India has already churned out the world's cheapest car and is now launching what's billed as the world's cheapest 7-inch touchscreen tablet. The result of efforts by India's Ministry of Human Resource and Development to develop a low cost computing device that could be used by students across the country, Aakash, or "sky" in Hindi, is set to be sold to students at the government subsidized price of US$35. The regular retail price of the tablet is expected to be around US$60 when the unit hits the shelves as a commercial version called the UbiSlate 7.

Running Android 2.2 Froyo (which is actually not a tablet-friendly platform), Aakash comes with 7-inch 800 x 480 resistive multi-touch touchscreen, with connectivity courtesy of 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, GPRS modem, two full-sized USB ports and 3.5mm jack. Processing is provided by a 366MHz CPU with graphics accelerator and HD video processor, and 256MB of DDR2 memory. Due to its budget specs, Aakash will certainly not handle numerous processing-hungry apps and multimedia, but it should be sufficient for basic use.

The tablet comes with 2 GB of built-in storage, which is expandable via micro SD cards of up to 32GB, and the Aakash's 2100 mAh battery lasts for up to three hours. The tablet comes with a number of pre-installed apps, such as the UbiSurfer web browser, and a YouTube app. There's no Android Market access, although users should be able to download and install apps via third-party app stores.

While products such as the iPad are too expensive for most of India's 1.2-billion population, the country's number of Internet users grew 15-fold over the years from 2000 to 2010. Still, 92 percent of Indian society remains without network access, Reuters reports. Aakash aims at changing these figures to end the "digital divide." It's been tailored particularly for university students for learning online via a government platform which offers electronic books and courses.

Developed by London-based company DataWind in cooperation with the Indian Institute of Technology, the Aakash tablet will initially be handed out to 100,000 Indian students for free as part of a pilot run. Commercial launch is expected in November.

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