The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project has abandoned plans to produce an innovative dual-screen ebook/netbook, and is aiming for a tablet computer instead. There will also be an ARM-based version of the original XO-1 laptop, but this will not be able to run Microsoft Windows XP. In an interview with Xconomy Boston, Nicholas Negroponte, the project's founder, said:
2.0 has been replaced by two things: 1) model 1.75, same industrial design but an ARM inside, 2) model 3.0, totally different industrial design, more like a sheet of paper. No cost connectivity will start up with the ITU in Geneva. It has been the slowest piece.
It's not clear how closely the XO-3 will resemble an ebook, like Amazon's Kindle. Asked for more info, Negroponte replied:
Not much to say other than its aspirational aspects: 3.0 is a single sheet, completely plastic and unbreakable, waterproof, 1/4" thick, full color, reflective and transmissive, no bezel, no holes. 1W. $75, ready in 2012.
It's also not clear how much progress has been made selling XO-1 laptops, because the numbers depend on the unknown number of serious orders. Negroponte says: "The precise numbers today are 1.1 million [laptops] out and a back-log of 400,000-700,000, depending on how you count." When I asked him in January, he said: "There are 600,000 laptops in the field, 250,000 in transit and another 380,000 about to be made, so the total adds up to about 1.2m."
It looks as though OLPC has fulfilled its orders, which is great, but sales have not taken off. If they had, then OLPC would have sold 2m units this year and would be looking to sell 4m next year. That would have been a reasonable sales performance for a Windows-based netbook. However, Negroponte reckons the numbers are less important than the acceptance of the concept. "In fact, a far more interesting number is that as much as 1/3 of the current worldwide production of laptops is netbooks," he says.
Personally, I'm sad to see the casual demise of the XO-2 concept, even though Gizmodo has dismissed it with the headline: Rest In Peace, Ridiculous Dual-Screen OLPC XO-2. However, One Laptop Per Child News said:
Now there's something I didn't see coming! While I never believed that the XO-2 had gotten much beyond the concept stage I always considered it to be a strong vision of where OLPC was going in terms of device design. Sure, both the hardware and the software for an XO-2 are massive undertakings which would probably overstretch OLPC's limited resources but then again that's what everyone thought of the XO-1 design as well and arguably they did a great job there.
Nor do I know of anyone else who actually intends to produce a dual-screen device like the XO-2, though someone might. A while ago, I asked a good contact at Asus about it, and after a somewhat embarrassed look, was told that they might have looked at the idea in the lab but not to believe everything I read in the papers. Not meaning the Guardian, obviously.
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