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A Full-Featured, $38 Tablet Is Headed to the U.S.

A Full-Featured, $38 Tablet Is Headed to the U.S.


On Monday, Datawind announced that it plans to sell a $38 tablet in the U.S. through as-yet unnamed online and brick-and-mortar retailers early next year. The London-based firm plans to sell three models in the United States, ranging in price from $38 to as much as $149 with varying specs and capabilities.

The goal, says Suneet Singh Tuli, Datawind’s CEO, is the same as it’s always been – to bring the least expensive computers possible to schools and low-income communities.

“Affordability shouldn’t be the reason people can’t get on the Internet,” Tuli said in an interview. “We want to specifically reach a customer base that right now is not on the Internet.” According to the Pew Research Center, 15% of American adults don’t use the Internet.

Tuli says he wants to sell them devices, but also reach children who have limited access to the Web, or no connectivity at home.

“In India, the average person earns $200 to $300 a month and about 13% of people have Internet access,” Tuli said. “It’s easy to criticize our devices based on specs. But prices like this can be liberating in places like that, and there are places in the U.S where affordable technology can have a similar affect.”
Tuli declined to specify sales figures in India, but said that over the past year they have outstripped iPad sales there.

Datawind’s tablets won’t impress anyone with their performance or design. In fact, a major reason why they’re so cheap is that the components inside are outdated by today’s computing standards, making them relatively inexpensive to use in manufacturing, Tuli said.

The $38 UbiSlate 7Ci tablet, running on Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, features a 1-gigahertz , single-core processor (the sort of CPU found in the first-generation iPad introduced in 2010). Just 4 gigabytes of storage is built in, although microSD card slots are included for those looking for more space to store apps and media. The 7-inch display offers a resolution of 800×480 pixels, which is a far cry from the HD displays found on Apple’s iPads, Amazon’s Kindle Fire’s and Google’s Nexus devices.

But, specifications aren’t the point, access is, Tuli argues. “The power of the Internet is frankly essential in taking societies to the next level, in equipping young people to be able to even make it in the work force,” he said. “We can’t afford to have people who grow up without the Internet.”

Datawind’s $38 tablet is available now on the company’s website and it will be available through more retailers next year after the Consumer Electronics Show in January, which takes place in Las Vegas, Tuli said. The hardware maker will also sell a $100 version of its tablet, called the UbiSlate 7C+, that ships with 1 year of free web browsing over old Edge networks (the same cellular technology that 2007’s first-generation iPhone connected to).

At the top of the company’s lineup will be the UbiSlate 3G7, that runs on 3G networks with free unlimited web browsing, for $150. The UbiSlate 3G7 features a dual-core processor and will run Google’s Android 4.1 Jelly Bean software, which was released more than a year ago. The data to power Datawind’s free web browsing promise will come from little known pre-paid carrier Red Pocket Mobile.


by Nathan Olivarez-Giles



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