Datawind has unveiled new versions of its PocketSurfer mobile internet device, along with a 7in UbiSurfer netbook, all of which include a year's worth of airtime in the purchase price.
The enhanced PocketSurfer 3 and PocketSurfer 3 Lite offer a better screen and integrated applications, while the new UbiSurfer is essentially a netbook version with a 7in screen, full keyboard and Wi-Fi in addition to cellular network capability.
Datawind founder and chief executive Suneet Tuli explained that the UbiSurfer is designed in the spirit of the original netbook concept. Subsequent models abandoned this concept, according to Tuli, and instead developed into fully fledged miniature Windows laptops.
"What happened with netbooks is that the entry-level products did not deliver a good internet experience, so the vendors ended up moving up the [value] chain. We believe there is a market for a more affordable device that delivers a good experience," he said.
At £159.99, the UbiSurfer is half the cost of a typical netbook, yet includes a year's free internet access (up to 30 hours per month) via the Vodafone network, thanks to a built-in cellular modem and bundled SIM.
The device itself is based on an ARM processor and runs a version of Linux, with 128MB memory and 1GB Flash storage, backed by 25GB of online storage. The 7in screen has a native resolution of 800 x 480 pixels.
In addition to its wireless modem, the UbiSurfer has 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Ethernet, three USB ports and an SD Card slot. It weighs 700g and has up to four hours battery life.
Built-in software includes a browser, the XIP Office suite (word processor, spreadsheet and presentations), media player and email client.
The PocketSurfer 3 and PocketSurfer 3 Lite, meanwhile, are closer in size to a smartphone and designed to be carried in a pocket for web browsing anywhere, as the name suggests.
Compared to previous models, the new units have an active matrix 5in 640 x 240 TFT screen for a brighter display, and now run a basic version of Linux providing access to built-in applications. Earlier models supported only web browsing.
The data plan is now 30 hours per month for the first year, the same as for the UbiSurfer, reflecting the fact that many existing PocketSurfer users found they needed more than the 20 hours provided before, according to Tuli.
The PocketSurfer 3 has built-in GPS capability and a laptop-like touchpad, and costs £199.99, while the PocketSurfer 3 Lite has a four-way navigator key lacks and GPS for £159.99.
All three models support only GPRS cellular capability, rather than the faster 3G or HSDPA, but web access is via a proxy server operated by Datawind that compresses the data to speed up downloads.
"We believe we can deliver an experience comparable with 3G this way," said Tuli.
Buyers of any of the devices will need to pay £29.99 for an additional year's internet access beyond the first year's allowance built into the purchase price, or a fee of £5.99 per month buys unlimited access.
Users can also browse the web while abroad using any of the three devices at a cost of 5p per minute.
The UbiSurfer is available immediately from Maplin, while the PocketSurfer models will be available from the first week of August.
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