The tablet revolution has swept the country off its feet. It seems that the age of dominance of corporate behemoths, such as Nokia, Samsung, LG, Sony, etc., are golden pages from the past. The oligopoly of the select few has turned into a perfect competition with the emergence of the tablets which marked the democratisation of the tablet market in India. But the question to be asked is how the tablets came into being, and how it took a country like India by storm? Especially when India comprises a market where the greatest importance is attached to value for money and the people are always very sensitive towards price hikes.
The tablet computer is an example of pen computing technology, and thus the development of tablets has deep historical roots. The depth of these roots can be quite surprising for those who are only familiar with current commercial products. For example, the first patent for an electronic tablet used for handwriting was granted way back in 1888. The first patent for a system that recognised handwritten characters by analysing the handwriting motion was granted in 1915. The first publicly demonstrated system using a tablet and handwriting text recognition instead of a keyboard for working with a modern digital computer dates back to 1956. In addition to many academic and research systems, there were several companies with commercial products in the 1980s: Bharat Electronic Ltd., , Communications Intelligence Corporation and Linus were among the best known in a crowded field.
In the modern era the aspiration to create a ‘Made in India’ computer was first reflected in a prototype ‘Simputer’ that went into production in a small way. Bangalore-based PSU, Bharat Electronic Ltd., manufactured around 5000 Simputers for Indian customers during 2002−2007. In 2011, Kapil Sibal anticipated low-cost computing devices to provide for the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) plan. A year later the Ministry of Human Resource Development announced that the low-cost computer would be launched in 6 weeks. Nine weeks later the Ministry showcased a tablet named ‘Aakash’, not really what had been projected, at Rs 3000 rather than Rs 1400.
The success of the tablets or tablet PCs in the Indian market is dependent on certain factors. The global leaders in the market like Apple, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Blackberry, etc., are present in the Indian market with their products but smaller companies like Micromax, Penta technologies, iBerry, Zync, etc., are giving them a run for their money. First, global behemoths like Samsung or Apple are pricing their products at the mark up of Rs. 30,000−40,000; whereas indigenous companies, like Micromax, are coming out with their devices at a market price in the range of Rs. 7000 which makes a lot of difference economically to the average Indians. These companies are manufacturing their products locally and most of the components they use are Chinese which come pretty cheap. They also utilise small Indian SMEs (small and medium enterprises) which manufacture electronic goods at quarter the price in global market.
The second reason which is quite significant is that most of the indigenous tablets have Android as the operating system which is a product designed and publicised by Google, the availability of which is completely free as it can be easily downloaded from the Internet. This way there is no software license and thus the consumers do not have to pay for usage of the operating system. Android which is the most common operating system makes it far easier for the user to customise their tablets as and when needed.
Tablets are the new sensation in India. It is a convergence device between a mobile phone and a laptop. Because it is portable and versatile it has been overwhelmingly popular in India which resulted in its cheap prices and increased sales.
Thirdly, a product like Aakash can be widely popular among the younger generation of the country. Approximately 50 per cent of the Indian population now is under the age of 25 which comprise mostly of students. So the cheaper tablets will ensure greater market penetration as a laptop compared to the new age tablets which are costly but are the same in usability. This also in a way ensures greater accessibility of information and educational resources to the upcoming generation, resulting in greater level of awareness and education. The Ministry of Human Resource Development announced that within a few months, it will come up with a tablet PC costing around Rs. 1500 which will be a revolutionary step in itself, as it will be cheaper than the average tablet in the market.
The quality of these indigenous products cannot be compared with that of an Apple ipad 2 or a Galaxy Tab or a Blackberry Playbook. In a country like India where the government’s BPL defines only those who earn below Rs. 30
as poor, the majority of the common people cannot afford to distinguish between the aesthetic value of the product and its usability and quality. So in the near future these indigenous tablets will obviously become a big success, which will give the corporate companies tough competition. Considering the recent price fluctuations and the devaluation of the rupee, the Indian market has become more sensitive than what it was previously. In this scenario of daily price fluctuations, people will be much more sensitive about where to invest money, and the indigenous gadgets could well prove to be the order of the day.