Slate or Laptop

I don’t know if the schools these days use slate or not, even in lower classes. But I used it extensively during my school days. That was the cheapest option for practicing math problems without recurring cost. Many a times I did use it for my writings too. It was so easy to make corrections. Even today I use my laptop for writing my articles. It has the same flexibility and is so easy to edit and to keep on adding and subtracting.

Naturally technology has come out with many useful gadget. One proposed initially by Nicholas Negroponte for the children of the people under poverty line was unique for it price, a $100 laptop for each school going children. It was challenging to design and manufacturing too. But they come out with the solutions.

As reported, Nicholas Negroponte’s $100 laptop will now cost $175. It will be able to run Windows in addition to its open-source interface. Microsoft Corp. hopes to develop a version of a $3 Windows software suite to run on the low-cost laptops. The software is under test on prototypes of small green-and-white laptops developed by the One Laptop Per Child Foundation. Nicholas Negroponte, the former director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab now heads the non-profit One Laptop Per Child project. He recently updated analysts and journalists on OLPC Project. “.. at least seven nations have committed to being in the initial wave to buy the little green-and-white “XO” computers – Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan, Thailand, Nigeria and Libya – but it remains unclear which ones will be first to pony up the cash. The project needs orders for 3 million machines so its manufacturing and distribution effort can get rolling.” Negroponte expects mass production to begin by October. The XO machines will be made by Quanta Computer Inc., the world’s leading maker of portable computers. Quanta have agreed to take a profit of about $3 per machine, less than what it gets from mainstream PC companies.

India has withdrawn from OLPC. However, as it appears, Indians are seriously working on a cheap options too. Chennai-based Novatium Solutions, co-founded by US-based Analog Devices chairman Ray Stata, Netcore Solutions managing director Rajesh Jain and professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala of IIT Madras, has already got its up-and-running NetPC computer priced at Rs 4,500 only, that is a little over 100 dollars as of today in the US currency. Novatium is targeting 10 million users in the next five years for this innovative product. The company has already started a successful commercial pilot production.

But more interesting is the $10 laptop project of HRD ministry, famous for its OBC minister Arjun Singh. It is working seriously, it seems, on an idea to make laptops at $10. It has with it two designs already. The public sector undertaking Semiconductor Complex has evinced interest in the project. As reported, ‘so far, the cost of one laptop, after factoring in labour charges, is coming to $47’. The ministry feels the price will come down dramatically considering the potential demand for one million laptops. The ministry is looking into the possibility of some Indian company manufacturing the parts.

Surprisingly , one of the two designs with the ministry is from a final year engineering student of Vellore Institute of Technology and the another one from a researcher from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The laptop would be made on a single board which would make it easy to find fault and rectify it.

Six anchor groups set up by the ministry to be in touch with experts in critical areas and remove bottlenecks have been meeting regularly. Institutions like IITs and IISc are to work as anchor institutions for the project and have been entrusted with the task of research and development of cheap laptops. Sources say it would be another two years before the laptops become a reality. We can only wish that HRD project succeeded.

So who will be the winner? Let the time decide it. And that will be pretty soon.

I only imagine with this machine the students can do away with the text books as all the text books may be kept stored at one go for every class for a student. The students can also do away with slates or exercise books and use the laptop for that. With audio card added, the student can practice his capability to communicate too. Will it be a tool that can be called all-in-one, and the students can discard the huge weight of books that they carry everyday to school and suffer?

I have only one appeal. The equipment must not be given free, otherwise the students will not use it. They must earn it.

My Choicest News on April 7, 2007
1.Airbus to invest Rs4,063 cr in India in the next decade
2.Dramatic rise in Indian staff strength to continue: IBM
3.Infosys to invest Rs 1,600cr for training
4.Nektar`s R&D facility to come up in Hyderabad
5.From cleaning homes to running a business
6.Indian biotech sector to touch $5 bn by 2009-10
7.A K Bhattacharya: Bureaucrat with a spine
8.Three new IITs proposed to be set up
9.`This is India’s moment’
10.US science academy inducts two Indians

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