Simputer Finally On Sale

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.

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?