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The $35 android tablet, a snip at $50

UK designed, Indian built

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The Indian government has unveiled its $35 android tablet, and admitted that with shipping, boxes and manuals it will ultimately cost $50, but government subsidies will make up the difference.

The Aakash is designed and built by UK firm Datawind, known for their cheapo web-browsing kit. It features a resistive screen, a 366MHz processor and 2GB of storage, along with a couple of USB ports and space for a micro SD card. Connectivity is Wi-Fi, though cellular is already in production, and the government will be selling it to students for a shade under £20 a pop.

The specs, and image, come from NDTV, which had an exclusive on the launch and the chance to try one of the tablets. The Aakash runs Android 2.2 (Froyo), apparently with acceptable performance, and there is a video co-processor allowing HD films and YouTube content which NDTV reckons ran without a hitch.

Missing from the demonstrated prototypes are the plethora of front buttons (which have dropped to a single home key), the camera and the stylus, but the latter two are intended to be added later. NDTV also expressed some disappointment in the two to three hour battery life.

Also missing from the first production run of 10,000 units is the cellular connectivity, though manufacturers Datawind has already integrated that into the next-generation design without increasing the price.

Which isn't that surprising, given Datawind is about to launch a surprisingly similar Android tablet in the UK, though the "Ubislate 7" will retail at £99. For that price it is 2mm smaller in all dimensions, and has a capacitive screen supporting multi-touch, but more importantly it will come with bundled connectivity which is the hallmark of Datawind in the UK.

The company makes cheap hardware for web browsing, entirely dependent on optimising servers run by Datawind. In the UK the devices are sold in high-street stores and shopping channels (regularly popping up on QVC and similar). The market is the less-technically-literate, and both the palm and laptop devices currently on sale come bundled with cellular access to the internet.

The Indian government has been trying to develop super-cheap computing for a few years now, with limited success. The last project, for a netbook, fell apart in January when the project went out to tender again and was scooped up by Datawind, which has manufacturing capabilities in India.

This was one of the rules. Datawind reckons each Aakash costs $37.98 to make – the other $10 covers shipping and support materials – but the company told NDTV that it could have been done cheaper if they'd been allowed to manufacture in China.

Once manufacturing gets up to 10 million units then, apparently, the price will hit the long-promised $35, but by then they'll probably have to start paying Oracle/Apple/Samsung et al their patent fees for Android, at which point $35 rapidly becomes unobtainable again. ®

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