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The Simputer

The Simputer is a low-cost Personal Computer with multiple connectivity options. It is designed to be modular and extensible, and based entirely on free software from the Open Source Initiative. Its primary input is a touch-sensitive overlay on the LCD display panel.

The Simputer is not a Personal Computer in the conventional "PC" sense. The "Win-tel" architecture of the de facto standard PC is quite unsuitable for deployment in the low-cost mass market in any developing country. The entry barrier due to software licensing of proprietary, though de facto standard, software is just too high. While the Wintel PC provides a de facto level of standardisation, it is clearly not an open architecture.

The Simputer, on the other hand, is based on GNU/Linux software technology that is open and modular. The Linux Kernel version 2.4 has been ported to the Simputer.

The initial version of the Simputer is based on Intel's StrongARM CPU, which is a Reduced Instruction-set (RISC) microprocessor designed for embedded applications. The StrongARM has a high level of integration and performance at a relatively low level of power consumption.

To enable rapid development and deployment of application software, the basic development platform uses GTK. A Java Virtual Machine can also be provided for those application developers that want to benefit from platform independence for their applications.

An important feature of the Simputer is the SmartCard Reader/Writer. The SmartCard is emerging as a credible delivery vehicle for financial transactions on the Internet and has become an important tool for electronic commerce. The incorporation of a SmartCard Reader/Writer in the Simputer increases the functionality of the mobile device for deployment of a richer set of value-added services, including services such as home and micro-banking through personal ATMs, home shopping, etc. The SmartCard Interface enables a diverse range of applications that require security. Electronic commerce, on-line banking and multi-purpose citizen-cards will all require SmartCards in the near future.

The Simputer is targeted as a shared computing device for a local community of users. A local community such as the village panchayat or the village school, or a kiosk, or even a shopkeeper should be able to give this device out to individuals for a specific period of time and then pass it on to others in the community. This requires the device to be personalized for individual use on a changing basis. The SmartCard is again the basic method by which this device can be personalized. A user's individual profile can be stored on a SmartCard, which he can carry around with him. Once inserted into the SmartCard Interface, the Simputer will read the profile from the SmartCard and also update changes if any, during the current transaction cycle.

The Simputer offers a wide range of connectivity options because of its primary focus as an access device. The primary connectivity option is a V.34/V.90 Modem. There is also an IrDA interface for interworking with PCs and IrDA-compatible peripherals such as printers. Finally, there is a built-in USB Host port that can be used for extension and peripherals that cannot be integrated within the device.

The Simputer operating system, tools and the main application resides in Flash ROM so that the system can quickly start operation when powered up. User profiles can be stored in Flash memory as accessible files or also in the SmartCard.

The Simputer is a mobile computer platform and will be applicable in several applications of mobile computing. The Simputer platform technology, being a cost-effective platform, can be used to develop several other products such as Thin Clients, Kiosk Computer, Cost-effective Point-of-Sale terminal and in embedded systems.

Additional info at Encore Software

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