India govt plans Aakash 4 tablet; but is Datawind on board?

The government is pushing ahead with development of the 4th iteration in its Aakash budget tablet project, but it remains to be seen if Datawind will stay the sole manufacturer, and if costs can remain low with higher requirements.

Even after all of the setbacks and delays, along with bad and in my opinion unfortunate public relations over both the entire Aakash budget tablet project and especially its manufacturer Datawind, the Indian government is pushing ahead with developments for Aakash 4.

As previous iterations, the fourth in the series will also be geared towards students at both the high school and post-secondary level across India, with the aim of still making it the world's most affordable tablet.

Since the first Aakash tablet was released in 2011, there have obviously been improvements in technology and the overall design of the final product. However, unlike Aakash 1 and Aakash 2, the Indian government has not finalized who will make the Aakash 4. Consequently, this could place Datawind in jeopardy of losing this project. Currently, the specifications of the Aakash 4 are being finalized and reports indicate the tablet could be manufactured by multiple hardware vendors instead of just one company previously, reported The Times of India.

The proported specifications for the Aakash 4 are a 7-inch screen with minimum 480x800 pixel resolution. An improvement on the touchscreen feature requires panels that use at least 5 touch points. I can say from personal experience that the touch screen feature on the original Akash was beyond poor; it didn't work more than half the time, and I would know as I have one which has rarely been used.

Furthermore,  the government is setting some benchmarks for processing, as it should score 1469 in Antutu, which is a popular Android benchmarking app. Also, the tablet should be able to easily handle playback of 720P videos. In terms of memory, a minimum of 1 GB DDR3 RAM, with at least 4 GB of internal storage and support for a 32 GB microSD card.

Aakash 4 specs also ask for support to external USB devices, both a keyboard and mouse, popular 3G/4G dongles, along with USB to Ethernet adapters and USB printers. As for the OS, is should be at least the Google Android Jellybean suite.

As far as Datawind is concerned, there is a strong possibility their involvement will cease in the near future. Not only were there delays in deliveries for both Aakash 1 and Aakash 2 , most improvements from Aakash 1, such as both a poor screen and performance, were still not adequately addressed in Aakash 2. Furthermore, while Aakash 2 was slight better, apparently it wasn't good enough to be used by students in high school and post-secondary institutions.

If that's the case, then what happened to the 100,000 or so Aakash 2 tablets that were ordered for students? Have they been returned for a refund or simply been chucked as the government waits to design, develop, and deploy the version they want, on their terms? As it appears there are higher demands for more bells and whistles, naturally pushing up the input costs.

The real question at the end of the day remains: will Aakash 4 be able to perform and still be touted as the world’s most affordable tablet?

Personally, I think it is still possible and here's why: the Indian government can easily approach and bring on board Indian vendors such as Karbonn and Micromax, as both already have their lineup of affordable and performance driven smartphones and tablets.

Furthermore, the Indian Government also wants to ensure the Aakash project remains an Indian project, with a nice " made in India " seal on any product at the end of the day, and here's why: there were reports that some Aakash 2 tablets were being sourced out to Asia's other superpower: China. Simply put, in order to keep this project alive and well for all, it has to be made in India, from start to finish.