Wednesday 10 October 2012

Aakash 2 to be available from November 11: Sibal

Telecommunications minister, Kapil Sibal, recently stated that the Aakash 2 tablet may be expected to reach students on November 11 this year, i.e., roughly in a month’s time from now. The timeline for its launch was earlier set for October.

Sibal was at the Economic Editors' Conference, when he revealed the expected date for the availability of the Aakash 2 tablet. “Hopefully on November 11, you will see the President talking to 20,000 students across the nation [who] will have their hands on Aakash," he was quoted as saying.

While referring to the low-cost tablet as an instrument of empowerment, Sibal added that in the future, the price of the tablet can expected to go as low as $35 (Rs 1,500), once manufacturing activities are set in India. Sibal was further quoted as saying, “At the moment, we are actually formulating a Cabinet note for the manufacturing of five million Aakash tablets without any financial burden on the Ministry of Finance.”

In the later half of September this year, Datawind started supplying units of Aakash 2 to IIT Bombay. In a statement, the company revealed that an October launch of the tablet was 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.

Recently, two units of the upgraded version of the Aakash tablet were presented to the Gujarat CM Narendra Modi by Kapil Sibal. The ministry is reportedly toying with the idea of sending units of the Aakash 2 to all state chief ministers for feedback, 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.

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 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 said to run on the Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) Android OS, priced aggressively at Rs 2,263. It comes packed with more features and enhanced speed than its predecessor, Aakash. Talk about Android v4.0 (ICS) being included in Aakash 2 began in April, when Suneet Singh Tuli stated in an email that the Aakash 2 tablet will have 2GB flash storage, an 800MHz processor, and 256MB RAM, which should be enough to handle ICS. Aakash 2 is a significant upgrade over the original Aakash tablet. The initial version of the tablet had a 7-inch resistive touchscreen, which was not very touch-sensitive. It ran Android v2.2 (Froyo) 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.

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