India has recently introduced a tablet device, named Aakash and it is a project headed by the Indian Government. It will be priced at $35, which is a ridiculously low price considering most tablet devices are not less than a few hundred US dollars.
The idea is to introduce young students in India, to the digital world by keeping it priced low enough to be affordable. It will have a 7 inch screen, 256 MB RAM, 2 GB storage space, WiFi enabled + supports a SIM Card. It will run on Android 2.2.
I read a lot about the Aakash tablets over the days and found 5 major hurdles to it becoming a success.
The information on its development was strangely unclear. We did cover it’s announcement over a year ago in July 2010. After that it seemed like the project was scrapped and suddenly it is being released in January 2012.
About 100,000 units will be available in January 2012, but still no clarity on which universities will be covered or even how one could pre-order the commercial version of the tablet.
There is a commercial version that will be sold for a little more but overall it does not seem to be a profitable business.
This might end up discouraging private players taking a part in the distribution of the tablet. A retail vendor will sell a device only if it makes them a lot of money.
The issue of inventory could literally make or break the success of such a gadget. I am not sure how much back-end research has gone into looking at how to distribute these tablets and which universities might adopt them leading to a greater success.
Also considering the cheaper version of the tablet is not for making profits, a corporate company that specializes in inventory will probably keep away from such a project.
If the tablet is meant to go into the hands of people who cannot afford a computer, I wonder how they would afford to pay for its connectivity. Even if they can afford internet connectivity, broadband internet is not all that easily available in rural parts of India.
It has a WiFi card along with support for GPRS. GPRS is ridiculously slow and prohibitively expensive. The other option of is WiFi connectivity, but even that is not easily available.
Another problem arises on the issues of support. Who will support the tablet? What will be the developer environment around it? What sort of apps will it run? What will be the encouragement for developers to build apps for this particular device?
I do not want to write-off this project as a failure even before it starts but these 5 issues will be key. I am not sure if India has the infrastructure to support such a product, especially in rural areas. I think the creators have done a great job of creating a tablet device at such a low price. It is a technical marvel in that sense, but now its true test will begin.
What are your views on the Aakash Tablet? Do drop in your comments.