You can argue that tablets can never replace the form and functionality of a real, full-sized laptop, but you can’t argue that tablets are certainly cheaper to distribute if you’re planning to put one in the hands of hundreds of thousands of students in the country. That’s why Thailand has officially inked a deal that would bring an estimated one million tablets to its students ages 6 to 8 nationwide.

The $32.8 million One Tablet PC Per Child campaign (1.02 billion Thai Baht) is the world’s largest education tablet distribution deal to date, and finally became official after members of the Pheu Thai party announced the initiative last summer during election season. In partnership with the Chinese firm, Shenzhen Scope, 400,000 tablet units are expected to ship within the next 90 days with an additional 530,000 units on the way. The latter part of the deal is currently not finalized, but the country’s government hopes to continue working toward one million tablets for its students. If Thailand successfully pens the deal for the second shipment, the venture budget will come to a whopping $75.7 million sum for the entire program.

“Thailand is the first country in which we have provided large numbers of tablets for students,” said Shenzhen Scope chairman Liu Jun. “Now we are talking with other governments to provide this kind of tablet device for [other] students, including Pakistan, Brazil and South Africa.”

Thailand reportedly also looked at some of China’s largest tablet manufacturers, such as Lenovo and Huawei, but the pricing per unit was too high for its budget. Conversely, a lower bid from another company was offered but rejected by the government, perhaps due to less specs for the value.

The select device model, priced at $81 per unit, is the Scopad SP0712: An 7-inch Android device running the 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. It’s also got 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal memory, 1.5 GHz single core CPU, and comes in four color options: Red, blue, silver, and gold. Shenzhen Scope will also set 30 help centers around the Southeast Asian country to provide user support specifically for tablets received from the campaign. Not too shabby of specs for tablets for elementary school students.

Shenzhen Scope’s production capacity currently stands at 30,000 units per day, with 80 percent of this capacity reserved exclusively for Thailand’s One Tablet PC Per Child initiative. That’s 24,000 units per day. Comparatively, the largest education tablet distribution program we’ve seen in the United States was 25,700 iPad units set for deployment to students of the San Diego Unified School District in California this fall. This initiative will cost the district $15 million, though it’s obvious iPads cost a whole lot more than the less-recognized Scopad tablet.

It’s times like these I wish I was still a student growing up in Thailand, or just a growing child of this new era of technology.

Image Credit: Flickr/ebayink