23 January 2012

The 35 dollar Aakash Tablet Improved

Last week it was announced that the second version of the Android based Indian tablet computer Ubislate7 would be released in April. Ubislate7 is commonly called the Aakash ‒ which means “sky” in Hindi. It is a fitting name, because the Aakash has a very special story. I only hope this version will live up to the expectations.

A computer for “the masses”
The most fascinating with the Aakash project is that it takes advantage of the high level of technological know-how in India (which also Business Solutions makes use of) to reduce the differences in education and economic conditions in this vast and varied country. The idea behind the Aakash tablet has been to develop a very cheap but yet good tablet computer “for the billion Indians who are cut off”, as Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of the manufacturing company DataWind expresses it.

Government support
The Indian government supports the project and has ordered 100 000 tablets, whereof 30 000 have been delivered. The plan is to give the Aakash to students of government schools and colleges for free and use the tablet to link 25000 colleges and 400 universities in a huge e-learning program. Also for other Indians the state is subsidizing each tablet with 15 US dollar, so that the cost is only 35 dollar.
Aakash tablet
Sold out
Today it is however not easy to get hold of an Aakash. When the first version was released in December 2011 it was sold out in just three days. Then Datawind was not able to deliver more tablets, and they were also accused of giving bad support to those who actually received an Aakash.

Skimpy technique
Unfortunately Aakash1 was a big disappointment from a technical aspect. One of the drawbacks was that it only supported wi-fi. Several parts of India still do not have access to networking options such as wi-fi, and since one of the main ideas behind the Aakash is to bridge the gap between the rural India and technology this is a serious limitation that makes that goal more difficult to meet.

New hope
The Indian government has been striving hard to make the Aakash project a success, and last week the minister of Human Resource Development , Kapil Sibal, expressed his confidence in the upcoming Aakash 2, the UbiSlate7+. It will have several improvements, like longer battery life and a faster processor. The new version also supports GPRS (SIM and Phone functionality), which means that it may be used with 3G and not only with wi-fi.

Premature release?
We are very aware that the balance between the urge to get a product on the market and the need for further development is difficult to keep, and maybe DataWind made a mistake and released Aakash too soon? It might have been better to wait with the first public release until the tablet held a higher standard. If the second version is as good as expected, many of the first buyers will probably regret their hasty purchase?  

It will be very interesting to hear the reactions on Aakash2 in April, and I will surely have reason to come back to the Aakash tablet later.