On October 5th 2011, India launched the world’s cheapest touch-screen tablet computer, priced at just $35 (£23). Costing a fraction of Apple’s iPad, the subsidised ‘Aakash’ (meaning Sky) is a 7-inch Android tablet.
Naturally, the Aakash has limited specs because it is so cheap, but they aren’t that bad. It runs on Android 2.2, features a 7-inch resistive touch screen with 800-x-480-pixel resolution and has a 366-MHz processor, 256MB of RAM, 2GB of internal storage and a microSD slot to add more storage. It also has two USB ports for connecting accessories and a 3.5mm headphone jack for listening to music.
The Aakash also includes a 2100 mAh battery that can last for up to 3 hours. It will have some pre-loaded applications, but unfortunately it won’t have access to the Android Market for downloading more apps.
Aakash and what it means to India
While the device will not impress Indians with high-end laptops and iPads, the Aakash tablet could help less affluent Indians connect to the Internet for the first time. At present, just 8 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people have internet access and one factor preventing it is the availability of low-cost devices. Comparably, 40 percent of Chinese citizens have Internet access.
However, it’s predominately targeted at the youth. At the launch, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal handed out 500 Aakash tablets to students who will test them. He said the government planned to buy 100,000 tablets. It hopes to distribute 10 million of the devices to students over the next few years.
This is similar to the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project set up to oversee the creation of an affordable educational device for use in the developing world.
Regardless of the small number of tablets being promised to be distributed in the coming years, Aakash has the potential to explode like the “mobile revolution” in India.
The tipping point for mobile penetration in India was when both call rates and mobile phone prices started to dip. Ownership of a phone was no longer a function of who you know, but rather conforms to the conventional forces of demand and supply. Waiting lists were down and voice calls in India have become amongst the cheapest in the world. Within a few years mobile density overtook tele-density.
Similarly, making a tablet affordable to the Aam Admi (average Indian) in small town India, Aakash has the potential to provide a superior web experience as compared to the mobile phone (currently, a walled garden). There could be a situation where the first web/internet experience for many Indians could come through a tablet and not the mobile.
This will have huge implications on the current/future plans being put in place by major brands to leverage mobile as the key medium to advertise to the masses. Majority of mobile advertising monies could well be diverted to creating branded applications pre-loaded on the Aakash? Making – games, utility apps, podcasts a standard feature in every marketing/digital plan.
But, one thing is certain – A device like the Aakash is set to empower many in India and will be the best bet to get the masses connected.