The dreams of providing mobile internet devices to children the world over, but especially in emergent economies, are set to dawn next year, according to Indian government officials as interviewed here.
What's behind the latest low-cost, high-tech buzz? $35 tablets. Yup, US $35 or Rs500 (present cost is about 1000 rupees, but set to shrink next round for 2011). The catch? Missing manufacturers. The initial plan is for Chinese or South East Asian production, but with India taking over all aspects of production ASAP. The looming question, as asked by Financial Times among others is, will there be manufacturers willing to take this on?
Beyond the obvious benefit to India’s students from this venture comes the widely beneficial effect of leapfrogging technology that arises from the technology and cost push with low cost devices. For example, in the case of these new, ultra-low cost tablets, there are solar powered options that we do not currently see available even in the ultra-high cost markets (cf. this WallStreetJournal article).
Disruptive ideas like putting together cutting edge consumer electronics from of off-the-shelf components to reduce costs broaden access to technology. But these disruptive ideas are also healthy and bring with them challenges to the entire industry which will keep us innovative and growing in many directions simultaneously (cf. this WallStreetJournal blog on the importance of these consumer markets and this MarketWatch Quarterly article on emergent economies and the semi industry).