When the folks over at One Laptop Per Child set out on a mission to build a sub $100 laptop for developing nations, we wished them on their mission. It is after all, a great cause. When India announced that it would begin building $35 ultra-low-cost laptop for students however, we called them mad, stark raving mad. Turns out India’s minister for human resource development was determined to prove us all wrong, and this week has announced they will be producing more than one million of the devices which will be sold to colleges and universities across the country.
The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation just received a $5.6 million grant from Marvell intended to fund the development of an Android tablet for developed territories.
"They [Marvell] have been sponsors all along," OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte says. "But they were one of ten. Now they are the technology partner."
Though OLPC is building the tablet device, Negroponte says it won't relate directly to the XO 3, and it won't even come with any OLPC branding. And other than the fact that it will run Android, there aren't a whole lot details to go on. Negroponte did say that Marvell and OLPC will have something "concrete" to show at CES in January, but was careful not to promise a working prototype.
The XO-1.75 will sport a processor based on the ARM architecture unlike its predecessor that features an x86 processor from VIA. This shift necessitates software changes as the current version of OLPC's favorite Linux distribution, Fedora, is still missing an ARM port. Chris Ball, lead software engineer for OLPC, said in an e-mail statement that future OLPC machines will continue to use Fedora as their main Linux distribution.
"We need to rebuild each of the thousands of Fedora packages for Arm from their Fedora 13 versions, so that includes everything from the kernel and drivers up through all of the other packages, including Sugar,” Ball said.
The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organization announced that it is working with Marvell to develop a series of low-cost handheld tablets based on the Marvell Moby reference design.
"While devices like eReaders and current tablets are terrific literary, media and entertainment platforms, they don't meet the needs of an educational model based on making things, versus just consuming them. Today's learning environments require robust platforms for computation, content creation and experimentation – and all that at a very low cost," said Dr. Nicholas Negroponte, Founder and Chairman of One Laptop per Child. "Through our partnership with Marvell, OLPC will continue our focus on designing computers that enable children in the developing world to learn through collaboration, as well as providing connectivity to the world's body of knowledge.
OLCP's upcoming slate will consume just 1W of power (compared to 5W on the XO Laptop) and feature a multi-lingual soft keyboard with touch feedback. It will be powered by Marvell's ARMADA 610 application processor and able to crank out 1080p full-HD encode and decode. Other specs include 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM, GPS, 3D graphics, and full Adobe Flash support. No big surprise here, the upcoming tablet will be built around Google's Android platform.
No word on when it will launch, only that OLPC and Marvell are shooting for a sub-$100 price tag.
We've been hearing promises of a sub-$100 laptop from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization since it began, but it has yet to deliver one. That won't change in 2010, or even 2011, but come 2012, OLPC feels confident it will finally reach that milestone, according to the company's roadmap.
Before getting to that point, OLPC plans to release the XO 1.5 in January 2010. OLPC says it will sport the same industrial design as the 1.0, but will come configured with a VIA processor instead of AMD. It will also have more memory. OLPC is targeting $200 as the price point, but says that could fluctuate with memory prices.
Then in 2011, the XO 1.75 will make its debut, and once again, it will feature the same overall design as previous models, but with a rubber bumper and an 8.9-inch touchscreen. OLPC plans to use an ARM processor for this one and is shooting for a price point of no more than $150.
Finally, 2012 will be the year OLPC says it will deliver a notebook "well below $100," the XO 3.0. This one will take a "totally different approach" and "feature a new design using a single sheet of flexible plastic." OLPC claims it will be unbreakable.
The ambitious One Laptop Per Child project was started with high hopes of bringing low-cost connected laptops to children in developing countries, an idea that so far has struggled to spread the way it was originally conceived. Giving the project a big boost, the government of India plans to purchase 250,000 of OLPC's XO laptops.
The big order comes as somewhat of a surprise. OLPC had once before tried to win favor in India with a pilot program that saw 20 XO laptops distributed to students in Khairat-Dhangarwada village in the state of Maharashtra, Arstechnica reports. Despite being a success, the country's Ministry of Human Resource Development raised concerns about what adverse health effects might arise from prolonged laptop use.
This time around, the 250,000 laptops will be sent to 1,500 schools, and that might be only the tip of the iceberg. OLPC India CEO Satish Jha said he hopes to ship 3 million laptops in India this year.
"The design goal is to provide an overall update of the system within the same ID and external appearance," OLPC’s VP of hardware development, John Watlington, announced on Friday. The revised version, which is due in November, will feature 1GB DDR2 SDRAM (currently 256MB) and up to 8GB flash storage (currently 1GB). OLPC will abandon the x-86 processor platform and adopt an ARM-based processor in its stead as part of its Generation 2.0 refresh.
Yesterday AMD announced that they had no plans to replace their aging Geode chip. Its low power consumption made it an ideal candidate for the XO laptops, but now the future for this deal remains uncertain.
“There are no plans for a follow-on product to today's available AMD Geode LX products, but we expect to make this very successful processor available to customers as long as the market demands,” stated Phil Hughes, a spokesman with AMD.
Reportedly AMD is working closely with OLPC to remain the chipmaker for the XO-2 laptop. But, it is expected that given their lack of next-generation low power consumption chips, it will be difficult.
One Laptop Per Child's "Give 1 Get 1" program is making a comeback, only this time the OLPC association has teamed with Amazon.com in hopes of ironing out any kinks in the ordering and distribution process. Amazon will start taking order for XO laptops on Monday, November 24 and promises to ship the devices within 30-days, at least in the U.S. Those ordering from the U.K. and elsewhere will be taken from Amazon's U.K. site and will start shipping in the first quarter of next year, or possibly later.
The Give 1 Get 1 program ran for six weeks last year, and in that time managed to sell 160,000 XO laptops. And since more people decided to donate the machine rather than keep one, over 100,000 XO laptops ended up going to school kids in countries like Haiti and Rwanda.
"The phenomenal success of last year's Give 1 Get 1 program created tremendous demand from both the public who wanted to give more and from countries that saw an opportunity to attack poverty through education," said Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of OLPC, in a statement."
The Give 1 Get 1 promotion runs $400, in which one machine goes to a child in a developing country and the other to the donor who placed the order. Alternately, donors can opt to give away as many individual laptops as they want for $200 per XO.
Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini had a bounce in his step going into his shareholder briefing on Tuesday. Intel’s continued dominance over AMD and a solid earnings report has left his investors glad they placed their money in hardware rather then software. Investors on the other hand are nothing if not fickle. The conference call quickly turned into a debate over the shortage of Atom processors and weakness in Intel’s flash memory business. Put on the defensive Paul Otellini hinted that Atom isn’t the chip maker’s primary focus. "(Atom) is less than a third the performance of our Centrino (processor). You're dealing with something that most of us wouldn't use," he said. He further goes on to clarify that Atom is aimed at the emerging Netbook audience and is a way that Intel can grow without cannibalizing its other processor offerings. He continued to reassure investors that Intel has plenty of Atom chips in stock and back end improvements to testing as well as increased production of chipsets should solve the problem. Intel has been steadily increasing its production capacity of the popular CPUs since November.