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Feb 22, 2012, 03.24 PM IST | Source: Reuters

Has the battery run out on India's $35 tablet computer?

Aakash, the USD 35 computer launched last year in India as the world's cheapest tablet, has run into problems.

Has the battery run out on India's $35 tablet computer?

Aakash, the USD 35 computer launched last year in India as the world's cheapest tablet, has run into problems and companies will be invited to bid again to make the device after complaints of poor performance and hiccups rolling out a pilot model.

The government has hailed the Aakash tablet as an achievement of Indian frugal engineering that would end the digital divide in a country where only one in every 10 of its 1.2 billion people use the Internet.

Products such as Apple Inc's Technology . The company said the institute had changed the specifications late last year and now wanted a device that could meet U.S. military durability requirement for the same rock-bottom price.

"Among other things that requires the device to take 4 inches an hour of sustained rain," DataWind CEO Suneet Singh told Reuters.

"We objected to it and the project has been on hold since then, we are working with the ministry to get that resolved," Singh said after meeting with ministry officials in New Delhi on Tuesday.

India has a reputation for creating affordable products that are easy to use and sturdy enough to handle its rugged environment -- from Tata Motors' USD 2,000 Nano car to generic versions of pharmaceuticals.

But despite being a leader in software and IT services, India trails fellow BRIC nations Brazil, Russia and China in the drive to get the masses connected to the Internet and mobile phones, a report by risk analysis firm Maplecroft said last year.

The number of Internet users grew 15-fold between 2000 and 2010 in India, according to another report. Still, just 8% of Indians have access. That compares with nearly 40% in China.

The Aakash is aimed at university students for digital learning via a government platform that distributes electronic books and courses.

DataWind says it is receiving tens of thousands of orders daily for a commercial version of the tablet with a built-in GPRS modem that is due to be launched this month for Rs 2,999.

READ MORE ON  Aakash, DataWind, Accelerate India

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