Aakash Tablet Ubislate 7 Book Online – Official Datawind Website
November saw the launch of the Aakash Ubislate tablet by UK’s DataWind for just 2,999 rupees ($62 or£29) inclusive of all charges.
Developed in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology, it is the world’s cheapest tablet, aimed primarily at students. It is being assembled in DataWind’s Hyderabad’s factories, using components source internationally.
It looks very attractive as an inexpensive Android tablet. As an educational tool, the idea is excellent. Kapil Sibai, the India, Human Resource Development Minister, handed out 500 of the tablets for students to test, under a government pledge to distribute 10 million units to students. The Indian government intends to buy 100,000 Aakash tablets from DataWind at the current price before volume production brings the price down to £23. The commercial version of the tablet, the UbiSlate, goes on sale in India in ‘late January’ (already delayed from November) at £39.50 which includes a cellular modem, allowing web access on the move and “…also to function as a mobile phone.”
However, the execution may leave the Aakash high and dry in it’s target market.
The current Aakash has an Arm11 – 366Mhz processor, 256MB of RAM, a 2GB Micro-SD memory card, a 32GB expandable memory slot, two USB ports for adding cheaper memory sticks and runs Android 2.2 for its’ operating system – not current, not fantastic, but stable, and resource-cheap. The Ubislate-7 will launch in Jaunary with the Cortex A8 – 700 Mhz processor.
Where it may fail is in the stated three-hour battery life, with two hours in practice and reports that the device does not appear to hold charge for long even when switched off.
Every student will probably need a charging socket in their desk, and India isn’t best positioned for that.
The second issue is the resistive touch-screen chosen to cut costs, in place of more common capacitive screens. Resistive touch uses a pressure-sensitive overlay, better suited to a stylus than a finger. As a result, the Aakash’s touch sensitivity and speed are lower than what we’re used to with today’s touch-screens. This may not matter to India’s students, but commercially, this is not going to stack up against any current smart-phone.
Durability is in question, as cheaper plastics and a flimsy screen cover don’t bode well for everyday student use.
Third, on the software end, there is no Android Market on the Aakash, instead, there is GetJar, a relatively limited service mostly selling apps for phones. I imagine that by limiting the type and number of apps available, colleges are attempting some damage limitation from overloaded tablets not working in class. Expect ingenious Indian students to get around that in short order.
India has stunned the world with the lowest cost for the best-spec tablet yet, aimed at developing world markets. Given that Intel and the non-profit organisations One Laptop Per Child and NComputing didn’t make it to mass-adoption, this stands a better chance than most. However, this is a machine that needs to move with the times, and a 7-inch screen at this spec already seems like a compromise too far for the education market.
Subsidising a cheap standard netbook or e-reader might well serve the Indian government better over the long run. However, you can’t dismiss the comitment or the innovation that makes this possible. AJS
BBC news http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-15302663