India upgrades 'world's cheapest tablet' Aakash

Rajini Vaidyanathan looks at the latest Aakash with Prof Phatak

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India has unveiled a new version of what it says is the "world's cheapest tablet computer" - the Aakash 2.

The device, primarily for students, is to be sold for 2,263 rupees ($40; £26). It has a faster processor, longer battery life and more programming capability than an earlier version.

The government believes that low-cost tablets can help revolutionise internet access across India.

But distribution has been an issue, with few schools receiving the tablets.

A right to information request filed by Indian media blog Medianama showed that only 572 of the first devices have been distributed, reaching fewer than 20 colleges.

"There was some delay in taking the project forward for reasons I don't want to go into," Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal told a group of teachers and students who had gathered to see the Aakash 2.

The Aakash 2 sample devices are now being tested, with manufacturing projected to start by July or August.

UK-based company Datawind, which faced criticism over delivery of the Aakash 1 in 2011, will manufacture the Aakash 2.

Bombay IIT, an engineering institution, aims to distribute 100,000 tablets to engineering colleges by the end of the year. It says it will use software to track the devices.

'Fully-fledged computer'

Like its predecessor, the Aakash 2 allows users to watch online tutorials and videos, browse the internet and play games.

"It's a fully-fledged computer, not just an access device," said Prof DB Phatak from Bombay IIT. "The applications and the content on Aakash 2 are most important, not just the device."

The new version of the Aakash tablet has an 800Mhz processing speed, a three-hour battery life and operates on the latest Android software.

It also has an SD card slot, a USB port and works over wi-fi. It does not have 3G capability, however, so users need access to a good internet connection.

Bombay IIT has developed new apps like interactive class quiz programme Clicker and Sci-lab, which allows students to conduct interactive classes.

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