The OLPC XO Laptop was designed for use in developing nations. The computer gets excellent battery life, which makes it ideal for use in locations with limited access to electricity. And it has a unique interface designed to make the laptops simple to use for children that have had little to no exposure to computers. But if you take a bunch of computer savvy users and ask them to perform a simple list of tasks on an XO Laptop and on more conventional laptops like the Asus Eee PC or Intel Classmate PC, the XO is probably going to lose 9 times out of 10.
And that’s exactly what Computer Aid International found when the group decided to conduct a test with a series of computers to determine which machines were best suited for deployment in developing areas of Africa. The group asked the folks at ZDNet UK to run a few tests on a few computers including an Asus Eee PC 900, Intel Classmate PC, and XO Laptop. Then the computers were shipped off to several African universities for field testing. (In one case, the reviewers were looking at an Asus Eee PC 701).
The results? The OLPC got better battery life than any other machine, but it was considered by most to be too slow and it couldn’t easily perform tasks like editing spreadsheets of watching video. So most reviewers preferred the Eee PC, which scored higher than even the Classmate PC due to better battery life.
But the methodology seems a bit off to me. The OLPC XO Laptop wasn’t designed as a productivity machine for use in a college setting. It’s meant to be an educational tool for young children and it has a unique interface designed to help children learn to use computers, interact with their peers, learn to write programs, and perform other simple tasks. Sure, it doesn’t come with a spreadsheet application or video player, but as an open source computer you could install those if you wanted to. But it seems wrong to test the XO on its ability to perform tasks it wasn’t designed for — and which may not really be required. After all, how many spreadsheets did you fill out when you were 10 years old?
You can download the complete Computer Aid International report as a PDF.
via Tech Radar