India to shelve $50 tablet

There is a bit of a flap in India after rumours started circulating that the government was about to pull financing on its $50 subsidised Aakash tablet.

The rumour started on the website of India Today, which claimed that the Indian government’s Ministry of Human Resource Development was refusing to extend a letter of credit to the makers of the Aakash, from Montreal’s Datawind, after a “series of faults were detected, owing to which buyers have largely dumped it.”

However, this has been denied by Datawind whose CEO Suneet Singh Tuli told the Wall Street Journal that the tablet is on track and “is being improved”.

But there are also rumours of dark deeds and backhanders. It is a coincidence that one of India’s largest conglomerates, Reliance Industries, is bringing a $68 tablet with 4G wireless capabilities to market later this year.

It would not be the first sub $100 state subsided tablet which has been shelved by politicians after rival hardware companies have made them an offer they can’t refuse. Not that Reliance has done this, of course.

But Tuli insists that there’s no credence to these sensationalist stories. He said that the Aakash tablet has met and exceeded all the specifications, features and criteria specified, and the product’s quality has been confirmed by both national and international labs. Eight out of ten cats really loved it.

He also pointed to a recent New York Times’s India Ink blog by project progenitor Kapil Sibal, India’s Minister of Human Resource Development, who talked about improvements being made in the tablet and “some extra time was given to the supplier and it is expected that an improved, more student friendly version would start rolling out towards end of January 2012.”

However, the product enhancements were not a failure of the initial product and everything is going as planned.

Either that or he has not been told yet.