Linux-based Simputer upgraded

The low-cost, Linux-based Simputer handheld computer, or Simple Inexpensive Multi-lingual comPUTER, has been upgraded, Bharat Electronics Ltd. and PicoPeta Simputers Pvt. Ltd. said in a statement last week. The two companies have agreed to jointly develop the Simputer under the brand name Amida Simputer.

The Simputer aims to make computing technology and Internet access available to Indians on lower incomes. One version of the product will be available for under 10,000 rupees (US$227), the companies said.

Users can write or doodle on the screen in any language and then e-mail the handwritten or drawn message. To connect to the Internet, they need either an external landline modem or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) mobile phone from Indian telecommunications company Reliance Infocomm Ltd. and must use one of two USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports provided in the device, Bharat and PicoPeta said. The Internet browser allows access to any Web site, they said.

Indian language keyboards are also included, in Hindi and Kannada, with more languages under development.

A motion sensor allows users to turn the pages of an e-book with a flick of their wrist, zoom in on a picture by moving the computer towards them, or turn the screen to have the display readjust itself to landscape viewing, the companies said.

The Amida Simputer, which looks similar to a PDA (personal digital assistant), comes in three models. The cheapest, the Amida 1200, has 32M bytes of RAM, a 206MHz processor, a limited amount of bundled software and a touch-sensitive 240 pixel by 320 pixel grayscale screen. It costs 9,950 rupees, plus tax and shipping, or $240 plus shipping to buyers outside India.

The Amida 1600 and 4200 both have 64M bytes of RAM, the same 206MHz processor, plus an infrared port and built in microphone and speakers.

The Amida 1600, at 12,450 rupees or $300, has a grayscale screen and the same chocolate brown shell as the basic model, while the Amida 4200, at 19,950 rupees or $480 has a black shell and a color screen.

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