Aakash 2 tablet misses deadline, new target end-April

Missing the March 31 deadline set by the Indian government to deliver 100,000 Aakash 2 tablets, the manufacturer DataWind has promised to complete deliveries by the end of this month.
Written by Nitin Puri, Contributor

DataWind, the company producing India's low cost Aakash 2 tablet, has missed the government's deadline of March 31.
Instead, it has has assured that 63,000 units will be delivered by April 9, 2013 and another 70,000 by the end of the week, being April 12, 2013, according to a report Monday by Tech2. It added the remaining 30,000 units will be delivered in subsequent weeks.

Simple math indicates that now their initial deadline of 100,000 units by March 31 has increased to 163,000 units instead. Yet, DataWind is assuring both the Indian government and consumers that the deliveries will be made. This could be correlated to the fact that already there is talk of the Aakash 3 tablet being released this summer, and naturally, DataWind needs to repair the damage from negative publicity regarding the entire Aakash project.

Regardless, apparently the delay in the entire process is because of obtaining tax exemption certificates from IIT Bombay for customs. 

Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of DataWind, in a report Monday by Times of India said: "Tax exemption certificates issued by IIT Bombay required clarification by customs and that caused significant delay. We lost five weeks from November 10 to December 14, 2012. Then we lost 7 weeks from February 1 to March 23 where we were unable to clear components under IIT Bombay tax exemption certificate."

He added that 500,000 commercial units of the Aakash tablet have already been sold, under the name UbiSlate, and these open market versions did not require tax exemption certificates.

DataWind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli (extreme right) at a launch of the Aakash 2 tablet at the United Nations. (Credit: DataWind)

What's interesting to note about the Made-in-India push is that in reality, some Aakash 2 tablets are not even manufactured in India, as noted in a Asia Sentinel report last week. They come from the other Asian superpower: China.

DataWind confirmed that kits and motherboards were manufactured at their Chinese subcontractor facilities and units have been kitted in China at various manufacturers. However, final assembly and programming was done in India at their labs in both Amritsar and New Delhi. To expedite the process, DataWind has four new manufacturing partners in India for the Aakash 2 tablet, and India's first touchscreen lab has been set up in Amritsar city in Punjab state.

So, where does all this leave both the Indian government and consumers who have placed orders for the Aakash 2 tablet?

Once again, it's a waiting game, testing the patience and nerves of all involved. Personally, I'm confident DataWind will eventually be able to deliver, as too much time and money has been invested into the entire Aakash project for it to be cancelled completely. That being said, it will be interesting to see what changes and improvements have been made between the original Aakash tablet, and Aakash 2.

The twist to it all is already talks of releasing Aakash 3 this summer. Is DataWind really trying to be the low cost alternative and solution to Apple and the iPad? Perhaps, but this can only realistically happen if DataWind products are available in other regions of the world.

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