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India urged not to make $35 iPad

IT development charity One Laptop Per Child has declared its backing for a plan to equip school children in India with tablet computers costing as little as $35 - but urged political leaders not to follow the example of Apple's iPad.

The endorsement came in an open letter written by the organisation's founder Nicholas Negroponte to India's Human Resource Development Minister, Kapil Sibal, and published in the Times of India newspaper.

Negroponte promised full and free access to the organisation's technology, which includes its 'groundbreaking' $100 XO laptop, saying:

"Please consider this open letter OLPC's pledge to provide India with free and open access to all of our technology, and our experience with two million laptops, in over 40 countries, in over 25 languages. As a humanitarian and charitable organisation, we do not compete. We collaborate, and invite you to do so, too."

Negroponte stressed the importance of good design in helping the device to catch on, urging Indian authorities to follow the example of IT giant Apple in that case at least.

"Make an inexpensive tablet, not a cheap one," he said. "Make it desirable, lovable and fun to own."

But while he was complimentary about the iPad's design pedigree, he warned against the pitfalls of making it the only model for India's $35 device, with a side-swipe at Cupertino's media monopolists.

"Learning is not media consumption. It is about making things. The iPad is a consumptive tool by design. OLPC urges that you not make this mistake."

Linux, he said, was the way forward in making the tablet openly accessible to all - as was sustainable power in the form of solar energy or hand-crank.

Reiterating his offer to provide free access to OPLC's technology, Negroponte concluded:

"I urge you to send a team to MIT and OLPC at your earliest convenience so we can share our results with you."