The Indian government has succeeded where so many iPadversaries of 2010 failed: It actually delivered on its plans to launch a cheap tablet.
Sure, the Aakash tablet took longer than expected. And at a $45 unit price from U.K. manufacturer DataWind, it’s more expensive than the $35 prototype the Indian government showed off in July 2010. But according to the Times of India, it’s still the world’s cheapest tablet, and it’ll be commercially available for around $60 in November. (The $45 version is going to 100,000 students in India for free as part of a pilot program.)
The specs, of course, are cheap as they come. Behind the 7-inch, 800-by-480 resolution resistive touch screen, there’s a 366 MHz processor, 256 MB of RAM, 2 GB of flash storage and a 2100 mAh battery worth two or three hours of juice. Two USB ports and a microSD card slot line the edges. The software is straight-up Android 2.2.
I love how the Times of India doesn’t sugar-coat the mixed reaction from students who were at the Aakash tablet’s launch event. “It could be better,” Nikant Vohra, an electrical engineering student, said. “If you see it from the price only, it’s okay, but we have laptops and have used iPads, so we know the difference.”
But don’t let the lack of enthusiasm from students take away from India’s accomplishment. In the realm of gadgets-for-the-needy, that fact that a $45 tablet exists is a pretty big deal. One Laptop Per Child’s XO laptop never reached its $100 target price, and OLPC is still trying to release its own sub-$100 tablet by 2012.
If you’re interested in buying an Aakash tablet now, DataWind is taking pre-orders under its Ubisurfer brand, but the listed price is 99 pounds (about $150) plus shipping. You’re better off waiting for another high-profile tablet to flop.