OLPC's first laptop, the XO has been both praised and criticized for many things. Perhaps most significant was its incredibly low power consumption, critical for use in areas with very limited electrical capacity. Key to this power consumption was the AMD Geode processor, an utterly anemic piece of hardware whose performance could be excused for its .8W appetite.
Yesterday, however, the company announced a new class of processors, called Bobcat, to be released in 2011 and designed to compete with Intel's Atom processor line, but at lower power consumption. A look at the Atom roadmap shows chips with TDP (thermal design power) as low as .65 watts, but this is still running at only 400MHz (even slower than the Geode in terms of clockspeed, but with multithreading enabled).
Bobcat, however, is slated to run under the 1W TDP threshold and is expected to perform quite competitively with Atom. It will also compete with Via's Nano processor for small computer applications.
The real question, though, is how these processors will get used as new generations of OLPC-like devices come on board. Obviously, a market for incredibly low power PCs like OLPC continues to emerge in developing countries. However, relatively powerful CPUs that can perform with low power requirements have significant implications for smarter, smaller, faster 1:1 applications in educational settings, regardless of market.
Netbooks and MIDs that can last all day on a single charge with lighter batteries as well as innovative mobile devices should further drive 1:1 towards practical reality at a variety of settings. Competition, greater efficiency, and lower power in this segment can do nothing but benefit educational institutions who are increasingly adopting small devices to ensure access for as many students as possible.