Meet the XO-3 from the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project. You know, the non-profit organization that created the $100 XO-1 laptop and whose mission is “to create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.” On a side note, the XO-1 “has been distributed to more than 1.4 million children in 35 countries and in 25 languages,” according to Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of One Laptop Per Child. The latest concept iteration, the XO-3, is skipping a whole “second generation.” In fact, the XO-2 concept was unveiled in pictures (much like this go-around) and never came to fruition. The dual-screen concept was scrapped and Negroponte began to focus on what we see here. The XO-3 “will feature a new design using a single sheet of flexible plastic and will be unbreakable and without holes in it.” The device itself is one big 8.5 x 11 touchscreen with a folding ring in the corner as a grip and a camera can be found on the backside. It will take advantage of inductive charging (think the Palm Pre “puck”) and will use less than a watt of power. Negroponte on the potential success of the XO-3: “Sure, if I were a commercial entity coming to you for investment, and I’d made the projections I had in the past, you wouldn’t invest again, but we’re not a commercial operation. If we only achieve half of what we’re setting out to do, it could have very big consequences.” The XO-3 is designed by Yves Behar and is projected to cost $75 when it goes on sale in 2012.
In a press release Negroponte spilled the beans on two more iterations of the OLPC that are planned to emerge before the introduction of the XO-3.
The XO 1.5 is the same industrial design as the XO 1.0. Based on a VIA processor (replacing AMD), it will provide 2x the speed, 4x DRAM memory and 4x FLASH memory. It will run both the Linux and Windows operating systems. XO 1.5 will be available in January 2010 at about $200 per unit. The actual price floats in accordance with spot markets, particularly for those of DRAM and FLASH.
The XO 1.75, to be available in early 2011, will be essentially the same industrial design but rubber-bumpered on the outside and in the inside will be an 8.9”, touch-sensitive display. The XO 1.75 will be based on an ARM processor from Marvell that will enable 2x the speed at 1/4 the power and is targeted at $150 or less. This ARM-based system will complement the x86-based XO 1.5, which will remain in production, giving deployments a choice of processor platform.
The “One Laptop Per Child” initiative is great. I’m all for putting computers in the hands of less fortunate people, giving them access to a wide array of educational opportunities. The point of the XO-x laptops is their ability to be mass produced and shipped to countries around the world for the purpose of spreading the importance of education and development. The XO-1 did its job, and according to Negroponte, the XO-3 and other form factors that come before it will do the same. The only thing I worry about is whether or not the technology will be around to support Negroponte’s dream computers. In pictures, the XO-3 looks like a device from 2050, not 2012. Even if such technologies arearound to build this device in three years, will it be possible to price it at a mere $75? These are pressing issues Negroponte and his designers and engineers I’m sure are dealing with today. I have my fingers crossed that a day will come in the near future when little boys and girls in less-developed countries will sitting at desks with their thin, stylish XO-3s, developing their minds and expanding their opportunities.
“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.” With a mission like this in mind, OLPC is on track to becoming a global force in the push for widespread education and innovation.