$35 Computer Tablet to Feature Solar Design

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Similar in design to the $499 Apple iPad, India’s tablet will be available at a fraction of the cost at just $35. Photo: Flickr/johncatral

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost four months since more than 300,000 flocked to local Apple stores to be the first owners of the highly touted $499 iPad.

Still considered a novelty as it’s still in its first-version infancy, the iPad may have a new competitor on the market. A new Linux operating system-based tablet was introduced in India as one of the “world’s cheapest” innovations.

A prototype marketed towards students, the $35 tablet is predicted to be in production by 2011.

While its basic touchscreen interface and design is similar to that of the iPad (but at a fraction of the cost), the tablet will undoubtedly lack the bells and whistles of its Apple step-sister. It does, however, feature one thing Steve Jobs has yet to implement: solar power.

At its standard price, the tablet will be capable of Web browsing, word processing and even video conferencing. The solar feature will cost extra, but its value outweighs the few dollars in an energy-hungry area.

Despite a slowing of the Indian economy, the country’s energy demand continues to rise as it is home to more than 15 percent of the world’s population. India is experiencing widespread electricity shortages and, according to India’s Planning Commission, the country faces “formidable challenges” in meeting its energy needs.

The low-cost tablet is a hit so far in the media, but will it make it past the border (and eventually to the U.S.)? According to an MNN interview with Ministry spokeswoman Mamta Varma, “several global manufacturers, including at least one from Taiwan, have shown interest in making the low-cost device, but no manufacturing or distribution deals have been finalized.”

The new tablet computer is a part of India’s education technology overhaul. The country plans to subsidize the cost of the tablet for its students, making it available for just $20.

It remains to be seen if the tablet will feature recycled materials like the iPad, which is comprised of recyclable aluminum casing, has an LCD screen free of mercury and is also completely PVC-free. Plus, the debate is still hot about the true eco-friendliness of cloud computing.

One thing is for sure, if the $35 tablet does catch on, it could be one possible solution to the behemothic amount of paper waste produced in India – the country produces more than 165 million tons of trash each day.

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