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Red Pad: The Next Big Breakthrough in Communist Technology

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From censoring Google (GOOG) results to fighting corruption through micro blogs, the Chinese Communist Party has proven quite savvy when it comes to information technology. Last month, they took a big step into mobile devices with the Red Pad, an iPad-like device that comes complete with everything a loyal party member needs.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time China blog, a number of state-run media outlets last month announced the availability of a party-approved tablet device that ran a version of Google’s Android software. The Red Pad also comes with a 9 by 7 inch screen and “over 70 different premium services for leading cadres.” All this and it’s only 9,999 Yuan ($1,584) or the price of slightly more than two iPads.

The Red Pad, according to marketing materials, is a joint offering from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the People’s Daily newspaper. However, officials at the newspaper dispute this.

The name alludes to Mao’s Little Red Book, for decades the most important reference for party members. For those who can’t get a Red Pad, Apple (AAPL) sells the Little Red Book in its App Store.

Unfortunately, over the last week, ads and stories about the Red Pad have been pulled from most state run outlets. This came in response to widespread public sentiment that the device is both overpriced and evidence of corruption.

Many commentators believe that the majority of the tablets will be bought with public funds—perhaps explaining the high price. Next week marks China’s Year of the Dragon celebration, which means heavy gift giving among party officials.

The public life of the Red Pad may be at an end, but the tablet has a number of benefits for any party member lucky enough to receive it. Apps include private, daily updates on political instructions, the ability to track party leaders’ movements and Weibo postings and even the capacity to gauge public sentiment online.

Of course, whatever applications are available for the Red Pad, it’s a pretty safe bet that customers will struggle for reality TV updates and info on where it was made.
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