For a long time, the $35 tablet - Sakshat - looked like a myth. However, after multiple delays and grumbles from several quarters (some mocking in the international blogs too), Minister of Communications and IT, Kapil Sibal, under whose aegis the project has been nurtured, finally unveiled the$35 tablet device.
With a new name - Aakash - the device overshoots the earlier widely quoted $35 price tag, but has the potential to reach out to masses and is worth the latest price. The manufacturing cost of the device is $37.98, while adding up transportation, warranty, and other costs, the price bumps up to $49.98. That's just Rs.2276! Add to it the Government subsidy that would let institutes to offer their students these tablets at half that price.
Aakash has been designed, developed, and manufactured by DataWind, a British company, in collaboration with IIT Rajasthan under the HRD Ministry's National Mission on Education through Information & Communication Technology (NME-ICT). The HRD Ministry is buying 100,000 tablets from DataWind for Rs 2250 per unit inclusive of taxes and freight charges.
The Android 2.2 based device features a 7-inch resistive touchscreen and only one face button. There are no volume or back buttons. The device has support for two USB ports and a micro SD card slot along with a 3.5mm headphone jack and the DC in port. Under the hood, Aakash runs on a 366MHz Connexant processor and 256MB RAM with a dedicated HD video processor and 2GB on board flash storage. The device runs full HD videos at 1080p smoothly. The battery life of the device is a bit of a let-down and at 2100mAh; it would last for a maximum 3 hours.The overall build quality is good and there is a rubberized finish to it.
Aakash comes bundled with DataWind's UbiSurfer browser and Nimbuzz app for social networking and instant messaging. For installing other Android apps, the tablet is GetJar enabled but does not support the Android Marketplace. Also, the National Programme of Technology Enabled Learning (NPTEL) has already put up an ecosystem of web-enabled course content and all the video lectures, animations, simulations, notes, and tests are available to students free of cost at
The device is profitable at this moment but one of the major challenges that Akaash, and DataWind, would face is sustenance. While DataWind confesses that producing the tablet in China would be cheaper (The device would also be exempted from custom duties since it is an educational device), the 'Made in India' tag hasn't been compromised. Interestingly, the tablet would also be available commercially for mass-market starting November 2011 as UbiSlate for Rs. 2999. In a market with recent entrants like Beetel Magiq and Reliance Tab in the Rs. 10,000-15,000 price range, this could be a disruptive addition.
Mr. Sibal and his team deserve full credit for realizing the dream and fighting against some real odds and some adverse perceptions. A successful model like this could be taken to other developing countries and also beyond education to diverse e-governance initiatives. Good job, Minister.