Zeebo, a low-powered game console that uses 3G wireless networks to download content and access updates, has been getting quite a bit of attention. Billed as the "fourth console" (after the Wii, Xbox, and PS3) and aimed at emerging markets, Zeebo is simply supposed to be a gaming machine.
The company (backed, in part, by Qualcomm) expects to be able to sell the console for $149 a piece by next year (it will initially cost $199 next month when it goes on sale in Brazil). According to CNet, the company is seeking international partners for distribution.
What really interests me, though, is Zeebo's intention to support connection of other devices (netbooks, PCs, etc.) to the Internet via its own 3G cellular connection. According to Electronista,
The system combines a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM processor with a free, 3G link over HSPA that lets the console perpetually remain connected to the Internet without requiring a hardwired connection. Users can buy and download games anywhere the console gets coverage; the cellular link will also allow frequent system updates and, eventually, the ability to share the Zeebo's connection with computers or other devices that might be relegated to dial-up in developing areas.
Given that the console itself has USB connections, an SD card slot, and video out, this seems like an easy choice for a low-power Internet kiosk with the right software or a "wireless router" for a small classroom of ultra-cheap netbooks.
Where OLPC often struggled with infrastructural issues, Zeebo has the potential to bring its own infrastructure given the increasing ubiquity of cellular networks even in developing areas.
This device isn't being directed at the educational market at all, but a few thoughtful developers could really exploit its inherent capabilities and take another step towards bridging the digital divide in a smart way.