The story of India’s $35 Aakash tablet

Indian HRD minister Kapil Sibal finally launched the $35 tablet Aakash today. It took government over 14 months to release a tablet, which actually got in the hands on few students. From the first prototype announcement way back in July, 2010 to October 5, i.e. today, the story of this tablet has been quite fascinating; much like a typical Bollywood movie story with a happy ending.

It all started on July 22, 2010 when Kapil Sibal announced a $35 Android tablet, that was supposed to be made available to students right from primary schools to universities. The following prototype was showcased and Indian TV channels went all gaga over the tablet and it became one of biggest tech news of the day across the global media.

Original Prototype

The specifications of this seven inch prototype were nothing less than extra-ordinary for the listed price tag of $35 and there were even reports of 5 inch and nine inch versions. Government press release stated how the tablet was made with the help of IITs and other institutes and it was fully indigenous product.

Kapil Sibel on July 23, 2010

Obviously this too good to be true story turned out a big lie, when we reported in September that this prototype was nothing but a cheap Chinese tablet, which Indian Government had planned to buy in bulk and then subsidize and sell to students at promised $35 price.

This launch never happened; then there were many reports of HCL backing out from the testing of the tablet and other reports how tablet was going to land in January 2011 and then postponed to the next Academic session and all that. The tablet never materialized.

But suddenly in September 2011, there were rumors of the tablet being launched again and how new tenders were passed and manufacturers changed. We were pretty skeptical of it actually becoming a reality. Then came the October 5 launch date, press invites were sent and finally the press conference took place earlier today.

To our surprise, the tablet at display in the press conference was not even 1pc similar to the tablet prototype showcased 15 months back. Obviously, there were enough reports in online media about the prototype being Chinese that government scrapped their previous plans altogether and went back to the drawing board.

It was decided that a real manufacturer was to be selected by a tender process, who will be the face of this tablet and manufacture it. Mind you, there was no manufacturer at the time of first prototype announcement; HCL was decided on a later date.

Datawind, a company founded by two NRIs with R&D facility in Canada and listed in UK, was selected to make the tablet. This company had some experience in making cheap IT products, thus making it a decent candidate for the job, and also there are Indian names at the helm of the company, not some Chinese or Taiwanese.

Kapil Sibel on Oct 5, 2011

Datawind won the tender to make a pilot set of 100,000 tablets and these tablets were supposed to be made in India, so that government does not have to go through the previous experience. Therefore company, which actually assembled all its products till now in China actually searched for a manufacturing partner in India and decided to go with Secunderabad based Quad Electronics to manufacture the tablet. This company is into the manufacturing of products like modems and wireless routers for the past 14 years with 900 employees and no prior experience in tablet manufacturing. Well, no Indian company has; most the manufacturing and assembling is done in China even for Indian or US companies.

Quad Electronic has the capacity of churning out 700 tablets per day and has to complete the order of 100,000 tablets.

So, the tablet (named as Aakash) at today’s press conferencecame from this manufacturing unit itself, and testing was done by IIT Rajasthan and content provided by NME-ICT. Over 500 school students were also invited to the launch event to show that the tablet is indeed real and will be distributed to these kids and it was given to them for free.

Image Credit: Reuters

The features of Aakash are very different from the initial prototype and it comes with a 7 inch resistive display, 366MHz processor, WiFi, 256MB RAM, 2GB storage and microSd card slot. No camera or GPRS connectivity is present in this tablet. As you can see the most basic features have been chosen to actually make the tablet in the given pricing. According to Datawind, it is selling 100,000 units of Aakash tablet to Indian government at $45 (INR 2250) and government is subsidizing it to sell it at $35 to the post-secondary students.

So that was all of this, I might have missed a few things but it is more or less the story of Indian $35 Android tablet “Aakash”.

Suggested Reading:

$35 tablet Aakash FAQs

First look at $35 tablet ‘Aakash’ from Indian government


Post Author: Gaurav Shukla

Gaurav Shukla is the editor of AndroidOS.in. If you'd like to reach him, drop an email at 'gaurav@androidos.in' or connect with him on Twitter (@gauravshukla).

38 thoughts on “The story of India’s $35 Aakash tablet

    Abhishek Pandey

    (October 27, 2011 - 10:08 pm)

    I am B.sc IT student .I want to buy dis one so i want to knw d details of it so plz reply fast

    AMARJEET

    (October 19, 2011 - 11:39 am)

    i am a college student from where can i buy this tablet?

    AMARJEET

    (October 19, 2011 - 11:39 am)

    Dear Sir, I am very happy to know about your new product Aakash Tablet and i am very interesting to get one of this . Can you please kindly me tell me where i can get one and how i can buy it .Please inform me in AMARJEET_DON@yahoo.com. I like it very much . Please kindly tell me . I want to get it very soon .MY NO IS 8420328492

    KISHAN TANNA

    (October 13, 2011 - 10:50 pm)

    i am a college student from where can i buy this tablet?

    rahul

    (October 13, 2011 - 7:34 pm)

    i used this set ? It has poor functions and picture qyality believe me? i have experieced?

    it ‘s better u can give it to any Poor people?

    Chinese set se bhi Bakwas h?

    Kapil Sibbal making foool the studens?

    Guyz

    Amish Barot

    (October 10, 2011 - 2:14 am)

    Good job! dued. Breafly expained. I hope whatever you have written in this cullom is 100% Accurate. GOD BLESS YOU.

    Amish Barot

    (October 10, 2011 - 1:43 am)

    Sir, I am so glad that we have achieved one more milestone by launching the Tablets for the indian students. I am very positive about that it will definetely help us and our countries students. When i heard this news i was so happy that finally, There are some kind of plans there in the politicians mind for us. I really thanks to Indian Govt and also would like to congractulate them for this achievement. Jay Hind. Thank you.

    Bidhan

    (October 9, 2011 - 6:56 pm)

    Dear Sir, I am very happy to know about your new product Aakash Tablet and i am very interesting to get one of this . Can you please kindly me tell me where i can get one and how i can buy it .Please inform me in bidhan_91@yahoo.com. I like it very much . Please kindly tell me . I want to get it very soon .

    shubh sharma

    (October 8, 2011 - 6:01 pm)

    GoOD JOob….z SIBEL ON noV LET’S CHECK oUT DiS ………1 🙂

    STUD-ANT

    (October 8, 2011 - 4:31 pm)

    I AM A STUDTNTZZZ ME AND MY FRANZZZ WANNA BUY BUY BUY
    PLZZZ TELL ME WHERE I CAN BUY BUY BUY????????!!!!!!!!?????????!!!!????
    GIMME GIMME GIMME YEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH

    ^some seriously LOL comments up there.

    sam

    (October 7, 2011 - 10:21 pm)

    hey i want to buy dis one so i want to knw d details of it so plz reply fast

    Arif Haider

    (October 6, 2011 - 11:38 pm)

    i m a delhi university student inrolled in shaheed bhagat singh, so can i get this tab from my college and when ???? reply plz

    Arif Haider

    (October 6, 2011 - 11:35 pm)

    why it is different from commercial purpose ????
    will u uelaborate me this difrnciation??

    yooo

    (October 6, 2011 - 7:37 pm)

    bekaar hoga itna sasta aur itne features

    pranay

    (October 6, 2011 - 4:59 pm)

    where i can buy ,i am a student ………

    anamika

    (October 6, 2011 - 4:00 pm)

    366MHZ seems too low. Has anyone done a review?

    naveenjanu

    (October 6, 2011 - 2:29 pm)

    i want to buy this , how much this cost in india price,please……
    reply me

    amit

    (October 6, 2011 - 2:14 pm)

    I AM A COLLEGE STUDENT AND FROM WHERE I CAN PURCHASE IT AND IN HOW MUCH TIME IT WILL AVAILABLE FOR ME TO BUY…………….!!!!!!!!!!!
    PLZ RPLY SIR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE……….

    md kashiful haque

    (October 6, 2011 - 12:34 pm)

    I AM A STUDENT AND FROM WHERE I CAN PURCHASE IT AND IN HOW MUCH TIME IT WILL AVAILABLE FOR ME TO BUY??????????

    Will it be available in Delhi in this year? And what will be the actual on it? n frm where i got dis.

    tausiful haque

    (October 6, 2011 - 12:24 pm)

    I AM NOT A STUDENT…BUT I M INTERESTED 4 DIS….FROM WHERE I CAN PURCHASE IT AND IN HOW MUCH TIME IT WILL AVAILABLE FOR ME TO BUY.

    Sudarshan@TechKnowGuide

    (October 6, 2011 - 10:35 am)

    Nice share buddy! Very well explained……

    Quazi Moinul Haque

    (October 6, 2011 - 9:36 am)

    Will it be available in Kolkata in this year? And what will be the actual on it?

    azim shaikh

    (October 6, 2011 - 9:24 am)

    which r the feturs in this tab????????????
    it same work like androidos 2.2

    Tarun

    (October 6, 2011 - 2:50 am)

    Thats okey if it is given to students first……they need it more than anybuddy else……even i am very very much interested to get it in my hands……but students should be first…….they need it more than techies…..

    I hope the school and universities will manage the distribution properly so that it won’t go to wrong hands……We must ensure that technolgy should be utilized in a good manner.

    .

    Aftar Hussain

    (October 6, 2011 - 12:39 am)

    I am a student. From where I can purchase it. Please replay.

    Charbax

    (October 5, 2011 - 11:31 pm)

    It actually started in June 2010 with my video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGYHH16XTks my video gave the Indian Government the idea to do the announcement.

    I also interviewed the DataWind CEO 3 and a half years ago http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIDUD2HKhXE

    Asho

    (October 5, 2011 - 11:17 pm)

    It seems that they are going to manufacture 1,00,000 tablets per month which is not enough… so there will be very huge demand… and also government is going to give first preference for students, so for non-students it gonna take some months to buy…

    Vetti

    (October 5, 2011 - 9:46 pm)

    So can we use a 3G data card to connect to 3G and enjoy surfing. I am a student of NIT. Hope to get these at a sweet sub 2k pricing 😉

    Android_Help

    (October 5, 2011 - 9:33 pm)

    @Ashish Gupta : Do you really think shouting out (All Caps) is gonna help 🙂 It shall be available in due course. As stated initial order is for 1 Lac Tablets… This should be enough for some part of Delhi..

    Patience is the key my friend

    Android_Help

    (October 5, 2011 - 9:28 pm)

    @Gaurav : You got more juice without attending the sarkari launch .. sahi hai

    @HumeBastich : Datawind will also be releasing the tablet commercially for retail consumers with added benefits like cellular connectivity and will be sold for INR2,999. The retails sales will start in November as Datawind Ubislate.

    https://androidos.in/2011/10/commercial-35-tablet-datawind-ubislate-india/

    Ashish Gupta

    (October 5, 2011 - 9:19 pm)

    PLS REPLY ME FAST………

    Ashish Gupta

    (October 5, 2011 - 9:19 pm)

    I AM A COLLEGE STUDENT AND FROM WHERE I CAN PURCHASE IT AND IN HOW MUCH TIME IT WILL AVAILABLE FOR ME TO BUY??????????

      Gaurav Shukla

      (October 5, 2011 - 9:33 pm)

      @Ashish It depends on your college or university. They will inform you if it is available via them, else you will have to go for the retail version, which will go on sale next month for INR2,999

    HumeBastich

    (October 5, 2011 - 9:06 pm)

    Good step – They should launch higher priced variants with connectivity and cameras – to offset costs!

    ANIL KUMAR VERMA

    (October 5, 2011 - 8:44 pm)

    FROM WHERE I CAN PURCHASE IT AND IN HOW MUCH TIME IT WILL AVAILABLE FOR ME TO BUY

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