There’s always talk about products aimed at developing markets, and India
, the country with the second-largest population in the world, is most definitely one of those markets. Though there are lots of companies with an eye on India’s enormous potential customer base, Datawind
is a company that has found ways to deliver extremely low-cost technology there already.
Datawind’s latest low-cost device is the UbiSlate
7 tablet, a 7-inch device with modest specs that the company believes it can offer in 12 months’ time at the astounding price of $25. What’s more, the tablet could be accompanied by a data plan that costs as little as $2 per month. (That’s on a 2G or 2.5G network, but still.)
Datawind’s CEO Suneet Tuli painted Quartz a compelling picture of computing, Internet access, and the people that do and don’t have it by noting that there are 7 billion people in the world and 6 billion cell phone subscriptions (owned by just 5 billion people), but only 2 billion people worldwide have Internet access. So what’s up with those 3 billion folks who apparently have a cell phone subscription but no Internet access?
Tuli believes that it’s simply a matter of hardware costs:
Are they lacking electricity? Of course not–if you’ve got a cell phone, you’ve got some way of charging it. Are they lacking networks? No. If you’ve got a cell phone, you’ve got some way of being connected to it. So what is really left? What is left is affordability. A computer costs three or four hundred bucks, and a cell phone costs thirty or forty bucks. But what happens if a basic computing device that’s reasonably usable gets down to that price point?
Enter Datawind and it’s UbiSlate 7 (also known as the “Aakash
" tablet). Not to put our heads too far into the clouds, but the prospect of adding another 3 billion users to the Internet because a company found a way to make a device that costs next to nothing would be an accomplishment that should go down in history as one of the great feats of globalization.
Tuli (right) delivering one of Datawind's new tablets to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (left)
How does Datawind do it? One way is to include ads everywhere, including in just about all the apps that users will be able to download. Another, more interesting method is to “unconstrain” the tablet supply, which Datawind is doing by building its own fabs for making LCD screens; Datawind has apparently worked down the cost of its screens from $8 to $2.50. Further, Tuli stated that there are dozens of manufacturers in China that are doing the same thing.
In any case, if the UbiSlate 7 (in its various permutations) is any good at all and Datawind comes anywhere close to that $25 per tablet mark, it will be great news for developing markets like India.