Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How low cost sub notebooks can bring affordable computing to the masses

Asutech, which was earlier going to manufacture Intel’s much-hyped OLPC competitor, the Classmate, has introduced its own range of sub notebook PCs priced between $199-$299.

The Eee PCs carry the same configuration as Intel’’s announced Classmate PCs.

Earlier, Via launched the Nanobook, which is priced at $600 and uses iPod Nan0 sized plug-in USB modules which will support applications such as VoIP, GPS, #g Broadband Wireless among other things.

The Nanobook is more in the traditional Notebook style, aligning itself to the expensive tentpole of Ultra Mobile Personal Computing - containing hard drives, almost full-sized keyboard and all.

To make low cost computing a success, manufacturers have to answer two very important questions:

1. What shall be the optimal cost of a low-cost computing device and what margins are deemed ‘comfortable’?
Margins in traditional PC business are low anyway, and I guess manufacturers would go for low margins, which are offset by volumes.

2. How do you develop a low-cost PC, without compromising on important computing functions?

Starting with an almost normal keyboard size, designers of the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project incorporated a number of innovations that others can follow and improve upon – low-energy, low cost and smaller screen, flash storage, USB, wifi, crank recharging, and other innovations.

A: Manufacturers should also bundle 2-8 GB USB drives with something like a Portable Apps Suite – containing Firefox, Openoffice, and other essentials, leaving space for users’ data.

B: It would be handy if Manufacturers sold Low-cost PCs without any OS, or with Linux at best, giving users detailed instructions on how to uninstall Linux and install any other OS of their choice.

These are still early times.

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