World’s Least Expensive Android Tablet Sells 1.4 Million in Two Weeks

Much is made of “developing markets” in nations like India, where the population dwarfs that of the U.S. and tech companies work to develop products that average consumers can afford. Sometimes, those developing nations take matters into their own hands.

The long-awaited, Indian-homegrown tablet that alleged to cost just $35 and landed in October is making a splash. The tablet, dubbed “Aakash” but commercially known as the DataWind UbiSlate7, actually costs closer to $47 (2,499 rupees) at the moment (it was $60 when it launched), which is still a sensationally low cost. In the two weeks since it went on sale, the Aakash has 1.4 million orders.

According to an AFP report, that sales figure blew away what was expected. The whole of the Indian tablet market was between 250,000 and 300,000 units in 2010; pre-sales alone for the Aakash numbered about 400,000.

The tablet sports a 7-inch touchscreen, 2GB of storage, two USB ports, 256MB of RAM, and runs Android 2.2. It also has WiFi functionality (with support for an optional 3G modem), a multimedia player, DataWind’s UbiSurfer browser, and a short battery life (180 minutes). The marquee accessory is the Leather Keyboard Case.

Designed by DataWind and the Indian Institute of Technology Rajasthan, the Aakash was intended for students; indeed, Kapil Sibal, the Honorable Minister of Human Resources & Development, Communications & Information Technology, was on hand for the big launch. The Indian government is effectively subsidizing tablet purchases for the nation’s students and plans to put 10 million of the devices in the hands of post-secondary kids.

Clearly, the tablet is a success for now, and there’s reason to believe that it will continue on its trajectory for the foreseeable future; a spokesperson for DataWind, the British company that actually manufactures the tablet, said that DataWind was planning to open three factories and manufacture 75,000 units per factory per month starting in April.

DataWind is still optimistic about pushing the cost of the Aakash down to the promised $35, or even possibly as low as $10. In the meantime, the company is already taking orders for an upgraded version of the tablet called the Ubislate7+, which is sold out for January and February but should be available again in March. (The Ubislate will also apparently account for some of the aforementioned units being manufactured in DataWind’s new factories.)

The UbiSlate7+ will run Android 2.3 and feature a better processor (a 700MHz Cortex A8 instead of a 600MHz ARM11), a better battery, and GPRS functionality, with a price tag of 2,999 rupees (about $56 USD).

It seems that there’s always some buzz about low-cost computers, but far too often those products end up being deeply disappointing or simply become vaporware, so it’s encouraging to see this seemingly far-fetched $35 tablet becoming a reality.