Datawind, the company which manufactured Aakash-1 and Aakash-2 tablets, plans to bid for the Aakash-3 tender, which is likely to be floated by February end.
In an exclusive email response to a questionnaire sent by The Sunday Guardian, Suneet Tuli, CEO of Datawind, wrote, "We've heard that the tender for Aakash-3 is imminent... We hope to be able to bid on the tender, based on the terms and conditions defined therein."
The company had recently told the New York Times that the Aakash tablet was not its priority. It has also missed the deadline of December 2012 for providing 1 lakh Aakash-2 tablets to IIT-Bombay and told the international newspaper that it will take till March this year for the same. The company was also embroiled in a controversy when it came to light that the tablets had been manufactured in China.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) does not appear to be unduly dissatisfied with the company's performance. A well-placed source in the ministry told this paper that the project is in its "pilot-phase" and "no schedule" has been fixed by the ministry as far as the delivery of the tablets is concerned. The made-in-China controversy was also played down by the source.
Tuli confirmed to this newspaper that Aakash-3 would have a SIM card and a cellular modem, as part of the new specifications. "MHRD has agreed to our recommendation that it (Aakash-3) includes an embedded cellular modem and the ability to take a regular SIM (this would be similar specifications to our UbiSlate 7C+ device)."
The MHRD source, however, said that a committee comprising professor D.B. Phatak, project in-charge, IIT-Bombay and professor A. Jhunjhunwala, IIT-Madras will take a call on the specifications "very soon", said the source.
An Inter-Ministerial Committee, including Department of Telecom and Department of Electronics and Information Technology, along with the MHRD, is also looking into the possibility of allowing a public sector unit to manufacture a part of the next lot of Aakash tablets, although "an official decision is yet to be taken," said the source.