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OLPC Partners With Marvell on Tablets

The One Laptop Per Child project has announced a partnership with electronics manufacturer Marvell to design a series of education-focused tablet computers aimed at schools in emerging markets. The initial designs will be based on Marvell’s Moby tablet, but future designs will be work towards low-power versions of the OLPC’s very slim XO-3 designs, which is aiming at a 2012 release. The move signals the OLPC project is shifting away from systems based on traditional notebook designs and shifting towards tablet computers.

“While devices like ereaders and current tablets are terrific literary, media, and entertainment platforms, they don’t meet the needs of an educational model based on making things, versus just consuming them,” said OLPC chairman and founder Nicholas Negroponte, in a statement. “Through our partnership with Marvell, OLPC will continue our focus on designing computers that enable children in the developing world to learn through collaboration, as well as providing connectivity to the world’s body of knowledge.”

The OLPC plans for the Marvell-based tablets to operate on as little as one watt of power (compared to 5 watts for the current OLPC XO laptop), and will feature a multi-lingual soft-touch keyboard with touch feedback so users can type on it usually almost any language. OLPC also says the device will feature an ereader application to users can tap into more than 2 million free books via the Internet. The device will feature a dual-mode display that can be used both indoors and outdoors in direct sunlight. The OLPC hopes that entire machine casing—including the screen—can be plastic.

The Moby tablet is currently being evaluated in pilot programs at at-risk schools in Washington D.C. OLPEC plans to show the first fruits of their collaboration with Marvell at CES in 2011. Although it’s too early to speculate on pricing details, Negroponte told PC World he believes the XO-3 tablets will eventually come in at around $75.

The current Moby tablet runs on Marvel’s own Armada processor, and supports Android, Ubuntu Linux, and Windows Mobile, along with 1080p video and support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless networking. The units can support GPS functionality, and can support a built-in camera for video conferencing and pictures.