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Innovation

CES tablet frenzy spells competition for Classmate, doom for OLPC 3.0

Have you noticed the headlines coming out of CES, before CES even gets started? There's a lot of talk of tablets and tablet-like devices.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

Have you noticed the headlines coming out of CES, before CES even gets started? There's a lot of talk of tablets and tablet-like devices. Lenovo's created a tablet/notebook hybrid that, if nothing else, is darned interesting for its dual operating systems.

All this means that Intel's Convertible Classmate, previously the only cheap-tablet game in town, now has some serious competition as prices drop dramatically. It also means that 2012 is just too little, too late for OLPC's XO 3.0 tablet, which will find itself a small fish in a large pond of inexpensive competitors from major OEMs and new players alike.

Intel certainly brings a huge amount of value to the table with the ecosystem of hardware and software vendors. If OLPC can find its educational mojo again, it can deliver an open, unique learning environment at a competitive pricepoint. However, it gets very hard to talk about value with school committees, bean counters, and governments that simply see a bottom line. If you are a district CTO and you want to make 1:1 happen, will you take a cheaper solution with lower value if you know that's all you're going to get? I'm willing to bet you are.

Of course, we benefit from this. Not only do we have access to a flurry of interesting and useful new devices, but we should expect to Intel and its local OEMs pushing on their pricing, features, and value propositions to compete with mainstream products. OLPC, on the other hand, will absolutely have to deliver on their $75 promises to be competitive 2 years from now - remember, there are 2 other CES's and countless other trade shows before then when innovative, cheap tablets and smartbooks can drastically change market conditions and expectations.

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