DataWind

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DataWind Inc.
Type Public
Traded as TSXDW
Industry Computer hardware
Founded 2001 (Montreal, Canada)
Headquarters Mississauga, Ontario, Canada[1]
Key people Suneet Tuli, CEO
Raja Tuli, Co-founder, CTO
David Elder, COO
Products Aakash tablet
Ubislate 7
PocketSurfer
Pocketsurfer2
Pocketsurfer3
Website www.datawind.com

DataWind is a wireless web access products and services developer founded in Montreal, Canada.[2] The company is now widely known for its development of the Aakash, tablet computer, globally dubbed as the world’s cheapest tablet at $35/unit, developed for India's Ministry for Human Resource Development (MHRD).[3][4] In addition to its UbiSlate tablet computers, DataWind has been manufacturing since 2004,[5] a series of mobile internet devices branded as the PocketSurfer smartphones and UbiSurfer netbooks. The company’s devices are used to deliver a patented web delivery platform for faster and lower cost internet access on mobile networks.[6] In addition to devices, the company derives revenue from content, applications, advertising and network services. Founded in Montreal, Canada, where the company still maintains its research and development operations, it has offices in London, Delhi and Amritsar.[7]

History[edit]

The company was originally founded in Montreal[7] in 2001[8] by brothers Suneet and Raja Tuli[8] from the Indian state of Punjab.[9] Suneet and Raja Tuli grew up in Northern Alberta, Canada. Suneet is a civil engineer, who graduated from the University of Toronto. Raja is a computer engineer, who graduated from the University of Alberta.[10] The brothers are serial entrepreneurs that have conducted successful initial public offerings on the Nasdaq stock market and have been recognized by the Guinness Book of Records for their inventions.[11] Suneet is DataWind's chief executive officer and is responsible for its vision, strategy and execution. Raja is the company’s co-chairman and chief technology officer, and a prolific inventor with dozens of patents across a broad range of technologies related to the internet, imaging and energy sustenance.[12]

Datawind’s product range includes the PocketSurfer smartphones, UbiSurfer netbooks and UbiSlate tablet devices. The company has a portfolio of 14 US and international patents for it’s Web Delivery Platform which serves as the basis for its product innovations. The company manufactures, markets and sells tablets branded as UbiSlate to consumers and called the Aakash (meaning ‘Sky’ in Hindi) to the Indian government.

With its research and development based in Montreal, the company launched its first products in 2004 [6] and until 2010 marketed its production primarily in the UK, where it is registered as an LLC.[13] In 2004, the company was described as a "small tech shop"[5] marketing its key product, the PocketSurfer, a PDA/cell phone/web browser device. Several iterations of the PocketSurfer followed. In 2009, the Indian government had pledged a supercheap laptop as a means of using technology to improve the quality of education, but the development process was beset by delays and setbacks,[8] until Datawind won the tender for the tablet in late 2011. In the same year Datawind made its entry into Indian market with the launch of the Aakash tablet, developed for the Indian government to help enhance the quality of education. At the October 2011 launch of the first generation Aakash tablet, government announced that the tablet will be offered at a sufficiently low price threshold – to students at a subsidized price of $35[8] and to the public (as the Ubislate 7) for $60[8] – to enable ubiquitous,[8] nationwide internet use. At the subsidized price, the tablet cost about the price of a pair of shoes[14][15][16] or a basic mobile phone. In 2012,[17] Forbes magazine named the CEO of Datawind, Suneet Tuli among the Impact 15 list of "classroom revolutionaries" who are using innovative technologies to reinvent education for students and teachers globally[18] The Ubislate tablet computers were launched commercially to consumers in India in April,2012, by which time, the pre-bookings for the devices had exceeded 3 million pre-bookings, which was more than ten times the size of the total market for tablets in India in the previous year.[19] Since the commercial launch of the UbiSlate tablets, the company has been among the top three suppliers of tablets in India, according to Cybermedia Research. In the first quarter of 2013, Datawind dominated the Indian tablet market with the largest market share of tables sold in India, even without including the volume of Aakash devices supplied to the government.[20] Going forward, the company has plans to expose itself to tablet markets in UK, US and Canada. Datawind is also working with governments, NGOs and distributors in Latin American and African countries, where its products are being deployed.[21]

In a 2011 interview Datawind cited the delay in orders was due to overwhelming demand that exceeded 15 times the size of the total Indian tablet market and that it would take additional time to ramp production.[22] As of February 2012, DataWind had over 1,400,000 pre-orders, but had only shipped 10,000 units.[23] On 26 April 2012 DataWind launched Ubislate 7+ and 7C tablets in India, and by then the pre-bookings for the Ubislate tablets had increased to 3 million units.

In 2013, according to Cyber Media Research India‘s Quarterly Tablet Market report for the first quarter of 2013, as published in The Times of India : DataWind had a market share of 15.3%, the company pulled ahead of rivals Micromax and Apple, this strong market hold did not include the Aakash series of tablets[24]

In July 2014, the company completed its initial public offering [25] of 6,316,000 common shares of the Company at a price of CAN$4.75 per totaling to an amount of CAN$30 Million. DataWind's Shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol "DW".

Technology[edit]

Datawind’s low cost devices allow access to the internet at lower data costs and faster speeds across congested mobile wireless networks, using the company’s patented Data Compression technology.[26] In a 2011 interview, the company said it lowered the price of the tablet by developing patents to shift the device's processing burden to "backend servers in the cloud,"[27] Datawind identified the need for low cost devices for web access, as a means of providing an alternative to increasing costs of mobile internet devices caused by the corresponding increases in web complexity which require greater memory and processing power. Datawind’s internet delivery platform reduces bandwidth consumption by creating a parallel processing environment which shifts the burden of memory and processing power to backend servers, allowing users to access web with a lower cost device and lower data costs.

This Web Delivery Platform serves as the basis for its product innovations. Based on a patent portfolio of 14 US and international patents,[28][29] DataWind’s technology accelerates the delivery of web-content across wireless networks, and reduces data consumption by factors of ten to thirty times.

DataWind’s acceleration and data-reduction is accomplished through the use of proprietary algorithms resident on its application servers that operate as a gateway between the primary (Internet based) content server selected by the user and the end user.

Datawind claims that its patented acceleration technology allows its devices to deliver the fastest mobile web experience on even 2.5G cellular networks. A product review by PC Magazine of the PocketSurfer said that it’s the only device that allows users to browse the web on a GPRS connection with any alacrity and in 2005 Cnet reviewed the device saying it was impressed with Pocket surfer’s page load times.[30] Various media conducted live speed tests on television with competitive products, including some on 3G networks, which resulted in the PocketSurfer devices using DataWind’s technology showing a faster page download time.CNN-IBN speed tests while comparing Datawind’s Pocketsurfer to competitors.[31]

Business Model[edit]

Datawind’s business model focuses on providing a cost effective web access device with free Internet access to the entry level of the market. The devices are used as a customer acquisition tool,[32] allowing for the company to develop recurring revenue streams using an ecosystem of content, applications, advertising and network services. By generating margins on recurring revenue streams from the usage of the products, the company is able to reduce hardware margin allowing for lower cost products.[6] DataWind’s web delivery platform reduces bandwidth consumption,[33] the company then purchase wholesale access to mobile data from wireless network operators as a MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) or as part of a bundling relationship in order to offer free mobile internet access to its customers.[34] In November,2012 in an interview with the New York Times, Datawind‘s CEO explained, the company‘s business model was focused on pursuing a price sensitive consumer, the entry level of the market forgoing hardware margins and driving a recurring revenue stream;the after sale revenue i.e. revenue share from network operators, content and subscriptions, device warranties, page impressions, location based content and advertising. Advertising revenues are generated by pre-loading certain apps on the devices.[35] The company has formulated a full service ecosystem of revenue streams that helps drive the cost of hardware down and hence the devices act as customer acquisition tools providing“Free Mobile Internet services”. DataWind has partnered with a number of firms as part of a comprehensive supplier and partner strategy

Content, applications and advertising based partnerships[edit]

Datawind has content partnerships and tie-ups with various firms, therefore the free content comes pre-loaded on the web access devices. The content includes educational, language based, interactive smart books, multimedia, games and productivity tools.

•On 20 November 2013 according to an article published in the The Financial Express, DataWind, driving its mission to see smart devices as education tools, partnered with American education provider CK-12 Foundation providing high quality free mathematics and science learning content that can be used by teachers, students, schools and parents. CK-12 content would come pre-installed on most of the company’s devices hence forth, the company said pre-loaded content on tablets will allow students to learn at their own pace, wherever they are. Plus, this content can be updated at regular intervals.[36]

•Datawind announced content partnerships with The Indian Express Group and Yahoo. According to this agreement, Ubislate 7+ and Ubislate 7C will come preloaded with the Indian Express news app, and customers of these new tablets will receive a 50 percent discount on annual subscription for The Indian Express and The Financial Express.[37]

•The tablets will also be preloaded with Yahoo! Cricket and the Yahoo! Mail app and Yahoo! India Homepage will be the default browser homepage for Ubislate 7+.

•Datawind has partnered and provides Blueworld portal to help encourage a socially conscience approach to the internet. Blueworld is a social community where anyone can join and create a profile so your friends can find you online, upload an unlimited number of photos, share videos, write your own blogs, support your peers with groups, send text messages to any network for free, discover new people and connect with friends.

•On December 3, 2013, Datawind partnered with IT firm Happiest Minds Technologies to develop applications and solutions for its UbiSlate range of tablets. Under the partnership, Happiest Minds will develop Datawind's App Store, which will be designed to create a connected customer experience for the first time Android users.[38]

Network Operator Partnerships[edit]

•In July, 2009 Datawind teamed up with Vodafone (UK) to offer an embedded SIM and GPRS modem within the price of its PocketSurfer devices allowing free access to the Internet away from a Wi-Fi connection.[39]

• In December 2013, BSNL, one of India’s largest network operators with over 100 million subscribers, tied-up with DataWind to offers its services on the company’s tablets.[40]

Partnerships for the Social Good[edit]

DataWind has partnered with a number of governments and NGOs (non-governmental organizations globally). Subsequent to the initial launch of the Aakash tablet for higher-learning institutions, Kapil Sibal, the Indian Minister of Human Resources and Development announced that Aakash tablets will be provided free to all 220 million students in India over the next few years.[41] During the 2011 elections in Thailand, the Puea Thai Party promised free tablet PCs for all students, with placards everywhere promising “One Tablet PC per Child”. Analysts estimated that the quantity required would be approximately 20 million to equip all students in the country.A senior figure in Puea Thai party said that they would fulfill their promise by importing the $35 Android tablets from India.[42]

Contests[edit]

DataWind has sponsored a number of contests. In November 29, 2011 the Nasscom Foundation partnered with Datawind announcing a contest wherein 10 NGOs will have an opportunity to win 20 tablets each, mainly to improve their operations and programme implementation. To win these tablets, the social organisations had to showcase how best they can leverage Aakash tablet for promoting education, health and livelihood.[43] Some analysts claimed that the tablet would not only have a positive impact on the education sector but would also lead to positive changes in the healthcare and other sectors besides improving internet penetration in the country. In his study, Rajat Kathuria (Kathuria), External Consultant at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER),13 stated that the Indian economy could grow 10.08% faster with every 10%14 increase in the internet and broadband connections in the country.[44]

On January 11, 2013- DataWind and the United Nations office for partnerships in coordination with Agnite Education, American Digital University, Applications for Good, BluWorld, Cat in Woods, Equal Access International launched a contest for developing socially responsible Apps to empower women.[45] The contest measured apps from the perspective of in leadership and mentorship, jobs and entrepreneurship, education and conflict resolution. On November 16, 2013- Datawind announced the winners of Apps to Empower contest namely My Rights App, Pictoson App and the Talking English App.[46]

Hackathons[edit]

To help develop a new generation of software programmers that would focus on applications for humanitarian causes, DataWind regularly sponsors ‘hackathons’. In 2012 and 2013, DataWind sponsored two hackathons with Geeks Without Bounds, an accelerator for humanitarian projects.[47]

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)[edit]

DataWind partners with and supports a number of charitable and non-government organizations to help deploy its technology for humanitarian opportunities. On 23 October, in an article published in The Washington Post Chris Evans a renowned philanthropist had donated 100 Aakash tablets to Communities in Schools of Wake County of Raleigh, North Carolina, for its “Smart Summer” program—a summer camp for disadvantaged African-American children who often found themselves at a disadvantage to their classmates, would start school better prepared as the Ubislate tablets given out were loaded with science and math apps and proved to be effective learning tools. DataWind also partnered with education non-profit, Virginia Advanced Study Strategies (VASS). There, six school districts had enrolled 85 students in either of two free online coding courses, with the offer of a DataWind tablet as an incentive for kids completing the course and developing an app.

In November, 2013 Datawind and World Vision Canada collaborated to supply $40 tablets in African countries. As part of their on-going field testing at community level in Niger and Rwanda, World Vision used the Ubislate tablets to collect data at the project level to monitor change and measure impact and effectiveness of their development work in the areas of health, education to families and children in need with plans to roll out in several other African countries.[48]

Awards & Recognition[edit]

In January, 2014, DataWind was named in MIT Technology Review's 2014 50 Smartest Companies List Recognizing World's Most Innovative Companies. At the 2014 CES, the company was also acknowledged and featured in "Dave's Top Ten" "Into Tomorrow with Dave Graveline"

Businessweek magazine’s forecast for 2014 referred to DataWind’s super cheap tablets as disrupters.[49]

In November, 2012, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon launched Aakash2 at the United Nations. The United Nations Secretary General referred to DataWind’s products as the “great enabler with potential to transform people’s lives” [50] Quartz magazine referred to DataWind’s technology as one of the five most disruptive technologies introduced in 2012 [51]

In 2012, Forbes magazine named the CEO of Datawind, Suneet Tuli among the Impact 15 list of "classroom revolutionaries" who are using innovative technologies to reinvent education for students and teachers globally.[52]

DataWind was also acknowledged with several other numerous awards:

  • 2013 Most Innovative Access Device award at the NTA ICT World Communication Awards bestowed by Mr. Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General, International Telecommunications Union (ITU).[53]
  • ShikshaRatna Award by Digital Learning State Education Summit 2013 for Aakash2.[54]
  • 2012 UKs most Innovative mobile company award run by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI)Department[55]
  • 2011 CNBC TV 18 and Mercedez Benz Young Turks innovation of the year award.[56]
  • Finalist at the Mobile World Congress for Innovation in Education and at the CTIA Wireless Show for the BiG Idea award[57]
  • 28th Annual Innovation Awards Gala, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance announced DataWind as the winner of the 2013 McCagueBorlack Outstanding Product Achievement Award.
  • Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Achievement Award [58]

Products[edit]

PocketSurfer Series[edit]

First version Pocket surfer was launched by Datawind in 2004.[5] a handheld web access device, which worked in conjunction with a bluetooth enabled phone. Features included a QWERTY keyboard,5.3 inch (diagonal) screen and a slim and light model (6.0 by 3.0 by 0.6 inches; 5.9 ounces).[59] Reviews for the pocket surfer had been mixed as PC Magazine’s review of the product said it’s the only device that lets you browse the web on a GPRS connection with any alacrity,[60] and Cnet in 2005 reviewed the device saying it was impressed with Pocket surfer’s page load times considering some drawbacks like the lack of backlit keys for night time browsing. In February 2007, Datawind introduced the “Pocket Surfer 2” at the 3GSM forum in Barcelona, a sequel and improved version of the first generation Pocket surfer1. It was described as the world’s fastest handheld Internet device.[61] The sleek mobile device offered free mobile internet access and provided a desktop-like experience with a 640 pixel color wide screen displaying web-pages in their original layout with HTML, graphics, Java-Script, Ajax, Frames and other complex web functionality. PocketSurfer2 included a built-in GPS receiver for location-based services with page-load times of less than 7 seconds. Engadget referred to the original PocketSurfer devices as “Iconic”[62] In December 2013, on the tenth anniversary of the launch of the original PocketSurfer, the company entered the smart phone market launching the pocket PocketsSurfer range of smartphones in India, the 5” inch touchscreen, Dual-sim smartphones were available at an extremely low price point. The Economic Times announced the products, exclaiming: “Akash maker DataWind enters smartphone market, breaks all price points!”[63]

The PocketSurfer range of smartphones included :PocketSurfer5x, PocketSurfer 5C+ and the PocketSurfer3G5 with the following features respectively:[64]

PocketSurfer 5x PocketSurfer 5 PocketSurfer 3G5
Networks Edge WiFi & EDGE WiFi & UMTS (2100) & BT & GPS
OS Spreadtrum Android 4.0 Android 4.0
CPU Cortex A8 - 1 GHz Cortex A8 – 1 GHz Cortex A8 – 1 GHz
RAM 512 MB 512 MB 512 MB
FLASH 256 MB 4 GB 4 GB
Camera N/A Front VGA Front VGA/Rear 2MB
Screens 5” TFT WQVGA Touch 5” TFT Capacitive 5” TFT Capacitive
Ports Micro SD & Micro USB Micro SD & Micro USB Micro SD & Micro USB

Ubisurfer Series Netbooks[edit]

In April, 2010 Datawind launched the Ubisurfer Netbooks in India. UbiSurfer stands for Ubiquitous Surfing, the netbook offered browsing web on the go with integrated modem and SIM Card slot. An ultraportable netbook that supports both CDMA (1x) and GSM networks. This device offered WiFi and LAN connectivity, an in-built cellular modem and an embedded SIM card that allows access to the internet anywhere with a mobile phone signal. Datawind's UbiSurfer netbook comes equipped with an ARM processor running at 450 MHz with 128MB RAM, 1GB Flash memory and up to 50GB of online storage. UbiSurfer had a seven inch wide bright TFT screen supporting 800x480 pixel resolution. The netbook also has earphone jack, USB ports, WiFi, LAN port, and SD card slot. The device comes equipped with the Ubisurfer browser that allows page-load times of under 7 seconds

UbiSurfer9 was made available in India at a price of Rs. 7999 which also included a one year free Internet browsing plan. On 7 April 2011, Datawind unveiled its new version of the mobile internet device, the UbiSurfer9 3G, in London, UK. The netbook offered users free Internet access in the UK and low cost roaming in Europe and USA. It sported a sleek nine-inch screen and weighs in at just 700g, its free-usage model eliminated the user from any form of binding contracts, activation fees or credit checks.

Aakash Tablets[edit]

In 2009, the team behind NME-ICT National Mission on Education through Information Communication Technology initiative of the union government cited that a lot could be done for education using information and communication technologies and set out on a mission with the objective to raise the levels of education in India. An initiative by India’s Ministry for Human Resource Development (MHRD) was launched to procure, a low cost web access device with built in features that ensured that technologies and content were accessible to everyone on the go, IIT Rajasthan agreed to the project and followed an open tender process. In late 2011, Datawind won the Indian government tender to design the Aakash tablet computers in an initial trial run of 1,00,000 units. The Wall Street Journal called the Aakash worlds cheapest tablet.

Aakash was the name given to Datawind’s low-cost tablet computers that were being procured by the Indian government to help enhance the quality of education.

On October 5, 2011, Aakash 1 was launched by Kapil Sibal, the then Minister of Human Resource and Development. Datawind designed, developed and manufactured this first version of Aakash on the specifications set by IIT Rajasthan. It’s extremely low price garnered global attention and the tablet is now dubbed as the world’s cheapest.[65]

On November 11th 2012, President of India, Pranab Mukherjee launched the Akash 2, this was the second version of the Aakash design and was based on improvements of Aakash 1. This updated new version had a better processor based on the ARM Cortex A8 architecture and had a multi-touch projective capacitive screen instead of a resistive one and hence supported multi-touch.[66] The Aakash 2 (Ubislate 7Ci), claimed to be the world's most cost effective web access device, it utilized 1 GHz processor, of the same calibre as the original iPad, and contains 512MB of RAM (twice that of the original iPad). The tablet offers a flash memory of 4GB that can be supplemented by up to 32GB through its micro-SD card slot. In addition it offers an embedded Wi-Fi, and is supported by external 3G and EVDO dongles for mobile broadband data connectivity. Other features include Google's Android 4.0 operating system, VGA camera, G-sensor, internal microphone, speakers and headphone jack, the Aakash2 is a full-featured tablet computer intended to break the affordability barrier with the mission of bridging the digital divide.

On 12th Nov 2013, the Indian express said “Aakash 3 was better than its predecessor. The difference with previous versions was the addition of calling functionality and a more powerful battery that provided longer backup. Proposed Akash 4 (Ubislate 7CZ) the tablet with proposed technical specifications set by India’s Department of Electronics and technology-Ministry of Information and technology-Government of India.

Ubislate Tablet Series[edit]

The UbiSlates are series of Android tablets with touch screens, that also work as smart-phones and are perfect for anytime/anywhere web access, multimedia content and android games & applications The UbiSlate tablet an Android touchscreen tablet that has an HD video co-processor for high quality video experience and comes equipped with DataWind's UbiSurfer browser that accelerates web pages delivery allowing for a fast web experience. The device includes WiFi & GPRS connectivity allowing anytime & anywhere internet access through sim and phone functionality. Optional 3G modems are also supported via USB. In addition to a micro-SD card slot, a full-sized USB port is integrated into the unit allowing pen-drives, external keyboards, web-cams, dongles and other inexpensive peripherals be attached.

On 26thApril,2012 DataWind launched Ubislate 7+ and 7C tablets in India, in the same month the company claimed it had 3 million pre-bookings for the Ubislate tablets. The commercial version of Aakash was released online as the UbiSlate7 tablet PC at 3000 (US$46) and the Ubislate7+ tablet PC at 3500 (US$54)[12][25] on 11 November 2012 with plans to offer it at a subsidized cost for students of 1130 (US$17). In October 2013, DataWind launched UbiSlate 7Cx, UbiSlate 3G7 and UbiSlate 9Ci tablets in India.[67]

In December 2013, DataWind formally launched 3 from its range of UbiSlate Tablet Series in Canada,[68] US[69] and the UK.[70]

Ubislate Tablet Range[71]

UbiSlate 7Cx UbiSlate 7Ci UbiSlate 7C+ UbiSlate 7CZ UbiSlate 9Ci UbiSlate 3G7
Networks EDGE WiFi WiFi & EDGE WiFi & EDGE & BT WiFi WiFi & UMTS (2100) & BT
OS Android 4.0 Android 4.0 Android 4.0 Android 4.0 Android 4.0 Android 4.0
CPU Cortex A8 - 1 GHz Cortex A8 - 1 GHz Cortex A8 - 1 GHz Cortex A8 - 1 GHz Cortex A8 - 1 GHz Cortex A8 - 1 GHz
RAM 512 MB 512 MB 512 MB 1024 MB 512 MB 512 MB
Flash 256 MB 4G 4GB 8GB 4GB 4GB
Cameras N/A Front VGA Front VGA Front VGA/Rear 2MP Front VGA Front VGA/Rear 2MB
Screen 7” TFT Capacitive 7” TFT Capacitive 7” TFT Capacitive 7” TFT Capacitive 9” TFT Capacitive 7” TFT Capacitive
Ports Micro SD & Micro USB Micro SD & Micro USB Micro SD & Micro USB Micro SD & Micro USB Micro SD & Micro USB Micro SD & Micro USB

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External links[edit]