Wishtel, a Mumbai based company that manufactures electronic components, has launched low-cost tablets, christened as IRA and IRA Thing in the Indian market. The tablets are powered by VIA’s WonderMedia PRIZM processor, and will be available in Android and Linux variants. The tablets will be priced at Rs 4000+taxes (resistive touch screen) and Rs 5500+taxes(capacitive touch screen) and will be available, shortly. The tablet has been designed and conceptualised indigenously and is bein manufactured in facilites located in Gujarat and Maharastra, according to the company. Interestingly, the company was one of three contenders who had bid for the Gvernment of India’s Aakash Tablet project, however, according to Milind Shah, CEO of the company, it chose not to go ahead, as the $30 price was not enough to meet costs.
Specs: Technically, the Tablet boasts of an 800MHz processor, 512 MB RAM, 2GB of internal memory, a 7 inch touch screen, WiFi, and support for 3G data through external dongles. The tablet promises a battery life of upto 4 hours. Although, the company claims that the tablet supports Indian language integration with the overall interface, it is only available with the Linux variants. Also, we felt that the company was not too eager too promote the Linux version of the tablets, compared to the Android ones, at the launch.
Content eco system?: Shah claimed that the tablet features education as well as entertainment apps, with availability of downloadable content, including 3 million e-books including books that offer course content for ICSE, CBSE, and State boards and for engineering, medical and other higher education streams. On being asked about content partners, Shah replied that the educational content would be aggregated from the IIT Course ware, and other free sources in addition to some paid content, which he said, would be priced economically, without disclosing any names. He added that the entertainment content was still in the process of being developed and aggregated. The Tablet would be distributed through the company’s 350 distribution and support centers, which it intends to expand to 1200. Wishtel is also in talks with mobile operators for bundling data dongles and 3G plans.
Other Tablet Offerings from indian companies: Earlier this month, Cloud-based education company AcrossWorld Education had partnered with the Delhi-based company Go-Tech, to launch a low cost education focused Android tablet called ‘ATab’. Priced at Rs 5000, the tablet offered three years free access to AcrossWorld’s Education Bridge platform. iProf also offers an education tablet which runs on Android OS with a iProf’s Learning Management System pre-loaded on it. Geodesic had also announced intentions to launch an education device
Our Take: We got an opportunity to play with the Android version of the tablet, and felt that the touch sensitivity was low, which resulted in a sub-par experience. We also tried to open an app related to e-books but it crashed. The tablet was running Android 2.2, which is an old version of the mobile operating system. It was customised a bit, with some additional soft controls for volume and for going back. The tablet just had one hardware key for switching to the home screen. Also, the quality of the display was average, although the tablet claims to support 720p video.
We feel that Tablet makers need to focus on making usable, and durable tablets, and for some time, forget the low-cost part. Although, we clearly understand that the intent is to reach out to people who’ve never used a tablet, since they can’t afford one. Their experience needs to be much better than what is being currently dished out. Otherwise, they’d blame not just the product but the entire category, for not delivering on what’s promised. It’s not sufficient to offer a device complying with specifications, filled with content and applications, the more important aspect, is making them usable. We’d suggest that manufacturers use better components to make ‘usable’ tablets and tie-up with financial organisations, banks, micro-finance companies to reach out to potential users, specially students, who can’t afford tablets.
As an aside, our colleagues from the media told us that the tablet was much better than the Indian government’s Aakash project, which makes us wonder, why the officials involved with the project never cared about the user experience and quality of the tablet, and created hype around the low price.