Much awaited low-cost tab Akash 2 launched
The Government launches the much awaited low-cost tab Akash 2 - will it become a path breaker?
Suneet Tuli, the outspoken CEO of DataWind - whose company operates out of three geographies - looks like a tech warrior determined to bridge the ‘digital divide' in India. And the ammunition he has is the Aakash 2 tablet - designed and developed by his company for the government.
Aakash 2 comes at a time when scars left by its predecessor Aakash 1 - which ended as a damp squib - is just about healing - will Aakash 2 find a sweet spot then? Nobody has a sure answer, but it looks like a promising product if we were to buy the endorsements given by some globally renowned tech critics. For one, like its predecessor, it sure is the cheapest tab in the world at $20, but similarities end here - it's a pumped-up version in terms of hardware and functionality as against the puny Aakash 1.
If you are a consumer, you cannot buy Aakash 2, as it's meant only for engineering and college students - and for them it's offered at a 50% subsidized pricing of Rs 1,130 against the actual price of Rs 2,263 - the actual price DataWind bills to the government. For the general buyers - the commercial version of the tablet is called Ubislate - and that starts at a retail price of about Rs 3,499 and goes up to Rs 4,799 and that can be ordered through the DataWind's website.
Cut to Aakash 2, the project was headed by Dr Deepak B Phatak, professor at IIT Bombay with support from C-DAC. He says, "I'm not only confident, but sure that Aakash 2.0 is here to stay."
In terms of delivery, the Aakash 2 will be distributed to students and sources say that in the first phase, DataWind will supply 100,000 units of Aakash 2 to IIT Bombay, which intends to distribute them to engineering university and college students. Quips NK Sinha, National Mission on Education through Information & Communication Technology (NME-ICT), "We envision all 220 mn students across India to be enabled by low-cost Aakash devices in the coming years."
The government wants to empower the students, while DataWind wants to empower India. It is a really an access device on the go. But it is to be seen how this will penetrate the un-penetrated - like the remote villages and the deep country markets.
Yet again, Tablets are not PCs, their interface and functionality are totally different and for a seamless tab experience - a high speed broadband connectivity is mandatory. With access to pan-India high speed internet access still expensive, DataWind claims to have incorporated compression technologies that enable its tablets to load web pages faster and also has tie up with operators for low-cost internet data plans.
That said, only a brutally honest ground zero test of this tablets across Wi-Fi to GPRS and on other parameters will establish the true credentials of the wide ranging claims and endorsements Aakash 2 and UbiSlate have got even before the launch. We are not being skeptical, but just practical.