The world’s cheapest tablet Aakash with enhanced specifications may not come cheap.
The price of water and shock proof Aakash 2 with four time faster processor and better battery life than the original may cost about US $ 100. The Aakash tablet was launched in last October by HRD minister Kapil Sibal and Montreal based Datawind got an order to supply the government one lakh tablets at US $ 50.
Now, both private and public sector technology companies have told the government that supplying a million Aakash 2 tablets at the original tablet cost will not be possible. The jump in the tablet’s cost is on account of new “military” like test criterion specified by the Indian Institute of Technology, Rajasthan, after Datawind’s tablet failed to meet the expectations of 600 IIT students across India.
The institute wants Aakash 2 to run at – 20 degree and up to 50 degree Celsius, withstand steep and sudden fall and waterproof against rain. It has specified a 1.2 Gega Hertz (Ghz) microprocessor as against 366 mega hertz (Mhz) in Aakash and random access memory (RAM) of 700 megabytes, double of the original. The battery specified can run up to eight hours. “Manufacturing a tablet with IIT (Rajasthan) specifications at the original cost was impossible,” a government official said. “It will be difficult even for US $100”.
Two public sector companies Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) and Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL) was willing to meet the government’s requirement of a million tablets but not at the original price. “Because of higher price for a US dollar component will cost much more. Insulation costs are also very high,” the official explained.
Maypad, a tablet with comparable technological specifications of Aakash 2 costs about US $ 100. Others like Classpad cost up to US $ 150. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) promoted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which matches new Aakash’s technological and ruggedness specifications, is priced at US $ 230.
Sibal earlier this month announced that Aakash 2 will not cost more and said the ten time (from one lakh to one million) increase in the ministry’s order for tablets will bring the price down.
Caught in the catch-22 situation, the HRD ministry is working on how to prevent increase in cost of Aakash 2. The other IITs have been asked to give suggestions on Aakash 2 specifications of IIT Rajasthan. “I am hopeful of resolving the price issue,” said a senior HRD ministry official.