India on Wednesday unveiled the Aakash, meaning "sky" in Hindi, billed as the world's least expensive tablet. The plan is to distribute thousands of the devices in coming months to students at a $35 subsidized rate.
The tablet has taken several years to develop, faced a lot of skepticism and received help from taxpayers, given the state’s actual cost of about $50.
But it offers the promise of computing to millions of villagers in rural India who often seem to be living more in the 19th century than the 21st. Developers also say they hope to export the model abroad eventually.
"Today we reach to the sky and demonstrate what is possible," said Kapil Sibal, India’s minister for information technology and human resource development. "Let me send a message, not just to our children but the children of the world: This is for all those who are marginalized."
The 13-ounce touchscreen device can handle basic computing, including email, social networking, Web surfing, online banking, instant messaging and multimedia.
"It’s not for users who want a real tablet experience," said Vishal Tripathi, an analyst with Gartner, a high-tech research firm. "This will allow basic computing beyond the mobile phone."
-- Mark Magnier
Photo: Indian students try out the $35 tablet computer at its launch in New Delhi on Wednesday. Credit: EPA