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Datawind squeezes costs out of bandwidth for developing markets

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$80 for a tablet with a year of mobile Internet service included is a powerful selling proposition, particularly in the developing markets that Datawind is targeting. The Canadian company showed its newest tablet – priced at $38 with WiFi connectivity only – at the Showstoppers event at the CTIA show in Las Vegas last month.

Datawind has solved two tough problems: making a cheap and functional tablet and bundling it with even cheaper mobile service in a useful way.

The 7-inch tablet runs Android on a 1.3 GHz dual core processor that costs $3.50. Other components are comparable, resulting in a device that has twice the processing power and memory as the first iPad, according to the company. Plans are to keep squeezing out costs, with a projected price point of $20 next year.

The real secret sauce, though, is a custom-built browser that connects to Datawind’s servers, which compress the bandwidth used down to a relative trickle and also serve out ads that help subsidise data connections in developing countries. That’s what allows the company to include a year’s worth of data service for $42 more. “We do the heavy lifting on the back end”, said Suneet Tuli, Datawind’s CEO.

There are obvious trade offs in performance, but users aren’t restricted to Datawind’s network. Other browsers run fine, and can be used when more robust or inexpensive connectivity is available.

Africa and India – where Tuli says they’ve been the top selling manufacturer since last year – are Datawind’s primary markets, although it also sells products in the developed world too.c