Government of India launches the elusive $35 tablet, retail availability in November

Government of India launches the elusive $35 tablet, retail availability in November

Summary: The government of India has finally launched the much talked about $35 tablet targeted at students and institutes. The tablet will also be commercially available at retail stores starting November.

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When Tata Motors unveiled the Tata Nano—the $2500 car, the automative world was taken by storm. The engineering minds behind the cheapest family car pulled off something no other company could. The Government of India had similar plans for computers. The OLPC project showed promise but did not catch up. They (the organization behind OLPC) have however been able to attract some state governments to join them.

(Image courtesy AndroidOS.in)

Union Minister for Human Resourced Development in India, Kapil Sibal, talked about introducing a low cost tablet device for students. Everyone was skeptical. A $35 tablet that’s usable? Nobody had their hopes high. The project ran into troubles when HCL decided to pull out of the project. (They were going to manufacture the device.) Engineers at IIT Rajasthan were tasked with developing the device and a prototype was shown on national television.

A few days ago reports of the government finally launching the tablet on 5th October emerged. I wasn’t sure about the story; lo and behold, the rumors were true. Kapil Sibal officially launched the tablet. The device is called “Aakash” (Hindi for “Sky”) and is manufactured by British firm—DataWind—at their Hyderabad facility. Device specifications for the Aakash UbiSlate 7 are:

Hardware:

  • 7” Resistive touch screen (800x480)
  • Processor: 366 Mhz with Graphics accelerator and HD Video processor
  • Memory (RAM): 256MB RAM
  • Storage (Internal): 2GB Flash
  • microSD card slot
  • 1 USB port
  • 3.5mm Audio in & out
  • WiFi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g
  • Up to 180 minutes on battery

Software:

  • Android 2.2 Froyo
  • Document formats supported: DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX, ODT, ODP
  • PDF viewer, Text editor
  • Supported audio formats: MP3, AAC, AC3, WAV, WMA
  • Supported video formats: MPEG2, MPEG4, AVI, FLV

The specifics of the program are:

  • 500 students were handed the tablet on launch
  • 100,000 more devices will be procured as part of the pilot
  • 10 Million tablets at a per unit of price $36.6 to be purchased (via MediaNama)

Seamless connectivity to provide Internet connection on the devices for institutes was talked about. The government hopes to connect 416 universities and 20,000 colleges using BSNL as the service provider. The government claims 80% of the target connectivity has been achieved. The government has outlined details around content creation meant for the tablet’s use in education. Some of the guidelines to be followed are:

  • It should be related to education delivery
  • It should involve faculty from different institutions
  • All IP (Intellectual Property) created under projects funded by this Mission will vest with MHRD
  • All content should be created using open-source software
  • All content created under this Mission is for open access by all and cannot be charged for in any way

One of the key announcements at the tablet launch was the commercial availability of Aakash. The government plans to make this tablet available through retail channels at an anticipated price of $60. The device will be called DataWind Ubislate.

Topics: Government US, Government, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

Manan Kakkar

About Manan Kakkar

Telecommunication engineer with a keen interest in end-user technology and a News junkie, I share my thoughts while preparing for my Master's in Information Management.

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14 comments
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  • RE: Government of India launches the elusive $35 tablet, retail availability in November

    Before everyone comes and starts bashing the tablet for its specs, they should understand the target audience and the price point. This tablet is not meant to be competing with any of the currently available tablets.
    1773
    • Bash it?

      @1773

      I think it's really neat myself. That you can get a functional tablet computer for so little. Like the Tata Nano, it should remind us of the luxuries those of us in advanced economies enjoy and often take for granted.
      oncall
  • Cool

    Multi touch would have been nice, but for $60.00 this thing should get a lot of folks connected.
    dsf3g
  • RE: Government of India launches the elusive $35 tablet, retail availability in November

    I think my kids would like something like this. It looks like a good price for something that could be used for educational purposes. I intend to get a few.
    tktdog1
  • RE: Government of India launches the elusive $35 tablet, retail availability in November

    It is indeed commendable. We, in India, keep ridiculing the govt. This is a pleasant surprise! I just hope it works for the kids it is targeted for. It will make a world of difference for them.
    srjois
  • Resistive touchscreen = fail.

    I don't need a camera. I don't need a microphone. I don't need 3G.

    However, I've used enough cheapo Chinese tablets with the resistive screens to know how frustrating they are to use.

    IMHO, the ONLY way to get away with using a resistive screen is to include a stylus and good handwriting recognition.

    Personally, I'd still be using my Palm IIIxe if only it had a 7" screen.
    roystonlodge
    • Fail?

      @roystonlodge
      Remember this is intended for students that cannot afford a tablet or any other computing device. Did you get your Palm IIIxe for $60?
      vivektanavde
  • RE: Government of India launches the elusive $35 tablet, retail availability in November

    Simply, this is a major accomplishment. If allowed, I'll buy 3 at $35 US* right now, and gift two back to students that can't afford them.

    * shipping to US must be [u]<[/u] $35 US, and chargers, &c. must be included.
    desertrat12
  • RE: Government of India launches the elusive $35 tablet, retail availability in November

    Well Done India
    phregs
  • &quot;Cannot Be Charged For In Any Way&quot;

    Please, do not put on these "non-commercial" use restrictions. They just get in the way of freedom, and lead to all kinds of awkwardness and stupidity. Stick to something tried and tested, like Creative Commons Share-Alike licensing.
    ldo17
  • DataWind are Canadian?

    At least as far as I can tell there's only one and it's based in Montreal.
    putt1ck
  • Other products

    DataWind have made other products in this low cost connectivity space although AFAICT based on Windows CE.
    putt1ck
  • RE: Government of India launches the elusive $35 tablet, retail availability in November

    For such a low price, this is truly a major achievement. I plan to buy one for all 6 of my kids and one for myself as well. lol

    <--- looking for a way to preorder them today...
    vincent_brooks
  • RE: Government of India launches the elusive $35 tablet, retail availability in November

    Interesting story and effort, but the underlying costs are still a bit confusing. Who is underwriting the loss on this? Even in 100K to 1M quantities, the components involved in the product cost more than US$35. That also doesn't take into account the manufacturing and logistics costs. Someone is obviously taking a hit on the unit production costs. Call me cynical, but will this model work for the long term?
    Timpraetor