back to article World's cheapest tablet just got CHEAPER

The world’s cheapest tablet is about to get even cheaper after Indian telecoms minister Kapil Sibal announced the subsidised Aakash 4 will eventually ship for just Rs.1,500 (£14). The Aakash project was originally conceived by New Delhi in 2011 as a way to get computing devices in the hands of millions of students across the sub …

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Cheap as chips!

When it gets down to sixpence (or two and a half pence for you young bastards) I'll buy one.

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Re: Cheap as chips!

They've got no idea what a half is, either, old thing

Nowadays it's rounded up or indeed sometimes ... up, to the nearest one.

;-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cheap as chips!

Is it a box with a lump of clay inside?

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Re: Cheap as chips!

Sixpence being minted first in 1551, it would no doubt be worth a fair amount now compared to then.

But the first year I could find inflation data for: 1751, shows that sixpence in 1751 would be worth £4.12 today.

Sorry, not quite £14.

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Re: Cheap as chips!

Nah, spuds

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Re: Cheap as chips!

"But the first year I could find inflation data for: 1751, shows that sixpence in 1751 would be worth £4.12 today."

On the other hand, that 6d was probably a half day's pay in 1751.

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Anonymous Coward

I'll have a few anytime

Just proves how the big boys are shafting the western consumers.

Keep one each in the bathroom toilet, spare room, near sofa tv, kitchen. Why not ?

Just waiting for when they will put them in Cornflakes boxes too !

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LDS
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It costs so little to the end user just because the Indian governament pays for it...

... it won't be as cheap for anybody else.

And it looks verymuch like vaporware. FIve-seven years to deploy it? It will be outdated then - even for a student in India.

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Re: It costs so little to the end user just because the Indian governament pays for it...

Ummm - this model is launching 2014 as an upgrade to an existing, maybe not high spec but there are certainly plenty of similar speced tablets being sold commercially in the UK. I thought vapourware when they announced the first iteration (and was broadly right at least for that model), but this is gen 4.

5-7 years is the rollout time, India has a population of around 1.2B and a life expectancy of about 65, so assuming flat demographics you'd have about 20M people in each year (and in reality more than that at the bottom of the age range). So assuming you want to put one in the hands of all 5-10 year olds that is 100M+ devices, which are being subsidised by their government.

Or to look at it another way, they are aiming to roll out approximately 15-20M devices per year. With (as this article demonstrates) a number of hardware revisions during the rollout.

I don't know enough to have an opinion about if this is a good project or not - but from a pure project management perspective that doesn't seem an unreasonable approach or timescale to me.

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Gold badge

Gods you guys are negative. Me. I am saying you are negative. About something involving tablets. That's got to win some sort of prize.

I don't care how "outdated" the tablet is, this promises to put access to the internet's full trove of knowledge in the hands of every child in the most populous nation on Earth. Just getting these kids access to Wikipedia is enough to spark an imagination, fuel a curious mind or give someone a means to finding the information they need to help themselves advance their station.

When I was a child my access to the world larger than my school, schoolbus and immediate neighbourhood was a much beloved and cherished Encarta 1994 CD. I read, watched and listed to every single one of the entries on that CD. It opened my mind to possibilities I never would have considered, left exposed to just my local school system alone.

Combined with the early pre-web internet (BBSes and IRC baby!) I had discovered a new world that defined the rest of my life.

There are over a billion people in India and growing rapidly. Over a seventh of all humanities geniuses belong to that country. The entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors and artists of an entire generation will have early access to inspiration and education because of this simple, subsidized, outdated piece of equipment that you so haughtily sneer at.

It isn't a full-blown PC designed for productivity and with the software to allow these kids to really make their dreams come true. Access to those will still be needed, separate and independent of these tablets.

What this represents, however, is unlimited access to information. The answers to virtually any question thee kids could possibly have is in their pocket, at their fingertips 24 hours a day. If the answer isn't there, then the knowledge required to conduct experiments to obtain the answer is in that one little device..

That's amazing. Kudos to India.

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Exactly

Just because we think it's not good enough for fast multitasking or the latest three dimensional games, doesn't mean it's not good enough to read web pages.

It will be, and that's the key. Web pages to all for lower and lower costs is the key, not fancier and fancier crap as the west demands.

"Crap" tablets are already good enough for the essentials, and that's really the truth of it. a Single 1GHz Cortex A8 class CPU and 512MiB RAM is totally fine, for example. Hell, it was good enough for us when the original HTC Desire was out.

It's not like they're going to be loaded down with carrier bloatware.

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Well Said

Trevor,

I could not agree with you more, that said your comment.

It isn't a full-blown PC designed for productivity and with the software to allow these kids to really make their dreams come true. Access to those will still be needed, separate and independent of these tablets."

That is where I have some worries, not so much with India as I have no real knowledge on the ground in that country. In the countries I have been involved and am involved with it seems the west is hell bent on tablets every where for the benefit of education of the poor. While I agree tablets have a roll to play, I have this real worry that without access to full-blown PC's what is produced is just consumers of content.

However it also needs to be the right PC, it has to be very low power so that Solar is affordable, a lab of 10 PC's is quite power hungry not to mention the additional heat they add to small none air conditioned classrooms.

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Re: Well Said

You can get access to the full-blown PC at the library, school, etc. They don't have to be one-a-home devices to change the world. Access to the knowledge of the net...that does.

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Bah!

" this promises to put access to the internet's full trove of knowledge in the hands of every child in the most populous nation on Earth."

With you so far.

But.

This is a country that cannot sustain a steady supply of electricity 24x7 and uses the possibility of outages as a political bulldozer. How will these Wikipedia-hungry kids get access with flat batteries and no way to recharge?

Personally, I can't wait for the Indians to become a nation of Wikispouters. Once they stop using old-fashioned textbooks and knowledge it will level the educational playing field once again.

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Re: Well Said

"You can get access to the full-blown PC at the library, school, etc. They don't have to be one-a-home devices to change the world. Access to the knowledge of the net...that does."

The situations I look at, where the libraries don't exist, the schools have no computers, or electric(where electricity is available it is expensive) and the internet is expensive, in relation to income.

Giving children access to the content of the internet is a great, but without a cohesive and defined strategy it is like giving them the keys to the library and not showing them where the index is or how to use said index.

I don't have the answers, just a vague feeling of unease that more and more people believe the panacea for education in poor countries is "give them all a tablet", the One Laptop Per Child(OLPC) was a predecessor of this strategy and I sincerely hope the lessons learned with the OLPC are carried forward with this project, this report http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/NussbaumOnDesign/archives/2007/09/its_time_to_cal.html seems to suggest that mobile technology may succeed where OLPC did not shine.

India is a unique case, it has an economy the envy of many in the west and a proven track record in pushing technological education as a way to grow and compete in the world economy, just by looking from the outside at their achievements so far, they have a defined and well thought out strategy. I am just not sure it is going to work piecemeal for other countries that need to educate it's poor.

Again to reiterate I don't believe that there is anything wrong with the idea of providing children with tablets per se, I just feel we may all be saying "chuck a few cheap tablets at the problem, that will solve it" and hope they are all as intelligent as Trevor and can benefit from them just because they have them.

Anyway, as you may have guessed a subject close to my heart :-)

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Re: Well Said

They aren't all going to be intelligent enough to benefit from the tablets. I fear you miss the point. These tablets are simply not going to benefit every child. They aren't meant to. They are there to be a resource for the small percentage of children that are bright and curious enough to take advantage of what they offer.

No country - not India nor Canada - has a surefire way of identifying, isolating and nurturing genius. The best any of them can do is give geniuses the tools to make something of themselves, and in doing so elevate the communities they inhabit.

These tablets are not a 1:1 cure for poverty. They are a cheap (for a government) shotgun approach to knowledge dispensation with the aim that a rising tide will lift all boats. Capture the imagination of the bright sparks, feed their hungry minds and watch them find solutions to the problems around them that we ourselves would never have thought of.

This is a strategic play, not a tactical one.

Bunging sandwiches at poor people solves their hunger today. Plunking a coal plant and some wires near a village provides emergency relief to today's</I. electricity problem, it does nothing to solve the longer term issues that made that region so poor int he first place, or solve the pollution, etc issues that come attendant with today's technologies.

These tablets will nurture the young minds of the future, to solve tomorrow's problems with a point of view that nobody currently has. Orthogonal solutions are born of necessity and these kids will have <i>necessity. A tablet can be charged from a solar panel, or even a hand crank. An encyclopedia can be downloaded as an offline app.

Kids who are starving for knowledge will find a way to use this new tool they've been given to fill the void.

Yes, India has tactical issues that need solving, but this is a strategic investment in their future. It's a damned good one, and it will produce exceptional results. Not for every child, but for their society as a whole.

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Re: Well Said

I don't miss the point, on many levels I agree with all you say.

India can afford to do this and it will as you say benefit, this is part of the issue, India is viewed by many as a poor country with all associated problems therefore if it works for India, it follows it will benefit all 'poor' countries, however the GDP of India is huge by whatever yardstick you use.

My feeling of unease is that if this strategy is used in all 'poor' countries, where the cost is not small for such governments and that the returns are less because these countries haven't even started on a strategy that enables the few that benefit, to put that knowledge to good use in later life, to help their country and float the boat. But as you say they are the smart few and "goodbye and thanks for all the fish, and hello new country that want's my talents".

My arguments are conflicting in many ways because I am struggling to resolve my own conflicts in this.

The rising tide of opinion that tablets will solve the digital litracy problems of 'poor' countries, by very well meaning, intelligent and committed people. The gist of the argument being to leapfrog the PC as it is dead or dying. It is easy to sell such a strategy and get support after all the press have declared the PC dead why do we need to push it on under developed countries.

Or would it be better to have computer labs in all schools and community centres with low power desktops(Rpi, Wandboard, etc) ARM/Linux with new monitors at about 35 watts per desktop and a single server with all the wikipedia, Khan Academy Lite etc content installed. Powered by solar and under a 1KW/h of demand, perhaps have all the kit low voltage to save the cost of an inverter in the solar installation and increase solar efficiency.

Pretty much in the really poor countries it is either one or the other, I really am interested in all arguments for and against both strategies, in fact I will ask the question to you all, if you had the choice of only one of the above for your kids eduction, which would it be and why?

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Re: Well Said

Hole in the Wall internet.

http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well Said

"Hole in the Wall internet."

I thought you meant a glory hole. Plenty of them on the dark side of the web.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bah!

But batteries are precisely the thing that makes this so much better than a desktop. Batteries can be charged and can last for hours/days depending on your usage. This is ideal when you don't have 100% reliable electricity.

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Anonymous Coward

put an Aakash in the hands of every school kid in the country in 5-7 years

Surely a device of this spec is going to be deemed suitably for little more than being landfill fodder in 5-7 years' time.

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Re: put an Aakash in the hands of every school kid in the country in 5-7 years

Why?

I am sure that this will be able to run up-to-date web browsers for the next 5-7 years, so there's nothing on the internet that it shouldn't be able to access, even if you're not going to be streaming and watching video on it.

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Re: put an Aakash in the hands of every school kid in the country in 5-7 years

First you have to find out if the school has electricity to charge the buggers, then there's the web access and after that the need to fix holes in the roof at home.

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Re: put an Aakash in the hands of every school kid in the country in 5-7 years

"I am sure that this will be able to run up-to-date web browsers for the next 5-7 years,"

How do you figure that? First Android device was released in late 2008, about 5 years ago. No Andoid device older than maybe 2 years will run a recent browser, and many Android devices released in 2013 will not run Chrome or Firefox, either, since they seem to require ARMv7 (ZTE Blade and Skate were ARMv6).

Other apps follow a similar pattern.

So based on track record of Android progression and compatibility, the chances of the majority of mainstream apps made in the next 5-7 years being able to run on _any_ Android device sold today don't look that great. The apps' backward compatibility with older versions of Android has never been all that great.

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Re: put an Aakash in the hands of every school kid in the country in 5-7 years

"How do you figure that?"

If there are conservatively 100M users of the thing in a massive market like India then there will be browsers and applications written for it, most probably by existing and newly minted Indian software developers, and huge amounts of content developed to suit the capabilities of the installed device base. They won't particularly care if it doesn't run the latest and greatest 3D Angry Candyville game that is taking the EU and US by storm.

A lot of the comments on this article are taking a very west-o-centric view of the world, as if somehow India needs us to hand down the tablets of wisdom. Africa is quite successfully bringing banking and payment services to the people of that continent using GSM mobile phones the like of which most of us haven't seen in years. As ever it is about the useful application of appropriate technology to improve people's lives, not technology for technology's sake. At least the Indian government seems to get that point, even if we don't.

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Re: put an Aakash in the hands of every school kid in the country in 5-7 years

> No Andoid device older than maybe 2 years will run a recent browser,

Gingerbread (2.3.x) is 3 years old. It has a pretty good browser and runs Firefox (as you say on ARMv7 or above). In fact Firefox will run on Froyo 2.2 which is 3.5 years old.

> Other apps follow a similar pattern.

Yes they do. Most apps are still built for Gingerbread or above.

> So based on track record of Android progression and compatibility, the chances of the majority of mainstream apps made in the next 5-7 years being able to run on _any_ Android device sold today don't look that great.

Android has made great progression and has maintained backwards compatibility via the SDK. Developers can choose the level of support right back to version 1. As there are large numbers of version 2.3 still being made (now up to 2.3.9) and about 40% of Android devices in use run this then they are likely to use this when the app will fit.

> The apps' backward compatibility with older versions of Android has never been all that great.

That is not true.

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Re: put an Aakash in the hands of every school kid in the country in 5-7 years

I think you are missing the point. Support for ARMv6 and earlier was dropped for a lot of things, including the Firefox browser. It doesn't matter that you have Android 2.2 or 2.3 which might technically be supported - if it's running on an ARMv6 it is NOT supported regardless of the Android version.

What is to say that ARMv7 isn't going to be similarly dropped in a couple of years time as the 64-bit ARMv8 devices start to flood the market and everything older than that is neglected because it isn't what "all the cool developers work on"?

As for older versions of Android and app compatibility - only a couple of years ago the market was flooded with Android 1.6 devices, typically cheap Chinese slates and those had issues running current apps even back then when they were new. While compatibility has improved between more recent versions of Android, compatibility between 1.6 and 2.x was very poor.

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Anonymous Coward

But how?

So: this costs about the same as a Raspberry Pi. It has a similar spec - except it has twice the RAM, and it comes in a case, and it has a battery, and a goddam capacitive LCD screen, and a goddam 4G modem (with all the patent licensing that implies).

Is the Indian government subsidising the production of every unit, not just the development costs? Does the headline price bear any resemblance to the true cost?

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Aakash 4 will cost just £14

As it's subsidised I suppose it will only be available to Indian residents so what is £14 in terms of a percentage of average monthly take home pay.

OK, I had a few minutes. It seems there is a huge divide between rich/urban and poor/rural incomes and half the population seem to get by on about £1 per day so one of these tablets would be half their monthly income. Suddenly doesn't sound so cheap. The urban dwellers can afford to buy an unsubsidesd one.

So it appears that those who need the subsidy still won't be able to buy one and those who don't need it won't want one any way, typical governemnt snafu.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Aakash 4 will cost just £14

Not to mention the fact that most of the poor kids don't even go to school because they have to work to help feed the family. Perhaps that subsidy money could be better spent on getting them a basic education and stop them having to shit in the street, rather than subsidising web browsers for the middle classes. Never going to happen though, with the general interpretation of dharma dictating that the poor are poor because they deserve it.

Maybe this is what our aid money's being spent on.

(anonymous because I'm mostly quite socialist, but that last remark looks a bit Daily Mail).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Aakash 4 will cost just £14

"(anonymous because I'm mostly quite socialist, but that last remark looks a bit Daily Mail)."

D.A.M. you, I say.

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So this tablet will cost less than a week's internet access in India?

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Ar'nt theyshooting themselves in the foot slightly?

Won't people just wait until the price drops?

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British Industry once again

Only interesting thing about this is once again British Industry screws up. Takes me back to the sixties when everything was on 6 to 9 months delivery, if you were lucky. I recall waiting for a lift to arrive before we could continue building. After some six months of phone calls it turned out the lift had been dropped off at a layby halfway down the A1 for another unit to pick it up. No one had told the pick up firm it had been dropped off! Nothing changes except the incompetent who seem to survive what ever is thrown at them. No doubt the CEO of Datawind got his Christmas bonus and the shareholders their dividend.

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Re: British Industry once again

I think you need to do some research. As I recall Datawind is British only by incorporation. It is owned by (IIRC, you can check if you really want the finer points) a couple of Canadian resident brothers of Indian ethnicity, and the manufacturing is done in India from Chinese components, using American software. At these prices the profits will be paltry (even allowing the subsidy), but they'll struggle to get them out of India untaxed, so there's no tax income the UK will make even if this goes well because Datawind will not be taxed twice, and the Indian government will have got their first.

Not sure why the Reg keeps parroting this crap about it being a British company - there's no British interest in this other than for the bloke who audits their statutory accounts for Companies House, and the £20 paid to a bloke to engrave a brass plaque to put on the accountants office door saying "Registered office of Datawind" along with 200 other companies.

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Anonymous Coward

You can get a tablet for £30-40 now, but they're crap.

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