DataWind, which has made its name as a provider of wireless web access products and services to low-income people in India, is now launching on to the US consumer market.
A recent report from the International Telecommunication Union reveals that a fifth of the US population is still without Internet access, affordability being the main obstacle. Meanwhile the tablet market is gaining in importance versus the computer market, in particular the market share held by cheaper models. Tablet devices costing less than $149 are set to post 25% sales growth between 2011 and 2014, and will thus account for 35% of the tablet market in the United States, predicts the ITU. The London based company, Datawind, has decided to offer to the US market its tablets usually sold in India to help students access the Internet. According to Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli,the firm’s aim is to provide a low-cost mobile device that will enable low-income families both to get on to the Internet and make use of tablet applications.
Low-cost Internet access the primary goal
Datawind has just launched on the US market three low-cost tablets with a fairly narrow range of applications, and prices under 40 to 130 dollars. The Android tablet, sold in the United States under the name UbiSlate 7Ci, is identical to the Aakash 2 – the product which the company launched on the Indian market in 2011. It has a 7-inch touchscreen, WiFi connectivity and 4GB of internal memory storage. The interesting point is that it is powered by a Cortex A8 1Ghz processor, which is an economic choice since it is the equivalent of devices launched four years ago. The two other tablets offer an updated version offering a 2G or a3G connexion. However, Datawind consider that the most successful of these devices will probably be the cheapest one, as it enables people who might otherwise never have had the opportunity to get online and use apps to do so.
A technology for all?
However, given that this population segment is actually unlikely to have a WiFi connection at home, these Android tablets, cheap as they are, may well still struggle to make headway in the market. More of that, other players such as Amazon with its Kindle and Aldi with Medion Lifetab are also currently selling quality low-priced tablets, with which the two more expensive Datawind tabletswill have to compete head-to-head. Finally, it is also worth noting that the companies marketing these minimum technology devices are going in the opposite direction to manufacturers who are looking to make increasingly sophisticated products, incorporating as much technology as possible. Those firms targeting the low-cost end of the market are clearly aiming to meet a new demand from consumers who just want to be able to use the basic functions, providing them with equal Internet opportunity and a chance to keep up with an increasingly connected global population.