The low cost tablet project Aakash has allegedly closed down in March this year, according to an RTI query, reports the Hindustan Times. IIT Bombay, which was testing the tablet, claimed that it had completed all targets assigned to it, according to the report. The institution also said that it had submitted the specifications for the future upgraded version of Aakash and was not aware of the tablet’s future plans.
100K tablets procured and tested
Although IIT Rajasthan was entrusted with the project initially, the responsibility was returned to the Ministry of Human Resource Development and was then taken over by IIT Bombay. IIT Bombay’s targets included procuring a 100,000 devices, lab sample testing and establishing over 300 Aakash centres (in engineering colleges) in India. IIT Bombay also claims to have spent the approved budget of Rs 47.72 crore to achieve its targets.
Relaunch under a different name?
In 2012, the UK based Aakash maker Datawind had submitted 100 samples to IIT Bombay, for which it was supposed to provide feedback then, as indicated by this TOI report. A March report by DNA indicated that Aakash was likely to be relaunched under a different name and possibly not free of cost for students in government colleges and universities. The report mentioned Datawind president and CEO Suneet Singh Tuli to be saying that the format of the tablet could be different as well.
A 30 June IndiaToday report indicated that Datawind would provide free unlimited internet browsing for a year on all of its devices, only on Reliance Communications GSM network. It has apparently tied with Naaptol to launch the UbiSlate 7C+, priced at Rs 4,999.
Aakash: Down to Earth?
February 2014: Kapil Sibal, the then Minister of Communications and IT, said that the next version of Aakash tablet would be out in April, priced at Rs 3,999.
January 2014: The Indian government started the tendering process for the latest version of Aakash. The government wanted the tablet to also support calling and use mobile networks for connectivity.
July 2013: DeitY put up a proposed technical specifications for the Aakash IV tablet and invited comments from interested stakeholders on vendor neutrality, tablet usability and functionality.
March 2013: The government was close to shutting down the Aakash project. Then Minister of Human Resource Development MM Pallam Raju said that the overall focus of the project should be on enabling students access to educational content on a device of their preferences. But, the same week, Raju contradicted his statement, stating that the government was planning to launch the next version of Aakash tablet shortly.
December 2012: IIT Bombay was working on developing multi-lingual educational applications for various levels of education. The applications would be made available on the Aakash tablet.
The same month, Datawind confirmed that it was only doing sales of the tablets and not manufacturing. Li Junhao, the president of Trend Grace, one of the 2 alleged Aakash 2 tablet manufacturers, said that the tablets they sold to Datawind were ‘ready to sell’. He said that the parts were assembled in and brought from China.
November 2012: The Indian Government unveiled Aakash 2, the successor to the original Aakash tablet.
May 2012: The HRD Ministry released Rs 47.72 crore to IIT Rajasthan for testing low cost access-cum-computing devices and hardware and software optimization of low cost access devices. Norms for distribution to the students had been not been finalized.
– By May, IIT Rajasthan had, distributed 572 of the 6640 Aakash Tablet devices it had received from Datawind: 546 to students, and 26 to coordinators. IIT Rajasthan itself was the largest recipient of the Aakash Tablet, 181 devices were distributed to students, 59 given to Dayalbagh Educational Institute in Agra, and 47 to IIIT-DM in Jabalpur.
– The same month, Datawind said that following the transfer of the project from IIT-Rajasthan to IIT-Bombay, the latter was issuing a purchase order for 100,000 upgraded Aakash tablets, which Datawind intended to deliver by May.
– Meanwhile, the government said that it had accepted only 650 out of the 6,440 tablets supplied by Datawind, and asked the manufacturer to fulfill the order with upgraded tablets. Datawind said that it had paid Quad for all tablets barring 600, for which it had not received payment from IIT-Rajasthan.
April 2012: Datawind and its assembly partner, Quad Electronics, got into a spat, where Quad alleged that it had not received payments for the initial order of assembling 20,000 tablets. Quad had apparently served a legal notice to Datawind.
– Datawind was able to deliver only 10,000 tablets to IIT Jodhpur, while several tablets were reportedly sold in the open market, since they was available for online purchase at Rs 2,500 from December 2011 and were sold out within a week of its launch.
February 2012: The Indian Government booted out Datawind from the Aakash tablet project, planning to assemble the tablet on its own, while retaining the same price tag of Rs 2,250. Sibal said that the government had roped in others including C-DAC and ITI, after encountering problems dealing with Datawind.
December 2011: Around 30,000 tablets were available for online purchase at Rs 2,500 from Aakashtablet.com. An upgraded version of the tablet, the Ubislate 7, would be available in January 2012. At that time, online availability was restricted to individual buyers since Datawind had already achieved pre-sale orders of about 400,000 from individuals and corporates.
October 2011: Sibal launched the Indian Government’s $35 computing device. The Android tablet was designed, developed and manufactured by Datawind in collaboration with IIT Rajasthan, under the HRD Ministry’s National Mission on Education through Information & Communication Technology.