Saturday, 24 May, 2008

The most wanted gadget of the next decade.. the new XO-2 (OLPC)

For those not familiar, the OLPC group aims to provide children in developing nations with low-cost computers.

Although it seems like a noble cause on the outset, it has been criticised for several reasons including but not limited to:
- profit making attempts by various vendors through unscrupulous means
- Top bureaucrats adjusting purchase policies in accordance with manufacturer-friendly contracts as opposed to open and transparent means

The recent period has been a difficult one for OLPC, during which the entire ethos and aim of the project has been called into question. One former employee, Ivan Krstic, blasted the organisation for becoming a vehicle for creating the "economic incentives" for a particular vendor.
Apart from these, functionality is also of some concern. One user mentions how he tested a beta release and found problems in basic operation.
However that is not what this post is about. Its about the future plans of the next generation XO. Its supposed to be a touchscreen based book-shaped gadget half the size of the current one (now that is something everyone would vouch to get - IMHO). Here are further details:

The new XO-2 machine will be developed by the team behind the One Laptop per Child project. It will have two touch-sensitive screens and be about half the size of the original, iconic white-and-green XO device. Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of OLPC, also said the XO-2 will have a foldable book-like feel to it.

"The next-generation laptop should be a book," he said. The screen will be optimised to ensure it can be seen both in low light conditions and bright sunlight, while power consumption will be reduced to just one watt. Negroponte said the laptop would be ready for launch by 2010.

Users will be able to switch between using the computer in a book-like vertical format, a normal horizontal format, and even as a touchscreen tablet PC.

“Younger children will be able to use simple keyboards to get going, and older children will be able to switch between keyboards customised for applications as well as for multiple languages,” said the organisation.

More information at thejournal and geekzone

Geekpics offers some stats as well.

The next gernation OLPC (the XO-2) will have:

  • Dual 16x9 proportioned sunlight-readable touch screens

  • Keyboard and touchpad both replaced by touch screens

  • Physically smaller than XO-1; size and weight more like a book

  • 1 watt power consumption

  • Target price of US$75 to large educational buyers

Now theres just one point worth noticing here: "the machines will have enhanced dual-display capabilities with touch-sensitive screens." There. We have seen a preview of the technology in the just launched iPhone and it has been loved by many (probably some of the performance aspects need to be worked out, but the touch sensitive addition has been most undoubtedly the defining factor of the trend of mobile phones today).

Now imagine an ultra portable device which u can carry along as a notebook (not a laptop-notebook; the notebook-notebook!) and be able to access documents, run applications, watch videos, pics, surf the net, check your mail wirelessly and what not. And besides, you could also load in ebooks to read in a friendly gadget like that.


Imagine a mobile phone integrated into it. You dont need anything else at all. Some users fret over the possibility of having to use touchscreens. I see it as just the future. People will adapt and the technology will adapt making it easy for both. Another slight concern is the processing power and the low grade features offered. But I think we can trust the technology gurus and the economies of scale which should eventually bring a compromise between features and cost. Until then, its waiting time...

Check out a video of the features:

A Better coverage of the unveiling-of-the-plan reveals that the gadget is aimed to be cheaper than even the current $188. Now the current XO was targetted at 100$ and it came out at 188. The XO-2 is targetted at $75! Only time will tell how it comes out and what it actually offers.
As tekno_boy puts it, "Forget MACbook Air, the coolest thing on the horizon in the computing world might be something bound for the third world."

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