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09 January 2012, 11:13

OLPC presents the XO-3 "$100 tablet"

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OLPC logo
OLPC's XO-3 to debut at CES
Source: OLPC

Later than it originally hoped, the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organisation plans to fulfil its promise of a $100 laptop for the developing world. Talking to Computerworld, OLPC chairman Nicholas Negroponte promised that the XO-3 tablet will cost $100 or less, although, he added, the final price cannot be guaranteed because there are various options. However, the XO-3 won't be the lowest-cost tablet available, for example, there is the "Aakash" that is sold in India and only costs $50.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, OLPC is presenting a working version of the tablet it announced two years ago. The related press release offers few technical details. Thanks to power circuitry designed to accept noisy, erratic power input from 10V to 25V, the tablet can be charged using a hand crank or solar cells. It uses a Marvell ARM SOC (System on a chip) which combines the Armada PXA618 with an Avastar Wi-Fi component. Its operating system will be Android or another variant of Linux and it will not run Windows. The 8" power-saving and readable-in-direct-sunlight display by Pixel Qi will be optional, with an 8" LCD display being the designed default display. The device was shown at the Marvell booth at CES, before the conference opened officially.

Design-wise there is no single XO-3 tablet. Its modular design allows it to be specified on a per-customer basis, with options not just for the display, but also for the battery capacity. With the variable specification, the price can be over $100 per tablet. Among the other options is the solar shell; the shell has its own batteries so it can be placed in locations to get optimal sunshine. The OLPC can then be clipped into the fully charged shell and its own batteries charge using a connection made through the four side screws.

The use of the tablet in developing countries will be accompanied by scientific studies run out of the MIT Media Lab in partnership with Newcastle University and Tufts University. Negroponte said that researchers will investigate how well three-year-olds to eight-year-olds learn to read with the tablet without any help from teachers. In November, Negroponte announced a plan that would see the tablets dropped from helicopters into remote areas.

With its first "$100 laptop" project, OLPC failed to fulfill its own targets as it initially cost almost $200, shipped late and didn't reach the promised quantities. It fell behind Intel's competitor, the Classmate laptop. OLPC also announced that it would begin shipping the XO-1.75, a Marvell-ARM-powered redesign of the original XO laptop, in March. More than 75,000 of the power-efficient XO-1.75 units have been ordered by OLPC projects in Uruguay and Nicaragua.


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