$50 Aakash Tablet a Reality in India

The Indian government has unveiled a tablet computer that costs just $50.

The Aakash (the Hindi word for sky) is made by DataWind, a business created and run by two Canadians but based legally in the UK where it’s previously sold a cheap pocket device which does web surfing and little else. This is truly an international story as DataWind has previously had its products made in China, but will have the Aakash manufactured by an Indian firm.

The tablet is a 7 inch Wi-Fi Android device with 256MB of RAM, 2GB of on-board storage and two USB ports. The processor is only 366MHz, with the manufacturers saying some cloud-based processing will reduce the workload on the device itself. One notable feature is that it’s been tested as working for long periods in the very hot conditions that are prevalent in parts of India during the summer. One Indian TV station’s tech website summed up the device by saying it wasn’t a high quality product, but that “it is a high quality product for its price.”

The Indian government has placed an initial order for 100,000 units, with a further order of a million if the first batch meets expectations. If all goes well, the government will buy as many as 10 million units before the end of March.

Aakash stems from a government challenge for companies to come up with a device that costs $35 all-in. At the moment the Aakash itself costs $38, though this rises to $50 with sales taxes and the inclusion of a warranty that means faulty units bought by the government will be replaced. The working plan is still to get this down to $35 once DataWind is producing in greater quantities.

While the Indian government will be either giving the tablets to schoolchildren or selling it to them at a subsidized price, DataWind plans to expand production to the commercial market. It’s going to make a second edition with a GPRS connection, allowing the tablet to double up as a makeshift cellphone, which will retail for $60. It’s also looking at taking the device to markets such as the US where it can see plenty of room for profit.

The tablet development follows an Indian government attempt in 2009 to get manufacturers producing a cheap laptop, with early talk of the same $35 price and, at one point, rumors that it wanted a $10 machine. Not surprisingly that proved an unsuccessful request.

(Image credit: AndroidOS.in)