updated 07:10 pm EDT, Thu September 30, 2010
OLPC's leader says XO-3 more creative than iPad
One Laptop Per Child project founder Nicholas Negroponte told those at the Mobilize conference today that tablets needed to be more creativity-driven than the iPad. While not directly critical of Apple's design, the OLPC lead said Apple was primarily making "peripherals for iTunes" that were meant for passive consumption. For devices like the XO-3 tablet, the focus had to be on active learning and creation, which Negroponte didn't see as an iPad strong suit.
"We can't turn these kids into couch potatoes," he explained to those at the GigaOM-run event. "Just because you interact doesn't mean you construct. [You need] learning by doing and learning by making. Learning by being told is only one way."
Apple has mostly focused on the iPad for media, such as books, games and video, although education has played an increasing role. Schools have been testing the iPad as a weight-saving and more advanced alternative to textbooks but haven't dwelled as much on creative apps, which exist but aren't dominant.
Educational apps have always been central focuses of the XO notebooks, but Negroponte also suggested that some of it would come from a hardware design that would encourage more input. Marvell is working on haptic feedback to give tactile response for touchscreen keyboards, but the use of Pixel Qi's transflective display would also help by making the screens usable in bright sunlight, encouraging use outside.
The social effect of a tablet was better than a notebook regardless of who made it, the executive said, as it meant people could share an experience and that a teacher would see faces instead of the "backs of laptops."
Veering away from OLPC's usual hands-on approach, he added that it was no longer absolutely necessary that OLPC make the devices itself. Many companies would try to duplicate his efforts, and could ultimately produce the intended result on their own. If "market forces" would reach the same goal, he and the team could afford to stop, he said.
The XO-3 is due in 2011 and could cost as little as $75 in very large quantities, though cost overruns have sometimes been an issue with the OLPC team. It will already be thicker and heavier than originally planned to get the release on track.