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
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.