With computer ownership in India running at ~0.9%, the market for a cheap device to get users on the internet and provide them with email and note taking software is potentially huge. Enter Bharat Electronics and the Amida Simputer, the first computer to be designed and manufactured in India.
Sadly, the development and launch of the device was hampered by a lack of interest and investment by large computer manufacturers.
With a 206MHz processor, six hours of battery life and 64mb of Flash memory, it’s a lot like a PDA – and is ideal for bringing the internet to rural India. The cheapest of the three models has a monochrome screen, but with pen input interface and Linux OS it’s just like an early Handspring. Apart form understanding Hindi and Kannada, the interface is purely point and click – the Simputer Trust believes that this will increase accessibility: “It has a special role in the third world because it ensures that illiteracy is no longer a barrier to handling a computer.”
Internet access is through a land line or Reliance CDMA phone – the browser is fully-featured and beautifully thought out. It even allows tabbed browsing! Connectivity is through two USB ports – so owners can expand memory with a USB key and connect it to other devices: a very neat solution.
Retailing at US$240 for the basic model, sales projections are still modest at 50,000 in the first year – we hope that this device takes off as the potential is staggering and we can’t wait to see what new uses people think up for it, and create with it.