Wednesday, 4 February 2009


(By Richard Holway) Can I admit that I (and a very large number of the world's more respected media) was somewhat taken in by the very widely reported story earlier this week about India producing a Laptop for educational needs for <$20. See my post Forget the £99 Netbook – What about a tenner?

Alex van Someren (until the recent takeover, the CEO of nCipher) correctly chided me by saying “I think you should apply more of your analytical scepticism to this claim before accepting it. There is no basis for the claim that a BOM of $20 can be achieved. I am reminded of the "paper cellphones" fraud from a few years ago. LCD displays, CPUs and RAM just do not come for that kind of price yet, even in the hundreds of millions off.”

The blog FastCompany Why India’s $10 Laptop is a Load of Hype reported (there are many similar reports) “the "laptop" appears to be nothing much more sophisticated than a specialised digital storage hub/net access point for educational media”. Basically it’s just a 2gb memory drive with WiFi – no screen, no keyboard. Indeed little more than you could already buy today for <£10.

Alex is right – I should have thought a bit more before I commented. Of course, the problem is that this story raised false expectations affecting the credibility of others working hard to make affordable computers to help educate the world’s poor.

The only point I would make is that, a year ago, if you had suggested a Netbook for £99 (from a British manufacturer to boot!) you might have thought that a hoax too. There seems little doubt where the trendline is heading -although I will readily admit that a laptop for <$20 still seems a long way off.

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