by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Oct 5, 2011
India is set Wednesday to launch its long-awaited low-cost computer, a $45 tablet device designed to bring the information technology revolution to tens of millions of students.
The touchscreen computer has a seven-inch (18-centimetre) screen, Wi-Fi Internet access, a media player and 180 minutes of battery power, according to official specifications.
Called the "Akash" ("Sky"), the locally-made device will be launched in New Delhi by Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal after years of delays.
"It will cost 2,200 rupees ($45) and the first batch of 500 tablets will be handed over to students after the release," ministry spokeswoman Mamata Varma told AFP.
"Initially, 700 Akash tablets will be made every day and we expect the production to pick up when more companies join in to manufacture the device," she said.
The commercial marketing strategy for the Akash remains unclear, but most of the computers are likely to be sold through universities and colleges rather than shops.
Canada-based Datawind, the current manufacturer, said the tablet used an Android 2.2 operating system, had video-conferencing capability, two USB ports and a 32GB expandable memory.
But experts warned its 256-megabyte random access memory (RAM) would limit performance.
Commercial manufacturers are hoping Indian customers will leapfrog personal computers to buy tablets, as millions did by buying mobile telephones instead of waiting for a landline.
Apple's internationally-popular iPad computers costs a minimum of $600 in India, with competitor Reliance Communications selling a rival tablet device at about $290.
The Akash is part of a push to increase the number of students in higher education and to give them the technological skills needed to further boost the country's recent rapid economic growth.
India, where the 61 percent literacy rate lags far behind many other developing nations such as China with 92 percent, is making major efforts to improve its education system.
The government had promised to release the first 100,000 Akash computers by January 2011, but uncertainty over the level of government subsidy is thought to have delayed mass production.
The much-hyped "computer for the masses" was said to be on the brink of release in both 2005 and 2009 -- only for it never to materialise.
Industry observers say rising labour charges, cheap imports, and more sophisticated tablets could undermine the Akash among India's tech-savvy youngsters.
Apple unveils updated iPhone, stock slips
Apple's new chief executive Tim Cook, who replaced ailing founder Steve Jobs in August, presided over the launch of the iPhone 4S at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.
The iPhone 4S features a speedier processor, a built-in "personal assistant" that responds to voice commands and a more powerful camera, but it was not the revamped next-generation iPhone 5 smartphone many Apple fans had hoped for.
Apple's stock price slid more than four percent at one point as it became clear the company was not going to wow the world with its latest product but recovered ground to end the trading day down 0.56 percent at $372.50.
"This new iPhone 4S announcement was a real yawner," independent technology analyst Jeff Kagan said.
"This iPhone is really not much different than the current iPhone," Kagan said, wondering whether Apple's product-launching magic departed with Jobs. "So un-Apple like."
The iPhone 4S will be available in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Britain on October 14 with pre-orders commencing a week earlier.
The iPhone 4S will be rolled out by the end of October in 22 additional countries including Austria, Italy, Singapore, Spain, and Switzerland.
In the United States, iPhone 4S prices will start at $199 for a 16 gigabyte model and top out at $399 for a model with 64GB of memory.
The iPhone 4S predecessor will be available for $99 while earlier generation iPhone 3GS models will be free with telecom carrier contracts, an Apple first.
A slick new version of the iOS mobile operating system was shown off at the press event in an intimate theater at Apple's Silicon Valley campus.
Apple also announced the October 12 launch of long-promised iCloud, which lets people store music, pictures, videos and other digital files online and access the content across Apple computers and mobile devices.
"IPhone 4S plus iOS 5 plus iCloud is a breakthrough combination that makes the iPhone 4S the best iPhone ever," said Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Philip Schiller.
"While our competitors try to imitate iPhone with a checklist of features, only iPhone can deliver these breakthrough innovations that work seamlessly together," he said.
The 4S will introduce a "Siri intelligent assistant" designed to understand context so people can speak naturally when asking it questions.
For example, spoken queries of "Will I need an umbrella this weekend?" and "What is the traffic like around here?" will prompt online searches for local weather forecasts or roadway conditions, according to Apple.
Siri helps make calls, send text messages or email, schedule meetings and reminders, make notes, find local businesses, and get directions. Siri will even perform mathematical calculations if asked.
"Apple's new Siri assistant, unique to the new 4GS, is a powerful harbinger of the future use of mobile devices,' said Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin. "Not just the power of voice but, more importantly, the ability to contextualize a statement or request."
Apple also added new features and pricing to its iPod Touch and iPod Nano devices in the latest improvements to a line kicked off with the introduction of the first iPod in the same Apple "Town Hall" in 2001.
The iPod Touch will be available for $199, and iPod Nano prices will start at $129.
"IPod has revolutionized the way we listen to music and with over 320 million sold is the world's most popular music player," Schiller said.
He boasted that the touch model that is essentially an iPhone without the mobile phone service was the best selling iPod ever.
Cook appeared relaxed and confident as he filled the shoes of legendary pitchman Jobs, who underwent an operation for pancreatic cancer in 2004 and a liver transplant in 2009.
Jobs, 56, did not make an appearance at Tuesday's event. He remains with Apple as chairman of the board of directors.
For an unexplained reason, Apple's website went down briefly in the wake of the press event, for a short time displaying "Access Denied" messages to people trying to reach online pages.
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Apple chief Cook to debut hot new iPhone
San Francisco (AFP) Oct 3, 2011
Apple's Tim Cook is expected to kick off his reign as chief executive on Tuesday by unveiling a hot new iPhone model that some analysts are predicting will be a bestseller. Cook will be filling the shoes of legendary Apple co-founder and pitchman Steve Jobs, who surrendered the California company's helm in August due to health reasons. Jobs, 56, who underwent an operation for pancreatic ... read more
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