The first generation Aakash Android-based tablet made quite a fuss last year, with people equally praising and criticizing the gadget. On one side, there were the technology enthusiasts that welcomed such a dirt-cheap slate (it was made available for Indian students for just 23 US dollars.) On the other, some called the Aakash unusable, due to several software glitches and the unsurprisingly poor hardware.
The 7-incher will be getting a second generation very soon, and, at least at a first glance, it might actually satisfy more technology users, with several significant software and hardware improvements. Set to start shipping in India in two to three weeks, according to official statements from the manufacturers, the Aakash 2 will cost just 35 dollars. Actually, the tablet is priced around $45, but the Indian government will subsidize device, to promote its use in schools.
While the first-generation Aakash slate came with a resistive touchscreen, the Aakash 2 will sport a 7-inch capacitive multitouch display, which should come with better color reproduction, a crisper image, and with increased responsiveness and accuracy.
The Aakash 2 will come with several improvements under the hood as well, the most important being the 800 MHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor. The proc is twice as fast as the 366 MHz chip powering the first Aakash, so you can imagine it will make quite a difference for the regular user. Other features include 256 MB of RAM, as well as 2 GB of on-board memory, both these specs being on-par with the original Aakash released last fall.
In terms of software, the Aakash 2 will run Android 2.3 Gingerbread out of the box, with a planned upgrade to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich set to happen in six to eight weeks after shipping. That should be another huge improvement over the original gadget, but we'll have to see exactly how will ICS run on such a low-speced tablet.
DataWind, the British company behind Aakash’s, has announced that this second edition of the gadget is only a first step towards progress, and that, by the end of the year, we could see a third generation Aakash slate with a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor. According to Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind, the dual-core tablet could might not cost much more than the Aakash 2, as Cortex A9 processors will be available over the next few months at the “same price range as what Cortex A8 is at today.”
As far as I’m concerned, the release of the Aakash 2, as well as the possible launch of a third-generation tablet with a dual-core chipset, is great news, both for technology enthusiasts in India and for gadget lovers from the rest of the world.
Prices are going down, folks, and standards for low-end devices are going up!