Innovation doesn’t move in a single lane. If every innovation was to be made available for everyone immediately after its invention, it would have clogged up the traffic. Coming up with new things requires research and research needs money. But then, nothings stops the simultaneous pursuit of bringing existing technology to more people by making products cheaper. In the world of the computer tablet, the newly unveiled Aakash isn’t a case of inventing or re-inventing the proverbial wheel. But coming at Rs 2,276 a pop, significantly cheaper than devices from which it has been reverse-engineered, the Aakash brings a technology out of its purchasing power cage. Quantity has a quality of its own. This inexpensive device should be a gamechanger in a country like ours.
The fact that the Aakash is not an iPad or a Samsung tablet is a given. It’s not as fast or sleek or as spacious as its better, more expensive cousins. But it does give the basic functionalities of a tablet that was, till now, beyond the reach of most people looking for a tablet. It is being seen as the computer version of the Tata Nano. This isn’t a bad comparison, considering that the car made a full-fledged automobile accessible to people who couldn’t earlier afford one — or had to wait for years to go through the trajectory of being the owner of a two-wheeler, a second-hand car and then a new car. But the Nano also provides a cautionary tale for the Aakash. The product, however cheap it may be, has to function according to its specifics and has to function without hitches. Unlike reports regarding the Nano, the Aakash has to score on the ‘usability quotient’.
Indians have never been comfortable with the idea of price being correlated to quality. This is partly because of us being hardwired ‘socialistically’ to find any new product suspicious unless it is available to the majority. This discomfort is also a defence mechanism against our inability to value research and development required to bring about radical creations to the fore. While the Aakash is all about penetration, one hopes the generation for which a cheap, no-hitches portable computer is easy to get will come up with a genuinely pathbreaking invention or discovery.