India unveils $45 Akash tablet

A US$45 tablet is now a reality, thanks to Indian ingenuity. The tablet launches this week and its hope is to bring the digital age to millions of students across India.

The “Akash” or “Sky” is to be launched in New Deli by Kapil Sibal, the Human Resources Development Minister.

The Akash will apparently have a seven-inch screen, 180 minutes of battery and the ability to play content. The tablet will also include Android 2.2 as its operating system, will have two USB ports, video-conferencing capabilities and an expandable memory slot (up to 32GB). One downside to the Akash will be its limited RAM of only 256MB.

A spokesperson from the HR ministry said, “It will cost 2 200 rupees (US$45) and the first batch of 500 tablets will be handed over to students after the release. Initially, 700 Akash tablets will be made every day and we expect the production to pick up when more companies join in to manufacture the device.”

This puts it at a fraction of the US$600 price tag for the lowest end iPad in India.

With the Akash, the opportunity now exists to boost the skill sets of the students in India. The hope is that the tablet will increase the literacy rate and develop the technological skills which are much-needed in this and other developing countries.

India is doing its best to increase its 62% literacy rate as it is lags behind other BRICS countries like China. China has a literacy rate of 92%.

The Indian government had promised to release 100 000 Akash tablet computers by January 2011. Governmental subsidy issues surrounding the launch setback any tablet release. The Akash is the “computer for the masses” and in both 2005 and 2009 it was set for a wide release, but never made it past funding and design issues.

If the Akash is to put a dent in the burgeoning tablet market where cheaper imports and advanced tablets such as the iPad and Galaxy exist, it will have to pull off a small miracle, industry observers say.

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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