OLPC Foundation to Launch $100 Student Tablet

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Aiming to hit the magic $100 price point that’s been the goal of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation since the inception of its earliest student-friendly “XO” portable computers, Nicholas Negroponte is planning to take things into the tablet realm over the coming months.

Originally announced last year for a scheduled launch in 2012, the XO 3.0 tablet project looks like it’ll make it to market much earlier than expected.

The joint press release from processor manufacturer Marvell and the OLPC Foundation details the following:

“The new family of XO tablets will incorporate elements and new capabilities based on feedback from the nearly 2 million children and families around the world who use the current XO laptop. The XO tablet, for example, will require approximately one watt of power to operate (compared to about 5 watts necessary for the current XO laptop). The XO tablet will also feature a multi-lingual soft keyboard with touch feedback, enabling it to serve millions more children who speak virtually any language anywhere in the world.

The device is also decidedly “constructionist” in nature. By design, it combines hardware and software to deliver a platform that will enable educators, students and families around the world to create their own content, and learn to read, write, and create their own education programs and share all of these experiences via a mesh network model. The device will also feature an application to directly access more than 2 million free books available across the Internet.”

I spoke with OLPC’s Dr. Nicholas Negroponte and Marvell’s Weili Dai about the device earlier this week to gather some more information. It’ll apparently be powered by a 1GHz SoC (system on a chip) from Marvell, feature a haptic-feedback touchscreen somewhere between 7 and 10 inches, be capable of encoding and decoding 1080p video files, and run full Flash.

“I believe this is the most advanced tablet out there,” said Dai, citing the $100 price point and full Flash capabilities, “Kids need flash.” The tablet is based on Marvell’s Moby platform, which the company touts as being capable of “1080p full-HD encode and decode, intelligent power management, power-efficient Marvell 11n Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM/GPS connectivity, high performance 3D graphics and support for multiple software standards including full Adobe Flash, Android, Windows Mobile and Ubuntu.”

The first generation of the XO 3.0 Tablet will be geared toward the education and general consumer market here in the US while, “The second generation will have a heavy skew toward the developing world,” according to Negroponte. When asked whether the tablet will rely more on local storage or cloud-based storage, Negroponte replied that the first generation can be more cloud dependent and cloud based but that ultimately the tablet has to be much more standalone since it’ll be used in rural areas around the world with less robust internet infrastructure.

When asked if the platform would eventually be opened up so that other manufacturers could make their own XO tablets, Negroponte replied that the first XO tablets will be reference designs. “We always want downward pressure on the price. We’ll make a reference design but we’ll also make the platform available. We always want to be a part of it, though.”

And while some reports this morning are talking about a planned launch of the XO tablet at 2011’s Consumer Electronics Show in early January, it’s been hinted that the tablet may even be ready sometime later this year. I asked Negroponte and Dai whether we’d see the tablet this year and Negroponte replied, “Weili is pretty convincing.”

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