The One Laptop Per Child foundation set out with an ambitious goal about half a decade ago, to deliver a $100 laptop that could change the face of education in the developing world. That never quite happened, but the team has delivered a number of durable, inexpensive computers to classrooms around the globe and changed the way we think about cheap laptops.
OLPC’s XO Laptop project also probably sparked for-profit companies like Asus to introduce the first netbooks, which eventually drove down the average selling price of notebooks in general and paved the way for tablets.
Now the OLPC team is ready to launch something a bit different… a cheap Android tablet with a custom user interface designed for education. Unlike most OLPC products which aren’t sold at retail in the US, you should be able to pick up an XO-Tablet from Walmart starting July 16th. Maybe.
But that’s the date OLPC says the tablet is due. Interestingly, the news came in a blog post refuting a recent article from OLPC News claiming that things are falling apart at the OLPC Foundation. There have been a number of key employees departing recently, but according to the team that remains, that’s due to a shift in focus, not the demise of the project.
Of course, the fact that it took a week and a half to formulate a response and post it online doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Then again, neither did the hardware the company was showing off earlier this year.
Update: OLPC did sort of respond to the original article a day after it was published, but didn’t mention the article by name.
Hopefully the team has worked out some of the kinks that made the demo unit I played with feel so sluggish.
The OLPC foundation isn’t putting all their eggs in one basket. In addition to the XO-Tablet, the team is also working on an XO-4, which is a convertible notebook which looks a lot like the company’s earlier laptops with a rugged case and sunlight viewable display. It transforms into a tablet when you rotate the screen and fold it down over the keyboard.
That project’s also running behind schedule. The XO-4 was originally scheduled to launch by March.