The fate of the country’s most ambitious hardware project, Aakash, will be decided on Monday when the makers of the low-cost computing device -Datawind- meet the ministry of human resource development and IIT-Rajasthan.
Contractual issues on the supply of one lakh units- upgraded or basic models- till March 31 is the cause of this crucial meet between the stakeholders.
Even as analysts call the project a non-starter owing to the “dismal performance” of the pilot tablets distributed among students, Datawind maintains that it put a sold-out sign on the basic Aakash tablet a month back and indicated to the market that the version is at the end of its life, and the next generation will be with upgraded features.
London-based Datawind’s CEO Suneet Singh Tuli explained that this was not a new stand taken by the company as this product enhancement was announced during the October launch. “There is no indication that the project will be shelved,” he said. Sources say that Datawind had committed to supply 30,000 tablets as per the old specifications and 70,000 as per the new specifications formalised after the trial run. “Datawind has now communicated to us its inability to deliver these as per the March 31 deadline,” a ministry official revealed. However, he hastened to add that the glitches now being faced were “routine contractual issues which can occur in any tie-up”
Aakash was developed as part of the ministry’s aim to link 25,000 colleges and 400 universities in an e-learning programme. Originally projected as a “$35 laptop”, the device will be sold to the government at $50 and will be distributed at a government-subsidised price of $35. A commercial version of Aakash is currently marketed as UbiSlate 7+ at a price of $60.