However, no money has actually changed hands just yet...
The launch of India's ultra-cheap 60 dollar Aakash tablet is nearly upon us, and if pre-orders registrations are any indication, it's going to sell like crazy. The Times of India is reporting that 1.4 million preorder 'bookings' have occurred in the two weeks since the device was offered at a small discount of approximately $50. Based on this apparent strong demand, UK-based Aakash manufacturer Datawind have announced intent to open 3 new factories in India -in the cities of Cochin, Noida and Hyderabad - to meet it. "We never expected such a high response from both corporate and individual buyers." said Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli. "We plan to supply 70,000-75,000 units per day once the factories are in place by April."
That's an amazing commitment, and for the people those factories will employ, a virtual godsend. However, the demand is at this time purely theoretical. "We are not accepting cash for bookings currently, as we want to sort out supply issues", Tuli said. As a result, these preorders are not currency transactions, just 'bookings", essentially consumers claiming a place in line to ensure they won't get sniped when it launches. So no money has exchanged hands, the company is still trying to sort out supply issues, and the Aakash is still months away from launch. As impressive as these preorders numbers are, the real test will come when it's time for the consumer to actually part with their money, assuming that Datawind manages to successfully meet current production quotas. It is therefore probably wise to hold off on celebrating the factory groundbreaking for the time being.
With a 7-inch 800x480 pixel display, 256 MB of RAM, 2 GB of NAND flash storage and a 366 MHz Connexant processor the dirt cheap Aakash tablet is incredibly underpowered by the standards of the developed world, and would likely never sell in the developed world. But for a nation beset by immense poverty and in dire need of expanded educational opportunities and access to the Internet for its 1 billion citizens, it's a much-needed affordable bit of tech that, if successfully delivered, will change lives.