India’s new $35 Aakash tablet computer designed in Canada

·Editor

Appealing to the millions who cannot afford an iPad 2, India jumped into the saturated tablet market Wednesday with what has been dubbed 'the world's cheapest tablet computer.'

The Aakash tablet, or "sky" in Hindi, will be sold at the subsidized price of $35 to students, and later in stores for only $60.

"The rich have access to the digital world, the poor and ordinary have been excluded," explains Telecoms and Education Minister Kapil Sibal in a Reuters story. "Aakash will end that digital divide."

And while Indian students are beaming, the release of the Aakash is just as much a win for Canada's tech industry as it is for the people of India.

The 7-inch tablet, equipped with 256MB of RAM, 800-by-480 pixel resolution and 2GB flash storage was designed and manufactured in Montreal by Datawind. The wireless web product and service developers plan to market the Aakash in a number of burgeoning markets, as well as commercial marketing in India beginning in November.

Higher-end versions that will include GPRS - general packet radio service, allowing the device to function as a cellphone - will be available in established markets such as the U.S. and the U.K. Potential availability in Canada has yet to be confirmed.

Early reviews of the tablet, which runs the Android 2.2 OS, suggest that you get what you pay for. The 660 mhz processor has been described as "decent" but the lack of speed and touchscreen agility has some questioning the device's longevity.

"Because of the price there is a lot of excitement," said Rajat Agrawal, executive editor of gadget reviewers BGR India in the Reuters story. "People might use it initially but if it is not user friendly they will give up within a week."

Nevertheless, the jaw-dropping price for a viable tablet is sure to pique plenty of interest, and if all goes well, increased production could eventually drop the price down to a measly $10.

"Our ultimate aim is that in the coming years this tablet should cost less than $10," revealed Sabil in an Economic Times story. "Datawind has offered that if an order of 1 million units is placed the cost of the tablet (to the government) would be Rs 1750 ($35), in which the government will offer 50% subsidy (while giving it to students)," Sibal said.

(Reuters Photo)

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