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Aakash-2 to be launched in February

Come February 2012, a better and more efficient Aakash-2, world’s cheapest tablet computer, would be available at price of version 1, Rs 2,276 or US $ 49. Indian Institute of Technology, Rajasthan, has finalized improvements in Aakash-1 launched on October 5. “We expect to launch the new version of Aakash by January-February next year,” said HRD minister Kapil Sibal, who has been overwhelmed by international response to Aakash, showcased as device for “children of the world, at a recent United Nations conference in Paris.

The Aakash-2 based on feedback from over 500 users of Aakash-1 in IITs and other institutions will have a new microprocessor of 800 megahertz as compared to 366 megahertz processor. It would fasten the tablet computer and would enable downloading of videos from youtube.

The Random Access Memory (RAM) of the new version would be enhanced to one gigabytes (GB) from 256 megabytes in Aakash-1, which restricted multi-tasking.

A senior professor IIT Rajasthan professor, who is heading the Aakash team, said the changes will increase the “functionality of the tablet” and will be more “competitive” to existing tablets in the market.

To make Aakash-2 more attractive the IIT Rajasthan has also decided that the new version will have an in-built camera on the front for online video chatting or use of Skype and a better seven-inch touch screen.

This comes after the IIT students, who are testing Aakash-1, citied overheating within 30 minutes, frequent hanging, poor sound quality, absence of support for all formats, and inability to install free software available online as some of the problems with the device. “Aakash is much below our expectations,” said an IIT student, who has used the device for last one month.

Although the better Aakash would be ready by February 2012, its manufacturing to meet the government’s inspirational target of providing the tablet to two million students is still a challenge.

“We have to evolve an eco-system of several vendors and its testing by IITs and other institutes to provide an Aakash to each child by 2017 (end of 12th plan),” a senior HRD ministry official said.

Like in case of Aakash one, where three companies – London based Datawind, India based Quad --- came together the government believes that Aakash-2 will see a bigger collaboration of Indian and foreign information technology companies.

This collaboration would be necessary, as Sibal said that several Prime Ministers and World Bank have shown interest in purchasing Aakash for children around the world. “There is lot of global buzz about Aakash and we have to meet the global expectation,” the minister, who has been marketing the device since its launch, said.

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