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$35 computer taps India's huge low-income market

$35 computer aims to bring cheap technology to India's schools and universities. The $35 computer also targets a vast, untapped market of 1.2 billion people.

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Indian Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal unveils $35 computer in New Delhi on July 22.

AFP/Newscom

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The sleek handheld device includes an Internet browser, a multimedia player, a PDF reader, and video conferencing ability.

But its biggest attraction is the price: $35.

Kapil Sibal, India’s human resources development minister, today unveiled the prototype of an unnamed Linux-based computing tool for students to be introduced in higher educational institutions by 2011.

“The aim is to reach such devices to the students of colleges and universities, and to provide these institutions a host of choices of low-cost access devices around $35 or less in near future,” the human resources ministry said at the launch of the computer.

The latest gadget is a thrilling prospect for the future of global education, says Anand Nandkumar, a professor of business strategy in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business.

But it's less symptomatic of India’s ambition to unleash cutting-edge innovation, he says, as much as its desire to tap into a new market. The touch screen device is the latest example of how technology and ultra-cheap innovations are bringing new options to India’s 1.2 billion people, whose per capita income is $1,030.

“It’s not like launching a rocket into space,” says Professor Nandkumar. “This kind of innovation is symbolic of the recognition of a vast, untapped market opportunity.”

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