$50 for a tablet, anyone?

20 Oct

India’s education ministry has announced the Aakash, “the world’s cheapest computer”  (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2394196,00.asp#fbid=ApipAaA0E7L). Price tag: $35 (the government subsidized price per student–a whopping $50 without the subsidy).

Pictured below is the Aakash and India’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology Kapil Sibal.

 What does this gadget offer?

  • portability
  • Wi-Fi Internet connection
  • Video playback
  • 2 USB ports
  • Preloaded apps including e-mail
  • touch interface

By early reviews, the Aakash is hardly blowing the iPad or the Kindle out of the water with sophistication, but that’s not why it was invented or what makes it so cool. According to PC Magazine, the education ministry intends to “hand out” the Aakash to university students. I’ll take that feature over “gesture-based touch interface” any day.

For comparison, when I asked colleagues who teach in independent schools about the price per student for a tablet, they reported (and this is anecdotal, not researched): 

  • $500 for an iPad (plus a budget for apps)
  • $2300 for a PC tablet (including software)

The mass economies of the US and India are certainly different. And I don’t claim to understand technology, entrepreneurial ventures or retail pricing, but <$450 in price difference makes me wonder: as we integrate technology into education, what are the features that matter?

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