A better, faster, longer-lasting low-cost computer tablet – the Aakash II – was launched at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) on Monday, three months after the institute took over the reins of the project from IIT-Jodhpur. IIT-B has already developed applications for the tablet, and plans for several more. The institute will be responsible for procuring and distributing it, and aims to reach more than 250 engineering colleges by the end of December. A stand-off between IIT-Jodhpur, and Datawind, which manufactures the tablets, had stalled distribution in February, after which responsibility for the project was transferred to IIT-B in April. The tablet’s usage is being planned alongside the institute’s remote teacher training programme for teachers scattered across engineering colleges in the country. Aakash II has a longer-lasting battery, processing speed up from 366 mega hertz to 800 mega hertz and a “capacitive screen” which is easier to use. The tablet was launched across several centres, with the human resources development minister Kapil Sibal officiating via video link from Delhi, and with several other colleges plugged in online. “In three months there has been a sea change in our confidence in the project,” said Sibal, while launching the device. “Aakash is no longer just a device that only consumes content... Through the efforts of IIT-Bombay, Aakash is a device that creates content and this will be of enormous value to our student community.” In its first phase the tablets, costing Rs. 2,276 per unit, will be distributed among engineering colleges, and enabled with applications including video lectures, online quizzes and course materials. The institute will procure, test and distribute one lakh tablets. “The institute’s mandate was to carry on the project and test the effectiveness of the tablet in engineering education,” said Deepak Phatak, head of the project at IIT-B. In the first phase of distribution set to begin in July, each of the colleges will get 100 tablets and funding for a local server. All the ‘Aakash’ servers will be inter-connected, and applications developed at any of the institute’s will be available for use across the board. How is it better? 1.The screen has been changed from a resistive screen to a capacitive screen, which is costlier but easier to use. 2. The processing speed has been upgraded from 366 mega hertz to 800 mega hertz, which means all programmes on the tablet will work faster 3.Battery life has been amped up from an average life of less than 2 hours to 3 hours.