Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document

The Brains Behind Aakash, the Rs. 3000 (aka ) Tablet

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The Brains Behind Aakash, the Rs. 3000 (aka $35) Tablet

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Important Update - 8th Feb. 2012

A friend passed on the link below around the end of 2011. It certainly raises some questions about IIT Jodhpur's contribution to the Aakash project. But it may be a one-sided view.

Claimed back story behind the Aakash tablet stating that DataWind already had a design almost identical to Aakash specs. put out by Indian government:

My view is that the article seems quite believable. But IIT Jodhpur's supposed design effort is not mentioned at all (B.Tech. project report ...). Maybe the specs. of the tender came from the B.Tech. project report + IIT Jodhpur/Rajasthan Profs.

Here is a Jan 2012 report raising questions about Aakash project continuing. It also has an old (video) review which is quite a telling one. Worth seeing (less than 5 min. IFIRC).

An early Feb. 2012 report states that MHRD is keen on continuing Aakash. It is involving more IITs into the project and trying to indigenise its production as far as possible:

We will have to wait and see how it pans out. Maybe we need a year or two to see how things will pan out! That's a long time in this super-fast market. A game-changer product from some US/Korean/Taiwanese ... company could challenge the indigenised Aakash.

Last Updated on December 20th 2011

I find this article on Aakash,, fascinating.

Professor Prem Kumar Kalra, director, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Jodhpur, Rajasthan seems to be one of the key technical & vision moving forces behind Aakash. The B.Tech. thesis of his son, a student at IIT Jodhpur, apparently was the foundation of the Aakash project!!! I am stunned and extremely happy if even 50% of this is accurate. I mean, an Indian educational institute B.Tech. student's project thesis resulting in a tablet whose launch was noted worldwide - Wow!!! [Perhaps the son had some ideas & help from his father & his Profs - but still, a B.Tech. thesis!!]

I salute the technical-expertise-cum-entrepreneurial-efforts of IIT Jodhpur in having brought Aakash to this stage. I pray to God to give them the strength and inspiration to make Aakash a decent product. I mean, at a price point of Rs. 3000/- you cannot expect an iPad like device.

And they are doing field tests - the article has a review from a student-user.

This seems like the real stuff. Not just a news item which promises much and then dies away without a whimper. Maybe it really is going to be the Tata Nano of the tablet market!!

Prof. Kalra was in IIT Kanpur, Electrical Engineering department before becoming director of IIT Jodhpur. IIT Jodhpur got set up in 2008. He seems to have a focus on "revolutionizing education" and the Aakash project seems to be one expression of his efforts. This man seems to be a man with a mission. Here is a short talk by him at Indian Semiconductor Association (ISA) Vision Summit 2011, where he comes across as a very entrepreneurial  academic: Here is the summit website:

Here is iitj (Jodhpur) with Aakash launch pics holding center-stage (no surprise there):

Here is Prof. Kalra's home page:

I did not realize that iitj is so deeply involved in Aakash. The article talks about a 170 member team of IIT Profs. & students working on it. Another Prof. of iitj says that they are designing an indigenous motherboard which if it works out (in 12 to 15 months), hardware part of Aakash will also be fully Indian!!! Wow - I am truly impressed by the way they seem to be going about their stuff.

BTW I did not know that we had an IIT, Jodhpur, Rajasthan. What a way to announce a technical university to the world!!!


Eklavya Sai Maalik, October 18, 2011 at 4:13 PM

A friend mailed a critical review of Akaash:

My views on the article above:
I think it is a fair review. But it is aimed at well-off readers. If you are well-off it is far smarter to buy an iPad.

But for the cash-strapped people in the developing world I think the problems listed in the article are OK. It is like buying a cheap Chinese made phone instead of Nokia at half the price. And by saying cheap Chinese made phone by no means am I looking down on it - in fact, I salute the Chinese for manufacturing stuff so cheaply that besides Chinese, lots of cash-strapped Indians and other cash-strapped folks around the world are able to enjoy their products.

I had bought a JXD 951 Chinese made PMP for less than Rs. 5000/- 3 years ago. It certainly gave me decent value for money.

The article mentions the failure of the Simputer.
Simputer did not have DataWind. I think it is DataWind that will provide the crucial working-technology. But due to IITJ's work perhaps and more importantly due to the size of the order that MHRD is placing, DataWind seems to essentially be doing the technology transfer to India. Maybe DataWind will be for the cheap tablet like what Suzuki was for the then cheap car (Maruti).

Problem of battery life of 3 hours is not too bad for a school kid in village India. Not a really big problem. For the village school kid it will be a great boon to have a device like that at all.

Eklavya Sai Maalik, October 18, 2011 at 4:16 PM

A friend sent this: The Post-PC era will be a multi-platform era

Some quotes from the above article:

"Compared with Android which is activating half a million devices per day". Wow!!! That's an awesome number.

"App production is a cottage industry not something entrusted to only a few experts or those who can raise venture capital." So well put.

"The result is an explosion of apps: well over half a million new apps have been built in three years on three platforms that did not exist three years ago. " What a statistic!!! Mind-boggling to an old techie like me - I mean this is truly an explosion of apps.

Eklavya Sai Maalik, October 18, 2011 at 4:17 PM

A friend mentioned "almost native app-quality web apps". I found that to be a very interesting phrase. He shared some more on it below:

"Let me save you a few days' worth of time by saying: install and use the Terminology app on your iTouch. This app is built using a framework called Appcelerator Titanium, in HTML/CSS/JS and distributed as a native app. There are, of course, other frameworks, like PhoneGap (open-source). Most apps built using these frameworks are not native-quality, but one or two are, and that means it's technically possible to build native-quality web apps."

I plan to check out Terminology app. when I get the time.

Eklavya Sai Maalik, October 18, 2011 at 4:22 PM

Fascinating analysis of the business motive behind Android dated Jan. 2011 (sent by a friend):
Android Isn’t About Building a Mobile Platform

Eklavya Sai Maalik, October 26, 2011 at 9:23 PM

A friend sent a quite positive review of Aakash from Venturebeat:

Academic PhD Club & Bureaucratic POWER structure

My Viewpoints/Articles

CS & IT Academia: The PhD Glass Ceiling, October 2011

CS & IT Academia: A Bureaucratic POWER structure, October 2011

The very strange case of 20th century era Department(s) of Mathematics and Computer Science in Indian academia in today's early 21st century world, April 2014

Discussion/Informative Posts Involving Others' Articles/Views, Media reports and Some Comments from me

Mainstream Indian newspaper article on Delhi University's Academic Council - "Everyone is terrified ...", July 2014

Delhi University Four Year Degree Program Mess! Do Indian university administration mechanisms promote dictatorial tendencies? June 2014

Dictatorial Powers of VC in Indian Central Universities, December 2012

UGC scraps Research-linked appraisal for appointments!, April 2013

Supreme Court rules that AICTE can only advise but not impose sanctions on universities/colleges, May 2013

Saturday, October 8, 2011

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