5th October 2011 – UPA’s prime troubleshooter, Mr. Kapil Sibal, unveiled the cheapest tab in the world. The ultra low-cost tablet, called ‘Aakash’, was conceived with the dream of bridging the digital divide. “Aakash” is an Android-based tablet computer claimed to be designed and developed by a UK-based company DataWind mainly for the purpose of reaching out to the semi-urban/semi-rural student population of India.
The tablet has been designed primarily as a platform for audio-visual media including books, periodicals, movies, music, games, and web content. It’ll soon be manufactured in India as a low-cost device for urban, college students as an attempt to help them gain access to digital media. The commercial version of the tablet will be retailed under the brand name UbiSlate 7.
The Aakash tablet has a Conexant 366MHz processor with graphics accelerator and HD video processor, 256MB of RAM, 2GB of internal storage, a 7″ resistive (800 x 480) display, and Android 2.2. The tablet also features two USB ports (a feature absent even in the I-pad), only one physical button on the side of the device (used to deactivate sleep/return to the home screen and displaying options), a micro SD card slot (supports up to 32GB), 3.5mm stereo earphone jack and a built-in microphone. Apart from the low-cost feature, the Aakash tablet gives you both GSM as well as Wi-Fi connectivity.
Like every new age gadget, this tablet too, comes with its set of problems. Its 1:366 MHz processor won’t give you the experience of multi-tasking. Future Android upgrades are not suitable for such a low configuration Tablet. It doesn’t have an internal camera or a GPS.
For the users habituated to sensitive touch screens, the Aakash may provide some problems. The touch pad of the tab is, reportedly, very resistive in nature.
Another major drawback of the tab is the 3 hour battery life. For a product intended mainly for the semi – rural areas, where shortage of electricity is a major concern, a 3 hour battery back-up is insufficient.
The tablet, once in the market, will cost about Rs. 3000. Now, according to the Planning Commission, a person can sustain himself on approximately Rs. 32 a day. Nearly 25% of the population is below the poverty line and affording a tab worth Rs. 3000 is, therefore, a farfetched idea.
A majority of the semi-rural areas do not have access to the internet. With the web being the most potent portal of knowledge, the presence of a tab alone can’t warrant quality education. There is an urgent need to provide basic internet accessibility to the digitally handicapped regions of India.
The undertaking was a massive one.
It is important to keep in mind that the version of the Aakash which will be released for commercial use is comprehensively different from the one given to the students. It will be an important initiation into the technical world for the students, provided they have access to the internet.
It was obvious, at the outset, that a Rs. 3000 tab wouldn’t provide any competition to the likes of the mighty iPad. Nevertheless, it’s a neat little package which promises greater penetration into the rural domain and quality education for an upcoming, knowledge hungry generation.