updated 11:10 pm EST, Fri January 6, 2012
OLPC XO 3 gets long overdue unveiling
The One Laptop Per Child project's long-in-waiting XO-3 tablet, now called the XO 3.0, will get its formal unveiling at CES. The eight-inch, 1024x768 slate will have a ruggedized body to survive rural schools and, like the original notebooks, consumes very little power. OLPC notes that it can take energy from a solar panel and that a hand crank can give it 10 minutes of power for every minute of turning, letting it work even in remote areas where electricity isn't guaranteed.
The new system will have the choice of either a touch-native version of OLPC's simple Linux-based Sugar interface or Android, with open firmware to let institutions make their own choice. A Marvell Armada PXA618 chip with 512MB of RAM will power the tablet, regardless of what OS it's using. Some models, though not all, will have a PixelQi 3qi display that can switch to an e-paper-like mode and otherwise work more effectively outdoors.
As the system will still be targeted at whole countries and gets volume discounts, OLPC expects to meet its slightly raised goals of $100 per tablet, or half as much as the smaller Kindle Fire. Those models will use traditional LCDs, though, and may trim other features. A full-fledged XO 3.0 will cost more.
Production is near beginning and will most likely have the new XO out in 2012.
The XO 3.0 may alter the dynamic of the tablet market depending on its success. Apart from the very cheapest of budget tablets, many of which make more sacrifices than OLPC does, no tablet can realistically match the XO 3.0 in price. Apple is currently the frontrunner for tablets in education, but it caters primarily to the wealthiest countries and not the developing world that OLPC has focused on for several years. Android, Sugar, or both could make significant inroads and take up those spaces where Apple chooses not to compete.