Canadian makers of ‘world’s lowest cost tablet’ aim for a $20 device, $37.99 is still not cheap enough

Published: March 12, 2014
technology

File: Raja Tuli and Suneet Singh Tuli hold the PocketSurfer developed by their Montreal-based firm, Datawind.

MICHAEL OLIVEIRA
THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO — The Canadian makers of the “world’s lowest cost tablet,” the UbiSlate 7Ci, think $37.99 still isn’t cheap enough.

They figure there’s still room to knock about 50 per cent off its price and make tablet ownership possible for anyone and everyone.

“This idea is to bridge the digital divide, it’s really that simple, the idea is to overcome the affordability barrier,” says Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli during an interview at his Toronto-area office, one of five the company has in Canada, England, Germany and India.

“We think as the Scandinavians do that (Internet access) is a fundamental human right.”

On the second floor of an unassuming strip mall — strategically located within spitting distance of Toronto’s Pearson airport, where Tuli says he’s coming from or going to a few times a week — the Datawind team is working on its strategy to sell cut-rate “good enough” tablets.

The company is best known for its work with the Indian government, which it supplied with low-cost tablets for a program to get technology into the hands of students. Datawind was recently named one of the world’s 50 smartest companies by the MIT Technology Review magazine for launching those tablets, branded under the Aakash name.

While India’s government is considering proposals from Datawind and other vendors to make the next version of the Aakash, the company has turned its attention to North America and the U.K. to sell its tablets directly to consumers under the UbiSlate brand.

The cheapest version of the seven-inch tablet, the UbiSlate 7Ci, has a not-too-sharp screen resolution of 800 by 480 pixels, four gigabytes of memory, half a gigabyte of RAM, runs a current version of Google’s Android operating system and can only get online with WiFi. It sells online for $37.99 plus taxes and shipping. The next model up, the UbiSlate 7C+, costs an additional $42 to gain access to EDGE mobile networks. The most expensive model, the UbiSlate 3G7 at $129.99 plus taxes and shipping, has a better screen and processor and can also access HSDPA 3G mobile networks.

Tuli says the company can sell the tablets so inexpensively because of the scale of its production runs and the fact that it makes its own screens, which helps boost profit margins. A preloaded web browser also displays ads that generate additional revenue for Datawind — although users can choose to download another ad-free browser — and the company monetizes some downloads of apps.

Datawind has also kept its prices down by selling directly to consumers through its website and not seeking retail partners.

“Something that costs $50 to make ends up at $150 easily at retail,” he says.

“In our case, something that costs $32 to make ends up at $38 in the consumers’ hands.”

Tuli says he envisions the price of Datawind’s lower-end tablet slipping below $20 “within the next year or two,” especially if revenues from ads and apps grow.

“We think pricing will continue coming down and we think features will continue going up. We will keep our high end between $100 to $150, we don’t see ourselves going up anything higher than that, but we’ll continue pushing the barriers on the lower end,” he says.

While he insists that Canadian consumers won’t find the tablets lacking, the reviews for Datawind’s tablets in India were far from positive. And anyone who has used an iPad or a higher-end Android tablet will notice a major difference in performance.

But he believes there is a strong market of consumers who are willing to trade performance for a low price.

“What we tried to focus on was realizing that for our customer, price is the most important feature and starting with that element we said, ‘What can we bundle in to provide a performance experience that would be good enough for them?”‘ Tuli says.

“You want something for your kids to take to school…. Kids are going to lose them or break them and you want something that you’re not worried (about).”

12:43ET 12-03-14

[+]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.

Featured

surgery wait times

Surrey Memorial tops surgical wait times exceeding one year, could be fined for backlog of bookings

ADRIAN MACNAIR SURREY NOW  METRO VANCOUVER — Fraser Health could face $2.5 million in fines over a backlog of surgical wait times in hospitals across the…
Continue Reading »

"There is No Honour in Violence Against Women" Campaign

MOSAIC tackles ‘honour-based’ violence against women and girls (w/video)

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI Non-profit immigrant settlement agency MOSAIC B.C. launched a campaign Friday to raise awareness about ‘honour-based’ violence against women and girls. The…
Continue Reading »

Social Responsibility

Surrey Food Bank’s annual open house to show off renovations

SURREY NOW  ‘Tis the season, and the Surrey Food Bank is kicking things off with its annual open house. Set for this Saturday (Nov. 29),…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

surgery wait times

Surrey Memorial tops surgical wait times exceeding one year, could be fined for backlog of bookings

ADRIAN MACNAIR SURREY NOW  METRO VANCOUVER — Fraser Health could face $2.5 million in fines over a backlog of surgical wait times in hospitals across the…
Continue Reading »

BC teachers strike-politics

Christy Clark throws support behind Amrik Virk taking ethical fire

NDP insists B.C. premier should fire advanced education minister for helping bypass provincial pay rules while on board of Kwantlen University ROB SHAW POSTMEDIA NEWS  VICTORIA…
Continue Reading »

Football

Hard work paying off for North Surrey junior bantams

PATRICK JOHNSTON VANCOUVER DESI It’s championship weekend all across B.C., and another group of hardscrabble youth have a tale of their own: the junior bantam…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

BC teachers strike-politics

Christy Clark throws support behind Amrik Virk taking ethical fire

NDP insists B.C. premier should fire advanced education minister for helping bypass provincial pay rules while on board of Kwantlen University ROB SHAW POSTMEDIA NEWS  VICTORIA…
Continue Reading »

FASHION-PAKISTAN-AAMNA-AQEEL

Gallery: The bold and beautiful strut their stuff at Pakistan Fashion Week

VANCOUVER DESI Pakistan’s bold and beautiful models presented the Autumn/Winter 2014 collections at the three-day long Fashion Week in Karachi. The Pakistan Fashion Week has…
Continue Reading »

Black-Friday-Sale-1

Coupon Queen: Tips for Surviving Black Friday Mania

RUBY BEDI BAINS VANCOUVER DESI You may be planning on crossing the border to head to the US but take note Canadian retailers have embraced…
Continue Reading »

murder-British-India

South African judge will decide whether to throw out honeymoon murder case

CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS JOHANNESBURG — A South African judge will rule Dec. 8 on whether to dismiss the murder case against a British…
Continue Reading »

Surrey-crime-stats

Surrey mom who lost her daughter to a drunk driver calls for tougher laws

TOM ZYTARUK SURREY NOW SURREY — Dare to know how many times police in B.C. issued Immediate Roadside Prohibitions for impaired driving over the past…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Salman Khan's sister Arpita's wedding

Bollywood actress Sonakshi Sinha rubbishes reports of teary tiff with Salman Khan at Arpita’s wedding

HINDUSTAN TIMES On Thursday (November 27), a report suggested that Sonakshi Sinha was reduced to tears at Arpita Khan’s wedding reception after an alleged argument…
Continue Reading »

Irrfan Khan

Bollywood’s Irrfan Khan already in talks for another project with Steven Spielberg after Jurassic World

HINDUSTAN TIMES While he has proven his acting prowess in Hindi films time and again, Irrfan Khan is also, perhaps, India’s best-known export to the…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood movie

Ungli: Relevant and Timely, ‘Ungli’ fingers the corrupt (w/trailer)

SUBHASH K. JHA IANS  Film: “Ungli”; Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Emraan Hashmi, Randeeo Hooda,Kangna Ranaut, Neel Bhoopalam, Angad Bedi, Neha Dhupia; Directed by Rensil d’Silva; Rating:…
Continue Reading »