There’s been a lot of excitement ion the last few months over India’s state-sponsored Android tablet, the Aakash (AKA “Ubislate“) manufactured by Canadian OEM DataWind. Its incredibly low (and subsidized) price of between $35 and $50 US dollars has given it millions of users in the crowded country, particularly among the students and teachers that qualify for the discount. Now the Financial Express reports that the tablet, or something very similar, may be getting trial runs in the Philadelphia public school system.
Another low-end manufacturer, Wilco Electronics, is aparently in talks to license DataWind’s OEM design for the low-poered Android tablet. They hope and intend to sell tablets to Philadelphia schools and other “under-served communities” in a pilot program, presumably to help students get a grip on emerging technologies and interfaces, just like their Indian counterparts. Based on statements from Wilco vice president Brigitte Daniel (who also serves on the FCC’s Diversity Committee) the company may intend to target low-income areas, where students would be less likely to encounter smartphones or tablets at home.
The possibility is an intriguing one. Young students tend to be ravenously excited about technology, even when the newest and best isn’t available – I recall putting in a lot of time on my elementary school’s Apple II machines in the early 90s, when they were all quite obsolete. Such is the case with the Aakash tablet, which has a 700mhz Cortex 8 processor and uses Android 2.2 Froyo, now almost two years old. Even if US schools can’t get the same impressive price of the original Aakash, it’ll still fall well below prices of similar technology. You could certainly make the case that they could replace current devices like the popular Texas Instruments graphing calculators, which still go for $80-100 retail.
Wilco is only exploring its options for now – these public sector deals tend to be long and rather tentative. In any case, we’d be happy to see more students get access to emerging tech, and doubly so if it runs our favorite operating system.