We’ve seen promises of ultra-cheap laptops and tablets for the developing world before but this one is in people’s hands now, only the price needs to be whittled down with mass production coming into play. The Aakash 2 is currently for sale in India for about $20 to students, but half of the price is paid by the Indian government. Within a year the company believes that, thanks to mass production, in house produced screen prices can be brought down significantly and then the Aakash 2, or rather it’s commercially available-version, the Ubislate 7, will be available for everyone at an amazing $25.
In a new interview Quartz magazine talks to Suneet Tuli, CEO of Datawind who make the Aakash 2 tablet. Mr Tuli speaks of the large numbers of people who still don’t connect to the internet. Of the seven billion people in the world, five billion have a cell phone but only two billion are on the internet. He says that leaves three billion people with everything they need to connect to the internet except for a suitable device. Mr Tuli explains that a cell phone user must have access to electricity for charging, networks for talking and texting so the only thing required to provide internet access is a device with affordability.
Ban Ki-Moon with Suneet Tuli of Datawind yesterday
Even at its current price Datawind is struggling to make enough tablets to satisfy demand. Quartz notes that the “company is currently struggling to meet the four million orders from India that have already come in.” Tuli says it is not just his company that will be making much cheaper LCDs for tablets but there are “dozens” of fabs in China aiming to do the same thing. He says that Datawind has reduced the price of its 7-inch LCD displays from $8 to $2.50 by building its own manufacturing plant. When all the similar Chinese producers ramp up production the price of the displays are “going to tank” he says.
When the devices get into US and European markets it is expected that a major market disruption will occur. Although the Aakash 2/Ubislate 7 isn’t cutting edge it “has a processor as powerful as the first iPad and twice as much RAM memory”. The tablet runs the Android mobile OS and can play full screen video without hiccup.
We can buy 7-inch Android tablets in the UK already for around the £50 mark (example 1, example 2), from this news it looks like there’s still quite a way the prices can drop in the coming months. Also we are going to be joined on the internet by millions if not billions of new users as these tablets get to almost “disposable” prices, as the Quartz article says.