Most handhelds are created to allow users to access their information while they are away from their regular computer. The Simputer is different. It was created to bring the benefits of computers to India’s poor.
Clearly, a lot of time went into making this device usable for people in their native language. The user interface depends heavily on icons, rather than text. Emails can be handwritten in any language.
For those who want to input large amounts of text, there are keyboards in two local languages and more are on the way.
There’s a small modem available that can be hooked to either a land-line or a mobile phone. This allows the device to send and receive email and access the Web.
There are some nice touches in the user interface that other companies might consider emulating. For example, to switch the screen for portrait to landscape mode, the user need only turn the Simputer on its side.
The device is somewhat expensive for its target market. The entry-level model is about $240 U.S. However, it has been designed so a village or other group can share one. Each user has his or her own Smart Card, which stores personal information.
The Simputer runs GNU/Linux with a custom user interface on a 200 MHz StrongARM processor. It has a 240-by-320-pixel screen.
The least expensive model, the Amida 1200, has 32 MB of RAM and a monochrome display.
There’s also a high-end model targeted at India’s growing middle class. The Amida 4200 has 64 MB of RAM and a color screen. It sells for about $480.
More information is available on the Amida Simputer web site.