India launches tablet computer priced at £23

The Aakash has been developed by UK-based company DataWind and Indian Institute of Technology (Rajasthan). It is due to be assembled in India, at DataWind’s new production centre in the southern city of Hyderabad.

DataWind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli, stated: “Our goal was to break the price barrier for computing and internet access. We’ve created a product that will finally bring affordable computing and internet access to the masses.” The company says it will also offer a commercial version of the tablet, called UbiSlate. It is expected to hit the shelves later this year, retailing for about $60.

Officials hope the computer will give digital access to students in small towns and villages.  Experts say it does have the potential to make a huge difference to the country’s education, particularly in rural areas where schools and students do not have access to libraries and up-to-date information.

However, questions have been raised over the performance of the tablets. Critics believe it is too early to say how the Aakash will be received as most cheap tablets in the past have turned out to be painfully slow. Rajat Agrawal of technology reviewers BGR India, commented: “The thing with cheap tablets is most of them turn out to be unusable, they don’t have a very good touch screen, and they are usually very slow.”

Critics also point out that an earlier cheap laptop plan by the same ministry came to nothing. In 2009, it announced plans for a laptop priced as low as $10, raising eyebrows and triggering worldwide media interest. But there was disappointment after the ‘Sakshat’ turned out to be a prototype of a hand-held device, with an unspecified price tag, that never materialised.

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