Oct 172011
Aakash Tablet Distribution

Aakash Tablet Distribution

Jaimon Joseph takes apart the new low-cost Android tablet in India that, at $50, simply has no competitors. The Aakash tablet will be distributed to university students with 50% of the cost subsidized by the government.

So what do you get for a little less than 2,500 Rs (Rupees) or 50 dollars (keep in mind that Apple’s iPad cost 31,900 Rs)? So let’s do the negatives first; you get a table that:

  • runs somewhat on the hot side
  • has fairly short battery life – perhaps 3 hours max
  • only connects to the Internet through Wi-Fi – this may be a problem in a country not exactly teeming with free wireless hotspots (but then neither are we in the States)
  • has a “rather unresponsive” screen
  • lacks access to the Android App market

The lack of access to the App market and the screen quality are the most challenging issues. Using a resistive instead of capacitive screen actually improves the functionality of a stylus, but the Aakash seems to require a significant amount of pressure with your fingers at certain moments.

On the positive side, you get a device that:

  • that includes two USB ports and a micro SD card slot
  • runs full HD videos at 1080p
  • comes preloaded with educational software
  • supports DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX, ODT, and ODP formats
  • is a breakthrough in terms of price
OLPC Class in Mongolia

OLPC Class in Mongolia

If you recall, back in 2005 the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project was getting all the attention in the press. Never able to get the cost much below $200 and after internal bickering over its mission in 2008 resulted in staff departures, the project has floundered (though it has distributed two million laptops). However, with the research that has gone into production of upscale tablets and the availability of low power chips, the OLPC dream may ultimately come to pass – just with a different device.

The manufacturer of the Aakash, DataWind, has announced that it will be available online and in retail stores in November. Branded as the Ubislate7 the device will sell for Rs 2999 (about $60) without government subsidies. Interested users will be able to buy online or in retail stores and you can check it out now at aakashtablet.com.

DataWind has already announced that the next version will have a more powerful 600 Mhz dual-core processor; do a better screen and access to the Apps market and it could really take off. This is no iPad killer, but for 50% of the world’s population Apple’s product is the equivalent of an entire year’s salary.

So the Aakash or something like it is an essential element in fostering participation in an increasingly digital global community. The only other alternative right now – and it is the most widely used device in the global community – is the mobile phone. So the Aakash may play an important role, particularly if the Indian government fulfills its support commitment and some of the bugs are worked out.

It would be a very different world if everyone had a voice.

Oct 102011

Since last April, the Kindle has topped physical books in sales on Amazon and with the Kindle Fire, the ecosystem will continue to expand. More remarkably for a device introduced in 2007, this has taken place while the sales of printed books have continued to expand rapidly for Amazon in the current Recession. But with the new Kindle Fire on the market and older models facing price cuts, expect digital books to far exceed traditional book sales on Amazon (and elsewhere). The eBook market has not resolved all the issues at stake, but the format has finally hit a convenience threshold. And of course, the introduction of the iPad (03 April 2010) has had something to do with this as over 30 million are now in the hands of consumers.

And Microsoft? They announced in August that Microsoft Reader will be discontinued  in August 2012. With the rapid pace of innovation, a program designed for reading on computers and Pocket PC’s as simply left behind

The graphic below from Dan Frommer says it all:

Amazon Kindle Growth Rate

Amazon Kindle Growth Rate

Oct 062011
Indian Students with New Tablet Computer

Indian Students with New Tablet Computer

An inexpensive tablet for under $50 dollars US and designed especially for students. Known as the Aakash, or Sky, it has been under development for the past four years and the Ministry of Education foresees its widespread use across the country. The screen may not be as sensitive as an iPad and the specs are not the best, but the Android 2.2-based device has wireless capability, onscreen keyboard, 256 MB of RAM, a 32 GB expandable memory slot and two USB ports. In the world’s tenth largest economy and second most populous country, where hundreds of millions of people find technology out of reach, this could be a breakthrough in overcoming the digital divide.

The developer Datawind says it can make 100,000 a month; the government wants to get 220 million into the hands of children. A solar-powered one would be helpful given the lack of electricity in so many of the smaller villages, but that feature is further down the road. Given that only 7% of India’s children finish high school and fewer have the means to get a university degree, this is a major step forward.