I'll believe it when I see it. The blogosphere has offered plenty of reports today on OLPC's latest announcement, a new version of the XO laptop unveiled today at MIT's Media Lab. It certainly looks like a good idea: take two 16:9 aspect ratio touchscreens, hook them together and make one capable of doubling as a multitouch, multilanguage "keyboard". Voila, a clamshell iPhone on steroids loaded with educational potential, all for the low, low price of $75.
Umm, OK. Sorry, I'm afraid Negroponte has lost so much credibility over the past two years with his so-called $100 laptop, hardware failures, and distribution issues, I won't be holding my breath. The new laptop, pictured below in stock photos from OLPC (courtesy of xconomy), is slated for release in 2010, while an update to the current XO was also announced today. Called XO 1.5, the updated hardware is supposed to be released in early 2009.
As usual, Negroponte did a lot of arm-waving today:
“The reason you can have the audacity to do this is that the 16:9 displays on DVD players are so inexpensive that to anticipate them costing $20 each is not out of the question,” he says.
Of course, those displays don't have multitouch capabilities; we'll see what kind of magic OLPC partner, Pixel Qi, can work to crank out workable multitouch for $20 a pop from portable DVD components. That also leaves $35 for the rest of the hardware; Atom processors will cost Intel $8 each to manufacture, saying nothing of their (or their equivalents from other companies) cost to OEMs. Just as he anticipates a $20 cost for each screen, he also anticipated a $100 cost for the XO.
As with the XO, I hope the technology makes it way to various markets and actually comes to fruition. It will be useful in advancing 1:1 and low-cost deployments. On time and at budget? I don't think so, even assuming that OLPC survives until 2010.