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Friday, July 19, 2013

Low price-points for new kinds of computers

An entry level game console

A console with quirks, for tinkerers by David Pogue in the New York Times: a gaming computer which is a cube with a 3 inch side, at $100. It runs Android. It is an open design; you can hack the software and hardware.

Raspberry Pi

This is a complete computer for $35. You have to see it to believe it. Connect in an ordinary smartphone power supply, an Ethernet cable, a USB keyboard, a USB mouse and an HDMI screen, and you're up and running. It boots linux and runs a browser. [link] [link] [link]

A bit more money and a lot more compute

Arduino is going beyond the geeks to the artists.

Beaglebone Black is at the $45 pricepoint.

Utilite is a quad-core computer that consumes 3-8 watts. At $99.


In the West, these things are cute. But in developing countries, where individuals and firms are more resource-constrained, these new approaches can be valuable alternatives to conventional bloatware. These open up a new world of exploration and R&D in India, as a large number of tinkerers and researchers can afford these pricepoints. Many workplaces can shift away from conventional desktops and save money on hardware and on electricity.


  1. Nice to see an economist getting interested in what has been a computing revolution for quite some time. Only problem for India is that our greedy government will not make importing these into the country easier. Anyways they have made manufacturing these within the country (or for that matter any manufacturing) a real pain.

    1. You can buy the raspberry pi on ebay India.

    2. Lots of other places too. Just Google for "raspberry pi india".

  2. Bah, our government can do better. Didn't they give students millions of Aakash tablets at less than $35 each? So, whats the big deal about these? (sarcasm intended)

    Meanwhile, I have to pay high import duties on ipads and kindles and smartphones and laptops and all of the things listed in this article......... You would think import duties should by definition be temporary and should come with an expiration date to set the domestic manufacturing in order by a date. That isn't the case for computer products. So, why do we have import duties? Strange.... and why don't citizens ask this question? Even stranger...

  3. Amusing to see comments about how the Indian Government is strangling usage of Pi, which would have otherwise transformed the quality of life, had the Indian Government been less of a bitch. I had thought that sixty-and-odd years after Independence, some of us who are as educated as readers of this blog would grow up enough to stop complaining about the Indian Government and learn to go tie our own shoelaces.

    I bought a couple of RaspBerry Pi from a Bangalore based dealer by ordering online ( They called me from there to verify my order. They had it delivered it cash-on-delivery in 48 hours to my office in Bombay. And it was beautifully packed items sourced from element14 (one of the world's biggest electronics resellers). I paid Rs.5,300 or thereabouts for a Pi and a case for it.

    I see all sorts of posts cribbing about how something is Rs.5000 in India and only USD 70.00 in the US and how Indians are being "fleeced". I see people frothing at the mouth about how Sony has "cheated them" because they sold them a flat-screen TV costing USD 2,000 but did not bundle a free wifi adapter with it (available separately for USD 40). I guess they have their point, and I must excuse myself for failing to see it.

    I see people frothing at the mouth about how the Indian Government is strangling adoption of Pi in India. I got my items from an Indian reseller at a reasonable price. (There are plenty of other retailers; check,, ... and others) I guess I'm simply too stupid to even know when I am supposed to feel "fleeced" or "cheated".

    For others as stupid as me, I'll say this: there are a lot of sources for some very interesting hardware, prototype boards, software, accessories, etc, all available freely for rupee payment in India. Go get them. Let others rave and rant on blogs and FB, let's go have some fun.

    1. "I see all sorts of posts cribbing about how something is Rs.5000 in India and only USD 70.00 in the US and how Indians are being "fleeced" "

      How is this a wrong statement?

      The issue isn't availability which is what your entire comment is about. Nor is it about affordability for people like you and me.

      It is about unnecessary and pointless import duties and affordability for the masses at the margin or below.


      Its actually the opposite. We need to start being more vocal about stupid policies of the government, which we haven't been doing for the past 60 years. Lets not confuse knee-jerk criticism of the government (which we have had plenty off, all in the vein of demanding more from mai-baap sarkar which the govt has duly responded to, with a litany of welfare programs which don't actually solve the problem but only give the impression of doing so) with thoughtful criticism of government policies which don't make sense and hold back progress.

      More specifically, import duties on computer electronics does fleece the Indian citizen (especially the cash strapped students who need it the most). And, it is entirely unnecessary unless the duties were fed back into the local computer manufacturing industry, which is not the case. Now, specifically, do you have a problem with this criticism?

  4. Our strength or rather our only resource is labour. That's why a large chunk of our foreign exchange is earned in the form of foreign remittances. So, how does this labour-saving device help in employing more people in a meaningful way? Can we do what this device does at the same cost by employing people instead? I am not sure but are there any studies on whether labour is still replacing capital in India because the former is so cheap?

    I used to be against import restrictions but after seeing the hollowing out of America and especially the related deskilling of the population there, I am much more wary about allowing easy imports.

    But the Indian middle class wants to consume without saving much. The results are there for all of us to see.


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