India should celebrate Adam, not $35 tablet

Everyone around the world, including myself, went gaga over India’s $35 tablet. Some wise people called this a total sham and called it media tomfoolery. Looks like the exuberance on the product waned off and the reality started to kick in. As with all the projects across the world, the reality kicked in right before the deadline. The project and the product were supposed to be delivered this month. That did not happen.

HCL Infosystems failed to deposit Rs. 60 crore rupees (US$13 million) as a guarantee to continue with the project. Citing this, the government has issued a new tender. HCL not having Rs. 60 crore rupees is the key point here. It could have asked beleaguered telecom minister A Raja or Kalmadi or whoever. Except nobody would invest in this as there is no money in this project. Else why would HCL not come up with Rs. 60 crores? Something in this tells us that the project isn’t viable.

Even without extensive calculations, a tablet for $35 is not possible. Unless they can find a really low-cost manufacturing destination which isn’t in China. India’s education minister, has kind of agreed to this fact. Kapil Sibal has exercised what is popularly known as “bending the truth”. This is what Mr. Sibal said on national TV : “The tablet will cost $35 to the institutions, if a million of them are bought and if government absorbs some of the cost.” Besides this tablet is meant for educational institutions only and not for retail sale. It turns out the tablet won’t cost $35, as you and I buy it.

According to a government source, the laptop components alone were costing the vendor Rs 5700 without taking into account the import duties and logistics. The government was however planning to sell it at Rs 1500 per piece. “Disagreement on the financial cost with the vendor led to the tender cancellation,” said a source close to the project. (ET)

That brings the tablet cost to $125, without including the taxes and other good stuff. ‘One Laptop Per Child’ started with a similar objective of fixing the computer price at $100. That ran into similar troubles and they were honest enough to accept the over-ambitiousness and revised their plans.

Though stories like this feel warm and fuzzy when we read and forget about them, it doesn’t serve any purpose. The ministers should stop playing tricks like these in non-election seasons. The media just has to be careful. And bloggers, yeah well, they are doing just fine.

The story of Notion Ink is what should be written with a warmer feeling. Notion Ink has produced a world class tablet which costs the same as other tablets and which has specifications only available in top notch tablets. The tablet which was showcased in CES 2011 and will be shipped this week.

For all practical purposes, Notion Ink’s Adam, especially with its PixelQi reader, is a world-class product designed in India. A company that has the gumption to think about challenging the likes of Apple has been born. Though they were left behind in their first outing, they weren’t very far behind. That’s important. The fact that a company has brought their product from design to shipment in one year flat is the icing on the cake.

The story of Adam is what we should celebrate. Not the $35 tablet called Sakshat.