Saturday, 5 June 2010

Review: OLPC $100 Tablet for Real?

Ready for more extravagent promises and too-good-to be-true product announcements?

It's back; One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is coming back as a tablet. The OLPC company is going into partnership with  Marvell (maker of the Marvell Moby - no, it passed me by as well)  to make an ultra-thin tablet PC for the Third World at $100 per device (or less, so they say).



Somewhere between laptop, iPad and Kindle, the OLPC XO-3 tablet computer will still run the appalling Sugar OS (the Marvell version gets Android), with wifi, high-quality integrated video (1080p full-HD encode and decode), high-performance 3D graphics, built-in camera for video conferencing, and support for Flash. Built on the Marvell Armada 610 ARM processor, it also needs to be ridiculously low-powered. The technical miracle promised by Nicholas Negroponte this time is a multi-touch, dual-mode display that will work both in the sunlight and at night, featuring a soft keyboard similar to that of the Apple iPad.

The prototype screen is in glass, which clearly won't do for third world use, but the partnership hopes to produce 100% plastic devices by 2012 , allowing Marvell to sell inexpensive tablet computers for education and health care in the United States while reducing the cost to $75 for developing countries.

Negroponte still stresses the open source nature of the project; “We’re going to go totally open... in some sense it’s the complete opposite of the Amazon bookstore or iTunes, where we’ll run anything, including viruses and Flash.” Not sure about that last bit, Nick.    

Verdict
OLPC has something of a reputation for overstating specs, price and delivery - although it was royally shafted by Intel when the chip maker pulled out and sabotaged the original OLPC laptop project. However, this device simply sounds too good to be true, with too many dependencies and maybe's; like an all plastic screen and not 'til 2012. What? 2012?!?! I'm not holding my breath for this one.  RC

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