After months of waiting and speculation, the sub Rs 10,000 desktop PC is finally here! HCL Infosystems, Sahara, and Xenitis now offer desktops that cost almost as much as camera cell phones. Never mind if they run Open Source Software, or if some use Chinese components. You can actually get work done on these machines using freeware that's easily available. And since certain laptops are available for around Rs 30,000, I presume the next target forthe industry is the sub-30K laptop. But is that possible or just a dream? If you're a newshound like me, you probably saw the report on the $100 (Rs 4,400) laptop being developed at Media Labs (Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology). This one's positioned at kids in developing countries. Media Labs co-founder, Nicholas Negroponte set up a nonÂ profit group named One Laptop per Child (OLPC) to make this possible. The initiative was first 'announced by Negroponte at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in January 2005. ilfyou want to learn more about this ambitious project, point your browser to http://laptop. Ilmedia.mit.edu/ According to the web site, the proposed laptop will be Linux-based and have a color screen. While it won't be able to store a lot of data in secondary memory, these laptops will be WiFi and cell phoneÂenabled, and will have many USB ports -important for exchanging data and homework assignments. Another highlight is the innovative backup power system-a wind-up crank style mechanism to supply the juice when you need it most. The laptop will be powered by a 500 MHz processor and will have 1GB of main memory. A laptop can be a great learning tool and ,Negroponte sees this as an educational project not a laptop project. But if the $100 laptop does emerge from Media Labs, and enters Indian '.ilspace, it will shake up the market. Laptop manufacturers will then create a new range of competing low priced models. Now let's apply rationale and see if this will really happen. Kalpak Bhatt, Product Manager at Gigabyte technology (India) does not believe that a b.30K laptop is possible - not anytime soon. anyway because unlike desktops, there is no standardization in laptop architecture, and designs vary among manufacturers. So it's not possible to further reduce prices. Bhatt explains, if there were industry-standard motherboard designs for notebooks (like those from Intel and AMD), and if all manufacturers used these standard designs, then prices could drop with volumes. But if you studied the internal design of two laptops from two manufacturers, you'd see quite a few differences. Though laptops have the usual components-power supply, hard disk, RAM, CPU, bus, chipsets - the manner in which these are interconnected differ greatly. The miniaturization of components and tight integration also have a bearing on the overall price, because everyone has a different way of doing this. A laptop (especially the ultra-thin models) has very limited internal space. Its chassis has to be cleverly designed to accommodate all the standard components within a frame of standard dimensions. New features are incorporated into laptops every year, yet they are getting slimmer. So manufacturers devise their own designs to pack in more within the same frame. The technology used in laptop screens is also expensive. The TFT (thin film transistor) screen accounts for more than half of the total system cost. Yes, the cost of manufacturing TFT screens has declined in recent months, but not significantly. So if inventories are low it will raise the cost of TFT screens. To significantly reduce laptop prices, manufacturers need to create cheaper TFT screens or consider new display technology. Cooling systems, power supplies, and battery technology also add to the cost. Manufacturers strive to make laptops that run longer on a single charge. With better battery technology (such as methanol fuel cells) this target will eventually be accomplished. But laptops that run for longer durations also tend to heat up. So researchers are also working on efficient cooling systems, and figuring out ways to pack these into the slim laptop chassis. Laptop technology continues to evolve, and we know that new tech nology is a Iways expensive. So the sub-30K laptop is still a long way off, unless you settle for Negroponte's laptop. .