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Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, November 03, 2011
Come February 2012, a better and more efficient Aakash-2, the world's cheapest tablet computer, will be available at the price of version 1 - Rs. 2,276 or $49. IIT-Rajasthan has finalised improvements in the 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. He had showcased it as a 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 the 366 megahertz processor. It will speed up the tablet computer and enable downloading of videos from YouTube.

The Random Access Memory of the new version will be enhanced to one gigabyte from 256 megabytes in Aakash-1, which restricted multi-tasking.

A senior 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 attractive, the institute has also decided that the new version will have an in-built camera on the front for online video chatting and a better seven-inch touchscreen.

This comes after the IIT students, who are testing Aakash-1, citied overheating within 30 minutes of usage, frequent system freeze, 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 a month.

Although the better Aakash will 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.

As in the case of Aakash-1, where three firms - London-based Datawind, India-based Quad - came together, the government believes that Aakash-2 will see a bigger collaboration.