Thursday 11 October 2012

Aakash 2 to have SIM card slot: Sibal

Telecommunications Minister, Kapil Sibal, affirmed yesterday that Aakash 2, the upgraded version of the Aakash tablet, will have a SIM card slot.

The Aakash tablet supported Wi-Fi only connectivity. The introduction of a SIM card slot in the enhanced version of Aakash means that the tablet will now support mobile connectivity. It remains to be seen if Aakash2 supports 3G network. Sibal also projected that in the coming five to seven years, every child in the country will have an Aakash tablet for as little as Rs 1,500.

Sibal was speaking at the inaugural function of the Science Congress. At the event, Sibal further assured that the UPA government is working towards ensuring that the infrastructure for the virtual world will be completed at the earliest, in order to be able to connect 250,000 gram panchayats through the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN). Sibal was quoted as saying, “Government's plan is to connect 2.5 lakh panchayats through the National fibre optics connectivity, the last mile of which would be through wireless broadband.”

At the event, Sibal said that the NOFN should be looked at as an unlimited virtual highway, wherein data can flow at the speed of sound. An adept infrastructure will be set up to tell fishermen when it is good to go fishing, which part of the pond has chlorophyll. Farmers would know the right time to sow seeds, the forecast date of the arrival of the monsoon, and the time to sell the produce to get the best market price.

Kapil Sibal recently stated at the Economic Editors' Conference, 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. He said, “Hopefully on November 11, you will see the President talking to 20,000 students across the nation [who] will have their hands on Aakash".

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.

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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