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OLPC tablet prototype unveiled

Dec 23, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

One Laptop Per Child unveiled a roadmap for its Linux-ready XO netbooks, and confirmed it will deliver a Marvell/ARM-based XO-1.75 version in early 2011, says eWEEK. OLPC also released images of a prototype XO-3 tablet due in 2012, costing under $100, and made of a single sheet of plastic.

The non-profit One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization is devoted to seeding its low-cost XO netbooks around the world for schoolchildren in developing nations. According to the most recent figures from OLPC, the XO has been distributed to more than 1.4 million children in 35 countries, according to a Jeffrey Burt story in our sister publication, eWEEK.

OLPC's XO 1.5

OLPC confirmed that it will roll out its XO-1.5 (pictured above) next month. The under-$200 netbook maintains the XO-1's physical design, but switches from a 500GHz AMD Geode LX800 to a faster, but still x86-based, 1GHz Via C7M processor. The 1.5 version also boosts memory to 1GB of DDR2 RAM, and provides 4GB or 8GB of flash, said the association. Like the XO-1, the XO-1.5 will run both Linux (a stripped-down version of Fedora) and Windows, says the eWEEK story.

XO-3 prototype

Most of the new OLPC roadmap announcements had already been tipped by OLPC founder and chairman Nicholas Negroponte last month in an interview with Xconomy. The chief news this week, aside from details on the XO-3 (pictured above and farther below), is the revelation that OLPC's interim XO-1.75 will use a Marvell ARM processor.

OLPC apparently did not reveal which Marvell CPU it was considering, but Marvell recently announced a line of Armada system-on-chips (SoCs) based on its Sheeva PJ1 architecture and ARMv5 instruction set. Last year, the company released a Sheeva/ARM-based Marvell 88F6000 "Kirkwood" SoC capable of scaling to 2GHz, which was later used in Marvell's popular, Linux-based SheevaPlug Plug Computer design.

The XO-1.5 will be followed by the ARM-based XO-1.75 model in early 2011, selling for under $150, says eWEEK. This model will also stay with the basic XO design, but will include rubber bumpers on the outside, move to a touchscreen interface, and offer an 8.9-inch display, up from 7.5 inches. The new system will offer twice the speed of the XO-1.5, and consume a quarter of the power, says the story. 

Negroponte had hinted at a shift from xPC to ARM in March, but at the time suggested that the ARM SoC might go in the planned XO-2, an early prototype of which (pictured at right) had been demonstrated in September of last year. However, OLPC has now scrapped that ambitious, dual-screen design, and instead will jump directly from the XO-1.75 to the XO-3 (pictured below) in 2012.

Negroponte had also tipped the XO-3 last month, but has now filled in a few more details, including photos of prototypes. Based on the same ARM processor as the XO-1.75, the XO-3 is built from a single sheet of flexible plastic, and designed to be unbreakable, says eWEEK. Free of noticeable buttons, the prototype sports a rubber ring attached to the upper right corner to make it easier to hold and carry, says the story.

Different views of the XO-3

According to a Forbes report by Andy Greenberg, the XO 3.0 design was the work of Yves Behar, founder of FuseProject, which also designed the original XO-1. To avoid the need for a breakable glass display, OLPC plans to incorporate durable plastic back-plane components, possibly from Mountain View, Calif.-based Plastic Logic, says the story. The XO-3 is also said to feature a camera on the back, and will use inductive charging.

The XO-3 may be laid flat to play games

The tablet is likely to incorporate ultra low-power displays from start-up Pixel Qi, offering both reflective and LCD capabilities, says Forbes. Pixel Qi, which was created by former OLPC display technologist Mary Lou Jepsen, is expected to make a product announcement next month at CES.

As for manufacturing details for the XO-3, Forbes further quotes Negroponte as saying. "We don't necessarily need to build it. We just need to threaten to build it."

Indeed, Negroponte's original goal for the XO was not to start a computer company, but to encourage PC users to develop lower cost computers for the developing world. While OLPC has had its troubles over the year, and has fallen short of its goals, the XO did inspire Asus and other PC vendors to develop their own commercial netbooks.

Netbooks are now the fastest growing segment of the computing industry, with sales driven in large part by consumers in poorer nations. This fact has helped to push up Linux netbook share to over 30 percent, according to ABI Research.


More information on the XO laptops may be found at OLPC's site, here. Concept images of the XO 3.0 design were here, but by presstime, the link was no longer working.

The eWEEK story on the XO announcements may be found here. The Forbes story may be found here.

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