Saturday, November 01, 2008

perfect Indian netbooks?

This is a followup post to an earlier post (available here) on the same topic (be sure to read the last PS).

These are the thoughts that come out to me when I strive hard to find out a solution for a made in India low cost netbook.

The most important part of the computing machine today is evidently the kind of processor to be used. A processor not only defines a consistent architecture, it also defines how power efficient is the overall system design. While an ideal design would have a system on a chip architecture; such as the one offered by Philips or Texas instruments, these are not yet wide spread and are definitely not the more widely supported x86 architecture. Moreover as pointed out in my earlier post these systems are still dependent on the standard architecture for software stack development. Where as on the other hand the x86 systems are generally the one that have a full support for self bootstrapping i.e. they do not need any host machine to bring life, read software stack, to them.
A netbook for India must have a large support base. x86 systems do have a large support base, more people know how to write software for them than any other platform. Though you might argue that there are more ARM based processors even in this part of the world, the fact remains that applications developed for this platform is quite rare and are most of the times Java based games that largely restrict the usability of these devices. What made x86 popular is its ability of infinite customization. Whereas what makes an ARM devices widely seen is because of its large production and definitely not because of its ability of customization or programmability.
Thus I feel that for a general purpose computing machine a low cost, low power x86 processor is the best bet. If you check out the current x86 market, only VIA's nano and AMD's geode seem to have these capabilities. Of these the AMD's processor has been extensively used in the first generation OLPCs. The amount of work that has gone into porting both Linux and windows on this low end x86 processor has been any thing but extensive.

VIA's processor on the other hand has been extensively tested in many embedded devices along with the nano-ITX and pico-ITX boards. This processor is actually marketed as a processor for the next generation netbooks; in direct competition with the more expensive Atom processors. The introduction of the Atom processors have infact shot up the prices of these netbooks by more than double. Which is exactly the reason I would not like to ponder on processors from Intel.

Another option is to develop a made in India x86 processor which I would be a lot interested in. But this for long term!

This should be at least 256mb and ideally 512mb. Nothing much to say here for the moment.

Secondary storage:
This should be a solid state device. Provided that these devices would need to be rugged under Indian conditions. They should be a minimum of 2G.

All these thoughts make me think that the simputer project should be revamped!

More on this later.

PS: There is lot of speculation in the market that ARM (through their licensee) would come up with a netbook based on their Cortex processor by the end of this year. My speculation: the OS is going to be Google's Android. If that is so and if they are going to be half the price of the Intel based netbooks, I am hooked :-)

Note: This post was completely keyed in from my nokia e51.

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