The Aakash $35 Tablet – A Breakthrough for Universal Access

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

Today, the Indian government announced the Aakash (“Sky” in Hindi), a tablet that will initially be given free to students and, later, sold for $35 to $60 dollars. It is being developed by Canada’s Data Wind, and it’s sold by the company as UBISlate 7. The UBISlate will “be available at retail stores for … about $60, and it will feature a cellular modem and SIM card slot…. [The Aakash] version will be WiFi-only” (“Aakash Android Tablet Hits India for $60 or Less,” Liliputing, 10.5.11).

According to John Ribeiro, the Aakash “has a 7-inch display with 800-by-480 pixel resolution, 256MB of RAM, 2GB flash storage, and a 366MHz processor from Connexant. The tablet runs the Android 2.2 [Froyo] operating system.” He adds that, “with added GPRS (general packet radio service) capability … it [could] double as a phone” (“India’s Low-cost Tablet Is Made by Canada’s DataWind,” ComputerWorld, 10.5.11). Ribeiro, quoting Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of DataWind, says that it “is adequate for most applications including HD quality video, reading books, and basic office applications.”

Katy Daigle says that the “Aakash has a color screen and provides word processing, Web browsing and video conferencing. [It] has two USB ports and 256 megabytes of RAM” (“India Announces $35 Tablet Computer for Rural Poor,” Associated Press/USA Today, 10.5.11).

The Aakash, reports Frank Jack Daniel, is approximately the size of a paperback book and “is aimed at university students for digital learning via a government platform that distributes electronic books and courses.” Daniel, quoting Rajat Agrawal, executive editor of BGR India, said “the 660 mhz processor from U.S. company Conexant Systems was ‘decent’ for the price, but warned the machine seemed slow and the touch screen not very agile.” The display is based on “resistive LCD … rather than a full touch screen and connects via wireless broadband”  (“India Launches ‘World’s Cheapest’ Tablet Computer,” Reuters, 10.5.11).

Ribeiro says that, according to Tuli, the Aakash “makes up for the lower speed of the processor by using compression acceleration technologies that shift a part of the processing during Web browsing from the device to the cloud.”


No, it’s not the iPad2, nor is it the equivalent of the host of copycat tablets that are now flooding the market. But it’s a start — a viable start for what India hopes will one day be a $10 tablet that can compete with the best. It doesn’t use true touchscreen technology and the processor is slow, but these are some of the compromises that have brought the price down to this remarkable level. I can’t help but believe that the Aakash is only the beginning of a whole new era of universal web access — the first step in a new global competition that will result in $45 to $90 dollar tablets that will be more powerful than today’s most popular models.

Students and teachers, schools and colleges will be the direct beneficiaries of this Aakash revolution that will open the web to those who cannot afford the latest technology, making it possible for them to access the open learning resources on the web as well as the latest online pedagogy. For areas where Wi-Fi is lacking, the Aakash will be an incentive to improve infrastructure.

8 Responses

  1. This is the kind of innovation that is utterly predictable, yet will still change everything- if not this particular technology, then those it will spawn. With the coming of truly low cost hardware like this, to match all that free and low cost software out there, the question truly shifts from “How are we going to pay for technology in education?” to “Now that we can do whatever we want, what is it that we really want to do?”

  2. Jason, with your questions, you’re taking us to the next step where the focus is on 21st century pedagogy rather than basic access. The Aakash and similar devices, as they evolve, are game breakers, and they’re going to force educators to toss out their old playbooks and come up with plans on how to use this new technology in the hands of all students.

  3. I am going to the workshop for the FCC on universal access and broadband. It will be interesting to see if this is covered. Exciting too is the fact that the annual symposium on mobile devices that is hosted by Chris Dede is coming up so soon.

    • I think this is what the One Laptop Per Child program was aiming for. Besides offering computing power to each student, a machine like this – or perhaps version 2.0 of a machine like this – basically frames the issue of computing in terms of learning, rather than cost. There are perhaps four major costs associated with ed computing: hardware, software, networking and training. Software is cheap, networking is certainly a lot cheaper than has been in the past. If hardware comes down to under $200/unit, then we can spend our resources on training teachers and students how to be exquisite digital learners. I see this as wonderful progress.

  4. Just look at the Amazon Kindle Fire for an attack at the other end. $199!!

    $60 is still a bit steep in India for general consumption. For universities, it does make sense.

    By this time next year, tablets will be available here in the U.S. for $99 that will be very usable. I have to note that 800×480 resolution for the Aakash is a bit limiting as a general-purpose tool. Again, wait a year or so to see 1024-pixel width in low-cost tablets. Also, look for software (apps) to adapt to smaller screens if the developers see a bonanza there.

    This is yet another notch in the belts of the computer-for-everyone crowd.

  5. When will it comes to mangalore in karnataka

  6. It is very useful device 4 the students, as its a featured tablets.Can you please tell about its releasing date.

  7. Actually.. How to buy aakash.. I’m impressed with it

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