The Amida Simputer, originally developed as a “poor man’s computer,” is now being pitched as a device that can handle a wide range of business and personal-computing requirements. The Linux-powered handheld combines the functions of an organizer and an MP3 player and has handwriting recognition capabilities.
The Amida Simputer is designed to enable scribbling and e-mailing of notes regardless of language, a key factor in the multilingual Indian market. It also has an on-screen keyboard for two Indian languages–Hindi and Kannada–with more languages to be added soon, the companies said.
The Amida Simputer comes in three models, with prices ranging from about $240 to $480 (9,950 to 19,950 rupees). It is powered by a 206MHz ARM processor and features 32MB of permanent storage, 64MB of RAM, a 3.8-inch touch screen and a smart-card reader. It can be connected to a landline or a Code Division Multiple Access phone for Internet browsing, and it doubles as an MP3 player.
Dana Blankenhorn had asked my thoughts, to which I had replied:
Most Indians don’t need a portable device; they need something affordable with the form factor of a regular computer
I think Simputer is trying to go after the global Linux PDA different. In doing so, they also want to address the domestic low-cost portable computer market.
Price points are still too high. Need to be USD 100 (Rs 4,500) or so.
This is a remarkable achievement. India is not known for hardware, and this is hardware.
That said, Rajesh is right, in that it’s limited in capabilities and the price is high.
Linux is an interesting choice for an operating system, and the release of the Simputer may spur rapid development of Linux-based PDA applications.
Compare this to what you get today in a $100 cell phone. Then look at what such phones will look like next year, or in two years, and you see the difficulty Amida faces.
Both Rajesh and I may be underestimating the number of units that can be sold on patriotism.
Sometimes it’s not how well the cat sings that’s at issue, but the fact that it sings at all. This is Version 1.0 Indian hardware. It’s out now. It’s a story well-worth following.