The Indian economy is set to launch a new version of its ultra-low-cost tablet computer, a tablet with a quicker processor and an improved battery-life. This new tablet is also set to be discounted for students at the subsidised price of $20.
The Aakash tablet, heralded as the world's cheapest computer, has been developed as a public-private partnership. The partnership is aimed at making computing technology available to students in a country where Internet usage is lowest in the world. Indian Internet usage is estimated to be, currently, only 10 per cent of the population.
The British-based manufactures of the tablet, Datawind, whose offices include Indian and American cities, claim the Aakash 2 is powered by a processor which runs three times faster than the original, which ran at 800Mhz. and is also tipped to have a bigger touchscreen and a battery with a life of three hours over the previous 3000 mAh li-po battery.
The Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee said on Sunday, the day of the official launch: "Technology-enabled learning is a very important aspect of education," before going on to state: "This must be adapted to our specific needs and introduced expeditiously in all educational institutions across the country."
The first version of the Aakash was launched by the government in October 2011. An unfortunate shadow was cast over the visionary launch due to problems with tablet which included short battery-life along with problems of distribution and long waiting lists.
Aakash 2, which is the size of a paper-back novel, was developed by Indian engineers at the elite IIT public universities and runs the Google operating system Android 4.0. Its screen measures 7in (18cm) wide.
The Indian website pluggd.in, a leading source for gadget analystics, has stated: "Unlike the previous version, which was a non-starter, this time around there are some functions and features around the Android tablet which make it a decent computing device for that price."
With the Indian government's focus on educational development, students at engineering colleges and universities will be the first to receive a batch of 100,000 devices sold to at a subsidised price of 1,130 rupees ($20). After this, Aakash 2 will be distributed into the book stores of Indian universities.
India has nearly 115 million Internet users, a total giving the country the third-largest number in the world after China and the USA, yet with still low penetration rates, data from the Internet and Mobile Association of India reports.
Datawind says the commercial sale price without subsidies for Aakash 2 is 3,500 rupees ($64). According to India's human resource development ministry, over 15,000 teachers at 250 colleges have been trained on the use of Aakash for education.