The Indian Cellular Association (ICA), is a group comprised of “Brand Owners; Technology Providers; Manufacturers; National Distributors; Application, Solution and VAS Providers, Ethical Retailers and eminent Consumers of mobile handsets,” according to their website. This group apparently oversees the development of the mobile handset industry in India.
The ICA has taken issue with the Aakash tablet’s low-end specs and hardware, even before the tablet has been made available to the general public. The group also seems to have a problem with the Aakash because the ICA was not involved in the development of the tablet.
Datawind is the manufacturing company behind the Aakash tablet. Their CEO, Suneet Singh Tuli, has hit back at the ICA, saying:
“The cheapest tablets made by ICA members are not less than Rs 15,000. Why did they not compete in the tender floated by IIT Rajasthan? They are most welcome to participate in the forthcoming tenders. Their tablet products don’t serve 97 per cent of the Indian mass market. Ten months after the project was signed, they are now finding fault.”
Yes, the Aakash tablet has some rather low-end specs. As a reminder, it’s an Android 2.2 tablet with the following specs:
- 7″ resistive screen, 800 x 480
- 366 MHz processor
- 256 MB RAM
- up to 32 GB internal storage
- Wi-Fi only for student version, $70 retail version will have mobile broadband and SIM card
In order to get the manufacturing costs and the end-user price to extremely low figures to encourage as many students to buy the tablet as possible, these compromises in hardware had to be made. Datawind’s CEO seems to have a point, if the mobile tablets with ICA’s backing are indeed Rs 15,000.
According to approximate currency exchange figures, $35 USD (which is, admittedly, a government-subsidized price) is equivalent to Rs 1,758, a much smaller cost indeed. Even at $70 for the retail version, that’s still only Rs 3,515. So while the tablet is low-spec, if it can be bought and used by a greater number of people, it seems like the compromise is worth it, at least for an initial kickstart to India’s computing needs. As hardware components drop in price, more capable updates to the Aakash can be manufactured in the near future.
Granted, I am not completely familiar with the whole situation regarding the ICA and the Aakash, but to an outsider’s eyes, it seems like the ICA should at least put their money where their mouth is, and produce a competing tablet at comparable cost before they continue to disparage what Datawind is doing with the Aakash.