India’s uber-cheap tablet PC just got an upgrade!
Last year Indian college students had the chance to get their hands on a revolutionary new Tablet PC that cost just 2000 Indian Rupies ($35 or £23) on release. This however, was marred by the fact that only around 500 of the machines were distributed to students, so the goal of releasing the tablet to get technology and the internet out there to over 100,000 less privileged students well and truly flopped and the company that (rightfully so) took the stick for this was Datawind. The UK based company faced heavy criticism over the delivery of the original low-cost tablet, the Aakash 1 but have been tasked with producing the 2nd edition of the low-cost tablet, the cleverly name Aakash 2. Early signs are promising for students as an engineering institution in the country (Bombay IIT) have said that they aim to distribute 100,000 of the newer models to engineering colleges by the end of the year. Here’s to hoping that other colleges and sectors get a look in too!
So it all sounds good, cheap technology accessible to the majority! What could be so bad about that you ask? Well, there are a couple of things that really limit the tablet, especially in the areas that they’re specifically pushing these into. First of all, they’re marketing these at students and people that don’t generally have the disposable income to pay for this sort of thing and yeah, I hear you screaming “but it’s only going to cost $35!” and I take that on board, but that’s just the tablet PC on its own. They’re also targetting this at people in more rural regions, which poses the question as to why they’ve not built 3G connectivity into the base models? You can get optional 3G modems for it, but then the price starts to add up. That $35 for a base model has turned into $60+ including a 3G modem (this of course, is presuming that you don’t have access to a Wi-Fi network) and then you’ll need to add your data plan on top of that. The other niggle that will drive the price up even further is if you need more than 2GB of flash storage. Take into account formatting and the OS’ files and you’ll be left already with less than 2GB of storage. Want to put an average 800MB movie on there and some of your favourite music? How about your work files and images? Uh oh, you’re out of space! So what do you now have to do? Yup, buy a microSD card which will set you back anywhere from $10 (for a cheap, small capacity card) to $100+ for your higher end models. Does the $35 tablet sound super cheap now?
I won’t get too bogged down in the negatives however as it will no doubt prove to be a useful learning tool to thousands of students that would otherwise not have access to such technology. It’s also nice that they’ve addressed a few of the concerns from their first model, such as the extremely slow CPU and the fact that it heats to an almost unbearable heat after an hour or so of usage (speaking of usage, they’ve also worked on the battery life and managed to increase its life to 3 hours). Let’s take a look at the Aakash 2′s key specifications:
700MHz Cortex A8 processor
2GB Onboard Flash Storage (expandable to 32GB using a microSD card)
7 inch capacitive touch screen with a resolution of 800×480
3.5mm Audio Jacks
Microsoft Office & OpenOffice file formats supported by default
It has its pros and it has its cons, but the Aakash 2 (if distributed correctly & responsibly) will provide a more than adequate learning platform for students upon release and it will be great to see what will come of it.