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India launches £22 tablet PC, British made

Costing just £22, the Aakash tablet has launched in India, where it's made by a British company. Digital divide? What digital divide?

India is already home to the world's cheapest car, the £1,298 Tata Motors Nano, and now it's home to the world's cheapest tablet too. Made by DataWind, a British company also responsible for the PocketSurfer 2, the Aakash ("sky" in Hindi) will sell for just £22 to students, or £39 to regular citizens. Student discount, eh?

Reuters reports that the tablet, launched today, aims to end the digital divide. It's not going to challenge the iPad 2 for performance, but it will bring tablet computers into the hands of people who would never usually be able to afford such sophisticated technology.

Aakash is about the size of a paperback, takes SD cards, and features a touchscreen. It also comes complete with video conferencing, two USB ports and a three-hour battery life. The touchscreen is resistive rather than capacitive, so gesture controls won't work, and it packs Wi-Fi too. Future versions will have mobile connections for use in more rural areas.

The tablet runs Android 2.2 and packs a 600MHz processor, so it's not likely to blow you away with its speed, but at this price, who's complaining?

An initial run of 100,000 will be given free to students, and then it'll go on sale for about £39 for those not lucky enough to have the student discount.

DataWind tested the tablet by running video in 48C to mimic the sweltering heat of an Indian summer. The device was in development for two years and is aimed at the vast majority of India's 1.2 billion people for whom the iPad 2 is too expensive -- as well as university students looking to take advantage of government-sponsored digital book distribution.