mm149: India’s take on the ‘$100 computer’

MUDGE’S Musings

Technology today is democratic and catholic (in the lower-case ‘c’, universal definition of the term): as education (often imparted to deserving and lucky students from around the world in the peerless U.S. university system) spreads, implementation of technology effortlessly transcends traditional borders.

We’ve written here before (also here) about efforts to create inexpensive computers: the initiative to further democratize education by bringing the power of technology to every under-served corner of the planet.

Here’s a story about an effort out of India that has just received some U.S. venture funding:


Novatium Solutions, which has come up with a thin-client computer for emerging markets, has landed an investment from New Enterprise Associates (NEA).

The company has mostly installed its computers around Chennai (formerly Madras) in southern India. The systems work on the thin-client model. Most of the actual computing and the Internet connection goes through a central server. Users then tap into the server through desktop units.

With thin clients, updates and security patches are easier to manage, according to Rajesh Jain, one of Novatium’s founders. Energy can also be conserved. In a novel twist, Novatium’s clients use a digital signal processor rather than a standard processor. NEA did not state how much it has invested in the company.

Of course, no one is really hitting $100 per computer:

Even though Negroponte popularized the “$100 computer” name, no one is actually hitting that number. The XO will cost about $188 after a series of price hikes. Taiwan’s Asustek is working on a $200 computer based around Intel’s designs.

Of course, $100 isn’t what it used to be either. George III has seen to that. Sorry, all of you folks who used to run across the border to Canada to purchase stuff on the cheap. Those days are over.

Guess $200 is the new $100. Ouch.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

India’s take on the ‘$100 computer’ gets U.S. venture funds | Tech news blog – CNET

India represents such a contrast in culture and capabilities. Bengaluru and other hotbeds of technology (and technologists) are advancing so quickly that the world of technology outsourcing is rapidly seeking other, cheaper alternatives (current darling, the Philippines, which shares with India a history (hundreds of years shorter, of course) of widespread English as second language).

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of Indians live one step up from the stone age, where barefoot entrepreneurs use Nobel prize winning microcredit to put a communal telephone in place in order to start the climb (getting shorter all the time) to connect their villages to the outside world.

So, they need a cheap computer solution, as do the 900 million rural Chinese who similarly await the industrial revolution, as do millions of sub-Saharan Africans, as do uncounted numbers of children in dusty corners of the Middle East whose exposure to technology stops at AK47s, as do millions of U.S. children unaccountably left behind (smoke and mirrors without substance: who’d have guessed the Bush administration capable of that?).

So, even at $200, initiatives like Novatium’s and the XO and their counterparts elsewhere can’t get out there soon enough.

It’s it for now. Thanks,


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7 Responses to mm149: India’s take on the ‘$100 computer’

  1. sietaram says:

    computers, internet.. they are really the biggest thing…. everybody going gaga over it.

  2. mudge says:

    Not just gaga, sietaram. Almost 60 years ago, television, invented 20 years earlier but tied up in patent battles, finally unleashed itself on a radio-centric world, and changed global communication utterly.

    The Cold War ended in a whimper, not a bang, because of the liberating vision of a better world transmitted through the iron curtain.

    Now, the internet, that by definition opens up that communication in every direction, so we no longer need to accept whatever is sent from the titans of industry who own the airwaves down to we the peons, and whose hyperlinking power has opened up channels of communications and education never dreamed of to the furthest bleak corner of the world, has begun the process of supplanting television.

    Not just gaga, sietaram. We all own our futures, thanks to the internet.

    Thanks for stopping by, and taking the trouble to comment. We appreciate it. –MUDGE

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