OLPC Founder’s Advice to Indian Government – “Make an inexpensive tablet, not a cheap one.”

Indian Government’s $35 Laptop has been one of the most talked about subject in the last few days. And while the proof of the pudding is in eating (or seeing, in this case), OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte has offered a few sincere advice to Indian government (based on OLPC experience).

  • Focus on children 6 to 12 years old. For primary school children, the tablet is not about computing or school, it is about hope. It makes passion the primary tool for learning.
  • Tablets : learning is not media consumption. It is about making things. The iPad is a consumptive tool by design.  OLPC urges that you not make this mistake.
  • Hardware is simple. Less obvious is ruggedness, sunlight readability and low power. We use solar power because our laptop is by far the lowest power laptop on the planet. But do not overlook human power – hand cranking and other things that kids can do at night or when it rains. Just solar would be a mistake. Rugged means water resistant and droppable from 10 feet onto a stone floor.
  • Software is harder. Linux is obvious, but whatever you do, do not make it a special purpose device with only a handful of functions. It must be a general purpose computer upon which the whole world can build software, invent applications and do programming.
  • good industrial design. Make an inexpensive tablet, not a cheap one. Make it desirable, lovable and fun to own. Take a page from Apple on this, maybe from OLPC too. Throw the best design teams in India behind it.

A lot of media reports earlier labeled India’s $35 tablet as a huge competition to OLPC. But given the opportunity and challenges in this space, there probably is market for 5 players.

May all win.

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