Friday, January 31, 2014

Sci-Tech watch, 11: DataWind's Ubislate series comes to the US/UK markets, from US$37.99 for the 7Ci, up

For some years at KF, we have kept an eye on the emergence of the Indian "cheap Tablet" intended for education; as a part of a focus on technological capacity for education transformation. 

This morning, I saw on Yahoo how the supplier, Canadian firm DataWind, is launching a range in the US Market (and the UK market), starting from the Ubislate 7.0 Ci at US$37.99, which now has a capacitive technology touchscreen (instead of the original's resistive screen):

Meet the $38 tablet: Hands-on with DataWind’s UbiSlate 7Ci

By | Digital Crave – Wed, Jan 29, 2014 1:56 PM EST

What’s that? You’d love a new tablet – for yourself, your parents or the kids – but think you need to take out a second mortgage to afford one?

In an effort to help bridge the “digital divide” – the gap between those who can afford technology and those who cannot -- DataWind has just launched the UbiSlate 7Ci, the least expensive tablet computer in the U.S.
Indeed, this 7-inch Android 4.2.2 tablet costs just $37.99 . . . .

For those who like to know specs, under the hood this UbiSlate features a Cortex A9 (1GHz) processor – comparable to the original iPad – along with 512MB of system memory (RAM) and 4GB of internal storage. There is a microSD card slot, however, capable of memory cards up to 32GB each.

Along with the built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), the UbiSlate 7Ci tablet supports external 3G for mobile broadband data connectivity; a USB adaptor is included in the box, to snap in a WAN stick, if desired. The tablet has an embedded G-sensor for device orientation, therefore it knows when you’re holding it vertically or horizontally . . .
The thing seems a bit flimsy, and has a 3-hour battery life, but that is a beginning and a sign. 

Obviously, this is no competition to the serious ~ US$ 300 - 800 or so tablets from the big names, or even the ~ US$ 150 (effectively loss leader) machines. But it, and its range, point to a niche for basic, inexpensive tablets suitable for education.

PC Magazine comments:

Datawind is initially targeting these tablets mostly at schools. That's in its wheelhouse; the education market has been its major success in India, where the small Canadian company became the country's No. 2 tablet vendor at one point, with nearly a million units sold in the past year. You'd think that U.S. schools would be happy with their iPads, but Tuli points out that in our deeply economically divided country, a $299 iPad isn't affordable for a lot of people.

"A lot of the areas where we're getting interest seem to be those who are working with minorities and the inner cities where they're a lot more price sensitive … with a quarter of people not having broadband access at home, a significant number of kids don't have these tools," he said.

Yes, there are other cheap tablets on the U.S. market, but none are quite as cheap as the Ubislate. Walgreens sells a range of $89 and $99 tablets. Amazon has a few tablets in the $60 range. Datawind has not only a cheap tablet, but a 9-year history of products solid enough for PCMag to review and a supply chain that's been tested by its Indian success.

"Because of our success in India, our scale and size is significantly larger than most of those small players," Tuli said. "There will also be a level of comfort that the user will have knowing that somebody has been around for a bunch of years."
This is not exactly what I would plunk for, but it is a sign of things to come.

Namely, the traditional textbook is going to see serious competition from the Course Manual- Reader- Workbook, primarily available as an eBook, but perhaps with a print on demand or Risograph printed version for walking around with. And where, with textbooks for College going at US$80 - 200+ easily, that is a first likely market. But also, with numbers out there, secondary and primary education markets in our region are not far behind.

Where, of course, I favour the 7" tablet cradled in a vinyl folio that also has a built in keyboard and prop-stand:

Here is a video review of the UbiSlate 7Ci (language warning . . . ):

Where, we can also note from PC Mag, on the range:

We played with the Indian Ubislate 7ci model last year, which we found to be very cheaply made, but functional. It doesn't compete with any other tablet we recommend; if you can afford $150 or more, it obviously won't be the right choice. It's for people who have been locked out of the online revolution because they simply don't have the cash.

The Ubislates coming to the U.S. are similar to the model we saw last year, but with a 1GHz Rockchip Cortex-A8 rather than an Allwinner processor, Tuli said. They'll come in three models. All have 7-inch, 800-by-480 screens. A Wi-Fi-only unit costs $37.99. An EDGE model, running on AT&T's network, will cost $79.99 without service or $99.99 with one year of unlimited Web browsing through Datawind's compression server. Both of those lower-end versions have 1GHz Rockchip Cortex-A8 processors, 512 MB of RAM, 4GB of storage plus a memory card slot, a front-facing VGA camera, and Android 4.0.

The "luxury" Ubislate 3G7, for $129.99 without a SIM card and $149.99 with unlimited Web browsing for a year, includes Bluetooth and GPS and has 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and an added 2-megapixel rear camera. It has a dual-core Cortex A7 processor and runs Android 4.1. At that point, though, you may as well buy a higher-end tablet like the $129 Barnes & Noble Nook HD.

If you're curious, read our earlier hands on with the Ubislate 7ci as well as our reviews of the company's original, 2005 PocketSurfer device and its 2008 followup, the Pocketsurfer 2.
So, not only are we in a world where we have US$100 - 120 tablets, but now also down to US$40 or so as a commercial proposition. 

The digital education -- and, sadly, propagandistic indoctrination -- revolution's platform is here.

So, the question is whether we are going to surf the wave or be swamped by it. END