The Aakash tablet, the $35 Android tablet, was the pet project of former HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, whose vision was to ensure the availability of a tablet for every Indian student, at a very budget-friendly price point. While the idea itself is amazing, the execution has been lacking. The Aakash tablet had a lot of issues, and while the Aakash 2 announcement was more promising, it has hit a snag as well.
So with a change in leadership, with M M Pallam Raju taking over, the first question on everyone’s mind is whether this project will continue, especially after the difficulties with production and shipment Datawind, the manufacturer of the Aakash tablet, has faced. Yesterday, Datawind CEO Sunit Singh Tuli decided to address the concerns regarding the Aakash 2 shipments, and released the following statistics –
- 17,100 units have been shipped to IIT-Bombay
- 29,400 devices are on the way and should arrive in the next few days
- 23,500 are manufactured and pending shipment
Of course, this still falls far short of the promised shipment of 100,000 units by March 31, which is now only a few days a way. Datawind says that “Of the remaining 30,000 units, the mother boards including touch screens and all other components are manufactured, and final assembly is being completed, which is expected within the next couple of weeks.” Obviously, meeting the deadline is out of the question, but at least things are moving along. Sunit Singh Tuli also commented that the company has scaled up the production to between 2,500 to 3,000 units a day.
While the Aakash 2 is still waiting get off the ground, there is already talk of the third generation Aakash tablet, which is expected to launch mid-2013. According to the specifications available on the Datawind website, the Aakash 3 will be very similar to the Aakash 2, with the same 1Ghz ARM Cortex-A8 processor, 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage expandable via microSD, a front 0.3 MP camera, and Android 4.0 ICS on-board. The only noticeable difference between the two will be the addition of a SIM card slot for 2G and 3G connectivity. A device with similar specifications is already available from Datawind, the Ubislate 7C+, which is commercially available for Rs 4,999 (~$94), so we can expect a Rs 2,500 (~$47) price tag including the government subsidy for Indian students.
Honestly at this point, while its good that the project seems to be going ahead, consumers need to see results, because its been all talk till now. We knew that the project was ambitious and difficult to implement, but consumers, and especially students that were supposed to gain the most out of this, have been left disappointed and angry time and time again, and there’s only so many times we can say “hopefully things will get better soon.”
What are your thoughts? Will Datawind be able to manage its Aakash 2 pre-orders and finally ship the devices to everybody? What do you think of the specifications of the Aakash 3? Let us know in the comments section below.