So Aakash 4 is going to be a reality after all – the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) has put up a proposed technical specifications for the Aakash IV and invited comments from interested stakeholders on vendor neutrality, tablet usability and functionality until July 12, 2013.
The department says that these specifications were formulated by a sub-committee of technical experts and these specifications have been developed in order to have a device at a low cost. The specifications for Aakash IV include (pdf):
- Operating System: Should run on the latest Android version, which is Android 4.2.1 ‘Jelly Bean’ and should be dual bootable with a GNU/Linux (latest Ubuntu) distribution. Maximum cold boot time of 35 seconds, which we feel is little on the higher side.
- Software: PDF Viewer, E-Book Reader, text editor, a note taking app and support for office document formats like DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX, ODT, ODP, ODS. The department says that the tablet should also have support for Android’s DRM system and it should be able to play at least 720p videos.
- Indic Language Support: Support for reading and editing capabilities in Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil, Marathi, Guajarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Oriya, Bihari, Assamese, Bishnupriya ,Manipuri, Urdu, Sanskrit, and Devanagari scripts and languages. Unicode support at OS level and virtual keyboards should be preloaded for above languages. We feel it is a good move to include reading and writing support for Indic languages, however it is yet to be seen on how the virtual keyboard will work.
- Apps: The tablet should feature a standalone online videos app which can at least play YouTube videos, a standalone HTML5 compliant web browser, an email client, calendar, a Scientific calculator and a File Manager which can archive and extract files & folders.
- Two App Stores? It looks like the Aakash tablet will finally feature Google Play Store, however the department also says that desired apps should be certified with Aakash Marketplace. Its currently not clear what the department means by ‘desired apps’ and also there is no information on what is the procedure to get these apps certified. We are also curious on whether the department is planning to have two app stores in form of Aakash Marketplace and Google Play Store.
- Display: 7″ capacitive touch display with a resolution of at least 800×480 and support for a minimum five finger multi-touch points. The tablet’s dimensions should be less than 7.5” x 5”x 0.75” (Width x height x thickness) and should weigh less than 500g.
- Storage: 4GB internal flash memory with support for 32GB Micro SD cards. Interestingly, the departments says that the SD Card interface should support NFC based SD Cards. Its not clear if the government has mentioned this requirement just to future proof the tablet or it has any NFC related service in the works.
- Camera: 0.3 megapixel or higher front facing camera with support for video capture. Interestingly, there is no mention of a rear facing camera.
- Processor: A processor which has 1GB DDR3 SDRAM memory and clocks a minium quadrant score set by the government and minimum scores across various other benchmark tests like Antutu, AndEBench, PassMark Performance, RealPi, and CFBench.
- USB Ports: One USB OTG (USB On The Go) and one regular USB port which can support USB drives, keyboards, mouse, USB Hub, USB Printers, USB to ethernet adopters and support for all popular 2G, 3G and 4G Phone and Data Connectivity Dongles in India.
- Battery: A battery which can provide minimum three hours online 720p video playback or four hours offline 720p video playback, five hours of web browsing and 6 hours on e-reader mode. It should charge from 10% to 80% battery capacity within 2 hours and support charging from AC and DC sources and USB ports.
- 3.5 mm headset jack, support for WiFi 802.11 b/g/n with portable hotspot feature, Bluetooth v2.1, and a 3 axis Accelerator along with hardware buttons for Power and Volume up and down.
Our Take: It looks like the department has finally formulated a decent tablet specification for Aakash 4 on paper at least. However, it is yet to be seen how the tablet will actually turn out to be, when it launches in the forthcoming future.
A Hindu Business Line report suggests that unlike the Aakash 2, multiple vendors will be able to manufacture the tablets this time, which ties with the Business Standard report from last month which had suggested that the government is planning to license the ‘Aakash’ brand to any government agency or private company fulfilling certain criteria and specifications. The report also cites IIT Madras director Bhaskar Ramamurthi who said that around ten vendors including HP, Lenovo and Dell have shown interest in building Aakash tablets.
We feel this is a good approach since it will remove the dependency from a single tablet maker to deliver these tablets and solve the problem of non-availability of tablets. However, we are a bit curious on how does the government plan to tackle the issue of quality of these tablets from different vendors.
This is, of course, besides the issue of whether the government should be in the business of tablets (and tablets versus PC’s, from a college education point of view) in any case.
Aakash Project Developments Till Now
Feb 04, 2009: The $10 Laptop: A Myth
Sep 03, 2010: HCL Wins Contract For 100,000 $35 Tablets For India
Sep 29, 2011: Indian Govt Expected To Launch $35 Tablet On 5th October
October 5, 2011: Indian Govt’s $35 Tablet Finally Launches As Aakash; Costs Rs 2250
November 2, 2011: What They’re Saying About The Aakash Tablet
Feb 3, 2012: Uncertainty Around The Future Of The Aakash Tablet
November 14, 2012: Indian Government Unveils Aakash 2 Tablet; Aakash In Education
November 27, 2012: Aakash 2 Manufactured In China And Not India; Datawind Refutes Allegations
May 02, 2013: Datawind claims that it has completed Aakash 2 project, by delivering 100,000 tablets to IIT Bombay. The company also claimed that it has completed deliveries of its prepaid backlog.