I've been very negative about India's so-called $35 tablet, called the Aakash. Here's why.
The original promise was that Indian engineering geniuses at Indian
universities had "made a breakthrough" that would enable millions of
$35, solar-powered touch-tablets to be distributed to Indian students,
transforming education. Well, it's not solar powered, it's manufactured
in India but not made by an Indian company and it costs more than $35.
A little while later, India's human resource development minister Kapil Sibal emphatically promised that the government would deliver one million $35 tablets to Indian students by the end of 2011. It never happened.
The whole project is just political pandering to Indian nationalism, and, as such, has plenty of defenders and apologists.
What nobody seems to appreciate, however, is that the project is a frontal assault on both the Indian technology industry and the cause of Indian education.
The Aakash project has two components: 1) subsidy; and 2) a specific product.
In order to get the subsidy, you have to buy the product. And this is why it fails.
The government has determined the specifications of the tablet. In order to get the a tablet partly paid for by Indian taxpayers, you have to buy it from a London-based company called DataWind.
Meanwhile, some of the lowest-cost tablets in the world are made by Indian companies.
Every subsidized sale to DataWind is a sale taken away from an Indian company -- or, for that matter, a Chinese company or any other company that could build a better tablet than the good-for-nothing piece of junk the government is convincing everyone to buy.
The government should have provided the same subsidy, but allowed users to pick their tablet, engendering innovation, right-sizing for task and competition.
EFYtimes.com has posted the 12 reasons why Aakash tablet sucks: In a nutshell, the Aakash: costs more than they said it does, especially if you buy the storage cards necessary to make it useful; is horribly underpowered (256 MB RAM); the processor is feeble; the display is incredibly reflective (hopefully there's no sunshine in rural India); has miserable battery life; overheats easily; has a clunky resistive, rather than capacitive, touchscreen; does not support Bluetooth; can't be upgraded with either hardware or software (it's an Android tablet that can't use Android apps!); has no speakers and does not come with earbuds or headphones; and supports Wi-Fi, which rural Indians don't have access to.
Yet more than a million people have ordered one in large part based on trust of the government.
What a disaster.The tablet is part of a larger initiative aimed at improving India's educational system through technology. It will originally be delivered by mid-2011, subsidized, to higher-education institutions for the estimated $35