One Laptop Per Child - Android, meet Dr. Negroponte

One Laptop Per Child - Android, meet Dr. Negroponte

Summary: The OLPC XO-3, because it will be based on an existing, working reference design and the Android OS just might succeed where other OLPC efforts have not.

TOPICS: Hardware

I don't know if the latest incarnation of the One Laptop Per Child initiative will actually come to fruition. The first XO essentially created the netbook market and continues to find some new foreign governments willing to subsidize purchases for students.  XO 2.0 was canceled and now Nicholas Negroponte is talking big (surprising, of course, because he's usually so understated and conservative in his forward-looking statements </sarcasm>) about his XO-3 tablet, slated to be available in 2011.

As Larry Dignan notes, any products from OLPC have more value as conversation starters than as actual products, but what interests me most about the XO-3, regardless of whether it actually becomes more than vaporware, is the platform.  It will be running on a Moby Tablet from Marvell, a $99 device that has already been shown in prototype; again, Larry called it out as a potential educational game changer while I was concerned with its mainstream viability as a Linux device.

According to Negroponte, though, it won't just be running Linux, it will be running Android. Go figure.  It wasn't so long ago that Negroponte was doing his damnedest to get into bed with Microsoft, whether or not Microsoft and the rest of the OLPC organization wanted to or not. Android, of course, can run quite well on ARM processors and this would provide access to a large and active developer community, but one has to wonder about the strategic shift at OLPC.

So what could go wrong?

I'm not complaining, of course.  This warms my Googley little heart more than any other announcement from OLPC and, unfortunately, Android is the only Linux-based OS that has gained any real mainstream consumer traction. So Android is mature, the actual hardware is almost ready, announced independent of Negroponte (and well before his most recent announcement), and development in Android is a relatively quick and painless process. Given how many handset manufacturers have built custom UIs for Android, it even seems likely that at least some elements of Sugar could make it to the new devices.

So what could possibly go wrong here? Well, Negroponte doesn't have a particularly good track record of delivering on his promises in a timely or cost-effective manner.  However, by partnering with Marvell (who ironically uses ARM technology that it bought from Intel years ago) and implementing Android on it's reference design (again, taking a cue from Intel, whose reference design model for their Classmate PCs has been quite successful), we just might see the XO-3 happen. And not just happen, but happen relatively soon with strong interest in both mature and developing markets. And with the combined brand recognition of OLPC and Android. Even I'm getting excited about this one.

It's worth checking out Marvell's Moby site ( for more information, both on the tablet and their partnership with OLPC. I'll close with a quote from Weili Dai, Marvell's Co-founder and Vice President and General Manager of the Consumer and Computing Business Unit.

"Marvell has made a long-term commitment to improving education and inspiring a revolution in the application of technology in the classroom. The Moby tablet platform – and our partnership with OLPC – represents our joint passion and commitment to give students the power to learn, create, connect and collaborate in entirely new ways...Marvell's cutting edge technology – including live content, high quality video (1080p full-HD encode and decode), high performance 3D graphics, Flash 10 Internet and two-way teleconferencing – will fundamentally improve the way students learn by giving them more efficient, relevant – even fun tools to use. Education is the most pressing social and economic issue facing America. I believe the Marvell Moby tablet can ignite a life-long passion for learning in all students everywhere.

Could it be? Could OLPC actually bring us the holy grail of 1:1 devices? I may not be holding my breath, but you can bet your netbook that I'll be watching this very closely. And probably at least breathing shallowly. And actually holding my breath at CES next year when we're supposed to see a working prototype.

Topic: Hardware

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: One Laptop Per Child - Android, meet Dr. Negroponte

    Subsidised by Google who will no doubt, like getting them young.<br><br>AdMob will be salivating at the prospect of how much McDonalds, Mattel and others will pay to invade schoolkids privacy.
    • That's not how it works

      Android is open source. Device vendors determine what is or is not included with the OS, not Google.<br><br>App & website developers decide if their "product" is free, purchased, subscribed to or ad supported, not Google.<br><br>Will Google ads be used sometimes? Probably<br>Will Yahoo, Microsoft, et al ads be used sometimes? Probably<br><br>Software developers are not charities, so they have to recover their costs & generate profits somehow.<br><br>Perhaps, education will be an exception, where developers/companies "donate" their time, but there's no reason to exclude the commercial model, if it results in better products being delivered to users.
      • RE: One Laptop Per Child - Android, meet Dr. Negroponte

        @linuser No Ad revenue = No Android, pretty simple really, as you said Google isn't a charity.
      • Android enables web access

        @hill60 <br><br>Android, in and of itself, does not generate significant (if any) revenue for Google.<br><br>What Android does is make it cheap & easy for ALL devices to be web-enabled. The more devices that are web-enabled, the more likely users of these devices will:<br><br>1. access Google services (search, email, Google Apps, etc.).<br>2. encounter Google hosted ads.<br><br>However, the same is also true for Yahoo ads & services, Microsoft ads & services, etc. Basically, everyone offering web apps & services on the internet benefit from Android.
      • RE: One Laptop Per Child - Android, meet Dr. Negroponte


        The <a href="">Phentermine</a> isn't be able to you repeat to facilitate? You cogitate this is.
    • RE: One Laptop Per Child - Android, meet Dr. Negroponte

      Don't get me wrong...
      I really do not like McDonald's food, and do not eat in their restaurants. Many do. I am a bit old to be playing with Mattel's toys... there are those, young enough to be doing so.

      Yes, these companies, and others, have mad many dollars, appealing to children.

      Your venom, though, is not even close to reasonable.

      There are things in your statement, that tell me you are a liberal (another word for cheap, unless spending someone else's money and ending up with nothing to show, except misery.)

      McDonald's spends a fortune (and collects contributions to support) many things to help sick children and their families.Mattel contributes to charities in large amounts..

      Unlike your probable heroes...

      The liberal factions tend to be non-donators to charities, unless needed for a quick tax deduction.

      Use Joe Biden as a classic example...

      Counterpoint... Use Rush Limbaugh as another... (Libs hates that he gives more than many... of them combined)

      You don't like businesses supporting One Laptop Per Child?

      You would rather 'government' do that job?

      Where do you think governments get what ever real money they collect?

      It ain't from liberal politicians... (Al Sharpton, The Secretary of the Treasury... tax evaders/dodgers... and only because of political connections not in jail!!!)

      One Laptop Per Child may or may not be a good idea...

      What determines that, are contributions, and purchases.

      You have little or no concept of business, charity, and how the world turns.

      Go back to watching MSNBC/ABC/CBS and that lot.

      you only use the net to spew venom you learned from those and their ilk.

      (Also, keep in mind... Google contributes a lot to charities, and the same people responsible for the economy, right now... go figure)
      the old rang
      • RE: One Laptop Per Child - Android, meet Dr. Negroponte

        @the old rang That doesn't change anything regarding Google's apparent complete lack of regard for people's right to privacy.

        It could be argued that McDonalds have contributed to the high levels of obesity in many developed countries where they operate, it is a part of their social responsibility that they contribute to the costs associated with that, rather than relying on governments or the health care industry to pick up the tab.

        Consume, be silent, die.
  • Could be a killer product!

    Wow! It will be great, if it is running Android!

    Tablet devices, as demonstrated by Apple's iPad, need to be:

    - simple & intuitive
    - touch-optimized
    - low/no maintenance
    - instant/always on
    - very responsive
    - low cost
    - resource optimized (CPU, memory, battery, ...)

    Remote desktop apps (e.g. Citrix) provide the additional benefit of being able to access a more powerful desktop OS, if/when needed.

    Because Android is open source, the user experience can also be tailored for the target demographic (e.g. Sugar, as mentioned in the article).

    This could be a killer product, at the price point they are targeting!
    • RE: One Laptop Per Child - Android, meet Dr. Negroponte


      Couldn't agree wth u more. Let's hope XO also has a RDP client to connect to a more powerful desktop via remote desktop software such as ThinServer
  • Android runs on Linux

    Android is an application platform running on linux. It's close in concept to the java virtual machine. As such it is open source and even if Google is the main developper, others can easily change it and add to it, as long as they stay with GPL => share the code with the world.

    So Negroponte has not really gone away from Linux - just not using ubuntu as the desktop anymore
  • Great to see OLPC still pushing innovation. I all they do is spark others

    to produce, that is OK.

    But, a $75 tablet is really only in volume for schools. Ordinary people will pay more like $150, but, still not bad.
    • I agree

      "Great to see OLPC still pushing innovation"

      I agree.

      The XO-1 motivated commercial companies to investigate to see if such a device could be made and, in the process, the low cost "netbook" category was born.

      This XO-3 could spur similar innovation, leading to a new category of low cost tablets.
  • super price

    Let's get it done, Mr Negroponte.
    Partners in Grime