BANGALORE, India—The Indian government Wednesday (Oct. 5) launched a tablet computer for students priced at a subsidized rate of $35 and made by a hitherto unknown manufacturer, Datawind Ltd., a developer of wireless Web access products based in the U.K. The same gadget will be sold to the general public at a retail price of $60.
The version for students will not have an embedded cellular modem or SIM card, but both versions will run on Google’s Android platform.
Called "Aakash" (or sky), the gadget will have Wi-Fi connectivity, cloud-based storage, 256 MB of RAM, a 32-GB expandable memory slot and two USB ports.
Both versions of the tablet will run on the Android 2.2 (Froyo) platform. Both will feature a 7-inch resistive touch screen with 800x480 resolution, weigh about 350 grams and include Wi-Fi connectivity for internet access and cloud storage.
The tablet supports formats such as DOC, DOCX, PDF and PPTX and has a standard 3.5-mm headphone jack. Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind, told a television channel that the product will be made in India and has gone through extensive product testing. "This is a made-in-India product, with the screen coming from a South Korean company and the chip from a U.S. company. It has 800 components and the screen cost the most, under $10. This (product) will revolutionize the world," Tuli was quoted as saying.
The tablet has a 2,100mAh battery which can reportedly last for two to three hours depending on the type of usage.
More details of the product were not available. Kapil Sibal, federal minister for education and information technology, said Aakash will be available throughout India. But many in India were sceptical of Sibal's announcement, given that even primary school education has for decades been considered insufficient in both quantity and quality in India.
In 2007, India's government said it was working to make available a $10 laptop computer. It later said the laptop would cost $100. It is not known if the $35 tablet computer is related to that project.
The $100 laptop was being developed by scientific and educational agencies that were run by the government. India's government said it will have the $35 tablet computer further improved by government-owned research institutions, if necessary.
According to news reports from New Delhi, where the product was launched, Datawind claimed it will make a profit at a retail price. The company said the version for students will be subsidized by the government.
One company that dropped out of the race for developing the $35 tablet said it did so because it did not see how it could make the product available—despite the subsidy borne by the government—at a decent profit.