The Indian government's long awaited Aakash tablet is expected to arrive in October. Will it be able to garner a market with consumers, or will it mark a sub-par entry into a competitive budget tablet market?
A lot of questions remain about the Aakash tablet. Is the Aakash tablet finally getting launched next month? And even if it does get launched, will it be able to re-create the same level enthusiasm and anticipation, as we saw earlier this year? Has the Indian government lost the first mover advantage, considering the market is already awash with wide range of budget tablets? Well, there's a lot of skepticism over the future of the Aakash tablet. The primary reasons for growing concern and doubts about the mythical device are the back-to-back delays, empty promises about the launch and numerous controversies. Let's analyse these factors that have possibly killed the excitement around the Aakash tablet:
Too late to create buzz?
We clearly remember the high level of enthusiasm across the country and even outside India when Union minister Kapil Sibal last year unveiled the ultra low-cost Aakash tablet, also then dubbed as the world's cheapest tablet. DataWind, the company tasked with the Aakash project, reported about the massive demand and millions of pre-bookings it had received for the device.
But soon enthusiasm faded away when DataWind failed to deliver the Aakash tablets. Controversies such as rift between DataWind and IIT Rajasthan further delayed the project. At one stage, it looked like the Aakash tablet project was going to be shelved permanently. However, in May 2012, a new version of the Aakash tablet, Aakash 2 was announced.
The Aakash 2 is supposed to have better specifications and has the same price of the original Aakash. Unfortunately, since May, we have only heard that the device would be 'launched soon'. DataWind recently said that it had begun supply to IIT and it expects the Aakash 2 will be launched by October. Ironically, the device is expected to be unveiled on October 5, exactly one year after Kapil Sibal unveiled the original Aakash.
In the meanwhile, sensing the growing the market for cheap Android tablets, almost every manufacturer has come up with a low-cost tablet. With prices ranging from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 15,000, customers today have a wide range of choices to choose from and no delays either. Micromax has come up with Funbook and Funbook Pro tablets. There are budget tablets from Wicked Leak, Zync, Zen Mobile and others as well (check out our list of Top 10 Budget Tablets, also check out the latest in the sphere of budget tablets here). These budget ICS tablets come with decent set of specifications and overall performance in relation to their prices, while the full specifications of the Aakash 2 tablet are yet to be announced officially.
The Aakash 2 is expected to run on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS, and bear a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen, 2GB of built-in storage, Wi-Fi and GPRS connectivity with voice-calling capabilities, apart from a 3,200 mAh battery that is rated to deliver up to 3 hours of battery life. The Aakash tablet is expected to be priced around Rs. 3,000, will be available for the students at a subsided price of Rs. 1,600-1,700.
Speaking from the prevailing customers' point of view, all one has to do is read a few reviews, and walk into a shop to buy a budget tablet (or order it online). There's no point in waiting indefinitely for an inferior device. However, this attitude might change, if the Aakash 2 tablet is indeed released soon, and if it offers decent usability.
It is disheartening to see the Aakash, once dubbed as the device that would herald an Internet revolution, going down after a fizzled beginning. That being said, in spite of so many of problems, the Aakash tablet, at its price point, might still have millions of takers - only if the performance clears the usable mark.
The biggest challenge lies with the government and others involved in the Aakash project: Can they pull it off now? At this stage, it looks unlikely; but not impossible.