The device was initially called the Sakshat tablet, later changed to Aakash , which is derived from the Sanskrit word Akasha (Devanagari आकाश) with several related meanings, aether, empty space, and outer space. The word in Hindi means "sky".
The aspiration to create a "Made in India" computer was first reflected in a prototype "Simputer" that was produced in small numbers. Bangalore based CPSU, Bharat Electronics Ltd manufactured around 5,000 Simputers for Indian customers from 2002–07. In 2011, Kapil Sibal announced an anticipated low-cost computing device to compete with the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative, though intended for urban college students rather than the OLPC's rural, underprivileged students.
A year later, the MHRD announced that the low-cost computer would be launched in six weeks. Nine weeks later, the MHRD showcased a tablet named "Aakash", not nearly what had been projected and at US$60 rather than the projected $35. "NDTV" reported that the new low-cost tablet was considerably less able than the previously shown prototype and was going to cost about twice as much.
While it was once projected as a laptop computer, the design has evolved into a tablet computer. At the inauguration of the national Mission on Education Programme organised by the Union HRD Ministry in 2009, joint secretary N. K. Sinha had said that the computing device is 10 inches (which is around 25.5 cm) long and 5 inches (12.5 cm) wide and priced at around $30.
India's Minister of Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, unveiled a prototype on 22 July 2010, which was later given out to 500 college students to collect feedback. The price of the device exhibited was projected at $35, eventually to drop to $20 and ultimately to $10. After the device was unveiled, OLPC chairman Nicholas Negroponte offered full access to OLPC technology at no cost to the Indian team.
The tablet was shown on the television program "Gadget Guru" aired on NDTV in August 2010, when it was shown to have 256 MB RAM and 2 GB of internal flash-memory storage and demonstrated running the Android operating system featuring video playback, internal Wi-Fi and cellular data via an external 3G modem.
The device was developed as part of the country's aim to link 25,000 colleges and 400 universities in an e-learning program. Originally projected as a "$35 laptop", the device was planned to be sold to the Government of India and distributed to university students – initially at US$50 until further orders are received and projected eventually to achieve the target $35 price.
A commercial version was eventually released online as the UbiSlate7 tablet PC at ₹3,000 (US$45) and the Ubislate7+ tablet PC at ₹3,500 (US$52) on 11 November 2012 with plans to offer it at a subsidised cost for students of ₹1,130 (US$17). As of February 2012, DataWind had over 1,400,000 pre-orders, but had only shipped 10,000 units – 0.7% of orders. As of November 2012, many customers who put in orders still had not received their computers and were offered refunds.
As released on 5 October 2011, the Aakash features an overall size of 190.5 x 118.5 x 15.7 mm with a 180 millimetres (7.1 in) resistive touchscreen, a weight of 350 grams (12 oz) and using the Android 2.2 operating system with access to the proprietary marketplace Getjar (not the Android Market), developed by DataWind.
The processor runs at 366 MHz; there is a graphics accelerator and HD video coprocessor. The tablet has 256 MB RAM, a micro SD slot with a 2 GB Micro SD card (expandable to 32 GB), two USB ports, a 3.5 mm audio output and input jack, a 2100 mAh battery, Wi-Fi capability, a browser developed by DataWind, and an internal cellular and Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) modem. Power consumption is 2 watts, and there is a solar charging option.
The Aakash is designed to support various document (DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX, ODT, ODP,PDF), image (PNG, JPG, BMP and GIF), audio (MP3, AAC, AC3, WAV, WMA) and video (MPEG2, MPEG4, AVI, FLV) file formats and includes an application for access to YouTube video content.
Storage: Some of the above tablets will have a micro-SD slot, and a 2 GB micro-SD flash memory card, upgradable to 32 GB, to store user data and programs not run from ROM. In Android 2.3 some applications' data can be moved from the ROM to the memory card.
Memory: ROM size has apparently not been stated by Datawind, but is estimated to be either 256 MB or 2 GB. Both tablets have graphics processing cards, but the graphics memory size and GPU speed have not been stated .
Google Android Market: Aakash has no SIM card and insufficient processing power to use Google's Android Market, and will instead use the GetJar Marketplace. Aakash 2 will have access to Google's Android Market confirmed by Google.
Network: Aakash supports wireless local area network (wireless LAN or Wi-Fi). It does not support any cellular networks. In addition to Wi-Fi, UbiSlate-7+ has GPRS Internet connection, a second generation Internet connection. External 3G USB modems are not supported.
Preloaded applications:(Internet) Browser
Quick pic (?)
One-Learn (CBSE CLASS 8-12 )
Note: UbiSlate 7 Series Tablets are not pre-loaded with any File Explorer or Android Store.
DataWind announced that their browser will use data compression technology to speed up data transmission. While pre-compressed data such as ZIP files, JPEG images, MP3 audio, MPEG video will not show significantly improved transmission speeds, uncompressed data will be transmitted in as little as one sixth the time, depending upon how efficiently it can be compressed. If and when successfully combined with Server-side web compression, 1G Analog Internet service might actually be able to compete with 2G or 3G digital internet service. Datawind claims that their browser can give up to 30 times faster speeds.Mobile Internet Device (Tablet)
AC Adapter (Charger)
Quick Start Guide
Kapil Sibal has stated that a million devices would be made available to students in 2011. The devices will be manufactured at a cost of ₹1500 (€23 Euro) each, half of which will be paid by the government and half by the institutions that would use it. In January 2011, the company initially chosen to build the Sakshat, HCL Infosystems, failed to provide evidence that they had at least ₹600 million ($12.2 million) in bank guaranteed funds, as required by the Indian government, which has allocated $6.5 million to the project. As a result, the government put the project out for bidding again.
In June 2011,the HRD announced that it received a few samples from the production process which are under testing. Also it mentions that each state in India provided 3000 samples for testing on their functionality, utility and durability in field conditions. The Government of India announced that 10,000 (Sakshat) tablet will be delivered to schools and colleges by late June and over the next four months 90,000 more would be made available at a price of ₹2500 device. The government will subsidise the cost by about 50%, so a student would have to pay less than ₹1,500 for the device. Indian Ministry of Education is releasing educational videos in conjunction with IGNOU and at sakshat.ac.in. This preparation of content is meant for students with access to the Internet, India's first law-biding Online Video Library.
DataWind, the maker of Aakash, has announced a contest for students wherein their best applications will be embedded in the Ubislate(Aakash Tablet). Top 5 application winners will be awarded Rs 100,000 each. Nasscom Foundation has partnered with DataWind and announced a contest wherein 10 NGOs will have an opportunity to win 20 tablets each, mainly to improve their operations and programme implementation.
IIT-Rajasthan's specifications were 1.2 GHz CPU and 700 MB RAM. It wanted the tablet to work after steep falls and in Monsoon season, making the cost over Rs 5000. So responsibility of drafting specifications will be shifted to IIT Mumbai, IIT Madras and IIT Kanpur while PSUs are being considered for procurement of the Aakash Tablet. Aakash 2 could have the 1 GB RAM, Capacitive TouchScreen Panel and a front-facing camera of VGA Quality (0.3 MP), capable of capturing video, that was announced earlier by Kapil Sibal. This version of tablet may be announced only after October 2012, because of low funds in procuring the raw material for assembling and also setting up of assembling plant at Noida and Coimbatore. The Govt. officials say that the tablet may not be realised due to the pressure from various institutes and meagre support from the Indian Government in regard to the funds regarding the process of the tablet procurement and assembly of the same.
35% of hardware components were sourced from South Korea, 25% from China, 16% from the USA, 16% from India and 8% from other countries.
Problems such as low memory, frequent system freezes, poor sound quality, absence of support for all formats and inability to install free software available online were also cited by users. Technical commentator Prasanto Roy criticised issues such as a low battery life, an insufficient 7" screen and absence of training and support infrastructure, especially in rural areas. UbiSlate 7+ will be released by 2012. The producer has finalised the improvements of Aakash.
After receiving feedback of the early release model from over 500 users from educational institutions, DataWind announced the next iteration that will have a new microprocessor of 700 MHz versus the original 366 MHz processor. This will improve the speed of the tablet and solve the existing problems of quick overheating, frequent system freeze, poor sound quality, absence of support for all formats and the inability to install free online software. The amount of memory, storage, and USB ports will remain the same.
On 16 December 2011, DataWind opened Aakash ordering online in their official website at ₹2500 with one week delivery time and cash on delivery facility and its upgraded version Ubislate 7+ is available for pre-order at ₹2999. On 19 December 2011, DataWind reported that the first phase of Aakash tablet had been sold out completely, just three days since it was opened for Online order. UbiSlate 7+ production capacity of January, February and March has already been sold. Now, April production is open for pre-Booking. By 3 January 2012 1.4 million orders had been received since the UbiSlate 7+ was put up for sale online. By the end of January 2012 pre-orders for UbiSlate 7+ have crossed two million. By 13 April 2012, Datawind severed connection with its supplier Quad, further delaying the assembly of UbiSlate 7+. While Quad claims DataWind hasn’t paid it, the Canadian company alleges that its former partner infringed its intellectual property rights by trying to sell directly to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Rajasthan.
In the November 2012 issue of PCQuest, some letters described Datawind to be a fraud company and the users want to sue the company in consumer court.
On 26 April 2012 Datawind launched UbiSlate 7+ and Ubislate 7C tablet in physical stores at Delhi. Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has announced the plan to launch LTE(4G) Tablet between ₹3500–5000, with low cost Internet service. This tablet will be an upgraded version of Aakash developed by DataWind. Indian Govt. HRD has revealed that Aakash 2 will be announced in May 2012. Hindustan Computers Limited (HCL), Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), DataWind, Wishtel, and Telmoco Development Labs are Interested in bidding at the Aakash 2 contract auction.
The low cost Akash tablet is under trials in IIT Bombay and is being tested against the new specifications.
Indian government hopes also to produce Aakash for export market. On a visit to Turkmenistan in September 2012, the Indian telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, suggested forming a joint venture company which may manufacture Aakash. In this joint venture, the Indian side would design the necessary hardware and software of the tablet fulfilling the Turkmen side needs. Besides supplying the low-cost tablets, the joint venture company could market the product to other international markets.
According to allegations made in the Hindustan Times, the Tuli brothers "may have" procured these devices off-the-shelf from manufacturers in China and sold them to the Indian government at the purchase price. Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of DataWind however insisted that only the manufacture of the motherboards were subcontracted to Chinese manufacturers, following which the components were placed in DIY kits which DataWind assembled and sold to the Indian government HRD. Chinese manufacturers allege that they sold "ready-to-use" tablets to Datawind, and that they manufactured the touch screens as well. Tuli, however, insists that the touch screens were manufactured by DataWind in Canada.
Other low cost tablets compete against Datawind's UbiSlate 7 series tablets.