The Aakash tablet has received a lot of press recently as a low cost tablet for education in India.
The Aakash tablet (the name means “Sky” in Hindi) hit the news in the fall of 2011 as a low cost tablet for education in India. The price was initially quoted as $35, but it later became clear that this was a subsidized price and the actual cost was closer to $50. While different members of the Indian goverment have long been interested in introducing a low cost computing device, the technical driver behind this tablet seems to be Dr. Prem K. Kalra, now Director of the Indian Institute of Technology -- Rajasthan, in Jodhpur.
Manufacturing of the Aakash (henceforth, Aakash-1, as later models are planned) was undertaken by Datawind, a Montreal-based company, using the design provided by IIT -- Rajasthan and Indian manufacturing. It was originally provided with Android 2.2 (Froyo). A small production run was made, and 500 units were provided to students on Oct. 5, 2011, with mixed results.
- I'm not surprised, as this was likely the first medium scale manufacturing of the tablet. OLPC typically builds several thousand pre-production prototypes in the process of shaking out bugs. --User:wad
There was some discussion about the actual cost of the tablet (Times of India, cost discussion, Oct. 10, 2011). And an early hands-on review in the US:
Datawind was flooded with orders (Times of India, 300K prebookings, Nov. 17, 2011).
In Jan. 2012, IEEE Spectrum looked at the Aakash, and actually got their hands on some! This was followed up almost a year later by an article in the New York Times, Dec. 30, 2012, and an interview with the founder of Datawind (Dec. 31, 2012).
Datawind is selling the tablets in some locations (U.K. and India ?), under the name Ubislate as well as Aakash. They now claim to be shipping with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). In the spring of 2012, they were having trouble dealing with customer demand!
- 366 MHz Conexant ARM processor (current specs list 700 MHz)
- 256 MB DDR2 DRAM
- 2 GB internal storage (microSD card)
- 7" 16:9 LCD display, 800 x 480 resolution
- Projected Capacitive Touchscreen
- Two USB A ports
- 3600 mAh (13 Wh) battery, 3 hrs of battery life (?)
- 3.5mm Headphone out jack
- No speakers
While all the literature simply lists a "Conexant 366MHz processor" (usually described as the "painfully slow 366MHz processor"), we can guess that it might be the CX92745, an ARM Cortex-A8 core with significant integration.
Supposedly, the Indian Government is trying again, requesting a larger number of Aakash 2 tablets to be manufactured by an Taiwanese OEM.
There is now discussion about an increase in price needed to meet increased robustness specifications:
- The institute wants Aakash 2 to run at – 20 degree and up to 50 degree Celsius, withstand steep and sudden fall and waterproof against rain. It has specified a 1.2Ghz microprocessor as against 366MHz in Aakash and random access memory (RAM) of 700 MB, double of the original. The battery specified can run up to eight hours. “Manufacturing a tablet with IIT-Rajasthan specifications at the original cost was impossible,” a government official said. “It will be difficult even for US $100”.
OLPC salutes IIT-Rajasthan's new specifications as a step in the right direction, with the following comments:
- Concentrate on the environmental (humidity, ESD) and mechanical (drop, pressure, impact) testing criteria when putting out a request for quotes.
- -20C operation is both hard to achieve (common liquid crystals become very viscous at those temperatures), and usually not necessary. We suggest operation down to 0C.
- 512 MB or 1GB, take your pick. 700 MB must have been a reporting error.
- 4GB of SD is only 10 - 20% more expensive than 2GB right now. But most importantly, microSD cards are mostly built using three-bit per cell NAND technology in 2011. This introduces serious limitations on the lifetime on the device. We continue to use microSD storage in the XO-1.5, but are continually testing new microSD card models and rejecting many of them (even from reputable vendors). We strongly recommend eMMC/eSD instead for reliability.
- resistive touch screens have several problems:
- by definition, the surface is a soft plastic, easy to scratch
- if a significant dent is made in that soft plastic, it will create a "permanent touch" and destroy the touchscreen
- At this time, OLPC recommends a capacitive touch technology, with hardened glass as the touch surface.
Perhaps Aakash 2 will use the newer Conexant CX92755 ?