According to this BBC article, Indian company HCL Infosystems has launched its first low-close personal computer. A mere 9,990 ruppes (~$225), the machine’s specifications include a VIA or Intel Celeron processor running at 1 GHz, 128 MB DDRAM, a 40 GB hard drive, 15″ monitor and Linux as its OS.
Reading this, I can’t help but think about MIT Medica Lab cofounder Nicholas Negroponte’s $100 laptop project, which strives to provide cheap computers for those in developing countries. As prices for mass-produced computers continues to fall and projects like Negroponte’s continue to push manufacturers to go cheaper and simpler, the potential for rapid growth of the non-wealthy user base is undeniable. According to HCL’s CEO and Chairman, within 15 months of launching a computer priced below 15,000 rupees (~$340), the company’s market share grew more than 10 percent. Granted, the ability of the extreme poor to even afford a machine costing a few hundred dollars is suspect, but lower cost computers will increase access for millions (even billions).
Take a look at these numbers (from 2002, courtesy the CIA World Factbook):
Of a population of nearly 296 million, the US has an estimated 159 million internet users (53.7%).
Of a population of more than 1 billion, India has an estimated 18 million internet users (1.8%).
Look out, world.