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OLPC XO-3 To Debut At CES, Starting Under $100 (But Not For You) 119

Posted by timothy
from the yes-I-want-one dept.
Computerworld is one of many publications heralding the expected arrival next week of the long-awaited OLPC tablet, and making much of one very cool feature: the price. The initial XO laptops from OLPC never quite made it to the hoped-for under-$100 level. But at least with an ordinary LCD screen, says project founder Nicholas Negroponte, the new XO-3 actually has. (An optional daylight-readable Pixel Qi screen bumps the price up, but it's not clear quite how much.) Both OLPC and Pixel Qi will be at next week's CES; hopefully I'll get a chance to provide some first-hand details, and ask whether there will be another round of the Buy One Give One program, so users outside the reach of big government buying programs can both further the project and play with the product; so far, the word is that these will only be available for large government buyers. (TechCruch has better pictures of the new device.)
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OLPC XO-3 To Debut At CES, Starting Under $100 (But Not For You)

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2012 @08:30PM (#38625996)

    If you can't buy it, it's kinda nonsensical to say it has a $100 price. It doesn't have a price at all.

    • In manufacturing it's all about volume. If you make 10 times as many the price per unit drops by half or so. Make it and sell it everywhere. Let first world developers help out the third world ones. I'm willing to pay a little extra for charity, but not twice as much (give one, get one). And don't bump up the specs for windows. History is filled with cheap computers that changed the world.
      • $52, but throw in a $20 government subsidy and people are getting them for $35. each. How a Montreal company won the race to build the world's cheapest tablet [theglobeandmail.com] - it runs linux and android - the cost - $52 each. Here's just a small part of the story.

        Published Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 6:40PM EST

        In the morning, Suneet and the remaining three bidders return to the same room. At the front, a 12-person committee shows off the submitted tenders, time-stamped and sealed with wax, before reading off each companyâ(TM)s bidâ"including the lowest estimate of what it would cost to make the Indian governmentâ(TM)s dream: the cheapest tablet in the world.

        When the presentation is finished, Datawindâ(TM)s price tagâ"$52â"is the lowest. The next cheapest bid is for $64. âoeI went white,â Suneet says now. âoeI thought, âWeâ(TM)ve missed something.â(TM)â

        Feeling nauseous, he staggers out into the antechamber, where rival bidders lob wisecracks in his direction. âoeAt that price, weâ(TM)ll buy some,â one businessman says, laughing. Frantic, Suneet calls Montreal, where it is nearly 3 a.m., knowing heâ(TM)ll wake up Raja. But his elder brother, who at times forgets how many patents he has to his name (more than 50) but never forgets product specs, reassures him that the final price accounts for every single component in the device. Thatâ(TM)s when it sinks in: Theyâ(TM)ve nailed this.

        So far, Datawind has manufactured about 10,000 of its ultracheap devices, and has subcontracted more factories in India to gradually churn out a volume of tablets that still seems unbelievable to the founders. The Indian state plans to subsidize the tablets down to between $20 and $35 (U.S.), to be sold to college and university students, and wants to roll the devices out to around 12 million users over the next 12 months. After that, the goal is to place one of these tablets in the hands of each of the countryâ(TM)s 80 to 100 million high school students. The process, despite the hype, is still in a nascent stage, unfolding slowly.

        But things got stranger. Shortly after the announcement, Suneet was invited to meet with Thailandâ(TM)s Minister for Information Communications Technology (who was so interested in purchasing 10 million tablets that he attended their meeting even as flood waters descended on Bangkok). Calls arrived from Turkey (which wants 15 million tablets), Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama and Egypt. At one point, the Swedish embassy in Canada called: Would Suneet possibly have time to meet the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt? And would it be possible to send out a press release to announce that the meeting was happening?

        Another story: from pcworld [pcworld.com]

        And for an extra $10, you get a much better cpu, a better touch screen, more battery life, etc.

        So, forget Canonicals' secret plans to unveil a cheap tablet running linux next week - these run both linux and android, and they're already being sold.

        • by AvitarX (172628)

          Hmmm, where have I read about Indian cheap computers coming available within a month before?

          Oh, right, it was here http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/02/10/07/1233208/indian-linux-pda-for-300 [slashdot.org]

          The site's product page talked about how it'd be useful for everyone, Rural Indian, European Student, American Businessman, blah blah. Listed prices and everything, I was never able to buy one.

          OLPC at least has a history of getting reasonable priced things into my hands (original BOGO was slightly more than a netbook, l

          • Not the same thing at all. First, the one I cited has already been shipped, unlike either the one you linked to, or the OLPC XO-3. So, not vaporware - unlike most OLPC announcements that don't measure up to the initial hype.

            Second, if you read the OLPC article, they don't actually plan on building a tablet if competitors can do it for less ... so that's pretty much the end of that ... the OLPC project is pretty much dead at this point.

            Think of it - the iPad didn't even exist 2 years ago. Today, you can buy a linux+android tablet for under $60. Why would any government get involved in a $100+ tablet when they can get them for half, AND manufacture them under license locally, creating jobs in their own countries?

            Simple answer - they won't.

            • Why would any government get involved in a $100+ tablet when they can get them for half, AND manufacture them under license locally, creating jobs in their own countries?

              More "sophisticated" answer:

              OLPC systems are designed for education. The hardware is designed to be tough enough to last years in a school environment where most hardware is designed to survive just beyond the guarantee period as long as you treat it right. The batteries are designed with different compromises; the don't charge to the maximum so they last much longer, but have a worse headline performance. The main operating system has the full source code under an open source license so the students

              • by tomhudson (43916)

                OLPC systems are designed for education.

                The systems that the Indian government commissioned the competition for, and which they are buying millions of these $52 devices, and subsidizing them, as so that all students in India at every level of education will get one. In other words, India is now closed for dealing with the OLPC.

                The hardware is designed to be tough enough to last years in a school environment

                At $52 for a color touch-screen tablet, they can buy two, so if one breaks ...

                Also, they're al

        • by Maow (620678)

          Great story in your G&M link!

          I had missed it, so thanks for bringing it to my (everyone's) attention.

          • by tomhudson (43916)

            I'm tempted to head down there and interview them. They've got a compelling story, they're actually in production, the world is beating a path to their door, and it was something that they decided to cough up the $100,000 bid bond to enter the bidding war almost on a whim at the last moment.

            What's really interesting is the Ubislate - $10 more ($60) - a Cortex A8 cpu, a video accelerator, HD video, and Gingerbread. Sure, it's not ICS, but Gingerbread for $60???

            And of course, we all know what that mean

            • by Maow (620678)

              What's really interesting is the Ubislate - $10 more ($60) - a Cortex A8 cpu, a video accelerator, HD video, and Gingerbread. Sure, it's not ICS, but Gingerbread for $60???

              I wonder how open / hackable they (Aakash & Ubislate) are? Could one theoretically buy a device and install their own Android / Ubuntu on it? Seems like they've got kernel hackers tweaking away to make it work properly, so I doubt a standard kernel would work, but maybe they'll open source it? (Ask them if you interview them.)

              And of course, we all know what that means - within a few years, ICS for under $100.

              Ah yes, but ICS will be at least 2 versions old by then. OTOH, hopefully Android will be better polished (I thought previews of ICS looked fugly) and Google will have done some

      • Re:Mass production (Score:4, Informative)

        by grcumb (781340) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @10:51PM (#38626674) Homepage Journal

        In manufacturing it's all about volume. If you make 10 times as many the price per unit drops by half or so. Make it and sell it everywhere.

        You're ignoring the costs of marketing[*], supply chain management, vendor relations, legal compliance. technical certifications, tax and tariff issues, etc. etc.

        If you're an existing computer seller (e.g. Dell, Lenovo), you've already got a significant investment in these areas, but if you're a small organisation whose target is the developing world, bootstrapping a global distribution network might seem like a distraction.

        Of course, there are a number of ways to work around this, like forming a strategic partnership with a large distributor. But if history is any example, the large vendors are anything but enamoured with OLPC. Nonetheless, there are ways to achieve what you describe. I just don't think they're as trivial as you make them out to be.

        -------------
        [*] I don't mean cheesy advertising shills, I mean marketing in the sense of determining how the whole supply chain is going to be managed, figuring out who to talk to, what volumes to anticipate, etc.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Guess that makes it priceless... :)

    • by osu-neko (2604) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @08:50PM (#38626110)

      If you can't buy it, it's kinda nonsensical to say it has a $100 price. It doesn't have a price at all.

      Um, no. There are a lot of things I can't buy, but nevertheless have a price. If anyone at all can buy it, it has a price -- there's no logical implication in the definition of "price" that guarantees that you personally can purchase something. Indeed, it's often the price itself that excludes that possibility, although there are countless other reasons why you may not be able to buy something that nevertheless does have a price and can be purchased by other, qualified individuals or organizations.

      • by oxdas (2447598)

        Price is a concept relative to the purchaser (which is why different groups pay different prices for the same good). Since the poster is unable to purchase this product, its price to them does not exist, hence "doesn't have a price." Now, I would agree with you that the object may have a price to someone, but the concept of price, in relation to this good and this individual, does not seem to exist.

    • by symbolset (646467) *
      Rockchip seems ready to put together a $100 tablet.
    • by Riktov (632)

      So the price is $100 and proof that you are part of a large government organization. The price of the second element Is variable, and is a combination of time, money, effort, and circumstance.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      To me it just proves why OLPC will be an ultimate FAIL and end up DOA. A smart group would sell to everyone and use the economies of scale to drive down prices! I mean when you can buy an Atom netbook for $250 with Win 7 Starter at the local Wally World there is no reason if they sold to everyone they couldn't drive prices even lower than $100 since their goal isn't profits but getting these devices in the hands of kids. They don't think america has poor kids? They ought to come down to the delta and see al

    • by Phoghat (1288088)

      If you can't buy it, it's kinda nonsensical to say it has a $100 price. It doesn't have a price at all.

      must be priceless

  • But what do I care? I cant buy one

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But what do I care? I cant buy one

      You shouldn't care, you obviously have access to a computer :-)

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      This site's subtitled "News for Nerds", not "Shopping Tips for Nerds". A long running non-profit organisation releasing the newest (and long awaited) version of their charitable computer hardware, and the fact they're finally hitting their old target of a sub $100 price tag, are all newsworthy.

      If you only read news articles about things you can buy, you might not end up reading much news at all.

  • Idiotic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2012 @08:40PM (#38626056)

    OLPC really screws the pooch each time by not offering their tech for geeks in the first world. It would greatly increase the volume of production and drive software development, as well as generate a huge volume of fixes and improvements in the appropriate wikis.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      OLPC really screws the pooch each time by not offering their tech for geeks in the first world. It would greatly increase the volume of production and drive software development, as well as generate a huge volume of fixes and improvements in the appropriate wikis.

      I think you meant "as well as generate a huge workload on the few volunteers dedicated to the project". If you want to help OLPC, be dedicated, and join a local developer group. Then you will also get your hands on a device.

      If they started distributing devices to everyone, they'd loose their focus, and the viewpoint of the project would become skewed. Don't forget, the OLPC project is about education, not technology!

      • by Nimey (114278)

        Also they'd have to spend money hiring support personnel, because it wouldn't be just tech geeks who'd buy the things. A couple hundred dollars or less is in the Walmart demo's price range.

        • by Pi1grim (1956208)

          Then sell it with no support whatsoever. I'm pretty the geeks will buy them anyway and as for the rest — it's just 52 dollars.

          • Then sell it with no support whatsoever.

            For very good reasons, most consumer protection laws don't allow this. If the customer says the system was broken when deliered you have to replace it. At that point, you need to provide enough support to find the power switch otherwise your costs will rocket. At that point, you are providing support no matter what.

      • by Cyberax (705495)

        Sure. It's so much better to focus on doing nothing. That way you don't even need to hire much personnel!

        Right now OLPC is a massive failure. It completely underdelivered on its promises. What's there to focus on?

        • Things may not have turned out to work exactly as they imagined, but OLPC promised to deliver cheap computers to schools in developing nations. It delivered cheap computers (over 2 million!!) to children in developing nations.

          In the meantime, as a side effect OLPC created the netbook market and drove the creation of the devices which are now leading to leading to $50 tablets.

          That seems pretty much like delivering to me. That they didn't deliver anything to you personally isn't their failure. The worl

          • by Cyberax (705495)

            2 million is nothing. They planned to be at least one or even two orders of magnitude larger. So they're failing by their own criteria. Kickstarting the netbook market (now dead) was not their goal, but a nice side-effect. And $50 devices are just a logical continuation of the trend of cheap tablets/notebooks.

            I've bought two OLPCs during the original G1G1 program. I was even ready to start contributing to the project - it really needed help at that time. The software was not really usable, it was slow and l

            • 2 million is nothing. They planned to be at least one or even two orders of magnitude larger. So they're failing by their own criteria.

              I'm sorry; but in that case their own criteria were unrealistic. They are the most successful wide scale open source based educational computer systems supplier.

              Negroponte decided to befriend Microsoft. We all remember how it ended.

              That was definitely one of the main things which really limited the potential of the project. A whole bunch of people left when they started to be Microsoft collaborators. I think, though, that it was an honest mistake. This is something that can be seen from they way that they didn't let Microsoft hijack the project and Microsoft ended up leavi

              • by Cyberax (705495)

                "I'm sorry; but in that case their own criteria were unrealistic."

                Yes they were and that's what made OLPC a visionary project. Had they achieved these criteria they could have literally done a revolution in education. As it is, they are a footnote.

                They had a real problem - the Sugar software was (and still is, really) unpolished and slow, excruciatingly slow. They needed (and still do) a lot of good developers to fix it. Had they began to sell OLPC notebooks and used profit to fund more development maybe th

      • Re:Idiotic (Score:5, Insightful)

        by manekineko2 (1052430) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @10:14PM (#38626506)

        I think you meant "as well as generate a huge workload on the few volunteers dedicated to the project". If you want to help OLPC, be dedicated, and join a local developer group. Then you will also get your hands on a device.

        If they started distributing devices to everyone, they'd loose their focus, and the viewpoint of the project would become skewed. Don't forget, the OLPC project is about education, not technology!

        From Charles Kane, OLPC president's own mouth: "the mission is to get the technology in the hands of as many children as possible."

        Somehow, they seem to run the one consumer electronics project that doesn't benefit from additional customers. It is probably not a coincidence that this is the one consumer electronics project run by a non-profit.

        I used to be a huge OLPC project fan, now I think they're a bit of a joke. The democratization of computers is not going to come from a top-down project like OLPC. They had their chance, and due to the lack of market pressures because of their educational non-profit status, that ship sailed a long time ago.

        The democratization of computers is going to come from real companies that are creating real products that are shipping into real peoples' hands right now. The cost of a Chinese-made Android tablet is frequently significantly lower than $100. And they don't have to deal with the baggage of living in some sort of bizarro world where more sales is a liability.

        The only benefit that OLPC provided over commercial projects to sell low-cost computers was the open-source nature of Sugar OS specifically designed to teach children about how computers worked and how they could be programmed, thus teaching fishing instead of giving fish. Then they jettisoned that, and clarified their mission is just to be fishmongers that sell special fish for kids, and it escapes me how they could do a better job with this than their for-profit competition.

        • by spage (73271) <{spage} {at} {skierpage.com}> on Sunday January 08, 2012 @04:55AM (#38627878)

          OLPC's customers are educational organizations that can implement "one laptop per child".

          A lot of the OLPC software effort is easing the hard work of a deployment [laptop.org]: managing reflashing hundreds of machines at once with a new distribution, restoring to a stable image, device backup, school servers, service & repair, etc. That's more involved than "selling low-cost computers" and it's different from "the democratization of computers". Android and ChromeOS have some similar facilities and someone could base large educational rollouts on them, but there's little money in it, so it seems if a non-profit is still the way to go.

          You're confused (or writing poorly about fish). OLPC never "jettisoned" Sugar. The OLPC software distribution now offers a choice between the Sugar UI and a Gnome desktop, and supports running a version of Windows XP from SD card; OLPC provided these choices in response to those education customers. Of the 2.5M XO laptops out there, no large deployment is running Microsoft Windows. In many Sugar activities, pressing View Source (Fn + Space) opens up the Python source code (it's pretty cool!), and the source code from the firmware up is readily available.

        • by westlake (615356)

          The only benefit that OLPC provided over commercial projects to sell low-cost computers was the open-source nature of Sugar OS specifically designed to teach children about how computers worked and how they could be programmed, thus teaching fishing instead of giving fish.

          The only buyer for the OLPC is the third world education minister.

          It is his job to decide whether it is more important to teach a kid how to program or to teach him how to read.

          There may be not time enough to do both.

          He has to think about how many of his kids he can realistically hope to place in advanced academic and vocational programs. He has to ask whether Sugar will prepare these students for the standard desktop and apps used in the higher grades.

    • Agreed. They could learn a lesson or two from Toms Shoes. (buy a pair and Toms' donates a pair to a child in an underdeveloped country)
      Consequently, when you add in the retail overhead, the shoes cost about four times what they *should* cost, yet people buy them like crazy. Kind of like Macs.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @08:42PM (#38626076) Homepage Journal

    While I await my Alan Kay designed fantasy notepad-sized stylus tablet, I really believe in OLPC's fundamental mission.

    If I develop for any vendor specific device, it'll be this one. Not the market-hyped iPad.

    I hope they have the buy-two-get-one program again. Hopefully I can scratch up the coin to see someone who can't afford a device piggyback off my purchase.

    • by Telvin_3d (855514)

      fundamental mission

      aka: It would be nice if this worked, despite evidence to the contrary

      market-hyped

      aka: What everyone actually wants

      I love the philosophy of OLPC, but I don't think it is a particularly useful actual project. The original project worked for years on the cutting edge trying to make a cheap laptop that everyone in the world could access. And by the time the technology became readily available for their goal to be achieved... the technology was readily available for everyone else to do the same thing. Now the big manufactu

      • by Locutus (9039)
        I'm not sure you know much about the OLPC project and their software since you mentioned nothing about Sugar and only mentioned the Android ROM vendor. OLPC is about education and their software platform consists of an OS layer which has low power and mesh networking as it's key requirements. Then there is the application layer which is the Sugar interface and application system.

        Besides, those netbook vendors who came out with devices after the OLPC XO while the press claimed they were comparable they were
      • by msobkow (48369)

        Well, there is one concern in the slightly more developed nations: smart phones.

        Certainly for populations where the income levels allow it, most people would prefer a smart phone to an OLPC device.

        But those people can also pay for app development, which is why if I work on any such device, it'll be this one. Understand I'm not talking about corporate projects, but for fun and satisfaction projects I'd post under open source with no hope or wish of ever making a dime off them.

        There are enough people

        • by msobkow (48369)

          Understand I meant no insult. But you have the money and the infrastructure to access the internet. How can YOU possibly hold judgement from that lofty position on people who have NOTHING?

          • by object404 (1883774) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:13AM (#38627016) Homepage
            Hey everyone.

            Although units are very hard to get a hold of, if you're really sincere and interested about developing, OLPC will ship and lend you units free of charge with the promise that you will pass them on to the next developer when you're done with your project.

            msobkow, all you need to do is to make a good project proposal and apply for the contributors program:

            http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Contributors_program [laptop.org]

            They really do send these out. I applied and OLPC sent over some units all the way to the Philippines

            You guys can check what's happening with the different OLPC mailing lists here:
            http://lists.laptop.org/listinfo/ [laptop.org]

            And the developer mailing list which is the most active:
            http://lists.laptop.org/listinfo/devel [laptop.org]

            I've also been able to do some hands on testing stuff on a prototype XO-1.75 which is the Marvell Armada-driven ARM version meant to succeed the XO-1.5 (as well as being the basis for the XO-3). It's been a really interesting experience with the prolonged battery life, but not without its quirks as a "real mainstream linux" OS running on an ARM machine (it's running Fedora ARM, dual bootable to the Sugar UI paradigm or Gnome). If anyone wants to contribute to Fedora-ARM development, this would also be an excellent avenue.

            Try to check if there any local groups near your place and check em out. The local group near where I'm at right now (NZ) was kind enough to lend me one of these rare prototypes (and will be returning it soon).

            Cheers!

            -Naz
            • by msobkow (48369)

              Thanks for the info, I'll keep it in mind. But I wasn't talking near term, I'm kind of swamped right now, and I haven't put any thought into what I MIGHT actually do with such a device, so asking for free hardware to work on it would definitely be premature. :)

              • by msobkow (48369)

                After all, they only announced the finalization of the design today -- they haven't even shown them at CES yet!

                But I'll be a thinkin...

  • It's just a tad thicker than the prototype unit they showed two years ago, isn't it?

    http://www.engadget.com/2009/12/22/olpc-shows-off-absurdly-thin-xo-3-concept-tablet-for-2012/ [engadget.com]
    • Well, yeah.

      But the fact is, they came pretty damn close. it looks badass.

    • by Locutus (9039)
      that would have been more of a concept model than prototype IMO. Prototypes are usually somewhat functional models and not just a fake mock up. They completely missed the thin/thickness aspect of the concept version. The solar panel option seems silly to me considering people would want to use the device during the daylight hours and having it attached to a cable and that solar panel covered lid doesn't seem to fit the use case for a tablet device. Maybe if there was a 2nd battery or something it could cha
  • Not the real world (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jamesl (106902) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @08:48PM (#38626102)

    In the real world, a product isn't a product until it has a part number and a price. The part number is tied to a specific configuration with a committed level of performance. The price signifies that the vendor is putting his money where his mouth is. OLPC is so far (once again) all talk.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      yep, how hard is it to setup a webshop for orders? not very. but olpc business plan relies on subsidies and big no-risk government orders.

      and at the same time chinese noname factories are pumping 80bucks tablets to the real world.

      I really don't believe that olpc's hyped(by olpc) "unique charging circuitry" is really _that_ unique. basically they're saying that you couldn't buy a solar charger for regular phone from dx(or a crank charger). sure, it takes a lot of time to load it up, but you could recharge a

      • by tomhudson (43916)
        In the REAL world, India is already selling tablets that run both linux and android for $35 each [theglobeandmail.com] to all their students. (cost is ~$55, but there's a subsidy if you're a student, the goal being to get one into every students' hands). So, like everything, the market has changed since OLPC started. 2 years ago, a touch-screen tablet was a non-starter. The iPad didn't even exist. Now? Why would they order laptops when they can get touch-screen tablets for a lot less than $100?
  • I hoped that Pixel Qi could have made a screen that was readable like eInk for ebook readers, but worked well enough in active mode in color with a backlight. I haven't seen a screen in person, but the reviews I've read over the last couple of years said that the Pixel Qi screen is kind of the worst of both worlds, not the best. Not great color or definition in active mode, and not that great in passive, reflective B&W mode either. That was disappointing to me to hear.

    Has anyone seen a recent Pixel Q

    • by arose (644256)
      Of course it's not the best in either class. The question is whether it is good enough.
    • I hoped that Pixel Qi could have made a screen that was readable like eInk for ebook readers, but worked well enough in active mode in color with a backlight. I haven't seen a screen in person, but the reviews I've read over the last couple of years said that the Pixel Qi screen is kind of the worst of both worlds, not the best. Not great color or definition in active mode, and not that great in passive, reflective B&W mode either. That was disappointing to me to hear.

      Huh? As far as I know, Pixel Qi screens have a color reflective mode. I think the sunlight-readability (with fast refresh, unlike e-ink) is a kick-ass feature on its own. :)

      • by caseih (160668)

        No the promise of the Pixel Qi was a triple-resolution black and white display in passive mode. A casual google search reveals that indeed it is black and white in outdoor mode. From what I've read the Pixel Qi isn't that great in sunlight or with blacklight, at least folks that were reviewing the Notion Ink.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The OLPC projects strikes me as fundamentally useless. On the list of things keeping children in poor countries from getting an education, lack of laptops is way towards the bottom. Now assuming there is a benefits for kids already in school to get access to a computer, a laptop strilkes me as a terribly inefficient way to go. You'd get far more bang for your buck with desktops. And most of all, every time I read about OLPC, it's always about the tech and the specs, not how it actually helps kids. That stri

    • On the list of things keeping children in poor countries from getting an education, lack of laptops is way towards the bottom.

      The thing which is missing is access to information and various tools. A computer is a good and cheap way to deliver information when textbooks aren't available and is a good and cheap way to deliver tools such as calculators; word puzzles and so on when those aren't available. These aren't really that much available in a standard base OS install that you would see, but OLPC provides a custom environment where they are available.

      You'd get far more bang for your buck with desktops.

      I suggest you have a look at the OLPC FAQ, which explains this stuff. Deskto

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @10:18PM (#38626524) Homepage

    I was one of the original G1G1 participants, and I'm sorry to say that the gap between what was promised and what was delivered would never have been forgiven in any commercial enterprise. The "20 hour" battery life turned out to be 3-4 hours, and despite much talk about improvements to the power management software, nothing ever came of it.

    The biggest disappointment for me was that the much-heralded "show source" button, didn't. I never quite worked out the tortuous explanations/excuses, but one of the original premises was that all of the machine's source would be available for inspection and modification--to kids, if sufficiently bright. In reality, all the enthusiastic video demonstrations of the "show source" feature were just showing ordinary browser HTML source, and as nearly as I could tell, the "show source" button never did anything more than that.

    "Sugar," which I'd hoped would educate me in a brand new model for computer interaction, was, at the time, a bad joke with poor usability. The only way to locate journal entries was by remember to enter text tags for each one when complete, and doing text searches on the tags. It was explained that "fortunately kids like to describe everything they're doing." All usability objections were answered with the retort that I was not part of the machine's intended user base--true enough, and I have never verified for myself whether eight-year-old kids using the OLPC laptop really do type in text tags to enable them to locate their documents.

    The one practical use I meant to put it to, as an eBook reader for PDF documents, didn't work because the PDF reader program was buggy, crashprone, and--even when it didn't crash--didn't save your place in the document (and didn't have any bookmarking mechanism). If you stopped reading at page 56, when you reopened the document, you'd be at page 1 and would have to remember what page you were on and scroll to it.

    Hopefully all of these problems have long since been dealt with, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

    • by spage (73271)

      In the latest stable release [laptop.org] on my G1G1 XO-1, pressing View Source (Fn + Space) opens up a nifty project source code browser for Chat, Paint, Read and other Python activities I tried (it's pretty cool!).

      The Sugar Journal is just different. If you don't name you get Paint Activity, Chat Activity, etc. which is no worse than having New document.odp, New document(2).odp, etc. It's BETTER for kids because there's no folders to navigate. The Sugar developers have smoothed a lot of the rough edges and improved th

  • by evilviper (135110) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @10:20PM (#38626536) Journal

    The original OLPC made lots of sense, even if they botched the execution... I'll point to the massive success of the EEEPC as proof that they were only slightly off the mark. Personally, I thought going with a dirt cheap B&W LCD screen to start would have solved most of their problems, but I digress.

    But this tablet makes no sense. The Aakash / UbiSlate tablets cost half as much (for real, in production) and is designed to serve exactly the same purpose as OLPC. In addition, Android smartphones (with qwerty keyboard, making them vastly more useful) retail for $100 here on the shelves in the US (no contract, not subsidized, not on sale). We're talking about full-featured mobile devices, much like what I use for 90% of my computing purposes, and am typing on right now...

    OLPC's main reason to exist last time around was extreme power savings, due to the great expense of electricity in the third world. But now, normal mass market mobile devices now rival OLPC's energy targets, as well as having more than sufficient durability designed-in.

      http://www.virginmobileusa.com/cell-phones/samsung-intercept-phone.jsp [virginmobileusa.com]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aakash_tablet [wikipedia.org]

    I don't see any reason for OLPC to make custom hardware anymore, rather than just becoming a software company, possibly + logistical support.

  • Hackers. Lots of them. Is OLPC even really a good idea?
  • It's nice and all, but the XO-3 might as well just be vaporware.

  • How is this AW remotely relevant?

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @01:38AM (#38627338)
    XO<3 is like a little kid with a heart above the head. "kids love OLPC!"
    They even fail at marketing.
    • Looks more like somebody projectile vomiting... but I guess I turned my head the wrong way.

      Maybe giving it a perfectly reasonable name rather than something that you'd expect to find on a packing list would be better marketing altogether.

  • I'll buy again. Heck I even would buy a give-two-get-one. The original machine had huge gaps between promise and delivery, but worked nicely reading blogs in bright sunlight. What I would wish for howerver is some documentation which batch my donated machine(s) would go to. I actually would be ready to chat with the receiver from time to time. Sutra Mitra had identified this as a booster for learning. And IMHO learning is key to anybody's future.
  • Hell why is nobody else coming up with that kind of design? I love to have a tablet that I never need to log around a charger. Hope they get a buy one give one program going because am getting at least two.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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