of the week! ;-)

I guess the demented author means "Complement" instead of "compliment" - but the rest of the article is risible enough as it is.

This site is dying, without any real content to publish because OLPC is dead itself. I can understand that; however, giving the ok to this nonsense is a bit too much...

Guess its dying so much, you feel the need to read and comment. Now that's a real compliment!

I'll pass the message about OLPC dying along to the several dozen volunteers and >700.000 children with XOs here in Uruguay, Paraguay, and Peru... ;-)

Who says OLPC is dead? Try to find out the truth before you post anything this rubbish.

As Satish Jha was quoted, OLPC India would like to support any initiative of the Govt to bring down the cost of delivering quality education to its poorest. Then why is MHRD hell bent on attacking OLPC?

The announcement of the MHRD showcasing a $35 laptop is intriguing to say the least and designed to spite OLPC.

Initially MHRD dismissed OLPC saying the “pedagogy of learning with laptops is suspect”.

Then it went on to announce a $10 laptop that turned out to be a magnified USB, instead of the regular 1x2.5 cms it was 12.5x19 cms in size and added a functionality to see the file names.

That announcement embarrassed India in the world community. The new announcement may suggest that someone in MHRD does not get the message that India has no track record of product creation and all such announcement have achieved one thing: depriving 25 million children that enter the school system every year of an opportunity to learn the way the developed world learns for a percent of their cost.

The idea of affordable, connected, rugged laptops that worked regardless of infrastructure and teaching quality availability constraints with “learning learning” rather than “rote teaching” was launched by One laptop per Child initiative of Nicholas Negroponte in 2002.

Calling OLPC just a laptop is a bit like a human being made of a pair of arms, legs and a torso. Relative to that the $30 device showcased by MHRD is what China has been selling for some time, a CPU, a keyboard and a screen slapped together with little by way of educational applications, or ruggedness that works under infrastructure challenges nor the pedagogic capabilities we need for learning.

Its not clear who will make it, how will it be productionized, what range of applications will be offered, how does it aid education, what will be the real final price. In fact, considering MHRD has displayed a kind of “ipad” without calling it an ipad or something along those lines and declaring it as a laptop raises suspicion about its about real nature.

In fact someone from within the Government informed me that the price quoted is for millions of pieces. They are going to spend 2 billion dollars ( Ten thousand crores) to reach millions of students with a subsidy component of one billion dollar. I don’t know which IIT did the research.

Some RTI activists must take the initiative to get the full details. What some feel is that they went to china ( one IIT Director and another undersecretary) bought some pieces, sat together and wrote some specifications and asked the minister to release the specs and the gadget.

In fact the bill of material for a cheap laptop in China is already under $50. But that laptop has little of any capabilities that OLPC has for the villages. That does not have the ruggedness, the screen or the range of applications that work with OLPC laptops and are designed specifically for that.

It would seem that rather than reduce the duty, that alone is more than the claimed cost of the laptop, and bring the cost of the real thing, OLPC, in India further down, MHRD decided to create something that may create an impression that something is being done without actually producing it.
OLPC has been transforming the way education is delivered for 32 months now.

Its been adding more than country a month to the movement of offering the most marginalized children an opportunity to stand up shoulder to shoulder with the best educated peer in the world. Its been analysed, experimented with, tested, improved and now it has the next version willthe applications that will cost $100 or less by January 2011.

Rather than embracing that, a desire to produce something that has not been tested yet makes the government’s motive questionable, to say the least. While it will produce little, it will impact the ability of people to make up their mind and move ahead with what is available today.

OLPC has been tried and tested in 40 countries for education. 2.5 million children have transformed their lives with the help of OLPC.

Time value of money is a basic concept in finance. It works in education as well. A child denied that access at the right age will unlikely make up for that as swiftly as MHRD may think. But then 63 years of keeping India ignorant was not possible without making announcements year after year that had no legs. While we sincerely hope this one is not one of the same, at best it looks like a poor imitation, hastily announced to stall some major decisions that may have been in the offing.

MHRD may want to appreciate that “not invented here” syndrome killed many a thriving corporations. Untried and untested ideas in fields that are rather new may not have any different results.

Bundled with all that OLPC has, the MHRD laptop may not cost less than $500 as we speak. By the time someone produces it, adds the logistics, margins etc, it will be still touching $100.

By the times someone organizes the applications needed and considers distributing it, its prices will fly many times higher. In that sense, the announcement is at best premature, at worst a design to deprive the students starting school now an opportunity to leapfrog a few generations ahead for just Rs 10 per day when midday meal scheme alone costs about Rs 7 a day.

Quite frankly I think that the bigger issue here is not if the $35 (Charbax's :-) laptop will be indeed $35 nor if is going to be as good as XO-x. Not even if the India HRD is against OLPC.
The issue is if indeed a country with the size and the development level of India will go ahead and provide all its pupils/students with a really inexpensive device capable of connecting to the internet, performing basic computation and supporting (available/newly produced) educational material.
I wish they will. Even is the machine costs $50 or $70 and makes obsolete the OLPC organization as such.
Is the olpc idea that is important and if a country like India does it, good for them and good for everybody else too!

ONE Direct question shooted at all

What/ How is it Usefull for Children?

"attack the non-profit OLPC organization" ???

The OLPC is own by the AMD, Brightstar, Chi Lin, eBay, Google, Marvell, NewsCorp, Nortel, Quanta, Red Hat and SES Astra.

As someone owning stocks of some of these companies I am expecting them to get the OLPC products to the Indian markets very fast. In there they can generate me some return of investment. I didn’t buy the stocks to save the children of the developing world. I bought them to cover the college bills of my own children!

I'm really sory for your children Tim.
Apparently you have no clue in investing.

mavrothal: do you meant that eBay, Google, AMD and NewsCorp are not good stocks?

I can tell you - in last 10 years I have made close to 2 million USD with them.

If they are now pouring money to OLPC without a clear idea howt to make money with it, I am very diaspointed. I would assume that Indian markets is very importat in this plan, so go for it!

- Tim

They are excellent stocks, but this does not change my previous statement.

OLPC has not put a penny in India and left its India organization to battle for itself. Just imagine a King asking its general go into the enemy territory without the army and ammunition. That is what the great man Negroponte has done to his India organization. While the whole Government of India and the Indian and the foreign media support the $35 laptop that has no leg to stand on. Negroponte cannot win this battle that is premised on his track record in India. He clearly does not understand India and does not support those in his organization who do.