An Indian firm has begun selling a tablet computer in the United States for $37.99. However, it does appear you get what you pay for.
The UbiSlate range is the work of DataWind, a company which set out to make the cheapest possible devices to sell to the Indian market where the average income is the equivalent of US$1,219 — a sum that, taking into account local prices, has the equivalent purchasing power of US$3,608.
The company has already made two models under the Aakash brand name, with the main takers being schools and colleges looking for ways to get cheap internet and video tutorial access to students.
The same devices have now been repackaged for sale in the US and UK. The cheapest model, the UbiSlate 7Ci, is a 7 inch model with 512MB of Ram and a 1GHz processor. It runs Android 4.03 and has 4GB of on-board storage and an SD card expansion slot. It has a single 0.3 megapixel camera. It supports WiFi and also has a SIM card slot so you can use it as a phone.
DataWind says it is making a small profit margin on each device, boosted by the web browser including advertising. It says it has a long-term goal of selling a profitable model in the US for $19.99.
It’s a sign of how quickly things change that many of the specifications on the 7Ci equal or better those on the original model iPad. Today they look pretty meager and it remains to be seen how well the device can cope with Android 4.03.
The chances are the tablet will represent better value for those who want to use it as a single-purpose device that borders on disposable (for example, mounted in a kitchen as an interactive recipe book), or perhaps even a toy for younger children.
TIME suggests it could work well for commercial purposes, for example with a magazine producing a digital edition and then giving away the tablet to read it on as part of the subscription cost.