The world's cheapest computer -- the $35 tablet -- has finally been launched in India, designed to bring the nation's poor into the computer and Internet age.
The computer, a tablet known commercially as the Ubislate, is being hailed by government officials in India as a valuable educational tool and a major accomplishment for the country's fast-growing tech industry.
This is a made-in-India product, DataWind Ltd. CEO Suneet Singh Tuli told The Wall Street Journal. DataWind is manufacturing the product. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do this.
The tablet costs about $50 to produce, but the first 100,000 will be given to students for free. A report from Reuters said the first 500 wre given out at the launch to a mixed response.
The tablet supports video conferencing, has two USB ports and a three-hour battery life, but it's also said by users to be slow, with a touchscreen that is not so responsive. There's concern that the inexpensive, slow-running tablet with the clunky touchscreen may not accomplish what officials in India hope -- taking technology to the impoverished masses as a teaching tool.
India is a global leader in software and IT services, and the country's Internet usage has increased 15-fold from 2000 to 2010, according to one report, but only 8 percent of residents in India have Internet access despite that growth. The idea was to bring an inexpensive tablet, subsidized for students to further lower the cost, so that millions below the middle class could have accessible technology for learning.
The project is admirable, to say the least -- but it does beg an important question: Will inexpensive technology products like the tablet really fly?
Some don't think so.
Because of the price there is a lot of excitement, said Rajat Agrawal, executive editor of BGR India, a gadget review publication, in an interview with Reuters. People might use it initially but if it is not user friendly they will give up within a week.
Kapil Sabal, a human resources minister for the ministry that oversaw development of the device, is overjoyed nonetheless, suggesting the inexpensive product is an anti-poverty tool for the country that is a gift of sorts to global children. He said in remarks at the product's launch event that while some tech observers may poke at the tablet Indians should tell doubters, It is not the device that is crude, it is your comments that are crude.
The tablet has a 7-inch display with 800-by-480 pixel resolution, 256MB of RAM, 2GB flash storage, and a 366MHz processor from Connexant. The tablet runs the Android 2.2 operating system.
The UbiSlate, the version that will be available to all commercially, will actually cost about $70. That compares to the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet that will be released in November the company will sell for $199. That price difference may not seem like much to the Western world, but in India, it's a lot of money.
Thus, many will be able to afford the world's cheapest tablet who might otherwise not be able to purchase one. For that reason, the tablet will be a success, at any level. But it isn't likely to revolutionize the tablet and inexpensive computer world. That distinction is more likely to land with the Amazon Kindle Fire -- more than three times better apparently than the Ubislate.