Feature, International, Required, Technology - Written by Elbert Chu on Thursday, October 6, 2011 14:20 - 0 Comments
Six Reasons Why Steve Jobs Would Have Hated the $35 Student Tablet Computer
Indian students will soon get the long awaited $35 touch screen tablet computers and we don’t think Steve Jobs would have approved at all. Here’s six reasons why.
The 7-inch Ubislate, or Aakash tablet (“sky” in Hindi) launched yesterday, the same day the world lost technology wizard, Steve Jobs. Jobs was a genius, no doubt. The very reasons that made him a genius would also have meant he’d hate the Aakash.
1. Tablet is barebones, read: slow
Tree Hugger dug up this great quote and interview of Steve Jobs:
“I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. Humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list….That didn’t look so good, but then someone at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle and a man on a bicycle blew the condor away. That’s what a computer is to me: the computer is the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.
Jobs as a bicycle builder is a romantic notion, but let’s face facts: Jobs did not build bicycles, he built Ferarri’s. And in the world of education, most students don’t, and may never, get to drive a Ferarri— they get PCs. In this case, the tablet is Android.
At 366MHz, the Aakash tablet crawls compared to a 1GHz iPad, and the battery life is 3 hours compared to 9 hours. But the Aakash is not meant to compete with iPads, it is meant to give access to digital technology for the other 90 percent of the world. With that in mind, the new tablet fits in the good enough void for classrooms.
2. No Android Marketplace
Another fact of the new tablet would irk Jobs to no end. The Aakash does not connect to the Android marketplace. This would be the point in the product development where Jobs would brusquely take the prototype and throw it out the window. For all of his brilliant product design, Jobs also understood the power of platform and business. The students will have some pre-installed apps, but internet access is very limited in India.
3. 100,000 FREE
They’re giving out 100,000 tablets for free. Jobs was a consummate showman. Walt Mossberg writes that his friend Jobs, even in semi-private meetings, would insist on physically pulling off a cloth. Most of the Apple releases of new products had a sense of scarcity. Giving things away for free would instantly undermine the value of the brand.
4. Goal: Affordability for the low-end (aka students in India), not the top (aka middle class america).
Recommending educational iPad apps sometimes feels undemocratic. That is to say: Thanks, Apple, for the cool platform. But not many classrooms, let alone teachers, can afford iPads. Jobs was not about affordability and access. He was a visionary whose goal was creating the best without compromise, and the result was magical. But students in India, not to mention most of America, can’t afford magic, they just need access.
Jobs was known for his visionary pursuit of perfection and user experience that created the cult of Apple. Under his leadership, the Apple brand was never about affordability. Everyone who buys Apple products knows the extra cash they pay to be part of the club.
On the affordability scale, even the cheapest netbooks run around $200, which is right around the price point for One Laptop Per Child’s laptop.
The arrival of a $35 tablet computer (subsidized by the government, $60 for consumers) suddenly and starkly shifts the economic accessibility equation— not just in India where the tablet is launched— but perhaps globally. The Financial Times reports:
The cut-price laptop will further sideline the non-profit One Laptop Per Child project, set up by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte, which has been aiming to bring $100 laptops to children in poor countries. The OLPC foundation failed to reach the $100 price tag, with machines selling for just over $200. They have seen orders from governments in Latin America and Africa, with around 2m machines distributed. However, they had not had a good response from the Indian authorities.
5. Built in India, not China
Part of the contract for the UK-based Datawinds to produce the Aakash for the Indian students was an agreement to manufacture the tablets in India. Apple iToys are manufactured in China, where labor is cheaper. Presumably, this arrangement helps Indian tech companies learn from the manufacturing process.
6. Collaboration with Ministry of Education
The development of the Aakash was done in tandem between Datawind and the Indian government’s Telecom and Education department. We can not imagine a scenario that Jobs would find it palatable to sit down with Arne Duncan so the U.S. government could have input to create an education-specific anything.
India’s education minister, Kapil Sibal, aptly summed up the launch of the new tablet:
The rich have access to the digital world; the poor and ordinary have been excluded. Aakash will end that digital divide.
Andrew Hill at the Financial Times concluded his column with a description of company goals (parens mine):
…three types: those that charge customers more, those that charge customers less, and those that charge customers (students) what they can afford.
- $35 tablet computer? Yes, from India. (csmonitor.com)
- India unveils $35 tablet computer (bbc.co.uk)
- $38 Aakash Android tablet launches in India (venturebeat.com)
- India Ink: Meet Aakash, India’s $35 ‘Laptop’ (india.blogs.nytimes.com)
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