$35 Laptop in India…

24 Jul

I’ve had a few emails about this story – which is all over about a $35 laptop made in India.

Theres a lot of misunderstanding apparently about this.  First of all – it’s not a $35 Laptop.  It’s a proto-type for a laptop which the people on the project have said it should cost $35, and on mass scale would drop down to $10 a laptop.

That’s all fine and good but having a bit experience around this kind of thing lets inject some reality into the Public Relations statement.  I would urge caution and research before expecting to see one of these, for that price, any time soon.

Don’t get me wrong anyone who knows me knows this is a cause near and dear to me and I would totally love to see any low cost computing device in the hands of children.  But this is not the first time that we’ve seen some pretty incredible claims about such technology – and it’s not even the first time that India has made some petty incredible claims about low cost devices.  Last year India announced they had a 7 pound ($14 USD ) laptop in development, which – btw – this is probably the unit they were talking about.  Such price shifts are pretty common in the development phase of any hardware and the fluctuations can be a few dollars or a few hundred dollars.  And this is what you should keep in mind when you see a story like this.


CNN Report on $35 laptop.

This is a proto-type.  Those are their words – not mine.  PROTOTYPE.   It’s a very finished proto-type – but it’s still just a proto-type, and that means that no – they don’t have the final costs on this device.  We also don’t know how finished the device is. 

It’s running … but that doesn’t always mean a lot.  What’s the battery life?  How durable is it?  etc., etc., there’s a lot of things which might need to be worked out before all is said and done that can radically affect the price on this from a hardware view point.

There are economies of scale in production to consider, as well as the profit that manufacturers need in order to be able to produce those economies of scale.  Consider similar projects to this one – and this has been a major factor in their costs.  This project will most likely suffer similar issues because of the hardware costs.

Understand that the cost of something isn’t just the development of the software and the design of the product.  Once you’ve made the proto-type someone has to make X,000,000 or however many of them.  And these need to be available as soon as sales start happening.  So the Catch-22 reality is that in order to sell X,000,000 units to get the price down to make them affordable – you have to have already SOLD X,000,000 units to get that price from the manufacturer to make them.  Or… you need a manufacturer willing to take a $35 x (X,000,000) risk for you. 

Now, maybe I’m wrong… and they’ve got this all dialed in.  It’s most likely with a achievement such as this that when you see something this polished it’s been accounted for up to a level.  But there are, and will always be cost shifts in production of anything, so I would really caution people who are hoping for a $35 laptop that they set their expectations accordingly.  Doing this will insure that when the units do come out the press on them is more accurate and not a lot of negative “they promised but couldn’t deliver” posts from the blogosphere.   


Posted by on July 24, 2010 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “$35 Laptop in India…

  1. rjakobson

    August 4, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Thanks. The issues of developing hardware and software are complicated, and that was the main point of the post. We often in our haste to print a good headline (especially one that’s got an upswing to it like this) don’t always set the proper expectations. Certainly, in a “perfect” world they can make a $35 laptop. Which was in part the problem with some of the statements made by OLPC which were often misinterpreted that the OLPC would be a $100 laptop. If economies of scale had been reached, if hardware changes hadn’t been necessary, if… if … if… the OLPC would have easily made it’s $100 a unit goal. It eventually did – but by then the press had roasted them for such claims. We need to be careful that this doesn’t happen again when we read stories like this. $35 is laudable – and even doable if the right conditions exist. But it’s hard to put lightning in a bottle as they say.


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