India and Pakistan on quests for cheap tablets

DELHI -- While India is fixing its $47 Aakash tablet, Pakistan's military is selling its $200 PACPAD1.
Written by Betwa Sharma, Correspondent

DELHI -- India claims to have created the world’s cheapest tablet for $47. After months of ballyhoo, the jury is still out on whether it takes off. Now, Pakistan’s Air Force has reportedly joined the action by creating PACPAD1.

The 7-inch PACPAD, powered by Android 2.3 operating system, is being assembled at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra in northern Pakistan. It has a touch screen display, WiFi and battery life for 10 hours of music and five hours of video. Details of the product can be found on its website along with two other products created by the Air Force -- an ebook reader and a laptop called nBook1.

PAC is working in collaboration with Hong Kong based company – Innavtek International (H.K.) Ltd, which has also built products for J 17 Thunder Jets, made by Pakistan and China together. The Associated Press reports that PACPAD1, still in its pilot stage, is available in stores for $200 in Pakistan.

Why is Pakistan’s military making IPADs seems to be the most obvious question.  A press release elaborates that the Pakistan Air Force “had established sufficient facilities which are appropriate for the production of both Defence and Commercial products.” Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan, Chairman of PAC, had decided to “optimally utilize the facilities to contribute in strengthening the national economy through commercialization.”

The AP also reports that the military's business portfolio also “encompasses massive land holdings, flour and sugar mills, hotels, travel agents, even a brand of breakfast cereal.” The report goes on to say that many “Pakistanis find its economic activities corrupting and say it should focus on entirely on defense.” Supporters, however, said that such efforts in the IT field could provide “boost to national pride for a country vastly overshadowed by archrival India in the high-tech field.”

India’s tablet still adrift

Meanwhile, India’s $47 Aakash tablet is still swimming in troubled waters. After being launched with tremendous fanfare, the device got negative reviews from students and experts for its shoddy performance including a slow processor and poor battery life (see SmartPlanet’s report here). After a government subsidy, students can buy it for $35.

The Indian government has now ditched Datawind, the Canadian-start up company, which originally created the device. An improved tablet will reportedly be manufactured by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and state-run Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) -- making it 100% Indian. According to Datawind, however, its commercial orders have already exceeded over two million.

Photo--PACPAD1 website

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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