Test-driving the ‘World’s Cheapest Computer’

Friday, August 3, 2012

India’s “Aakash” project, a tablet billed as the cheapest computer in the world, hopes to revolutionize learning in Indian colleges and universities. We’ve been following the ups and downs of the Aakash project closely here at India Ink and were delighted when we were allowed to test drive the new, improved version, known as the Aakash-2, at the ministry of Human Resources Development.

Euphoria over a cheap tablet with a “Made in India” label grew after the Human Resources Development Ministry unveiled the Aakash in October 2011. But unresolved issues among various parties involved in the project seemed to have derailed it. Now it seems to be back on track.

Dozens of the new tablets are being field-tested now by teachers across India. A commercial version, known as “UbiSlate,” is being made by the same manufacturer behind the Aakash-2 and is expected to be on the market soon.

The Aakash-2 will be available to Indian students through 20,000 colleges and 416 universities in the country, at a subsidized price of 1,132 rupees, or about $21. The commercial version of the product will cost between 3,499 rupees and 4,299 rupees.

As might be expected with a low-cost device, it comes in any color you choose — as long as that color is black.

At a weight of less than a pound, the rectangular tablet is heavier than a mobile phone but fits comfortably in one hand. The back of the device is made up of rubberized plastic, which keeps the device steady in your hand.

The front is entirely made up of the shiny, seven-inch-long capacitive touch screen, an improvement over the original Aakash, which had a resistive touch screen. (A capacitive screen is more responsive and allows for the use of more than one finger to navigate). Navigation on the Aakash-2’s screen was simple and fast, needing only a light touch.

Source: New York Times (link opens in a new window)