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India’s $35 Android-based tablet

The “$35 laptop” commissioned by the Indian government is becoming real. On October 5, 2011, the laptop was officially launched under the name, Aakash, which means sky. India has ordered 100,000 units at $50 a piece. The manufacturer (DataWind) has said at 2 million units, it could achieve the $35 price point. This is a remarkable achievement, because the One Laptop Per Child program has for many years been trying to achieve $100. Given the buzz already generated by the OLPC, devices like the Aakash is likely to be embraced around the world.

The specifications are not too shabby either:

OS: Android 2.2
Power: 2–3 hours non-removable battery
CPU: 366 MHz processor, on chip Graphics accelerator and HD Video processor
Storage: 2GB (Internal)Flash memory, expandable upto 32 GB microSD
Memory: 256 MB LP-DDR2/DDR2
Display: 7-inch; 800×480 resolution
Input: Multi-touch resistive touchscreen display, headset controls
Connectivity: Wi-Fi; GPRS

Some may naturally wonder how this type of products will impact companies like Apple selling iPad’s for $499+. Also, as one might expect, there are already tons of tablet choices available in China. Have a look here. $76 with slightly better specs than the Aakash.

After researching into these Android tablets, I think I am ready to trade in my iPad2 for this $379 dual-core, 10-inch, 1080p, T16 pad. It has memory expansion slot too!

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  1. October 11th, 2011 at 05:12 | #1

    For the next year or so, there will be no impact on Apple, as Apple abandons the tablet market with less than $500 price range. They know they will lose this low-end market anyway and eventually to Androids. However, sophisticated Android tablets are coming strong. Apple should be leading the market share for the following reasons:

    * High-end market in tablets.
    * The prestige of owning a main brand product than a clone.
    * A lot of applications for iPad than Androids, but it is changing.
    * Many folks lining up to buy a new model are social climbers or having a habit to possess the best and the newest.
    * Apple’s products are reasonably priced.
    * Steve Jobs was a cool guy, and his creations are psychologically but illogically a cool tablet.

    Personally I prefer one that runs on Microsoft’s Windows for the stock programs and Office that only run under Windows though I’m a Microsoft basher.

  2. Charles Liu
    October 11th, 2011 at 10:07 | #2

    DW you might want a test drive before ditching ipad. These Shanzai Android from China are not well built, especially the Android software are poorly ported to the device.

    As to the Aakash, it’s a very slow device running on old smart phone cpu. Looks like resistive touch screen too (like those at mall kiosk, not capacitive like ipad or HTC Droid.) OLPC had good hardware spec, too bad all the politics killed it.

    That said, “Aakash” class tablets have been available in China cheaply for years.

  3. October 11th, 2011 at 13:46 | #3

    The advantage I see in an Android-based tablet is the army of developers already on the platform. Not sure how difficult it is to develop on the OLPC, but I imagine the difference in number of developers may be orders of magnitude apart.

    @TonyP4 – agreed, I think Apple will strive to maintain the premium and high-margin segment.

    @Charles – hey, I think it’s not fair to label all of them shanzai. The T16 as you can see in the demo is very responsive and high-end.

    Anyways, I am thinking of getting my parents one for Christmas.

  4. colin
    October 11th, 2011 at 14:56 | #4

    I’m a little doubtful about the 35$ price point, and even if possible, will the device be usable at all? Right now, the $99 ultra cheap andriod tablets are BARELY usable, if at all.

    I checked the datawind homepage. Looks a little questionable to me. Is this really just some small time operator generating some buzz for itself, but ends up not delivering in the end? Don’t mean to sound stereotypical, but I’ve heard so many BIG announcement come out of India that in the end turn out to be all hot air.

  5. October 11th, 2011 at 16:00 | #5

    @colin
    Perhaps.

    So, I can imagine their government thinking these $35 tablets as ‘infrastructure’ spending of sorts. If they suck at building roads to them, they might as well try to build information highways. DataWind has taken an initial order of 100k units, so it’s got to be real.

  6. Charles Liu
    October 11th, 2011 at 16:13 | #6

    Aakash maybe good for e-reader or some media. They probably have this vision of poor students downloading a book or video, and do some homework on it back in the slum with no electricity.

  7. pug_ster
    October 11th, 2011 at 18:33 | #7

    Colin,

    Yeah, I agree with you. I brought a craig 7″ tablet from cvs for about $87 tax included which is slightly better than that indian tablet. I was very disappointed with this as this is a half baked product because it overheats easy and there’s virtually has no power saving features.

    I managed to get a ipad 1 16gb cheap for $300 plus tax new a month after ipad 2 was launched. Personally, I like it because it just works.

    About a month ago I got the HP touchpad in the $99 firesale. (yeah call me a gadget freak.) Not much use there, but waiting for a 3rd party android port.

    I recall that there was a sale 2 days ago that you can lenovo k1 tablet for $329. Right now I don’t think that Google really refined its user interface that is maximized for tablets. I think it will take at least a year until google can be at least be competitive to Apple’s ipad.

    Another thing I am disappointed at Google is that they don’t seem to want to concentrate on portable media players to compete with ipod touch. They can simply make minor UI tweaks and they can compete with them.

  8. W. Tseng
    October 12th, 2011 at 00:28 | #8

    I believe you guys are comparing diamonds with stones. As I see it, the Askash was never meant to be a competitor for the iPones of the world. It’s just a gimmick to try pull millions of the poor & lower-end middle class into the tech-age. It’s not such a silly idea either (economically speaking) – if you consider the millions of shanchai phones sold in China.

  9. dan
    October 12th, 2011 at 06:51 | #9

    China may or may not have something similar going on, I think China needs to learn from India in this regard to help millions of poor Chinese step into the 21st century. With the amount of money the country has in reserve, it won’t be difficult for the Chinese government and private entrepreneurs to develop its own and make a better and cheaper model than the Askash for its own citizens that fall behind the tech-age.

  10. Charles Liu
    October 12th, 2011 at 10:46 | #10

    @dan

    China has been making cheap e-reader/tablet/netbook for years, and they are available thru various market channels.

    As to help lifting the poor out of poverty, didn’t UN report on Chinese govt’s effort a few years back? China seems to compare favourably on this front:

    http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/07/11/india-makes-some-progress-in-reducing-poverty/

  11. kchew
    October 12th, 2011 at 10:57 | #11

    Aakash is just another cheap publicity stunts that the Indians are prone to exhibit, usually coinciding with the general elections. This is not the first time that a cheap Indian computer project has been announced.

    The materials cost itself could exceed $35 and not to mention manufacturing costs and profit. Materials cost might come down, but the product would be obsolete by then. Another factor is that India has no manufacturing success story, and it will not likely to happen anytime soon. The company that won the tender, Datawind, is a UK based company. Looks like it will outsource the project to China.

    Giving away cheap computers might win votes, but the benefits are really doubtful. One reason is that computers tend to be obsolete every few years. Another reason is that such cheap computers have limited functionalities. The money spend could be used elsewhere to improve educational environment, for example by giving more free nutritious lunch for students in poor regions, improving sports facilities, equipping all rural schools with computer laps etc . China should not follow India’s short sighted approach.

  12. raventhorn2000
    October 12th, 2011 at 11:38 | #12

    I have my doubts about such programs.

    India’s poor areas can barely afford to build schools, fund teachers to teach the poor kids.

    Gadgets is not some magical solution for this kind of problems.

    *On the other hand, China has made a lot of strides in education in the last 6 decades. Such low-cost gadgets would be beneficial, if augmented to the existing fundings. (China’s poor areas definitely can use more teachers and more funding. Gadgets would be nice too).

  13. xian
    October 13th, 2011 at 22:25 | #13

    366MHz… can you actually do anything with that?

  14. October 14th, 2011 at 00:16 | #14

    Reading books, browsing the web, and accessing blogs like HH is probably adequate. 😉

  15. Dmitri
    February 8th, 2012 at 03:45 | #15

    is anyone using this android phone? i want a review before buying it – http://mtsredenergy.com/livewire-features.html

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