Creator of the worlds 'cheapest' tablet wins top tech award
A TECHNOLOGY company which claims to have developed the world's cheapest computer tablet has just been named "UK's Most Innovative Mobile Company".
London based DataWind, run by Suneet Singh Tuli the companies CEO, yesterday won the Smart UK Project award for the UK’s Most Innovative Mobile Company, beating off stiff competition from the other three finalists blippar, P2i and QRpedia.
The winner of the competition was announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
At a cost of as little as £22 ($35) apiece, Datawind created the Ubislate tablet, a7in (17.8cm) Android tablet, to help students in India with their work and make digital connectivity more affordable.
After hearing of the win, Tuli said: “We are honoured to be recognised; it is a great validation of our vision and I hope this will help create greater impetus for UK innovation.
"The global reach of technology is truly only possible because of the significant support we receive from UKTI offices around the world.”
The competition, run in association with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), began its search for UK’s most innovative mobile company in November 2011.Russell Buckley, one of the Smart UK
Project judges, says “We were very impressed by the quality of all the finalists, it was a tough decision but we are very pleased that DataWind has won the Smart UK Project 2012. There is a global potential and the will to transform lives and society, all using the resources of a British company.”
Datawind hopes to supply a market of billions of customers, many in underdeveloped countries.
The Ubislate is an upgrade from the student tablet released in October.
The Aakash tablets reached their first users last Autumn under an information technology program sponsored by the Indian government.
The company provided 100,000 of the tablets, which were designed at its Montreal facility, to Indian students.
Customers have been contacting Datawind with "in the range of about 30,000 orders every day," said Tuli.
"It is huge. We have already received over three million individual hand users pre-booking on this."
Datawind's market research shows sales are likely to continue rising.
In the late 1990s, there were 750 million people connected to the Internet and many others using mobile phones, Singh said.
Since then, "the number of mobile phone user subscribers has ballooned to almost six billion while the number of Internet subscribers was at two billion," he said.
He hopes Datawind's Aakash will help to fill the four billion person "gap," he said.
"We believe the gap primarily exists because of affordability," Singh said.
Other companies that offer wireless Internet access devices include Apple, Samsung and Research in Motion. The closest competing device to the Aakash is Apple's iPad.
Singh said they are not Datawind's competitors because they seek a different kind of customer.
"It is a totally different game," he said. "iPad people have laptops and computers and want multimedia devices for more mobility."
Among low-income people in underdeveloped countries, "they are looking for their first device," he said.
In India, where Singh traces his origins, only eight percent of the 1.2 billion people are connected to the Internet, according to an Indian trade association that tracks Internet access.
Internet giant Google predicted in September that the number of India's Internet users could triple in three years if they were offered easier wireless access and more affordable smartphones.
Whether Aakash will be the breakthrough that provides access to the low-income customers is speculative.
Some computer specialists say its shortcomings include dim screens, slow responses to commands, a limited number of applications and autonomy for its batteries that is too brief.
Singh also acknowledges that it would be difficult for his company to dominate the market.
"I am sure there will be competition over time," he said. "Right now we are alone because nobody wants to focus on that market. The biggest players don't want to make devices at that level because it impacts their legacy products."
Nevertheless, Datawind officials say they are drumming up market interest for their tablets.
They met recently with World Bank officials to discuss the potential of using the Aakash tablets as educational tools in countries where the cost of iPads is prohibitive.
After India, Datawind plans to sell its tablets in Thailand, Egypt, Brazil and Latin America.
"The whole attempt here is to create the right set of applications for the customer," Singh said.
For customers who do not need the Bluetooth system to connect different electronic devices, "the most important thing is the price," he said. "And within that price, they primarily want to get Internet access, want to have good multimedia ... and then basic applications."
Picture: Suneet Singh Tuli
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