The folks that never quite manager to bring us the $100 laptop are at it again. This year the One Laptop Per Child group will be introducing an 8 inch tablet that sells for less than $100.

The XO 3.0 will reportedly have a 1024 x 768 pixel display, a Marvell Armada PXA618 ARM-based processor, and 512MB of memory. The tablet will be available with Google Android or Sugar OS, a custom Linux-based operating system originally designed for the XO Laptop.

Some models may also be available with a Pixel Qi sunlight readable display. Pixel Qi’s screens have two modes. With the backlight on they’re full color LCD displays. But if you cut the backlight, you can view text and images on the screen using ambient light — although they’ll look more like E Ink grayscale displays in that mode.

Like the XO Laptop, the goal is to position the XO tablet as a low-cost computing device for students in the developing world. The tablet is said to get up to 10 hours of battery life, and it can be recharged with solar cells, hand cranks, or other devices.

This all sounds like a pretty big deal — but a lot of these promises sound familiar. The XO Laptop was supposed to sell for $100, but its price never really dipped far below $200. OLPC also never released a long-promised hand crank charging solution for the laptop.

There’s some reason to believe that a $100 laptop is a more achievable goal though. Last year the Indian government started shipping $35 tablets to students in that country. They’re not very good tablets, but it demonstrates that it’s possible to make very cheap yet usable Android tablets given the availability of inexpensive supplies.

OLPC has been working on its tablet designs for the last few years and we’ve seen a number of concept drawings, but it won’t be clear exactly what the new models look like until we see them at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Update: OLPC has posted the first few pictures of the new tablet.

via ComputerWorld and The Verge


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7 replies on “OLPC to introduce its $100 tablet at CES”

  1. I’m sure I’m not the only one that finds OLPC’s tablet bulky and downright ridiculous.  These guys haven’t done much other than blow hot air (as they are doing now and have been doing for the past four years).

    OLPC is not needed.
    Pixel Qi is not needed.
    The Sugar operating system is not needed.
    Negroponte is a joke.
    And the unveiling of this tablet show absolutely nothing that is needed or even worth paying for.

    A $200 off-contract, 4.5-inch Android phone (with HDMI as well as standard audio/video outs [most tvs in the developing world are of standard definition], ability to boot in Linux or Windows 8, etc.) would completely crush any of OLPC’s wet dreams.  And this is a reality coming in a very short time.

    It really is only a matter of time now.  Companies such as Cubify.com, 1dollarscan.com, Wikipedia.org, YouTube.com, etc.  …are taking off like crazy.  And many more are coming.

    The only problem I see is that a $120 Android phone such as the LG Optimus V costs nearly double the amount of money in many developing countries. 

    I’m willing to bet that the majority of the world will have basic access to high-technology (as in smartphones) in less than five years : ) 

  2. I think the OLPC people deserve more credit than they get. Not so much because they succeeded, but because they scared the rest of the industry into making lower priced laptops. Without OLPC I don’t think netbooks as we know them would exist.

    The idea that each student can have their own inexpensive computer seemed far out, almost crazy when OLPC first proposed it. Now the technology is catching up to the idea, particularly with tablets. They were ahead of their time, but they had some good ideas and good intentions.

    1. While I agree OLPC should get a bit more credit, I disagree on it being a lot more as the idea of low cost basic computers goes back farther than the OLPC project.  The limits of technology at the time just prevented them from being either very useful or made them too expensive. 

      Rather the OLPC project gets most of the credit of just thinking outside of the box for a solution and getting people to think more seriously about it before the technology was ready but remember it was primarily intended to bring computing to poorer nations.  Many who would find even netbooks expensive.

      While those who follow the industry and of course the big companies themselves were aware of the OLPC project, the average consumer was not when the Eee PC first came out in late 2007 and started the netbook phenomena.

      The timing had a lot to do with it as the demand for a low cost solution was finally starting to get high with the already slowing economy and people were starting to really like the idea of being as mobile as possible.  Thanks in part with the increasing capabilities of Internet services and sharing of information as well as other developments like Smart Phones.

      Many saw netbooks as a step up from organizers and PDA, and cheaper than higher end solutions like UMPCs.  While others just liked the idea of a almost toy like mini-laptop. 

      Mind it took over a year before the general public really knew what to make of netbooks.  Since many got them for the wrong reasons and wound up returning them because they were not what they thought they were but that eventually cleared up as more and more got hands on experience.

      The first Eee PC was actually based on a pretty standard Intel Celeron chip.  So it was a combination of factors that led to Intel having what we now know as the ATOM chip ready for when they realized they had to deal with the netbook phenomena.  All of which finally started making netbooks progressively cheaper and providing them with increasingly longer run times.

      So in that much the OLPC did have a effect as Intel was already experimenting with creating lower cost and lower power solutions.  But we can’t discount the netbook phenomena of its own merits as well in influencing them, as they still considered they had years before having to deal with any serious competition.

      After all, the OLPC was still an ongoing project and what they offered was pretty basic and a long way from finished product.

      Meaning the industry was mainly concerned with just containing the phenomena as to not effect their main and more profitable products.

      Thus why they only put minimal effort into it and why we haven’t seen much progress in years.  Intel for example had the ATOM on a long 5 year product cycle, which is over twice as long as the 2 year product cycle they keep their higher end products under, but this helped insure low R&D costs for what they still considered a niche product.

      However, now Intel and others want to get into the mobile market and that attitude has changed.  Starting in 2013 with the 22nm Silvermont update the ATOM will be on a 2 year product cycle and will be getting many of Intel’s latest technologies and applications will go from netbooks to servers, to embedded devices, and even to tablets and Smart Phones.

      The OLPC project probably had more effect on MS though, with netbooks as a catalyst.  Since the OLPC doesn’t require traditional OS and stood to become widely used by a large portion of the world’s total population.  So we can thank them for the lower cost of Windows from then on and helping to stimulate the development of alternatives.

      1. Note that Intel was part of the OLPC project in late 2007. That may have influenced their decisions about how to develop and price the Atom.

        1. No need to add that note, I already indicated that with the part just before I said…

          “So in that much the OLPC did have a effect as Intel was already
          experimenting with creating lower cost and lower power solutions.”

          But I also pointed out that netbooks started with the Celeron, the ATOM didn’t start replacing it till 2008 and both Intel and MS started imposing strict limitations on the netbook specifications. 

          It also doesn’t change that there were even earlier attempts at making netbook like devices, it’s just that the limits of technology at the time either had them too limited in function or too expensive.

          OLPC can be credited for helping to accelerate the process, and getting many to start thinking out of the box for solutions. However, there were other factors and the OLPC wasn’t responsible for them all.

  3. If anything, it sounds more promising than before because:
    a) There are already pictures of it at The Verge, and it will be showcased at CES in a matter of days
    b) OLPC claims that they already have orders from a couple of governments. Uruguay? I have read it somewhere today.

    Anyway, it looks like the ultra-low-cost Android tablet is indeed feasible. The guys at The Verge also did a hands-on with a $99 Chinese Android 4.0 tablet and came away impressed.

    For countries that never quite got textbooks, a tablet with free online content and custom apps can be a godsend. In the West, where textbook publishers are already entrenched and people are used to spending a lot of money on paper, it will be more difficult – kind of the way mobile phones have killed landlines in Africa, but not in Europe.

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