With all the attention we lavish on Netbook-style laptops such as the Asus Eee PCand the HP 2133 Mini-note, it's easy to forget that all these systems owe some of their DNA to the One Laptop Per Child project and founder Nick Negroponte's dream of getting a low-cost XO laptop into the hands of any student who needs one.
The original XO ended up having more impact as an influence than an actual product, as it was plagued by delays, price increases, and lowered expectations. But even if there are more Intel Classmate PCsand Eee PCs in the wild, don't count OLPC out just yet.
The group has said it is working on the next generation of XO laptops, and has released a few very intriguing photos and details for the XO 2.0. The most interesting part is clearly the dual touch-screens in place of a traditional keyboard and monitor. The publicity photos look a bit too sci-fi, and the final product (much like the original XO's early design mockups), will probably be somewhat more pedestrian.
The official press release points out four different areas where the new OLPC laptop will improve on the original:
Cost reduction - Set in early 2005, the original target price of the XO laptop was $100. Although that target has not yet been met (it is now at $188), it is clear that OLPC must aim for an even lower target price of $75. New developments in display, processor, and other hardware and software technologies will make it possible to achieve the $75 target in the future.
Lower power consumption - While the first generation XO laptop already requires just one-tenth (2-4 watts versus 20-40 watts) of the electrical power necessary to run a standard laptop, the XO-2 will reduce power consumption even further to 1 watt. This is particularly important for children in remote and rural environments where electricity is scarce or nonexistent. Lowering the power consumption will reduce the amount of time required for children to generate power themselves via a hand crank or other manual mechanisms.
Smaller footprint - The XO-2 laptop will be about half the size of the first generation device and will approximate the size of a book. The new design will make the XO laptop lighter and easier for children to carry with them to and from school or wherever they go. The XO-2 will continue to be in a green and white case and sport the XO logo in a multitude of colors that allow children to personalize the laptop as their own possession.
Enhanced book experience - Dual touch-sensitive displays will be used to enhance the e-book experience, with a dual-mode display similar to the current XO laptop. The design provides a right and left page in vertical format, a hinged laptop in horizontal format, and a flat two-screen wide continuous surface that can be used in tablet mode. Younger children will be able to use simple keyboards to get going, and older children will be able to switch between keyboards customized for applications as well as for multiple languages. The dual touch-display is being designed by Pixel Qi, which was founded in early 2008 by Mary Lou Jepsen, former chief technology officer of One Laptop per Children and a leading expert on display technology.