College students across India will get an enhanced version of Aakash tablet without the government having to pay a penny extra.
The Aakash 2 tablet will three times faster than Aakash 1 and will have 50 % more battery life. The latest version will have to pass a new quality protocol prepared on basis of inputs received from about 600 students of Indian Institutes of Technology and other engineering colleges.
"All issues have been resolved. The much improved 70,000 Aakash tablet will be received from Datawind (the company supplying the tablets) by end of January," said a senior HRD ministry official on Friday, a day after reports of the ministry deciding to put its agreement with Datawind on hold.
The HRD ministry had asked Datawind of Montreal based Suneet S Tuli to supply one lakh Aakash tablets at about US 50 dollars. Of the initial lot, 600 tablets were given to students for testing.
The Indian Institute of Technology, Rajasthan, which had prepared the prototype of Aakash cited several deficiencies in the tablet including short battery life, the processor unable to handle multiple operations at the same time and poor picture quality.
Datawind had already supplied 30,000 tablets by the time IIT, Rajasthan report came. The ministry held-back the order and asked the company to improve Aakash as per the deficiencies citied by the IIT report.
Ministry sources said that company was initially reluctant to upgrade the tablet without increasing the cost. However, the company agreed when ministry officials threatened to cancel the order.
Tuli was not available for comments but a company spokesperson said the product manufactured to date has met and exceeded all the specifications, features and criteria specified in the government tender.
"The product road-map and future enhancements are not 'news' and not a sign of failure," the company said in a statement.
"Not only Aakash from Datawind but all future tablets will have minimum Aakash 2 specificians," said N K Sinha, additional secretary in the HRD ministry. These improvements included a 240 minute battery instead of 180 minutes, better firmware and a 700 mega hertz (MHz) Cortex A8 processor instead of the 366 MHz ARM 11 processor.
The HRD ministry is expected to invite bids from companies to supply Aakash 2. The target is to provide about a million Aakash tablets to college students in the next few years.
Datawind has already got two million booking for enhanced Aakash tablet, sold under the brand name of Ubislate, for which it sought online booking earlier this month. The tablet is being sold at Rs 2,999, which is Rs 749 more than price of Aakash for HRD ministry.