Epps said government subsidies or dual marketing—where higher-priced sales in the developed world are used to subsidy low-cost sales in markets like India—could convince a manufacturer to come on board.

This and similar efforts—like the Kakai Kno and the Entourage Edge tablets—show that there is global demand for an affordable device to trim high textbook costs, she said.

If it works, Epps predicts the device could send a shiver of cost-consciousness throughout the industry—much as Negroponte’s plans helped spur the creation of devices like Intel’s low-cost Classmate PC.

“It puts pressure on all device manufacturers to keep costs down and innovate,” she said.

The project is part of an ambitious education technology initiative that also aims to bring broadband connectivity to India’s 25,000 colleges and 504 universities and make study materials available online.

So far, nearly 8,500 colleges have been connected, and nearly 500 web and video-based courses have been uploaded on YouTube and other portals, the Ministry said.