Nicholas Negroponte’s quest to provide low cost computing to kids worldwide with the One Laptop Per Child project has had its share of bumps and bruises along the way, but this week the group announced two new, long-awaited updates in the XO-4 laptop and XO Learning Tablet.
We knew OLPC had some things to announce at CES, but we first spotted the XO-4 chilling out at Marvell’s table at an event. Why Marvell? The company’s PXA2128 SoC (1GHz, with Vivante GC2000 3D graphics engine) is on board, along with 1GB or 2GB of DDR3 RAM, 4GB or 8GB of flash storage.
The XO-4’s 7.5-inch touch screen is designed to show up well even in direct sunlight, and it supposedly can track any stylus, provided said stylus isn’t too hard and pointy and thus damages the screen. We found the touch screen to be a bit slow to respond to input, and the colors are a little dull, but those are the capitulations you make when your screen can stand up to the abuse of kids and the out of doors. One fascinating feature is that the XO-4 can switch from color to grayscale depending on lighting conditions.
Physically, the XO-4 offers a variety of different orientations, so kids can use it like a typical clamshell, use it as a sort of tablet, and rotate the display if need be.
The other latest hardware from OLPC is the XO Learning Tablet, which is the fruitful end result of the otherwise failed XO-3 tablet and runs OLPC’s XO Learning Platform. The 7-inch (1024x600) device will run a customized version of Android that includes loads of parental controls and a whimsical circle-of-icons interface, and it will be sold at Walmart’s (select) stores and website this year.
XO Learning Tablet
The first hardware licensee to make an XO tablet is Vivitar, and this first iteration will include a 1.6GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, 8GB of onboard storage, and 3,800MA battery. I/O ports will include micro SD, HDMI, micro USB, and “stereo headset”, and there will be front (1.3MP, 720p HD) and rear cameras (2MP). The tablets will come preloaded with 100 apps for the kiddos.
The most notable aspect of the XO tablet is that it will be available to first-world kids in big box stores, which is a big departure for the project; back when OLPC first rolled out the XO-1, nobody could get their hands on them.