With the Indian government receiving orders for over 1.4M units of Aakash in the first fortnight since it’s release it is clear that there is a demand for low end and relatively cheap tablet computing devices. Coming in at just $41 with plans to drop the price for the next version to $35 and finally all the way down to an unbelievable $10 per unit Aakash is filling a niche which has perhaps caused the most headaches for electronics designers and manufactures around the world.
The famous XO laptop and its’ succeeding tablet counterpart came in far above budget and though millions of units have been ordered for classrooms by governments around the globe it has failed to deliver to it’s full potential. XO runs a proprietary operating system and is designed to be used by children in even the remotest parts of the planet. While it may meet the needs of many rural children with its’ efficient energy usage and durable plastic casing it is let down on a number of other points. Aakash however promises to fill the void left by XO’s shortcomings.
Running on Google Android 2.2, a widely used and accepted operating system, it integrates its’ user into a fully established and functioning application marketplace. This in turn opens up the user experience and therefore real world career development possibilities in ways XO could only dream of. The price, as already mentioned, is breathtakingly low and this will give an opportunity to millions of students in India to access technology which was up until recently completely out of reach. However the price of the device is only a small part of the picture. For it to be an effective educational tool there must be a push towards cheap, or even better, free educational content such as the free service being developed by MIT.
One small concern highlighted by early commentators revolves around the lack of computing power and memory found in the 7 inch device. However Datawind the British manufacturer contracted by the Indian Government to manufacture the device have already announced an update called Ubislate 7 for release in March of this year with future updates arriving in quick succession. Watch this space.