Sunday 7 October 2012

Aakash 2 may be sent to all state CMs for feedback

Recently, two units of the upgraded version of the Aakash tablet were presented to the Gujarat CM Narendra Modi by the nation’s Communications Minister, Kapil Sibal. The ministry is reportedly toying with the idea of sending out Aakash 2 units to all state chief ministers; a move particularly strange considering the tablet is yet to make its way to several of its pre-designated locations. India’s attempt at low-cost computing has primarily been one to ensure quality education is made available to those who earlier found it beyond their means. Despite criticism, there still is a lot of optimism surrounding the low-cost tablet.

Interestingly, when Sibal presented the tablets to Modi, the latter took it as the Communications Minister’s attempt at “bribing” him. Sibal, on his part though, stated that he wanted the Gujarat CM to learn about the Aakash tablet. Reportedly, the units of the upgraded version of the Aakash tablet that the HRD Ministry had sent over, came back undelivered.

Sibal had sent the tablets to Modi with a request to keep education away from politics. Sibal, in his letter to Modi, expressed his disappointment over the latter’s views on the Aakash tablet, "Education is a collaborative venture beyond the pale of politics and we need to work together in the best interests of the children of the country".

Earlier last month, reports had emerged about Modi taking a dig at India’s low-cost dream tablet – the brainchild of the Communications and IT Minister, Kapil Sibal. It all happened when, as part of its campaigning ahead of the Assembly elections, Congress announced that it would distribute free laptops to students if they were voted to power. Critical of this, Modi took a dig at Congress and said, "Kash [If only] this Aakash tablet could land on earth, then the lie [promise of free laptops]they [Congress] are spreading now would hold some weight." Modi went on to accuse the Centre of 'dragging its feet' in distributing Aakash tablets. Modi asserted that the Centre failed to deliver on its much-hyped commitment.

The Aakash 2 is a significant upgrade over the original Aakash tablet. The initial version of the tablet had a 7-inch resistive touchscreen that struggled to respond to touch. It ran Android v2.2 on a 366MHz processor, based on an older ARM architecture. The Aakash 2 tablet is likely to be replaced by a successor, which will have a dual-core Cortex-A9 processor by the end of this year.

Just this week, it was reported that Datawind has started supplying units of Aakash 2 to IIT Bombay. In a statement, the company revealed that an October launch of the tablet is likely. Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli told PTI, “Supplies are on to IIT Bombay. In the next few weeks, it should be launched. I do not have the exact date, but HRD Minister [Kapil Sibal] has said he wants to launch on the anniversary date which is October 5." However, Tuli added that the launch would depend on Sibal’s schedule. While refusing to disclose any further, Tuli added that the supplies to IIT Bombay had begun a month and a half ago.  

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