New $60 Aakash Promises To Kick-Start Indian Tablet Market

Move over, Kindle Fire – the world has a new cheapest tablet computer. India’s government has announced a new Android-powered tablet called Aakash priced at between $35 and $60 that could set a light under the booming country’s digital content market.

Canadian hardware firm Datawind is making the seven-inch device in Hyderabad after pitching a low tender. The Indian government is placing an initial order for 100,000 on students’ behalf at 2,200 rupees per unit ($44.50) but Datawind says a forthcoming higher-volume order will push the effective price down to $35. Those devices will be WiFi only.

In 60 days’ time, the device will go on general consumer retail at 2,999 rupees ($60.70), together with a built-in SIM slot, rebranded “Ubislate”.

Human resources minister Kapil Sibal: “There are some moments in history that will be milestones recognised by future generations. This is one such milestone. Today, we see the beginning of a dream realised, a dream in which every student in every corner of this country will have access to technology that defines the 21st Century.”

Economic Times: “The number of Internet users grew 15-fold between 2000 and 2010, according to another recent report. Still, just 8 percent of Indians have access. That compares with nearly 40 percent in China. Some 19 million people subscribe to mobile phones every month, making India the world’s fastest growing market, but most are from the wealthier segment of the population in towns.”

It’s not clear how the device comes in so cheap, but its specs put it on par with lower-end Android smartphones – a 366MHz processor, resistive screen, 256Mb of memory, a 32Gb expandable memory slot and two USB ports, running Android 2.2 (Froyo).