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Pakistani military building PAC-PAD fondleslab

Android tablet comes with military stamp

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The Pakistani military has been using spare manufacturing capacity to build an Android fondleslab to go up against Apple’s dominant tablet.

The tablets are built by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), one of the largest manufacturing facilities in the world, which primarily builds and tests aircraft for the Pakistani military. However, in conjunction with Hong Kong firm Innavtek, PAC is using spare capacity to produce a 7-inch fondleslab, as well as an e-book reader and a netbook.

"It's about using spare capacity. There are 24 hours in a day, do we waste them or use them to make something?" Sohail Kalim, PAC's sales director, told Associated Press. "The profits go to the welfare of the people here. There are lots of auditors. They don't let us do any hanky-panky here."

The PAC-PAD1 tablet

Pakistan's military fondleslab

The PAC-PAD 1 is a fairly basic affair, running Android 2.3 on a 1GHz ARM processor, 256MB of RAM and available with between 2GB and 16GB of internal storage with space for a removable SD card as well. It’s WiFi only (802.11b/g) and designwise it’s not going to give Apple any significant problems, but the PAC-PAD does have the edge on price, costing around half of what a genuine Cupertino fondleslab would set you back.

PAC usually restrains its activities to assembling the JF-17 multirole fighter jet and J-8 jet trainer, designed by the Chinese, as well as making general aircraft parts for Boeing under contract and remote control aerial drones. The move into consumer electronics is unusual and so far only around 1,000 fondleslabs have come out of the facility, although a second generation PAC-PAD with 3G connections is promised by the summer.

"The defense industry is trying to justify its presence by doing more than just produce weapons," said Ayesha Siddiqa, author of Military Inc., a critical study of military businesses. "Some smart aleck must have thought we can make some money here."

The news of military competition has been less than gratefully received from those trying to sell their own electronics in the Pakistani market. China has, in the past, wrestled with letting the military into commercial ventures like this and now the Pakistani military seems to be going down a similar route.

"I just can't figure it out," said Jehan Ara, head of Pakistan's Software Houses Association, said of the PACPAD. "Even if they could sell a billion units, I can't see the point. The air force is supposed to be protecting the air space and borders of the country." ®

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