The R1400 netbook

The idea behind netbook computers was to provide affordable, good-enough hardware that would allow people to get online and productive without breaking the bank. What we got, instead, was a range of small laptops that in most cases are priced above their bigger siblings, ramped up by distributors and cell networks. IBM and Canonical (the company responsible for Ubuntu Linux) are changing that, however, along with manufacturer Simmtronics. These three companies have collaborated to create a netbook that breaks through the $200 (R1500) mark.

The Simmbook, which is currently available for pre-order, will go on sale in developing markets soon and is expected to cost as low as $190 (R1400) when it does.

Powered by Ubuntu Linux, the Simmbook has been designed with cloud computing in mind and, as such, is preloaded with IBM’s Client for Smart Work, which includes the IBM Lotus Symphony office suite, access to IBM LotusLive cloud collaboration services, and the choice of adding other IBM Lotus collaboration software like Lotus Notes and Lotus Sametime.

Says Clifford Foster, CTO for IBM sub-Saharan Africa, “As Africa makes economic strides during a time when new technologies like cloud computing are emerging, the Simmbook netbook … provides businesses with a complete solution at an affordable price.”

Founder of Canonical, Mark Shuttleworth adds, “It’s exciting to see how computing is changing the lives of people in Africa and the new Simmbook provides a real testament of how important it is to get low-cost computing into Africa’s economy.”

I suspect the Simmbook  will also be a hit with geeks looking for a cost-effective “side-arm”.

The Simmbook is powered by an Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor with 1GB of DDR2 RAM. It has a 10.1″ screen that can handle resolutions up to 1024×600 with an Intel GFX Core graphics processor. SATA hard drives are available as options, starting at 160GB, and it has Bluetooth, WiFi, 3 USB ports, an ethernet port and a 3-cell battery with 6 cells available.

My guess would be that these two battery options would provide roughly 3 and 6 hours of use respectively, but I could be wrong. It’s also uncertain whether the $190 version of the Simmbook will sport the same bits and pieces as the model I referenced for this article.

In my column on Fin24.com this week I made the point that it was wrong to exclude lower-income markets from futures in technology and digital media. The Simmbook is yet another example of Moore’s Law at work, along with the power of open source technology and cloud computing to make powerful business applications available at a much reduced cost.

I'm a writer and broadcaster who also designs apps and strategies for disruptive startups in the financial world. Find out more on my about page.