OLPC Outlines Future XO Laptops

The One Laptop Per Child project may be facing some competition for inexpensive notebooks aimed at juicing education in developing markets—and may never have hit its major $100-per-system price point—but that doesn’t mean Nicholas Negroponte’s ambitious effort to bridge the so-called digital divide is giving up. The OLPC project has just announced a roadmap for future XO laptop systems, including an XO 1.5 and XO 1.75 aiming at 2010 and 2011, respectively, and an XO 3.0 concept laptop that’s just a sheet of flexible, unbreakable plastic that it hopes to bring to market in 2012 for under $100.

OLPC XO 3.0 Concept

“The first version of OLPC’s child-centric laptop, the XO, is a revolution in low-cost, low-power computing,” said OLPC founder and chairman Nicholas Negroponte, in a statement. “To fulfill our mission of reaching 500 million children in all remote corners of the planet, OLPC will continue to innovate in design and performance. Because we are a non-profit, we hope that industry will copy us.”

On the immediate horizon in the XO 1.5, which will feature the same basic industrial design as the current XO laptop, but with double the processor speed, pack in four times the RAM. (That would push it to 866 MHz and 1 GB of RAM.) The XO 1.5 will boot either Linux or Windows, and OLPC anticipates it will be available in January 2010 at about $200 per unit, with some variation owing to fluctuations in the RAM and flash memory markets.

In 2011, OLPC plans to launch the XO 1.75, which will add rubber bumpers to the outside of the XO case and expand out to an 8.9-inch tech-sensitive display. The Xo 1.75 will use an ARM processor from Marvell (rather than the x86 processor in the XO 1.5) that OLPC says will offer twice the speed at a quarter the power consumption—but the XO 1.5 will remain in production to offer a choice of processor platform. OLPC anticipates the XO 1.75 will cost $150 or less.

Almost a year and a half ago, the OLPC project announced a dual-screen concept for the XO 2.0 based on two touch-sensitive displays: one could act as a keyboard while the other worked as a traditional display, or innovative applications could make use of both displays in new ways. The displays would be developed by OLPC spinoff Pixel Qi. Now, looking out to 2012, OLPC gets a lot more ambitious, announcing a concept for an X0 3.0 that is just a single sheet of flexible, unbreakable plastic based on Pixel Qi display technology. The XO 3.0 would stick with the XO 2.0’s dual-screen approach, enabling one screen to be used as a keyboard or other input mechanism and the other for display, and (again) apps could make innovative use of both displays. OLPC says the XO 3.0 will be “unbreakable” and have no holes in it—although it will apparently support a ring for hanging around and being lashed on to things. The X0 3.0 will be based on the ARM architecture of the X0 1.75, and OLPC hopes to bring it to market at a per-unit cost under $75.

Only time will tell whether these designs come to fruition and whether OLPC can meet its target prices, but, regardless, we admire all the hard work going towards such a worthy cause.


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