The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) outlined its future roadmap, including plans for the XO 3.0, a device "well below $100" and utilizes a design that mimics a piece of paper. The aim of the XO 3.0 is to leapfrog previous generations. Will it matter?
The OLPC made a big splash and has distributed laptops to 1.4 million kids. But it lacks the distribution heft of larger players---think Intel's Classmate effort. The larger question is whether the OLPC can provide a leapfrog device that's more than two years away (statement, Techmeme). Meanwhile, will the OLPC be relevant in two years?
A few years ago such as question would be ridiculed. Today, the OLPC is in a different light. Christopher Dawson highlights the conundrum. He named the OLPC's XO laptop the best and worst in education tech for the decade---an assessment I agree with. Dawson explains:
The One Laptop Per Child efforts singlehandedly created the netbook market segment, drove Intel to create its outstanding Classmate PCs, innovated on the user interface and power consumption fronts, demonstrated how not to run a business, and proved that without support and infrastructure, all the constructivist learning theory in the world was only marginally useful.
- XO 1.5 is based on the same industrial design as the 1.0. It will be based on a VIA processor instead of AMD and have more memory. The unit will be available for $200 beginning in January, but pricing will fluctuate with memory prices.
- XO 1.75 will come a year later with the same design, but with a rubber bumper and an 8.9 inch touch screen. The chip will be an ARM processor from Marvell. Price: $150 or less.
- In 2012, the XO 3.0 is expected to land and go for less than $100. OLPC is leapfrogging its two-page approach that was announced in May 2008. That 2008 design can be found in the latest Asus e-reader.
Simply put, the OLPC roadmap is one of modest change and a big bang two years from now. What's unclear is whether the computing landscape will render the XO 3.0 an afterthought for emerging markets in two years. What's also unclear is whether the OLPC can forge ahead without turmoil.
Some images to ponder: