“This is going to be revolutionary for the developing world”
On Sunday Nov. 11, the president of India, Pranab Mukherjee, will have unveiled the seven-inch Aakash 2 tablet computer Tuli’s company is selling to the government for distribution to 100,000 university students and professors. (If things go well, the government plans to order as many as 5.86 million.) In the meantime, Tuli is deluged with calls from reporters, and every day his company receives thousands of new orders for the commercial version of the Aakash 2. Already, he’s facing a backlog of four million unfulfilled pre-orders.
In developing countries, a $20.00 tablet is going have a profound impact:
“Now, not only can they hear each other, they could Skype each other,” says Wadhwa. “They could send money electronically. There’s ecommerce developing in India. They can go online to check the price of products, the weather forecast, local newspapers. This is going to be revolutionary for the developing world. We don’t understand in the West what a dramatic change lies ahead because of this connectivity. It’s going to boost the growth of the developing countries for sure.”
But cheap tablets will be disruptive to mainstream tablet makers – Microsoft may lose out:
“The revolution will come from the developing world to the US,” says Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur and academic. “These tablets will kill the markets for high-end players—for Microsoft in particular.” Wadhwa knows Tuli and has become the Aakash 2′s champion stateside, writing about the device and getting it into the hands of executives. He believes that the $40 price of the tablet could drop to $25 within a year. “I showed a Google executive [this] tablet. He suddenly realized that his $99 tablet isn’t going to stand up to the $25 tablet from India.” Many in Silicon Valley are suddenly fixated on cheap tablets. “I see a lot of the PC makers and hardware companies here [in the US] are going to build a tablet strategy,” says Jay Goldberg, a financial analyst who was surprised to discover on his last trip to China just how cheap functional 7″ tablets have become. “But if there are already $45 tablets out there, even that second-tier strategy [of replacing lost PC sales with tablets] is going to fail.”
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