Menu
OLPC cancels XO-3 tablet, downplays need for new hardware

OLPC cancels XO-3 tablet, downplays need for new hardware

Design aspects of the XO-3 could be used by other companies, Negroponte says

One Laptop Per Child has cancelled plans to release its XO-3 tablet, although technology from that project could still be used in other products, OLPC Chairman Nicholas Negroponte said.

"The XO-3 is by no means gone. It may emerge in its constituent parts rather than as a whole," Negroponte said via email.

OLPC started off in 2005 as a laptop project and is well known as a hardware innovator, with its first XO-1 laptop being praised for its unique and environmentally friendly design. The XO-3 cancellation comes as OLPC officials say the organization could de-emphasize the focus on hardware design in the long run in favor of education projects.

The nonprofit group announced plans for the XO-3 tablet in 2009 and showed early samples at CES earlier this year. The tablet was supposed to ship earlier this year for US$100, but it was delayed while OLPC finalized the design and sought partners to manufacture the XO-3. The tablet was meant to be a low-cost computing tool for students in developing countries.

The XO-3 was originally priced at $75 and that triggered a backlash, in part because critics said the price was unrealistic. OLPC didn't plan to have the product manufactured itself, as it did with the XO-1 laptop, which too was delayed and eventually shipped at double its promised $100 price tag.

The XO-3 design is still available, and it is more likely that companies use some of the tablet's key technologies, such as flexible power input and charging efficiency, said Ed McNierney, the chief technology officer at OLPC.

"There's a lot of decent tablet technology out there -- it's really a question of putting things together in the right package for the children we're trying to serve," McNierney said in an email. "The Nexus 7 is nice, too, and a more kid-friendly size, and there are other good examples."

The tablet shown at CES had a rugged body, an 8-inch screen and included optional technologies such as a solar charger and support for satellite Internet. It used a display from Pixel Qi that conserves battery life by using ambient light to brighten the screen.

OLPC's priority has always been education and the need to design its own complete hardware systems "may go away," Negroponte said. Tablets are an important learning tool for children, but companies may be able to ruggedize existing low-cost products for use in schools, he said.

"We had to build the [XO-1] laptop, but we do not have to build the tablet," Negroponte said, adding that, "the need for OLPC may morph into something else."

OLPC also designed a hybrid laptop-tablet called the XO-4 Touch, which includes some of the XO-3's features. That product is still scheduled to ship early next year. The XO-4 resembles the original XO-1 laptop but has a touchscreen that can swivel around and fold over the keyboard to make an e-reader.

As an alternative to the XO-3, Negroponte is not opposed to buying low-cost tablets and distributing them to schools. Tablets from companies such as Motorola, which have been deployed as an educational tool in developing countries, have shown good power management and no breakage in rugged environments.

"I am surprised how good they are, as they were not designed for [the] environment," Negroponte said.

Experiments have shown that tablets have made basic learning and computing easier, he said.

"The amazing result is that the kids are showing all the precursors of reading," Negroponte said.

OLPC will continue with hardware design on the XO-4 and beyond for the simple reason that there are now nearly 3 million XO devices around the world, McNierney said.

"That means two things: ongoing support for the existing customers, and ongoing engineering to keep the design current. Existing customers need additional units, spare parts, etc. and that need won't go away," McNierney said.

Components also must be refreshed every 18 to 24 months to keep using readily available parts and to keep the price down.

"That doesn't mean, of course, that OLPC needs to be the organization to do those things in the long run. That's the nice part of being a nonprofit; we do things -- like design hardware -- when no one else is stepping up to do them. If someone else can do them, we can stop," McNierney said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

Follow Us

Join the ARN newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags One Laptop Per Child Projecthardware systemstabletslaptops

Upcoming

Slideshows

IN PICTURES: Nutanix's .NEXT channel event in Sydney (+20 photos)

IN PICTURES: Nutanix's .NEXT channel event in Sydney (+20 photos)

Nutanix recently held its customer and channel event, .NEXT, in Sydney. The event, held at the Sheraton on the Park saw attendance from more than 150 channel and technology partners and customers. It was the first in a series of events Nutanix is holding in A/NZ in August and September, the objective of which is to brief partners and customers on “what’s next” in the design and management of datacentre technology.

IN PICTURES: Nutanix's .NEXT channel event in Sydney (+20 photos)
IN PICTURES: EDGE 2015 sponsor debrief (+23 photos)

IN PICTURES: EDGE 2015 sponsor debrief (+23 photos)

Some of the sponsors of ARN's inaugural EDGE 2015 event got together at the ARN office for a debrieef of the event. Over some drinks and cheese, these attendees got an update on some key statistics that arose from the EDGE event and discussed potential topics and improvements that can be made at next year's event.

IN PICTURES: EDGE 2015 sponsor debrief (+23 photos)
IN PICTURES: ARN Distributor Roundtable, Sydney, 26.08.15 (+26 photos)

IN PICTURES: ARN Distributor Roundtable, Sydney, 26.08.15 (+26 photos)

ARN hosted a distributor roundtable at Cafe Del Mar in Sydney, at which attendees and their partners discussed the changing role of the traditional IT distributor. They spoke about the challenges of digital disruption, the blurring lines of the channel in the age of digital transformation, and examined the ever-evolving business models. This roundtable was sponsored by Distribution Central, Exclusive Networks, Rhipe, and Hemisphere Technologies. Photos by ARN Editorial Director, Mike Gee.

IN PICTURES: ARN Distributor Roundtable, Sydney, 26.08.15 (+26 photos)

iasset.com is a channel management ecosystem that automates all major aspects of the entire sales, marketing and service process, including data tracking, integrated learning, knowledge management and product lifecycle management.

Show Comments