The Failed Saga of India’s $35 Tablet, Aakash

Photo: International Business Times

Photo: International Business Times

Many around the world were both intrigued and excited to hear about the Indian government’s launch plans for Aakash, a $35 dollar tablet that would cost less than your average pair of jeans.
But it looks like the production of this too-good-to-be-true tablet has culminated in the kind of endless saga that would put most soap operas to shame.

Last October, the Indian government–along with DataWind, the Canadian-based company behind Aakash–announced aggressive plans for the manufacturing of the world’s cheapest tablet. The pressure was on, and DataWind even tried to enlist the prestigious IIT Rajasthan to complete production.

But initial beta testing results from students revealed that the tablet was subpar–the battery life was weak, and the device needed a faster processor. The New York Times reported that the Ministry of Human Resources Development gave DataWind until March 31 to deliver the tablets, based on IIT Rajasthan’s specs.

And yet the drama continues to unfold. When IIT Rajasthan sent over their specs to DataWind, their criteria included requirements that would be impossible to meet within the 3,000 rupeee manufacturing limit.

Looking back, perhaps asking one of India’s best engineering schools to make what was doomed to be a mediocre tablet on a nonexistent budget was a bad idea. It’s akin to approaching a reporter at The Economist to write for a tabloid magazine.

And so now the task of creating these tablets is in IIT Bombay’s hands–and they must start from scratch. As if to put a final nail on Aakash’s coffin, the new iPad is now available in India. As far as cheaper options are concerned, neighbor Pakistan’s Pac-Pac $200 iPad-like device just might stand a chance after all.

Miral Sattar is the founder and publisher of Divanee.com.

@miralsattar