OLPC: What's Happened with the Project


The One Laptop Per Child project, initiated to oversee the production of educational laptops (namely, the XO-1 model) that were designed to benefit children in developing countries, who didn't have access to computers, and thus the power of learning through the Internet. The project started in January 2005, and its mission was:
To create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.
—(OLPC Mission Statement)
According to Nicholas Negroponte,
It's an education project, not a laptop project.
To sum up its history, the project was relatively successful in its execution. The team managed to deploy the notebooks to a range of developing countries in need, and those schools in need benefited from the introduction of this technology to their students, many of whom hadn't even seen a computer in their lives.

Of course, this project didn't come without controversy: there were criticisms that the laptops' software, a variant of the open-source Linux operating system, was detrimental to the development of computer skills that would be a spin-off of these students' use of the technology; some argued that a lower-end version of Microsoft Windows would expose these students to what "real-world" computing was all about.

While I do believe that these critics have a fair point, the bottom line is that Microsoft's (MSFT) software is ridiculously priced; it would prove difficult for the OLPC Foundation to market their laptop if it had Windows, as there would be a significant price increase.

Anyway, since the deployment of the XO-1, the OLPC Foundation has announced the development of its successor, the XO-2 (naturally). It's a significant upgrade from the rather clunky-looking XO-1, and features a dual-screen layout that alludes to the fancy e-readers with are so common in the developed world.

The screens in question are Pixel Qi Dual-Mode screens, and they have been used already on the Asus Aspire One netbook. Interestingly, the XO-2 is being called a "netbook" now, which brings it into the
"modern age" of mobile computing, and shows that this appears to be a far more serious device than its predecessor.

The XO-2 will also continue to use the customised open source software popularized by the XO-1. The battery is expected to be a 16 - 20 WH LiFePO battery, offering up to 8 hours with moderate use. Storage will be, as with the XO-1, available via NAND flash.

So far, it looks promising. From the OLPC wiki, here's what's expected of the dual-mode screens:
At least three modes of operation are expected:
  • Book mode - the handbook is used as a notebook or book reader, and viewed with its hinge vertical.
  • Laptop mode - the "lower" (right hand) display of the handbook displays a keyboard, leaving the upper display for application windows.
  • Tablet mode - when flat, the handbook provides a surface for drawing, writing, and games.
No plans are in place for a release date, but developing countries are in for a treat if this project is realised. Let's just hope the pricing won't let it down.

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