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How the Aakash Tablet Works

        Tech | Tablet PCs

The Facts About Aakash II

The most exciting element of the Aakash's development, throughout, has been its commitment to staying ugly. Without throwing money and time into design elements -- as a regular consumer product must, to compete with Apple's art objects -- the tablet could be made leaner and cheaper, and get into the world more quickly. The various deadlines, in fact, meant part of the project was allowing for its own evolution: Get the design out into the hands of these students, see how they used the product and what applications they could make for the tablet's Android OS, and feed those results back into later versions.

What this meant in practice was a bulkier tablet, with fewer features, built to withstand abuse at the cost of user-friendliness -- a thicker, less reactive touchscreen, fewer internal processors, and the like -- always with an eye toward the fact that any computer is more impressive than no computer at all. Think about your cell phone from five or even 10 years ago, and compare that with your smartphone now. Even top-of-the-line phones from just a few years ago would now be laughable junk. But just like phones five years in the future, with features we can't even contemplate, you don't know what you're missing when you're working with the best thing available to you.

2012's upgraded Aakash 2 contains a Cortex A8 800 MHz single-core processor, 256MB RAM and 2GB internal memory, and a 3200mAh battery that claims to give 3 to 4 hours of backup. The ports remain steady -- 2 USB inputs, audio in/out -- and the 802.11 WiFi and GPRS connectivity might be upgradeable to 3G with a separate dongle and data plan. The browser and app market are proprietary for now, but we'll see how long that lasts, given the ingenuity of the students who will own this tech.

At 350 grams (0.8 pounds) and 7 inches (17.8 centimeters) with a screen resolution of 800 by 400 pixels, and running on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), the retail price is $60, subsidized down to $35 for students [source: Shah]. The project developers have extended the tablet's programming capabilities to help with evolving the device, and the country's reports now claim that DataWind should be able to put 10 to12 million devices in the hands of students across India by the end of 2012 [source: Chima].