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India Officially Launches Simputer

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the high-hopes-still-high dept.

Handhelds 197

aravind writes "The Communications and IT Minister, Pramod Mahajan, has launched India's indigenously developed low-cost handheld Personal Computer -- Simputer -- at an IT and Communication expo, SMAU 2002, in Milan. A low-cost handheld PC on GNU/Linux working through a browser for international markup language IML, priced at Rs9000 (less than $200). 200Mhz StrongArm processor, 32MB DRAM, 24 MB flash, touchscreen, speakers, USB, text-to-speech, MP3 capability ... " Look here for some of the previous stories we've run on the Simputer.

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Indians smell (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540624)

I was fucking this Indian girl once and her pussy stunk like it hadn't been cleaned in years.

Truth be told, it probably HADN'T been cleaned in years!


Re:Indians smell (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540631)

Racist fuck. Go shoot your self in the scrotum

Re:Indians smell (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540645)

Up yours, nigger!

Re:Indians smell (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540647)

Liberal fuck, go shoot your self in the anus.

Re:Indians smell (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540663)

I agree that those indians are dirty sand niggahs.. howeer i must wonder what the fuck you cock as doing in such a dirty fucken hole.. you piece of shit! you deserve that fucken yeast infected niggah-gina!

Re:Indians smell (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540685)

What do you think I was doing? I was raping her!

Re:Indians smell (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540736)

Inside your rectum... man-jiuce! How it got there?

sand niggahs (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540817)

Yes indians are dirty smelly niggers, we shoudl rid the planet of those fucken niggers. Lets get the Bush administration to nuke them niggers ou of there country. fucken curry munchers!

wOOt (-1, Offtopic)

amentia (142487) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540628)

yey. maybe first non-troll post.

is 200$ really that cheap?

Re:wOOt (1, Interesting)

amentia (142487) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540668)

ok. got the first non-troll post, now I can explain my question.

What's the avarage monthly wages of an indian?
Is it really that cheap?

... and you poke at it... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540637)

From the FAQ:

Q: How do I enter text? Can I attach a keyboard?

A: There are two options on the base simputer for entering text: one is a soft keyboard, that can be brought up on the touch screen and you poke at it to enter one character at a time...

I guess they took it to the point that that even the description is simplified. :)

Re:... and you poke at it... (4, Funny)

LittleBigScript (618162) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540806)

Well, it could be simpler.

Do they mean to poke at the Simputer? or something else...perhaps the person sitting next to you.

Stranger: Hey, stop that.
User: I was only trying to use my computer. It says to poke.
Stranger: You must use AOL, too, huh?
User: ...

Ahh, humor, it cures all forms of frustration.
Even the frustration of being unable to poke people.

IT FELT GOOD WHEN I POKED YOUR MOM!!!!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540825)

Another PDA Device? (1, Interesting)

raydobbs (99133) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540638)

Why do we need another PDA device, exactly? I mean, yes, it uses Linux - but so does the Sharp Zaurus (sp?), and has had the kinks worked out of the mix more... Is this a case of India just wanting to say 'Me Too!'?

Re:Another PDA Device? (2, Insightful)

miratrix (601203) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540649)

Yeah, the specs doesn't look too different from Compaq iPaq which has been out for more than 2 years now. However, it is quite a bit cheaper, and it seems like the point of this device is to bring computing to the masses. If you don't have reliable power... etc, PDA just might be the answer.

Speaking of reliable power.... (2, Insightful)

LeapingGnomeArs (561240) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540691)

This thing takes three AAA batteries, are these readily available in India? In the US they cost a couple of bucks for a pack, so going by what someone else stated as the average Indian making $16 a month, they are supposed to spend 12.5% of their income on batteries?

Re:Speaking of reliable power.... (3, Insightful)

silentbozo (542534) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540703)

If you're a geek (probably, if you get one of these), you'll probably also find a way to get your hands on some rechargable nicad batteries, and a charger (solar or conventional) to charge em with.

For those who get one of these gizmos, who aren't geeks, they'll just find a local geek to hook them up with the requisite technology. I expect the local village tech to build a side business supply them with a set of rechargable batteries, which he'll recharge at his shop for a fee, if there doesn't already exist a service like this now...

Re:Speaking of reliable power.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540761)

AAA batteries ARE available in India, and no not for $2 but about Rs.10 (20 cents).
Don't expect costs in developing countries to be equal to those in the US. Heard of Eastern Economy/Low Priced/... Edition of Books specifically for South Asian & nearby developing countries?

Re:Speaking of reliable power.... (1)

Funkitup (260923) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540793)

My experience of India was that batteries are readily available and at much cheaper prices than in the West - though maybe only in tourist areas.

I wouldn't like to think of the environmental impact of 1 billion waste batteries however!

I'm not sure they've really thought about that too much.

Re:Speaking of reliable power.... (1)

Annoyed Coward (620173) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540813)

India has pockets of communities, that can be comparable to developed nations. And salaries of US$500 to US$5000 per month is not uncommon in those areas. The disparity will remain till India becomes a powerful developed nation.

Re:Another PDA Device? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540754)

In India - due to political reasons - vote^H^H^H^Hvillagers DO have reliable power, it's the middle-class that suffers.

Ok nice attempt by the indians (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540639)

.. but the thing looks like a pile of tured dog curry.. ugly sand niggah shit!

Cheap, but is it enough? (5, Insightful)

syphoon (619506) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540640)

Its good to see low cost applications such as the simputer being made to help those who otherwise wouldn't have access to any such device. But I wonder, in a country as vast as India with 58 taught languages and 87 different language newspapers (http://www.abhishek.mybravenet.com/languages%20of %20india.htm), how effective would the speech recognition really be, especially when you take into account the lower literacy levels of the demograph its aimed at.

Re:Cheap, but is it enough? (4, Informative)

metlin (258108) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540757)

IAAI - I Am An Indian
IAANLPR - I Am An Natural Language Processing Researcher

Ok, although India does have so many different languages, the majority of the people speak a countable few, maybe with subtle differences in dialects. In fact, only about 14 languages are recognized as official languages of India, and almost everybody can speak two or more Indian languages.

So, although the total figure may seem big, using just one language like Hindi would cover significant percent of the populace.

Also, there _is_ a lot of similarity between a lot of the languages, both in the written and the spoken forms. So developing a general prototype system and then expanding on it regionwise would not be as mammoth a task as it may seem.

For example, a lot of the South Indian languages sound similar, have similar sounding alphabets, with a few differences in grammar. The basic difference would come in smaller parts of the language set and may need certain prefixed lexicon modifications.

If these things are going to be custom built for each of these states, then I'm guessing that you'd have a system that is custom-built to the languages of that region.

It may take a while longer and maybe a little tedious, but I suppose that would be just worth the trouble, especially after having come this far.

Average montly salaries (5, Informative)

Drunken Coward (574991) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540643)

The average monthly salary [rice.edu] in India is somewhere along the lines of $37. A person earning that much could hardly afford the luxuries of such a handheld, even if it could be attained for the paltry sum of $200. Pennies to us, but to them it could take a lifetime to acquire that amount of savings. Until we work to attain far cheaper methods of building computers, these people will be unable to experience the very joy we take for granted. Of course, this is a noble effort and no doubt will further number of Indians able to participate in the IT field, but further effort is needed.

Re:Average montly salaries (5, Interesting)

rovingeyes (575063) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540657)

Well, even though the average monthly salary might be low, you are forgetting the point that even if 2% of more than a billion population plan to buy (believe me there are people india who are filthy rich) it'd be lot more than the simputer guys could hope for. Certainly you can look at it this way - IT IS A START!

Re:Average montly salaries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540689)

But the point of Simputer is not to make money, but to benefit the poor and assist them in getting a computer they would otherwise be unable to attain. The high price makes the goal impossible to reach.

Re:Average montly salaries (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540772)

It's just difficult to produce a computer at too low a price in a developing country. I am even skeptical about Rs.9000. That was said when they proposed to release by March 2002. The first time someone told me about simputers he said it was Rs.12000. Then in a talk Vijay Chandru accepted it seems it would be a lot more than that (18000 or something like that).

BTW in India a PC is about Rs. 30000

Re:Average montly salaries (2, Informative)

kfishy (534087) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540661)

I suppose the government will have to fund it, at least partially. However, the impact apparently wouldn't be that great, since it is designed to be shared by a community [simputer.org]


Re:Average montly salaries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540835)

The sharing part makes a lot of sense, but it's not clear to me why then it must be a small portable machine. Surely they could easily make a full size kiosk PC that would be as powerful, easier to use, cheaper, and more resistant to theft.

But the simputer is still a good idea, and I'm sure people will find many uses for it.

Re:Average montly salaries (5, Insightful)

Albanach (527650) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540706)

By reading the FAQ [simputer.org] you would learn that the simputer has been designed for sharing by communities. THe examples they give are schools and community centres which are already established as places where shared resources are available to comunities.

The simputer is equipped with a smart card reader which is intended to provide personalisation to the device. The aim is to reduce the cost of _access_ (that's the important bit, not ownership) to the device to that of owning a smart card, not of owning the device itself.

Think of being able to walk into a local library and borrow a computer for a day instead of a book.

Re:Average montly salaries (5, Insightful)

arvindn (542080) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540744)

Pennies to us, but to them it could take a lifetime to acquire that amount of savings. I live in India, and I what you say is simply not true. You're missing the point that not everyone earns close to the average salary. An Indian "middle class" family (such as mine) could easily have an income of Rs. 50000 ($1000) per month. (That's > 25 times your average!) True, the percent of affluent people is small, but in a country of a billion people its still a large number. I don't mean to troll, but slashdot seems to have the general attitude that India is still a country of snake charmers and tightrope walkers. Get over it. While a majority of the population lives in poverty (and consistently gets screwed by self-serving governments), there is also a large, educated, wealthy technically minded workforce.

Actually, the reason the simputer took so long to take off was that its creators initially focussed on the wrong market - the illiterate masses. No company came forward to mass produce it and only the intervention of the government saved it from dying out altogether. But now that it has gotten off the mark, I think there is a very good market for it out here.

Re:Average montly salaries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540805)

1. It's not meant for the middle-class & hence what grandparent says is true.
2. It's not meant for individuals so they really don't want customers to take a lifetime to save that much money & buy it.
3. You must be one of the so-called "Upper" middle-class. There exist middle-class families with incomes less than Rs.10000.

Re:Average montly salaries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540842)

So another words, there are plenty of upperclass scum that say fuck you to the poor. Oh thats right, they are just low on the caste system. So they deserve to be poor.

Too bad the british still don't own you're ass.

Re:Average montly salaries (1)

Cerberus9 (466562) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540777)

it could be attained for the paltry sum of $200. Pennies to us, but to them it could take a
lifetime to acquire that amount of savings

The average monthly salary in India is somewhere along the lines of $37

How much are taxes in India? For simplicity, I'll assume the $37 represents after tax income. Okay, let's say they really really want one of these and save $5 a month. So, it'll take 3.5 years to save up the $200. That would make it a major purchase, along the lines of, say, a car in the western world, but hardly their life savings. I'd buy the lifetime argument for families taking home $3.50 a month though.

Re:Average montly salaries (2)

rseuhs (322520) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540854)

So according to your strange logic, there should be not a single car in India, because nobody could ever afford it.

Hint: Not everybody earns the same. Out of the billion of habitants, I guess there are a couple of millions who can easily afford such devices without any trouble.

Re:Average montly salaries (2, Insightful)

Overcoat (522810) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540786)

The reason average income in India is so low is that the population contains many millions of very poor people.

Keep in mind, though, that India's population is about a billion: there is also a large middle income group in the country who could afford a $200 computer pretty easily. This group makes up a relatively small percentage of the population, but this still amounts to several million people

Re:Average montly salaries (2, Insightful)

Annoyed Coward (620173) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540815)

It costs less than a Television in India. And there are tens of millions of Televisions in India. :-D

Re:Average monthly salaries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540851)

And of course this utterly fatuous remark would have to be modded to +5.
The average monthly salary for the whole country has absolutely nothing to do with this. The point is that the Simputer makes computing available to a *huge* number of people who couldn't afford it before (somewhere around the middle class, that's around 250 million people.) Look at this way - a car costs 15 times as much as a simputer yet the number of cars in the cities is simply exploding.
The real question is whether the Simputer is going to reach its target audience which IRC includes salesmen in rural areas and the like. But that is another matter entirely.

Posted @05:14AM EDT? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540646)

If Slashdot was running on Windows XP Professional, then the server clock would switch from EDT to EST automatically. Let's see how many days it takes for CmdrTaco to notice the problem and fix his cock.

Re:Posted @05:14AM EDT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540690)

ah, little freudian slip there... now we know what you really spend your time thinking about.

In India, less than USD 200 IS A LOT ! (3, Redundant)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540648)

USD 200 might sounds peanuts to many. But in India, it's a hell lot for the majority of Indians.

Simputer is a good concept, but with RP 9000 price tag, I think it'll only benefit (again!) the Rich, the Powerful and the Corrupted, in India, of course.

Can anyone here offer any suggestion as to how to lower the cost ?

Thanks in advance !

Re:In India, less than USD 200 IS A LOT ! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540662)

perhaps. they can ditch the MP3 support. doesn't fraunhoeffer (or whoever licenses mp3 stuff) charge $1, or something like that, per unit, for hardware devices to be able to play MP3s ?

it's only $1, but, it's a start

Good suggestion ! (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540699)

Yeah, they could go ogg vorbis indeed.

But that begat another question -

Is there any Ogg Vorbis firmware available ?!

Re:In India, less than USD 200 IS A LOT ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540810)

It may be only $1, but also "less than USD 200" which makes it a lot in india, according to the original poster :-)

Re:In India, less than USD 200 IS A LOT ! (3)

nomadic (141991) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540770)

But it's not like India doesn't have a middle class. From the posts here you'd think everyone's either a pauper or a millionaire; there are millions of Indians for whom $200 USD would be an investment, but a doable one.

Re:In India, less than USD 200 IS A LOT ! (0)

viggen (620157) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540791)

A start would that communties would buy one and share them! as they get along learning the simputer to use (maybe make money with it) more could be purchased!

the text to speech (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540650)

i wonder if families in india will send these units to relatives working in the US

maybe if the 7-11 clerks have 'em, i can understand what it is they're trying to say to me

come on, you know you thought of that

So why can't anyone else do this? (1)

rossifer (581396) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540651)

If the PalmOS sells for $5 to $7 in quantity, why isn't Handspring making money hand over fist on their palmtops at $400+?

And wasn't the first sub-$300 wince device just announced? Without anything close to these specs...

So, where can I buy one?


MP3? (1)

kfishy (534087) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540652)

where is my dear Ogg? :(

btw, time to update the PDA poll :P

Re:MP3? (1)

mdechene (607874) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540735)

Ogg takes too much processor horsepower for a 200 MHz to handle, I'd guess. Its significantly more than mp3.

Re:MP3? (2, Informative)

kfishy (534087) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540774)

Ogg Vorbis was ported to Sharp's Zaurus [linuxdevices.com] earlier this year. It has a 200MHz StrongArm processor too, so I don't see why they can't do the same with Simputer. I would love to have an inexpensive Ogg-capable handheld ^_^

Re:MP3? (1)

Pius II. (525191) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540827)

Furthermore, according to the FAQ:
"Any X application that restricts the display to 240x320 will directly run on the Simputer."
So you could even build your graphical player of choice on this thing. Of course, with only 24 Mb flash, this thing wouldn't be that much fun. With a 20 GB USB HD, OTOH... :-)

IT doesn't replace education. (3, Insightful)

Krapangor (533950) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540656)

This is a really stupid waste of money.
India's problem are not people who don't know how to use a computer, India's problem are people who can't read or write at all.
What use whould such people have for a computer ?
I doubt seriously that it had Hindi speech recognition (Hindi is much harder to do than French or English).
So these people would be able to buy for a 2 years wages a high-tech doorstopper.
That's classic wasted goverment effort. How about building schools instead ? Or creating decent taxes to distribute the enourmous wealth of the rich to the poor one so that they can efford education or even a real computer in some time ?
But as always technology without meaning.

Re:IT doesn't replace education. (2, Interesting)

kfishy (534087) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540702)

One would think that with at least 500 million people literate, Simputer ought to have some use to the general population. I mean, 52% is quite big to qualify as "elite", wouldn't you think? Remember that this is only a very tiny step in the right direction to solve a really big and widespread problem (actually two, poverty and literacy :P).

Also, Hindi speech recognition is not necessary harder to do than French or English. The difficulty of a language to typical Europeans is usually not an important factor in speech recognition. In fact, with so many phonetic and grammatical irregularities, English is probably one of the most difficult language (widely in use, of course) to be analysed/zed systematically.

And rest assured that this is definitely not a screwed up time consuming and money wasting project by the Big Evil And Corrupted Government (TM). Oooh no.

Please tell that to Malaysia (5, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540767)

Your message's title "IT doesn't replace education" is indeed very striking, considering that the government of Malaysia - a fifth-rate country, mind you - is on the path of REPLACING education with IT.

Specifically, the Prime Minister of Malaysia has commented on several accounts that,

"The teachers are mere facilitators. The main point
is the computers, where the students learn from. The
teachers just _help_ out if any problem arises."

Dunno what will happen to the children in fifth rate countries such as Malaysia.

Re:IT doesn't replace education. (2, Insightful)

Mac Degger (576336) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540780)

You should realise that having a coupleof these in out of the way villages can actually help people to read. A "learning to read and write" program should be pretty easy to program on such a machine...drop it in a smallish group of kids, and they'll have it down soon enough. This device is an enabler for what you're complaining about. And at the low cost of the machine, it's actually quite do-able for the governemnt (ie affordable).

Re:IT doesn't replace education. (2, Insightful)

Annoyed Coward (620173) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540833)

That is not true. Since your post is based on piece of guesswork about India, I dont take it seriously. The infrastructure for education is in place. It is not perfect, but it is in place. And most of this is geared to provide computer education as well. The development of Simputer, (and supercomputer, and optical fibres, and satellites, and nuclear power stations) is part of taking the country in the rank of developed nations. The Simputer will find local consumers, no doubt. But, if it hits American markets, it could replace lot of chinese devices.

Re:IT doesn't replace education. (0)

cilix (538057) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540834)

You don't seem to understand just how expensive education is.
Developing computer systems is expensive, but in comparison to developing a working education system for a billion odd people, it's really, really cheap. I don't know, but i would be suprised if the Indian government wasn't spending a hell of a lot more on education than they are on this machine.

from the FAQ (5, Funny)

jas79 (196511) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540664)

Q: Can I create a Beowulf cluster using many Simputers?

A: You must be a /.er; in which case you know the answer!

Re:from the FAQ (2, Funny)

Subcarrier (262294) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540694)

Q: Can I create a Beowulf cluster using many Simputers?
A: You must be a /.er; in which case you know the answer!

Which would be no. Your average slashdotter has to strain a little just to imagine a Beowulf cluster of those.

Re:from the FAQ (3, Insightful)

silentbozo (542534) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540716)

Given that there's a USB port and a phone port (powered by some sort of software modem), you have two choices to network your equipment. The real problem with clustering will be power -you'll have to hack each case with an adapter to supply 4.5vdc. A more elegant way of handling this would be if they allowed you to supply power to the simputer via the USB port (say, could you get enough current to charge your batteries?)

It's funny that they talk about client-server processes for the simputer, since it lacks wireless access (when I think of portable devices talking to other devices, I think wireless.) However, if you can implement a common interface for connecting to a network and charging via a common port (could USB work?), you could install ports all over the place.

With this kind of distributed computing in place, India could soon be home of some serious computational power...

Re:from the FAQ (2)

Subcarrier (262294) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540756)

Yeah, the talk of client-server does seem a little strange. I thought the device was designed primarily for standalone use, the reason being that the power grid, not to mention networking infrastructure, is not generally available.

Lack of wireless capability does make sense in terms of cost and power consumption. I suppose you could easily add a Bluetooth USB dongle for short range wireless connectivity to get some ad-hoc networking capability at the expense of higher power consumption.

Re:from the FAQ (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540846)

the second:

Q: Does it come with The Sims?

A: You must be a /. er, please read before asking.

Linux (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540665)

I do so hate to point this out, but Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Diluting the trademark by using it as part of a different mark-- like "GNU/Linux"-- is illegal under United States trademark law and similar laws in all countries signatory to the Berne Convention. Stop writing "GNU/Linux." You can call it "Linux with GNU sofware" or "GNU software on Linux" or whatever, but you can't call it "GNU/Linux."

Re:Linux (0)

LucidityZero (602202) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540722)

No, it's basically the opposite. Anything falling under definition of GNU (including Linux) is required to have GNU in the name. Infact, almost every major distribution you know should have GNU in the name. GNU/Mandrake, GNU/RedHat, GNU/Debian, GNU/Gentoo... If you really want to get technical (like you obviously are attempting to do) there are many places you should be seeing GNU that you aren't. GNU/Linux is a perfectly acceptable and legal way of describing Linux. You do know what GNU stands for and what it means, right?

Re:Linux (0, Offtopic)

mdechene (607874) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540745)

Yeah, next you're gonna want us to stop calling the old MS OS's "Windows 9x", and refer to it as DOS with food coloring.

This could be trouble... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540669)

All the IT professionals reading this, if this causes a boom in the number of qualified Indian techs, we could all be either out of a job or being forced to work at 3rd world rates.
Be afraid.

You can't spell Simputer without SIMP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540678)

In the meantime we try / try to forget that
  • nothing
    • lasts forever

      Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
      Reason: Funny how it all falls away.

A few things about India (5, Informative)

panurge (573432) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540684)

First, India has a big educated middle class. Over 100 million people. They don't have the sort of incomes we do in the West, but a $200 handheld is within their possible budgets.

Second, India has huge potential in IT as their materials-poor economy has encouraged education in mathematics and other subjects which do not require expensive learning facilities - you do not actually need a computer to learn computer science, but it sure helps.

Third, India cannot afford lots of imports from the US, Korea or Japan. They need to be self-sufficient (even if it wasn't one of Gandhi's principles).

Fourth, the demand for such things is enormous. Believe me, I once thought I was going to find myself in prison in Mumbai because I had an HP calculator and a mini circuit tester in my luggage ("Admit, you have brought these to sell on black market")

Fifth, even poor Indian villages have the odd educated person who will provide services for the locals - and such people would benefit enormously from a handheld. The idea that every peasant should ultimately have a compactflash/smartmedia card with all their own information on it, is actually a hugely enabling one in a subliterate culture because it allows them access to a personal store of information. If it has to be retrieved by symbols on a soft keyboard and text-to-speech, does it matter?

Unfortunately, looking at some earlier posts, India and China are far from having a monopoly on illiterate peasants who don't know what goes on in the rest of the world (flamebait)

Re:A few things about India (1)

kfishy (534087) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540711)

actually, it's slightly over 1 billion people [cia.gov] as of July 2002.

Re:A few things about India (2)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540723)

He was talking about the educated middle classes, not the total population.

Re:A few things about India (1)

kfishy (534087) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540734)

oops...sorry i missed that :(
i better try read comments more thoroughly next time. (it is 5 in the morning)

Available outside India? (5, Insightful)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540686)

So are these things going to be available in other countries? Assuming the software is available (and it's Linux, so why not) then this thing could stomp on the Ipaq and other more expensive handhelds. At least for price-conscious buyers such as schools (the old Psion Series 3 and 3a had some success in British schools marketed as the Acorn Pocket Book - and it's a lot cheaper to buy ten of these handhelds for a classroom than a couple of PCs).

Re:Available outside India? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540748)

I don't think you understand (although I dont blame you as the link was not very informative). I've read up on this and it's a massive government subsidized project. I don't think they'll be selling them to just anyone since they lose money on each unit and India is in no position to give foreign to computer geeks =)

I think this is a really classic example of socialist, big government thinking in India. They see bad results from their economy and think they should throw more money and government at the problem when government is the problem to begin with. It's impossible to start a business in India and even harder to open corporate offices and sell products. Capitalism is considered untrustworthy there and it takes a take a lot of kickbacks and forms to get anything accomplished.

But i'm sure it sounded like a really good idea on paper

Re:Available outside India? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540760)

Dude, this is slashdot. You will be promptly modded down for criticizing socialism. Get with the program man, government is all good and big corporations are all evil. /me proudly adjusts his slashbot hat

Simputers need not be for an individual (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540687)

I had attended a talk by Vijay Chandru (the no. 1 contributor to it) & they said their aim was not only to provide individuals with cheaper comps. but to provides groups of people as well.

In India, many village children (as well as grown-ups BTW) have never heard of comps. & even in cities. not many schools (incl. mine) have more than 10 comps. Those schools can instead invest on 10 simputers (for probably 1000 students!) which would be more cost-effective.

They also say they don't want hi-fi speech synthesiser/recogniser as to learn a language (which is what village students as well as other villagers are expected to do), that's not required. It's OK if there is no proper intonation. The villagers can probably learn intonation later on but learning to write/read something even in their native language is still a great breakthrough.

The major problem faced by them is discontinuation of StrongArm processors by Intel. It's obviously very expensive to design a processor for simputer in India today.

Re:Simputers need not be for an individual (1)

kfishy (534087) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540729)

Hmm interesting stuffs. Hopefully the government in this case will step in and subsidise the computer for communities that are not as fortunate as the schools that you mentioned. But one thing at a time ;) However, the issue with StrongArm does seem quite pressing. Any good alternative than our "good friend" Intel?

Finally (4, Interesting)

abhikhurana (325468) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540727)

So finally the simputer has been launched. But that doesn't mean it works flawlessly. Until about 2 months ago, they had some problems with their text to speech software, dhvani, and they were planning to go for a closed source solution from another indian company.
Now for some of teh concerns raised in the article, as usual about average India salary and stuff like that. The aim of the project is not that every peasent should own a Simputer of his own. In India, in villages u have small committees which are elceted by the villagers, and these committes are allocated some budget by the government. So the idea is that every committee buys one Simputer and then the villagers can simply use thier own compact flash card if atall required. I mean its use was forseen in making weather prediction services and agricultural help availaible to the farmers. For that you dont need ur compact flash. If you want advanced services, then u can buy one, but then compact flash cards are not all that expensive.
As far as the Indian middle class is concerned, currently they account for around 40% of the population. Not all of them will feel the need of buying something like this, but they very well can. That is 400 million people.
I am just waiting for a review now. Maybe I will get one in December and write one myself. I enjoy working on stronARM and I think it will be interesting to hack this thing.

Open-source initiatives from India, wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540740)

Imagine open-source spreading widely in the world's most populous countries! In a few years the no. of open-source fans will overshoot the no. of foes!

A couple things (5, Informative)

gralem (45862) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540741)

First: IML stands for "Information" ML, not "International" ML.

Second: The product is not shipping, it was just presented by the IT Minister of India. No shipping date has been set by any company. Aparently the people at simputer.org do not build the product, they licence the hardware to be built. There are no listed manufacturers of the simputer.

It is not shipping, it is not available. (But according to the FAQ, it should be shipping by March 2002!) All said, the hinduonnet article is simple marketing fluff (ala M$, RH, etc).


Re:A couple things (1)

kfishy (534087) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540759)

All said, the hinduonnet article is simple marketing fluff (ala M$, RH, etc).
Also known as "PR".

BTW, the FAQ also said that IML is a.k.a "Illiterate Markup Language". Not my words, and no offense intended, of course.

The features do not really matter... (4, Interesting)

jukal (523582) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540742)

Although the featureload of the Simputer is quite convinving, the main point is that this is now obviously the first truly open hardware project to have actually entered the martket. Let's see if it opens the floodgates....In the future, however, the featureload might be even more impressive as the open HW approach surely enables fast and cost-effective development.

Form factor (4, Insightful)

e_n_d_o (150968) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540762)

PCs can get into the $200 price range. Systems can be found for as little as $200 at Walmart (sans $99 15" monitor).

Based on what I've seen here, I imagine it would have been possible to develop a system in the $200 hardware price range with a 13" monitor. I'm curious to know why they didn't choose a larger form factor for the machine. The advantages of the PDA-style design are portability, power consumption, and a pen-based interface. The cost is a tremendous restriction in capability, and the requirement of developing properietary hardware. I imagine that portablility will also often be a negative, as the device is a handheld and its a fact of life that people drop things (of course, I'd be much less likely to drop my PDA if it cost me a year's salary).

These devices sound like a remarkable achievement, and I wish them nothing but success. But I am curious as to why they didn't go with a bit bigger of a box.

Re:Form factor (3, Insightful)

Atrahasis (556602) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540826)

The three advantages you list are exactly what they need. 1/ Low power consumption - uses batteries, so you don't need to plug it in (you'd be lucky to find somewhere to plug it in in the undeveloped areas, wouldn't you). 2/ Portability - so it can be shared by communities - is one of the main aims of the project. 3/ Pen based interface - so people can be taught to read and write using it. The two disadvantages : 1/ Limit in capability - less than 5 years ago my desktop was based on the StrongArm, and I can tell you it wasn't 200Mhz. It was still a lot faster than the ix86's around at the time. 2/ Requirement to build prop. hardware - the project doesn't manufacture - it licenses (or will) the manufacture out to tech companies. I'd say this was an advantage because they can keep the price down by using the lowest bidding contractor.

Simputer/Literacy (4, Interesting)

Omkar (618823) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540771)

An issue that's been raised here is the uselessness of the Simputer to an illiterate population. Couldn't the Simputer use its text/speech capabilities to teach people to read? This would eliminate two huge problems with one stroke.

Re:Simputer/Literacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540787)

Mod parent up!

That's exactly what the simputer is aimed at. Why don't other /.ers understand this?

Licensing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540783)

Anybody notice the licensing terms for the thing, http://www.simputer.org/simputer/license/index.php

The real change... (3, Insightful)

Cheese Cracker (615402) | more than 11 years ago | (#4540799)

... will be when China has ironed out all the bugs with their CPUs and software. Then you can forget
Intel and Microsoft having much sales in Asia and the rest of the developing countries. A guess would
be that a Chinese handheld would go for $50. China has the ambition of taking the lead in the IT
market in Asia and the developing countries... and I bet they will. And then slowly they'll move over
to take market shares in the developed countries... maybe with 'inferior' products, but it will all go the
way the car industry went. Once they get a foothold, they'll make better and better products and finally
pass companies like Intel and Microsoft.

Indians most misused word (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4540838)

IANAII (I am not an Indian from India) but I notice that when talking to my Indian friends, the ones born in India and not the second generation US-ians, they tend to love using the word indigenous, much like the poster of the ./ article has done. E.g. "In India we have indigenously developed our own nuclear technology" or "We have indigenously developed our own supercomputers" etc.

The main problem is the understanding of the word. You'd expect that being indigenous means being wholly developed locally. But far from it. Take the Simputer for example. Most of the components are from technologies outside India. The same with their Param supercomputer (rebadged Suns) and many of the so called "indigenous" technologies. Where do you think the technology for propelling India's missiles/rockets came from? To this end, Indians have proved to be good integrators. Maybe it's the politicians in New Delhi misleading the public or their attempt to provide a feel good factor but I think that it's being...err...disingenuous!

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