Pakistan's military is working on the development and manufacture of a homegrown version of iPad, according to reports.
This new enterprise is still at its pilot stage and represents just a sliver of the military's business portfolio, which encompasses massive land holdings, flour and sugar mills, hotels, travel agents, even a brand of breakfast cereal.
The military is working on the iPad and these tablets are reported to be manufactured inside their high-security airforce base in Kamra in northern Pakistan, where they build jet fighters and weapons, Associated Press has reported.
It's reported to be a joint venture of Pakistani engineering and Chinese hardware, and supporters say it will boost the nation's economy and self-esteem.
The original is the iPad, the copy is the PACPAD, said Mohammad Imran, who stocks the product at his small computer and cell phone shop in a mall in Rawalpindi, as quoted by AP. Rawalpindi is not far from Kamra and it's the center of the Pakistani army base.
The iPad has the Android 2.3 operating system made by Google. The price of these iPads is around $200, which is less than half the price of any Apple or Samsung devices and cheaper than other low-end Chinese tablets on the market. There is a one-year guarantee with the product.
The PAC in the name stands for the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, where the tables are manufactured. The PAC also makes an e-reader and a small laptop.
Jehan Ara, head of Pakistan's Software Houses Association, commented about the PACPAD, I just can't figure it out ... 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.
The pilot batch had manufactured only a few hundred of each so far, though a new batch will be completed in the next three months.
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.
PAC's website said that the goal is strengthening the national economy through commercialization and praises the collaboration with China.
PAC officials suggested that their program of producing the PACPAD was modeled, in part, on the Chinese military's entry into commercial industry.
It's about using spare capacity. There are 24 hours in a day, do we waste them or use them to make something? said Sohail Kalim, PAC's sales director. 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 PACPADS are made by the PAC in collaboration with a company called Innavtek, a Hong Kong-registered partnership, that also builds high-tech parts for the Pakistani warplanes.
Maqsood Arshad, a retired airforce officer, who is also in the board of directors, said a second-generation PACPAD would be launched in the next three months that will be able to connect to the Internet via cell phone networks and other improved features.
Arshad said that the Kamra facility can produce up to 1,000 devices a day.
The tablet with its 7-inch screen appeared to run well and the screen responsiveness was sharp. Mohammad Akmal, who went to the store in Rawalpindi to check-out the product, said in the review, It seems good, but operation-wise I have to look into it ... Within a month or so, we will know.