From India - a $20 android 7" tablet promises to bring computing to the rest of the world, and end first world dominance in computing forever. So, buh bye Microsoft, buh bye Apple, google is about to kick your asses out of the 21st century.
How a $20 tablet from India could blindside PC makers, educate billions and transform computing as we know it
the Aakash 2 is no toy. Even jaded US gadget reviewers have found it as usable as tablets costing many times more. It has a processor as powerful as the first iPad and twice as much RAM memory. It uses Google’s Android operating system, which now runs on three out of four smartphones and four out of 10 tablets shipped worldwide. Its LCD touchscreen displays full-screen video without hiccups, it browses the web, and it even holds up when playing videogames. If you’re a student with no other computing device, attaching a keyboard to it transforms it into a serviceable replacement for a traditional PC.
But the Aakash 2 isn’t just about replacing textbooks: It’s about bringing the full-fledged Internet to users who have never touched it before. In India, competition for wireless connectivity is so cutthroat that it’s possible to get an unlimited prepaid mobile data plan for $2 a month. The basic Aakash 2 has wifi, but an upgraded model, available commercially for 3,500 rupees, or about $70, includes SIM cards and the radio required to communicate with a cellphone network. As costs fall the company will incorporate these features into the base model.
In India there is little 3G wireless connectivity, and data speeds are slow, using on an older technology, GPRS. Normally, browsing the web over GPRS would be nearly impossible. So Datawind developed a compression and acceleration technology that, it says, makes web pages load in three seconds instead of 15 to 20.
“[In the US,] you will see tablets everywhere,” says Wadhwa. “They will become disposable, and you will see thousands of new applications within a short period of time.”
Tuli thinks he can eventually bring the Aakash 2 to the US at a $50 retail price, and if trends continue, that price will continue to fall.
It doesn’t take much imagination to think of applications for devices that cheap. “If I were to start a company today, I’d say what kind of a business can I build if the hardware is almost disposable?” says Goldberg. “In a restaurant, if every waiter or maitre d’ has a tablet, now someone can go build a good restaurant automation tool that links tablets to the chef station.”
At some point, too, any company that can squeeze enough ads onto this class of tablets will start giving the tablet away for free. (Remember when USB thumb drives became inescapable promotional giveaways?) The commercial version of the Aakash 2, the $70 Ubislate, affords Datawind almost no profit margin at all. But, like Amazon and Google, which have adopted a business model of selling their hardware at cost and making money on content instead (Amazon by selling e-books, and Google by selling ads), Datawind is using Yahoo’s ad marketplace to sell advertisements on the toolbar of apps on the Ubislate.