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No Frills ultra portable laptop for under $350

Yes, yes, we all know of yesterday’s MacBook Air announcement by Steve Jobs from Apple and it’s indeed the thinnest, sleekest and sexiest laptop ever. Let’s not go deep into that as everybody is already aware of it by now; let’s look at something we missed in the Indian Business scenario with its latest cult of small-cheap-cool products – the no-frills ultra-portable laptop from HCL InfoSystems.

The MiLEAP X Series “Leaptop” runs on an Intel Celeron 400 MHz processor and sports the following feature –

The base standard “Leaptop” price starts at ₹13,990 (~$350).

My first verdict upon reading the news was; it’s OK for posterity sake but who’ll buy that. What would you do with a 512 MB RAM on a Celeron Processor? Moreover, this is costlier than the One Laptop Per Child (more about OLPC on Wikipedia) Laptop. Personally, I’m not sure if this should be exciting at all after Tata’s success about their recently popular Tata Nano, the $2,500 car.

Nonetheless, let’s dwell a little deeper into the new MiLEAP “LeapTop” and rejoice with the fact that India is being extremely innovative these days in all front - business, technology, the economy, et al.

The “Leaptop” will be preloaded with a Linux OS. A built-in HDD with Windows version will cost ₹16,990 (~$425). The built-in Wi-Fi is, however, a much-needed feature wherein today’s Internet era one would be stupid to have a Laptop without Wi-Fi access. The whole manufacturing, assembling of the “LeapTop” is being done in an Indian State - Uttranchal.

Although some believe that the latest breed of cheap laptops is closer to being high-end organizers than being lower-end laptops, it could still make a compelling buy for first-timers and collectors or those who wish to get their young kids started with computers.

It may be remembered that there are many other players in this cheap-laptop segment already. UK-based company ACi had launched its Ethos 7 priced at ₹14,990 (excluding tax). This too has features like a seven-inch display, a 512 MB DDR II RAM, Wi-Fi, and a 40 GB HDD. The memory cannot be upgraded. By the end of this month, Asus, a Taiwanese player, plans to launch its Eee PC 4G with similar specs - seven-inch screen, Linux OS and flash memory. The device is expected to be priced around ₹16,000.

On another perspective, leading PC vendor Acer’s cheapest laptop costs ₹19,990 and has a 14.1-inch display whereas the entry-level laptop from HP costs ₹27,000 a features a Celeron 440 MHz processor, a 14” screen and a DVD drive. The cheapest Intex laptop is at ₹27,900. Last year, Indian company Zenith launched a ₹25,000 laptop, then touted as the cheapest.

Well, if you’re outside the budget constraint and wish to get one of the sleekest, sexiest and the thinnest notebook in the world, then Apple just announced their MacBook Air yesterday at the MacWorld Expo. The MacBook Air is costly at $1,799 but justified with its features - sporting a silvery finish, it boasts of a 13.3-inch LED-backlit widescreen display that has a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, provides “instant-on” response from the moment you turn it on, weighs just about 3 pounds, and sports a thickness of 0.16-0.76 inches. It’s 12.8 inches wide and 8.95 inches deep.

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