One Tablet Per Child?

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One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) may need to change its name as the nonprofit organization announced last week that its next computer will, actually, be a tablet.

The organization, which was created to provide educational devices to children in developing nations, is working with chipmaker Marvell Technology Group Ltd. to create the XO-3, which will be based off of Marvell’s existing Moby tablet prototype. It will feature Wi-Fi capability, a video camera, a multi-touch screen and a high-definition display. The device, which will debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, is expected to cost $99.

Of course, OLPC’s original XO laptop, dubbed by the organization as the “$100 laptop” or “Children’s machine,” was also expected to cost less than a Benjamin. The original computer, however, sells for $172. OLPC abandoned its second attempt at creating a cheaper laptop (the aptly named XO-2) when it couldn’t significantly lower that device’s price either.  

Designed specifically for use in developing countries, the laptop, with its many moving parts, had to be outfitted to withstand hot weather, blowing sand and limited access to electricity. OLPC and Marvell believe they can produce their forthcoming tablet at a much lower cost because it will be smaller, cheaper and less powerful than a complete computer.

For example, the XO-3 will only require one watt of power to operate versus the five watts required to work the XO laptop. It will also feature a multi-lingual soft keyboard with touch feedback and allow for plug-in devices such as a mouse. In accordance with its mission statement, OLPC plans to incorporate an application that provides access to more than 2 million free educational books over the Internet.  

“Today's learning environments require robust platforms for computation, content creation and experimentation and all that at a very low cost," Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of OLPC said in a press release.  "Through our partnership with Marvell, OLPC will continue our focus on designing computers that enable children in the developing world to learn through collaboration, as well as providing connectivity to the world's body of knowledge.”

When OLPC was first launched by Negroponte in 2005, its goal was to produce and sell 100 million laptops in two years. Currently, 2 million of their machines are in use globally.  Let’s hope the new device is as popular as its iPad predecessor.

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