A device to inject new life into the tablet industry in India has been launched by the Indian government at a subsidised price of just US$35 for students, with a commercial version ready for retail next month priced at INR 2,999 ($60).
The Indian Government will initially buy 100,000 Android-powered WiFi-enabled Aakash tablets to provide digital connectivity to those studying in small towns and rural communities across the country. Over the coming years, it aims to provide 10 million of the subsidised computing devices to students.
"The rich have access to the digital world; the poor and the ordinary have been excluded. Aakash will end that digital divide," said Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal at the Delhi launch on 5 October.
The seven inch Aakash (meaning 'sky') has been developed by UK company DataWind and the Indian Institute of Technology in Rajasthan, and will be produced at DataWind's new facility in Hyderabad.
At a fraction of the cost of an iPad, the Aakash supports web browsing and video conferencing, with a 366MHz processor, 256MB memory, a 2GB SD memory card, a 32GB expandable memory slot, two USB ports, and a three hour battery life.
"Our goal was to break the price barrier for computing and internet access. We've created a product that will finally bring affordable computing and internet access to the masses," said Suneet Singh Tuli, chief executive, DataWind.
Initially the tablet will be sold to the government priced at $50 apiece, though this price is likely to fall as the volumes increase.
The move is part of a government drive to provide digital access to its population of 1.2 billion. Currently, there are just 28.41 million internet connections, according to new data from the India Readership Survey (IRS).
"This is not only a concept that applies to India, but has ignited the imaginations of governments around the world. The Aakash is proudly made in India, and is destined to revolutionise computing and internet access for the world," said Tuli.
A commercial version of the tablet, called UbiSlate - with an additional built-in cellular modem and internet SIM slot - will go on sale in India in November priced at INR 2,999 ($60).