India's $35 Android tablet for developing world

July 23, 2010: 3:44 PM ET

Prices could drop to an absurd $10-$20 when these hit scale.

Android notification icons on upper right hand side.

Today, India's human resource development minister, Kapil Sibal, unveiled a $35 tablet computer that will run Linux.  Although it wasn't specified, the device he displayed had the familiar notification icons of Android, seen to the right.  Android, is a Linux OS built for smartphones and now tablets by Google under an Open Source license.

"This is our answer to MIT's $100 computer," Sibal said.

MIT's One Laptop Per Child device ,which he is likely referring to, morphed into a $75 tablet a few months ago and is also running Google's (GOOG) Android OS.

Although a camera is not visible in the video below, according to the Telegraph the device is capable of video conferencing.  That's something that the slightly more expensive iPad from Apple (AAPL) famously won't yet do.   It has USB ports as well (Zing!).  Oh, and it does Adobe's Flash too.  Ouch!

The tablet can be used for word processing, web browsing and videoconferencing. It has a solar power option too – important for India's energy-starved hinterlands – though that add-on costs extra.

OLPC's device has a much more modern design and is also supposed to drop in cost as production ramps up.  It will be powered by Marvell's Moby platform and which is capable of doing many of the things Netbooks are only beginning to support.

Moby tablet features gigahertz-class processor speed, 1080p full-HD encode and decode, intelligent power management, power-efficient Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM/GPS connectivity, high performance 3D graphics capability and support for multiple software standards including full Adobe Flash, Android™ and Windows Mobile.  The ultra low power Moby tablet is designed for long-battery life.

Still though, India's tablet is an order of magnitude cheaper and the government also plans to subsidize some of the costs for its poorer children.

India has pulled a similar pricing miracle in Automobiles, making more of less with the $1000 Tata Mini (which eventually turned into $2500).

While the Indian tablet prototype looks a little bit rickety, I could see Marvel's device also being used in the first world for schooling and for general purposes around the home.  With the poor economy, a cheap tablet with the right mix of features to turn into a commercial success.

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Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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