The Datawind Aakash tablet made headlines when it promised to deliver a full-featured Android device for just under $50 a couple of years back, and now the company and the device have shared some new info regarding their progress at Wired’s 2013 London event. Datawind CEO Suneet Tuli revealed that so far, the company has shipped around 1 million low-cost tablets, with plans in the pipeline that could see them increase that number exponentially both in India and in other developing markets around the world.
Part of those plans include introducing its low-cost hardware in the west for the first time, via retail sales to kick off in the UK by the end of the year. Four different models of the Aakash (called the UbiSlate now per official trade dress) will be available to UK buyers, starting at £29.99 for the UbiSlate 7Ci (Aakash2), and ranging up to £99.99 for the UbiSlate 3G7. Tuli told me via email that the company’s upcoming Aakash4, which has a processor and RAM that actually exceeds the current iPad’s on paper (with a 1.5GHz dual-core A9 processor, and 1GB of RAM), will be available as well, and will be branded as the UbiSlate 7CZ.
The Aakash4 represents a major technological leap forward for the Aakash, made possible by continued downward pressure on the pricing of components used in smartphone and tablets, and by Datawind’s ownership of its own LCD panel and touch screen production, when its original supplier unfortunately had to close up shop. Tuli said that, in fact, they found that the margins on manufacturing touchscreens were much better than those on their device business, but rather than switch which business they were in, they used that price advantage to drive down the overall cost of their products.
That’s been to their lasting advantage, and after some initial hiccups (including shipping delays and potential government disinterest in the product, which Tuli previously addressed), the company seems to be on track to starting to make good on its vision of a world where even some of the poorest people in the world can get online with a smart, connected device. Datawind has also been criticized by some for focusing too much on Aakash hardware, but Tuli says the company is more focused on delivering Internet to those that lack it. Accordingly, they’re working on deals that should allow them to ship Aakash tablets with free basic browsing connections by year’s end, which solves the other half of the equation between devices and service for getting those typically unplugged online.