DataWind was founded in Montreal in 2001 by brothers Suneet and Raja Tuli. Suneet and Raja Tuli grew up in Northern Alberta, Canada. Suneet Tuli is a civil engineer, who graduated from the University of Toronto. Raja is a computer engineer, who graduated from the University of Alberta. Suneet Tuli is DataWind's chief executive officer and is responsible for its vision, strategy, and execution. Raja Tuli is the company’s co-chairman and chief technology officer; he is also an inventor with dozens of patents across a broad range of technologies related to the internet, to imaging, and to energy sustenance.
DataWind’s product range includes PocketSurfer Smartphones and UbiSlate tablets. The company has a portfolio of 14 international patents for its web-delivery platform, which serves as the basis for its product innovations. The company manufactures, markets, and sells UbiSlate tablets to consumers worldwide and also provides a year of free internet browsing in various countries. In collaboration with the government of India, the company has also developed the Aakash tablet, which has gained worldwide attention for being the cheapest tablet.
With its research and development based in Montreal, the company launched its first products in 2004 and their products were sold primarily in the United Kingdom. In 2004, the company was described as a "small tech shop" marketing its key product, the PocketSurfer, a PDA/Mobile Phone/Web Browsing device. Several iterations of the PocketSurfer followed.
In 2009, the Indian government had pledged a low-cost laptop to improve the quality of education within the country; however, the development process was beset by delays until DataWind won the tender for the tablet in late 2011. In the same year, DataWind made its entry into the Indian market with the launch of the Aakash tablet, developed for the Indian government to enhance the quality of education. To enable ubiquitous, nationwide internet use, the Indian government announced at the October 2011 launch of the Aakash tablet that it will be offered to students at a subsidized price of $35 and to the public (as the Ubislate 7) for $60. At the subsidized price, the tablet would cost the same as a pair of shoes or a basic mobile phone. Some analysts claim that the tablet will not only have a positive impact on the education sector but will also lead to positive changes in healthcare and other sectors besides improving internet penetration in the country. In his study, Rajat Kathuria, external consultant at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), stated that the Indian economy could grow 10.08% faster with every 10% increase in internet and broadband connections in the country.
The Ubislate tablets were commercially launched in April 2012, by which time bookings for the device had exceeded three-million units - more than ten times the size of the total market for tablets in India in the previous year. Since the commercial launch of the UbiSlate tablets, the company has been among the top three suppliers of tablets in India, according to Cybermedia Research. In the first quarter of 2013, Datawind dominated the Indian, tablet market with the largest market share of tablets sold in India, excluding the Aakash devices that were to be supplied to the government. Going forward, the company has plans to expose itself to tablet markets in the UK, the US, and Canada. DataWind is also working with governments, NGOs and distributors in Latin American and African countries, where its products are being deployed.
In 2012, Forbes magazine named the CEO of DataWind, Suneet Tuli, among the Impact 15 list of "classroom revolutionaries", who use innovative technologies to reinvent education for students and teachers throughout the world.
On 26 April 2012, DataWind launched Ubislate 7+ and 7C tablets in India, by which time three- million units had already been booked.
In 2013, according to Cyber Media Research, India‘s quarterly market report, during the first quarter of 2013, as published in The Times of India, DataWind had a market share of 15.3%; the company pulled ahead of rivals Micromax and Apple, although this strong market did not include the Aakash series of tablets
In July 2014, the company completed its initial public offering of 6,316,000 common shares at $4.75 CAD per share, totaling $30 million CAD. DataWind's shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol, "DW".
DataWind’s low-cost devices allow access to the internet at lower, data costs and faster speeds across congested mobile wireless networks by using the company’s patented Data Compression technology. In a 2011 interview, the company stated that it would lower the price of the tablet by developing patents to shift the device's processing burden to "backend servers in the cloud," DataWind identified the need for low-cost devices for web access as a means to provide an alternative to increasing costs of mobile internet devices caused by the corresponding increases in web complexity, which require greater memory and processing power. DataWind’s web-delivery platform reduces bandwidth consumption by creating a parallel processing environment, which shifts the burden of memory and processing power to back-end servers, thus allowing users to access the web with a lower-cost device and lower data costs.
DataWind's web-delivery platform serves as the basis for its product innovations. Based on a patent portfolio of 14 US and international patents, DataWind’s technology accelerates the delivery of web-content across wireless networks, and reduces data consumption by a factor of ten.
DataWind’s acceleration and data-reduction is accomplished through the use of proprietary algorithms on its application servers, which constitute a gateway between the primary (Internet-based) content server, selected by the user, and the end user.
DataWind claims that its patented, acceleration technology allows its devices to deliver the fastest, mobile-web experience across cellular networks. A product review by PC Magazine of the Pocket Surfer stated that "it’s the only device that allows users to browse the web on a GPRS connection with any alacrity." In 2005, CNET stated that it was impressed with Pocket Surfer’s page-load times. Various media outlets conducted live, speed tests on television with competitive products, including some on 3G networks, which resulted in DataWind’s Pocket Surfer beating its competition in terms of page download time.
DataWind’s business model focuses on providing to entry-level users a cost-effective, web-access device with free Internet access. The company, as a mobile, virtual-network operator (MVNO), purchases wholesale access to mobile data from wireless-network operators or as part of a bundling relationship in order to offer free, mobile-internet access to its customers. DataWind’s web-delivery platform reduces bandwidth consumption.
In November 2012, in an interview with the New York Times, DataWind‘s CEO explained that the company‘s business model was focused on pursuing price-sensitive, entry-level consumers, on forgoing hardware margins, and on driving a recurring revenue stream (i.e. after sales revenue from network operators, content, subscriptions, device warranties, page impressions, location-based content and advertising). DataWind's advertising revenues are generated by loading applications on its devices. The company has formulated a full-service ecosystem of revenue streams that drive down the cost of hardware; hence, the devices act as customer- acquisition tools that provide “free mobile-internet services”. Datawind has partnered with numerous firms as part of a comprehensive supplier-and-partner strategy to build applications and generate content for its devices.
DataWind has partnerships with multiple firms to develop installed, free content for its devices. The content includes educational, language-based, interactive smart books, multimedia, games, and productivity tools.
On 20 November 2013, according to an article published in The Financial Express, "DataWind, driving its mission to see smart devices as education tools, partnered with American education provider CK-12 Foundation providing high quality free mathematics and science learning content that can be used by teachers, students, schools and parents." CK-12 content would be installed on most of the company’s devices; the company stated that installed content on tablets will allow students to learn at their own pace, regardless of their locations; also, this content may be updated at regular intervals.
DataWind announced content partnerships with The Indian Express Group and Yahoo!. According to this agreement the Ubislate 7+ and the Ubislate 7C will come with the Indian Express news application, and customers of these new tablets will receive a 50% discount on annual subscriptions of The Indian Express and The Financial Express. The tablets will also come with Yahoo! Cricket, the Yahoo! Mail application. Yahoo! India will be the default-browser homepage for the Ubislate 7+.
DataWind has also partnered with Blueworld portal to encourage a socially conscious approach to the internet. Blueworld is a social community, which allows anyone to create a profile and to connect with friends, to meet people, to upload an unlimited number of photos, to share videos, to write blogs, to support peers through groups, and to send text messages.
On December 3, 2013, DataWind partnered with IT firm Happiest Minds Technologies to develop applications and solutions for its UbiSlate range of tablets. Under the partnership, Happiest Minds will develop DataWind's app store, which will be designed to create a synergistic customer experience for first-time Android users.
In July 2009, DataWind collaborated with Vodafone to offer a bundled SIM and GPRS modem within the price of its Pocket Surfer devices, thus allowing free access to the Internet across the United Kingdom.
In December 2013, BSNL, one of India’s largest network operators, entered a partnership with DataWind to offer its services on the company’s tablets.
In March 2015, DataWind partnered with Reliance Communications to offer bundled, unlimited, internet browsing for one year with any of its devices.
In September 2015, DataWind entered a partnership with Telenor India, a global, mobile- network operator with major Indian operations, to offer unlimited internet browsing for one year on all DataWind devices.
DataWind has partnered with a number of governments and non-governmental organizations(NGOs). Subsequent to the initial launch of the Aakash tablet for higher-learning institutions, Kapil Sibal, the Indian minister of human resources and development, announced that Aakash tablets will be provided free to all 220 million students in India over the next few years.
During the 2011 elections in Thailand, the Pheu Thai Party promised free tablets for all students, with numerous placards promising “One Tablet PC per Child”. Analysts estimated that approximately 20 million units would be required. A senior figure said that the Pheu Thai party would fulfill its promise by importing the $35 Android tablets from India.
DataWind has sponsored a number of contests. On 29 November 2011, the Nasscom Foundation partnered with DataWind to announce a contest wherein 10 NGOs will have an opportunity to win 20 tablets each, mainly to improve their operations and program-implementation procedures. To win these tablets, the organizations had to showcase how they can best use the Aakash tablet for promoting education, health, and livelihood.
On 11 January 2013, Datawind and the United Nations, in partnership with Agnite Education, American Digital University, Applications for Good, BluWorld, Cat in Woods, and Equal Access International, launched a contest for developing socially responsible applications to empower women. The contest measured apps from the perspective of leadership and mentorship, jobs and entrepreneurship, and education and conflict resolution. The winners of the contest were the My Rights application, the Pictoson application, and the Talking English application.
To develop a new generation of software programmers who would focus on applications for humanitarian causes, DataWind regularly sponsors "hackathons". In 2012 and 2013, DataWind sponsored two "hackathons" with Geeks Without Bounds, an accelerator for humanitarian projects.
DataWind partners with and supports a number of charitable and non-government organizations to deploy its technology for humanitarian causes.
On 23 October 2013, in an article published in The Washington Post, Chris Evans, a renowned philanthropist, donated 100 Aakash tablets to Raleigh schools in Wake County, North Carolina for its “Smart Summer” program—-a summer camp that prepares disadvantaged African-American children for school. Ubislate tablets that contain science and mathematics applications proved to be effective learning tools.
DataWind also partnered with Virginia Advanced Study Strategies (VASS), a non-profit organization, to launch a contest in which six school districts enrolled 85 students in either of two coding courses to compete for a DataWind tablet by completing either course and developing an application.
In November 2013, Datawind and World Vision Canada collaborated to supply $40 tablets in African countries. As part of their on-going field testing at the community level, World Vision used the Ubislate tablets in Niger and Rwanda to collect data at the project level to monitor change and to measure the impact and the effectiveness of their development in the areas of health, education to families, and aid to children in need.
In January 2014, DataWind was named in MIT Technology Review's 50 Smartest Companies List Recognizing the World's Most Innovative Companies.
At the 2014 CES, the company was also featured in "Dave's Top Ten" and "Into Tomorrow with Dave Graveline".
In November 2012, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon launched the Aakash 2 tablet at the United Nations. The United Nations secretary general referred to DataWind’s products as the “great enabler with potential to transform people’s lives”.
In 2012, Forbes magazine named CEO Suneet Tuli among the Impact 15 list of "classroom revolutionaries" who are using innovative technologies to reinvent education for students and teachers throughout the world.
DataWind was also acknowledged with several other awards:2015 Most Innovative Solution for Achievement of Digital India award during the 9th annual NTA ICT World Communications Awards.
2013 Most Innovative Access Device Award at the NTA ICT World Communication Awards bestowed by Mr. Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General, International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
ShikshaRatna Award by Digital Learning State Education Summit 2013 for the Aakash 2.
2012 United Kingdom's Most Innovative Mobile Company Award run by the UK Trade & Investment Department (UKTI)
2011 CNBC TV 18 and Mercedez Benz Young Turks Innovation of the Year Award.
Finalist at the Mobile World Congress for Innovation in Education and at the CTIA Wireless Show for the Big Idea Award.
28th Annual Innovation Awards Gala, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance announced DataWind as the winner of the 2013 McCagueBorlack Outstanding Product Achievement Award.
Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Achievement Award.
The Pocket Surfer is DataWind's handheld, mobile-network-access device. The first version of the Pocket Surfer was launched in 2004.
The device featured a QWERTY keyboard and a 5.3 inch (diagonal) screen. Reviews for the Pocket Surfer had been mixed as PC Magazine’s review of the product exclaimed that "it’s the only device that lets you browse the web on a GPRS connection with any alacrity" and CNET in 2005 stated that it was impressed with Pocket Surfer’s page-load times.
In February 2007, at the 3GSM forum in Barcelona, Datawind introduced the improved “Pocket Surfer 2”. It was described as the world’s fastest handheld Internet device. The sleek mobile device offered free mobile-internet access and provided a desktop-like experience with a 640-pixel-wide, color screen that displayed webpages with HTML, graphics, Java-Script, Ajax, Frames, and other complex, web functionality. The Pocket Surfer 2 includes a built-in GPS receiver for location-based services with page-load times of less than seven seconds. Engadget referred to the original Pocket Surfer devices as “Iconic”
In December 2013, on the tenth anniversary of the launch of the original Pocket Surfer, the company entered the smart-phone market with the launch of the Pocket Surfer range of smartphones in India. Featuring 5” inch touchscreens, these dual-sim smartphones were available at an extremely low, price point. In reaction to the launch of the smartphone in India, The Economic Times exclaimed “Aakash maker DataWind enters smartphone market, breaks all price points!”
In March 2015, the company launched its range of low-cost smartphones, the Pocket Surfer 2G4 and the Pocket Surfer 3G4 with one year of free internet browsing on its proprietary UbiSurfer browser.
DataWind has partnered with Reliance Communication, one of the largest Telecom operators in the India to offer one year of free internet browsing along with its devices.
PocketSurfer Smartphone Range
The UbiSurfer is DataWind's range of netbooks. In April 2010, Datawind launched UbiSurfer netbooks in India. The UbiSurfer name is an amalgamated form of the two words, ubiquitous and surfing. The netbook offers mobile web browsing with an integrated modem and a SIM-card slot. The UbiSurfer supports both CDMA (1x) and GSM networks. The device offers WiFi and LAN connectivity, an in-built cellular modem, and an embedded SIM card that allows access to the internet with a mobile-phone signal. The UbiSurfer is also equipped with an ARM processor that runs at 450 MHz with 128MB RAM, 1GB Flash memory, and up to 50GB of online storage. The UbiSurfer has a seven-inch, bright TFT screen that supports a 800x480 pixel resolution. The device is also equipped with the UbiSurfer browser, which allows webpage delivery times of under seven seconds.
The UbiSurfer 9 was made available in India at a price of Rs. 7999, which also included a one-year free Internet browsing plan. On 7 April 2011, Datawind unveiled its new version of the mobile internet device, the UbiSurfer 9 3G, in London, England. This netbook offered users free Internet access in the UK and low cost roaming in Europe and USA. It sported a sleek nine-inch screen and weighed in at 700g, its free-usage model eliminated the user from any form of binding contracts, activation fees or credit checks.
In 2009, the National Mission on Education through Information Communication Technology (NME-ICT) initiative of the Indian Government cited that a lot could be done for education using information and communication technologies. An initiative by India’s Ministry for Human Resource Development (MHRD) was launched to procure a low cost mobile web access device with built in features ensuring that technologies and content were accessible to everyone. In late 2011, Datawind won the Indian government tender to design the Aakash tablet computers with an initial trial run of 100,000 units. Upon its launch, The Wall Street Journal stated that the Aakash was the World's cheapest tablet.
On 5 October 2011, the Aakash was launched by Kapil Sibal, the then Minister of Human Resource and Development. Datawind designed, developed and manufactured this first version of Aakash on the specifications set by IIT Rajasthan. It’s extremely low price garnered global attention and the tablet is known as the world’s cheapest tablet device.
On 11 November 2012, President of India, Pranab Mukherjee launched the Aakash 2,an improved version of the Aakash tablet. This updated new version had a better processor based on the ARM Cortex A8 architecture and had a multi-touch projective capacitive screen in place of a resistive one. The Aakash 2 (Ubislate 7Ci) was considered the World's most cost effective web access device, it utilized a 1 GHz processor, of the same caliber as the original iPad, and contained 512 MB of RAM (twice that of the original iPad). The tablet supported a flash memory of 4 GB that can be supplemented by up to 32GB with the use of a micro-SD card. In addition it was loaded with Wi-Fi supported connectivity and also an external 3G and an EVDO dongle for mobile broadband data. Other features included Google's Android 4.0 operating system, a VGA camera, G-sensors, an internal microphone, speakers and a headphone jack. The Aakash 2 is considered as a full-featured tablet computer.
On 12th Nov 2013, The Indian Express was quoted as saying that the “Aakash 3 was better than its predecessor. The difference with previous versions was the addition of calling functionality and a more powerful battery that provided longer backup. Proposed Akash 4 (Ubislate 7CZ) the tablet with proposed technical specifications set by India’s Department of Electronics and technology-Ministry of Information and technology-Government of India.
The UbiSlates are a series of Android tablets with touch screens that are also capable of performing as smart-phones and are built for mobile web access, multimedia content , android games and applications. The UbiSlate tablet has an High-Definition video co-processor for high quality video and comes equipped with DataWind's UbiSurfer browser that accelerates web page delivery. The device includes WiFi & GPRS connectivity as well as allows for mobile internet access through SIM and Phone connectivity. Optional 3G modems are also supported via USB. In addition to a micro-SD card slot, a full-sized USB port is integrated into the unit allowing pen-drives, external keyboards, web-cams, dongles and other inexpensive accessories can also be attached.
On 26th April,2012 DataWind launched Ubislate 7+ and 7C tablets in India, in the same month the company declared that it had 3 million pre-bookings for Ubislate tablets. The commercial version of Aakash was released online as the UbiSlate7 tablet PC at INR 3000 (US$46) and the Ubislate7+ tablet PC at INR 3500 (US$54) on 11 November 2012 with plans to offer it at a subsidized cost for students of INR 1130 (US$17). In October 2013, DataWind launched UbiSlate 7Cx, UbiSlate 3G7 and UbiSlate 9Ci tablets in India.
In December 2013, DataWind officially launched three products from its range of UbiSlate Tablets in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Ubislate Tablet Range