Marvell Partners With OLPC To Design Android-Powered Tablet

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has announced it recently received a $5.6 million investment from Marvell. The two organizations plan to collaborate on an Android-powered tablet that's similar, at least conceptually, to OLPC's conceptual design for its XO-3 system. This new collaboration is in addition to the general partnership the two announced earlier this year; the $5.6 million is almost certainly a much-needed shot in the arm for the cash-starved OLPC initiative.

Supposedly the new tablet will be on display by CES this year and will ship in 2011 compared to a 2012 target date for the XO-3. Whether or not this second conceptual device (the XO-2 was canceled) ever sees the light of day is anyone's guess. We don't want to disparage the motivation or dedication of project founder Nicholas Negroponte, but the man's refusal to even consider commercializing the original XO-1 design wreaked havok on the foundation's ability to deliver product early on. In the years since its debut, the OLPC has distributed some 1.5 million laptops, but never achieved the economy of scale necessary to push the price to the $100 price point Negroponte originally envisioned.

Concept art for the OLPC's third generation. The keyboard is virtual.

The fact that the XO-3 is designed as a tablet rather than a laptop raises questions regarding the unit's practicality. The original XO-1 was custom-designed to withstand the rigors of third-world use and rough handling while its custom Sugar Learning Environment specifically focused on providing an effective interface for children. An iPad-style XO-3 is far more fashionable than the green-and-white hard plastic shell and built-in handle of the XO-1, but that doesn't make it a superior solution.

We're quite curious to see what OLPC designs for Marvell, but we wouldn't take bets on the foundation's life expectancy. The XO-1 is often credited as having put pressure on Intel to develop its own alternative and for pushing down netbook prices, but credit doesn't pay the bills.