Indian Government, Tech. Firm Collaborate on Tablet for Education

After launching what was dubbed the “world’s cheapest tablet” by the Indian media last year, the national government and a technology company recently released an upgraded model of the low-cost device.

DataWind, a company that develops wireless web access devices, has released Aakash 2 or UbiSlate 7Ci, the newest version of its tablet device, Aakash, launched in 2011, IBN Live reports.

The new tablet, developed in an unusual partnership with the Indian government, is being sold to students at a discounted price of $20, while its predecessor was priced at $35 for schools.

The Aakash 2 is similar to the 2011 model in having a 7-inch touch-screen, wireless Internet capabilities, and a built-in camera. Its upgraded features include 512 MB Ram, 4GB internal flash memory expandable to up to 32GB with an external drive, and around four hours of battery life. The new tablet also uses Android 4.0 Operating System from Google, a step up from the earlier model which uses Android 2.2 OS.

The digital world has seen an influx of new tablets, both high- and low-cost. On the higher end, Apple launched the iPad Mini at $329 for a Wi-Fi-enabled tablet with 16 gigabytes of memory, but depending on the model and specifications, it can cost up to $659. Samsung is also competing in the education market with the Galaxy Note 10.1 at $499 and the Google Nexus 10 at $399, both 16 gigabytes and Wi-Fi-enabled. In comparison, Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire 2, released in September, comes in at a lower price of $159. Digital Education has more information and analysis on tablets in the education industry.

DataWind, founded in 2001 by two Indian brothers and based in Montreal, won the contract with the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development last year to build the low-priced device. But after the earlier version of the device received heavy criticism for its poor performance and short battery life, the Indian government had planned to drop the technology company and begin the re-bidding process for a new developer, The Globe and Mail reported.

Last month, the New York Times reported that DataWind accepted more than 2.5 million orders for Aakash when it was announced, even though it did not have the ability to manufacture at that scale.

Suneet Singh Tuli, the chief executive of DataWind told the New York Times that 80 percent of the prepaid orders have now been delivered. The company’s next task is to meet the government order of 100,000 units for Indian schools by the end of the year. Tuli said the government plans to equip all of India’s 220 million students with a tablet, the New York Times reports.

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