Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Aakash (Okay, Ublislate 7)- miracle or bitter?

   I know I've watched the video of Kapil Sibal gleefully raising his hand to unveil the Aakash, or Ubislate 7, the world's cheapest tablet and computing device.

   But after the watching the video every time, it was not difficult to as one question: who gave the HRD this brilliant idea as to name a tablet computer on a high profile surface-to-air missile which cost the government tens of thousands of crores? That apart, Aakash(yeah, I'd prefer to call it that way), raises quite a lot of questions.

  When Kapil Sibal distributed 1.750 tablets to hundreds of schools, he made a huge promise: to put India's digital natives; he put us on the information superhighway.

   If one closely watches and follows the tech world, it is easy to understand that the introduction of cheaper tablets, gadgets and gizmos always becomes the talk of the day. And Aakash is no different.

   It's a promising device- a resistive touchscreen, an SD card slot fitted with a 2GB card and supporting up to 32GB capacities, two USB ports, Wi-Fi, video conferencing, 3-hour battery life, 600MHz processor, 256MB RAM and Android 2.2 - are enough to dazzle the India on the wrong side of the digital divide.

   "This is for all of you who are dis empowered. This is for all of you who have no access. This is for all those who are marginalized," Sibal said at the launch as eager applause followed. "Our goal was to break the price barrier for computing and internet access," he said. "The Aakash is proudly made in India, and is destined to revolutionize computing and internet access for the world."

   No doubt, India has beaten the world in creating the world's cheapest tablet. No doubt, Aakash has the potential of being a game-changer as it can empower India's poor - just the way the PC did in the 1980s in the West.

   WE have also, often seen the demise of cheap laptops and tablets. Okay, let s not go into bitter nostalgia. But the potential of a gadget must not be confused with performance. The government has thrown open a lot of claims, and in this case, let's call it, possibilities to this Tech world, but that's not the end of it.

  With just a three hour battery life, recharging would become the order of the day; it would practically mean plugging the device into the charger all day. With just 1 GB of memory, most of the content would have to be cloud-based, and this would again add to the burden of Wi-fi costs. No thought has been given to this issue. Among the emerging economies, India has the worst per capita power consumption. There are thousands of schools without electricity. How will the students recharge their tablets," says an official in the ministry of science and technology. You just can't dump technology on rural communities and hope it will work.

  There has been a lot of hype around the launch of Aakash, leading to a lot of questions left out unanswered. In 2002, The government had the laughable "Sakshat" pendrives. There was another failed project called the 'Simputer.' My only hope is that Aakash doesn't land up in that Hall. With a little more thought to it, Aakash has a long way to go. For that, the government has to make it more than a deadly missile.

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