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IPad Age Prompts India to Sell $22 Student Tablet to Boost Computer Usage

India plans to sell tablet computers, made popular by Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad, to schools for as low as 1,100 rupees ($22) as Asia’s third-biggest economy aims to boost computer literacy.

The government will initially buy 100,000 tablets for 2,250 rupees each from DataWind Ltd., a U.K.-based company, and sell it to schools at the subsidized price, Kapil Sibal, India’s telecommunications minister, said at a news conference in New Delhi yesterday. India subsequently plans to purchase 10 million tablets over the next five years, he said.

The 7-inch tablet that can run videos and games and browse the Internet will be used by educational institutions to teach students, Sibal said. The world’s second-most populous nation had 4.2 computers for every 100 people at the end of last year, according to CyberMedia Research, based near New Delhi, compared with 63.2 mobile phones per 100 people.

“It’s going to increase the desirability of computing devices for people who wanted them but couldn’t afford the price tag,” said Vishal Tripathi, an analyst at Gartner Inc. (IT) in Mumbai. “People who are using this device are not going to get the seamless experience of an iPad or a Samsung. There’s no comparison.”

The DataWind tablet runs on Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android operating system like Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy Tab. The iPad 2 range starts at 29,500 rupees in India.

Sky in Hindi

The tablet called ‘Aakash,’ which means sky in Hindi, has been developed by closely held DataWind and the state-run Indian Institute of Technology Rajasthan. DataWind won the contract after offering a price that was at least 15 percent lower than the next competitor, Chief Executive Officer Suneet Singh Tuli said, without elaborating.

Aakash has a 366 megahertz processor, 256 megabytes of memory, 2 gigabytes of storage, two USB ports and Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, according to a DataWind statement. It can run for up to 180 minutes on a charge.

Shipments of tablet devices in India, the world’s second- largest market for mobile-phone services after China, may surge 66 percent to 266,000 next year, according to research firm IDC.

“Aakash will ensure that digital illiteracy will be vanquished,” said Sibal. “Technology that is low cost, that provides quality access, that can be owned and operated by every student, would truly empower the child.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Malavika Sharma in New Delhi at msharma52@bloomberg.net; Ketaki Gokhale in Mumbai at kgokhale@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net; Frank Longid at flongid@bloomberg.net

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