Negroponte: One Laptop Per Child is now a $75 Android Tablet

May 27, 2010: 2:57 PM ET

The former head of MIT's Media Lab said the next OLPC device, the XO-3, would be a 9-inch tablet made by Marvell and running Google's Android OS.

The first OLPC was an underpowered, 'designed-by-committee' laptop that cost at least double of what it was supposed to.  Most importantly, didn't adapt to the needs of the children who used it.  For instance, it didn't have a method for non-Latin characters to be input.  It was also made of plastic and had moving parts that would often break in rugged environments.

At CES in January this year, that will change, according to Nicolas Negroponte.

The new OLPC devices will take the lead from Apple's iPad but use Google's (GOOG) Android OS, at least initially.   The keyboard will be virtual and be able to adapt to different languages.

XO-3 will also have some specs that might appeal to a broader audience (myself included).  Quoting the WSJ (subscription req):

The new tablets will have at least one, and maybe two, video cameras. They'll sport Wi-Fi connections to the Internet, multi-touch screens and have enough power to play high-definition and 3-D video. Unlike Apple Inc.'s iPad tablet, the device will also work with plug-in peripherals such as mice and keyboards.

[I'm aware that iPhone's Touch OS doesn't need a mouse (and one's been hacked, anyway)  and Apple supplies both keyboard docks and Bluetooth Keyboards as well]

Negroponte said the new tablets will not use Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows 7 because the software requires too much memory and computing power.  That's been a common theme lately and might be a reason that HP (HP) picked up Palm.

Going tablet might be something he picked up from Apple (AAPL). Negroponte got advice from Apple's CEO Steve Jobs on the eve first OLPC launch:

"I got an email from Steve Jobs (the night the laptop was revealed) he said you can't build it for a hundred dollars, and my answer was oh yes I can," Negroponte said as part of a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Thursday night.

"He was actually a very good critic, and each time we got to a point, I did talk to him," Negroponte added. Negroponte also mentioned his displeasure with Microsoft, both in terms of Windows 7 performance, and Microsoft's attempts to thwart the OLPC initiative.

The device will be based on Marvell's Moby platform and will initially cost $99 for the hardware, but that price is expected to drop to $75 by 2011.  What does the Moby platform buy you?   According to Marvell, Moby is:

Powered by high-performance, highly scalable, and low-power Marvell® ARMADA™ 600 series of application processors, the Moby tablet features gigahertz-class processor speed, 1080p full-HD encode and decode, intelligent power management, power-efficient Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM/GPS connectivity, high performance 3D graphics capability and support for multiple software standards including full Adobe Flash, Android™ and Windows Mobile.  The ultra low power Moby tablet is designed for long-battery life.

XO-3 will come loaded with an application able to access two million free books available on the Internet, cutting down on the high costs of textbooks in the developing world.

Image Credit: OLPC

I want one.

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Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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