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Low-Cost Hand-held Computers Sold in India
Mar 29, 2004
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A cheap hand-held computer, designed by Indian scientists for use by with low income, is now available for approx. U.S. $220 after a delay of nearly 3 years.

Simputer's software was developed by volunteers, to keep development costs low, said Swami Manohar, CEO of Picopeta Simputers, which is one of two companies licensed to make the devices.

The launch of the Simputer on came after a 3-year delay caused by a lack of investment and a poor response to the concept from large-scale distributors, Mr. Manohar said.

However, the government-owned Bharat Electronics agreed to manufacture the Simputer, which was developed in 2001 by scientists at the Bangalore, India-based Institute of Science in response to low levels of computer use in India.

Picopeta hopes to sell 50,000 units in the fiscal year ending March 2005, Mr. Manohar said.

The Simputer doesn't have a keyboard, although it can be attached to one. Instead it has a stylus that allows the user to "write" on the screen.

The basic model has a monochrome display, a 206-megahertz processor and 64 megabytes of memory. It has an internal microphone, speakers and a battery that lasts for 6 hours. The device also can be connected to the Internet, Mr. Manohar said.

To keep costs down, it uses the Linux operating system, which does not require a license.

Only nine in every 1,000 Indians own a computer. Until now, they have been unaffordable to most—especially the rural poor—because of low wages and high taxes on computers.

Tax cuts have recently lowered prices, spurring demand in cities. But most Indian villagers aren’t able to afford to buy a basic desktop, which costs about 20,000 rupees (approx. U.S. $450). (Associated Press)

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