NEW DELHI: The next edition of the low-cost Aakash tabletwill have a SIM card slot, a faster processor, higher memory capacity, and will be able to function on both the androidoperating system and Linux.
But IIT Bombay, which is spearheading the effort, would like to ensure that improved offerings don’t result in a higher price for the tablet.
The tablet is available for students at subsidised rate of 1,130 while the government purchases it at 2,263. The initial plan is to roll out 50 lakh units of Aakash 3 tablet and a global tender is expected to put out in February. Members of the committee in charge of Aakash 3 indicated that they would like to access mutiple vendors for the tablets instead of tying up such a large order with one or two vendors.
Those associated with the Aakash project said that computer majors were amazed with the device and there is a keen interest among several vendors to participate in this venture. The focus on indigenous component of the tablet comes in the light of the use of the “made in China” tablets for the current Aakash 2 version.
The decision by Datawind, the company, which was to manufacture the Aakash 2 tablets, to source the instrument from China came in for intense criticism as the $35 made in India tablet had been touted as a manufacturing revolution.
However, Deepak B Phatak is not unduly concerned about the use of Chinese hardware. Phatak is a member of the committee in charge of Aakash and professor in Department of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Bombay.
“Where are Apple’s iphones manufactured?” Phatak asked when the question of using Chinese hardware is raised. “Today most of the hardware is made in China. At present, India has manufacturing capacity of about 300 tablets a day, and we are talking about increasing it to 1,000 a day, meanwhile China has manufacturing capacity of 1 lakh tablets a day. Our manufacturing capacities are only beginning to be set up. I see the Aakash as a catalyst for manufacturers,” Phatak said.
But Phatak and other committee members stressed that the aim is to ensure that maximum manufacturing for Aakash 3 happens in India.
The IIT- Bombay professor, who is pointsman for Aakash, is clearly excited about the possibilities that the low-cost tablet presents.
“Earlier, the big players refused to participate in the project, now companies like Intel and others all want to be part of this low-cost tablet,” Phatak explained.
Another member of the Aakash team explained the lack of interest partly as concerns about the manner in which India’s success with the low cost tablet would affect pricing,” an IIT professor involved in the project explained, “today after the IIT Bombay-Government of India tablet we can spot changes in the tablet pricing.”
Providing a SIM card slot is also on the cards for Aakash 3. “It could also have a SIM card slot so that people can use it as a communication device,” Phatak said. Apart from Phatak, Ashok Jhunjhunwala of IIT-Madras and his team and other partners are also involved in making the new Aakash 3.
As it is works of improving the tablet’s offering, the Aakash team has its sights set on a larger goal– ensuring that the tablets becomes a part of every students education experience. Though focused on higher education, Phatak and his team are also trying to get school children to use the tablets. “Our ultimate aim is to imbibe the usage of tablets in the education system and create an ecosystem for this. We have distributed Aakash tablets to 250 colleges across the country and asked them to come up with newer ways to use the device,” said Phatak.Aakash team has its sights set on a larger goal– ensuring that the tablets becomes a part of every students education experience. Though focused on higher education, Phatak and his team are also trying to get school children to use the tablets. “Our ultimate aim is to imbibe the usage of tablets in the education system and create an ecosystem for this. We have distributed Aakash tablets to 250 colleges across the country and asked them to come up with newer ways to use the device,” said Phatak.