OLPC Founder Offers Help To Make $35 Tablet

Now before anyone else, I’ll get the joke out of the way – Mr. Negroponte is going to show them how to turn the $35 tablet into a $70 tablet… ba dum bum.

Seriously, the help of OLPC in getting the thing off the ground will be great as Negroponte has certainly gotten all the right cylinders to fire on the OLPC project engine, making sure that the project delivered the right performance, even if it was at a slightly elevated price point.

From Computerworld, the details of the help, and some specifics are given –

The nonprofit organization One Laptop Per Child wants to join forces to help develop the Indian government’s planned $35 tablet.

In a congratulatory note to the government, OLPC Chairman Nicholas Negroponte said the world needs the $35 tablet, and he offered the country full access to OLPC hardware and software technology.

“I repeat my offer: full access to all of our technology, cost free. I urge you to send a team to MIT and OLPC at your earliest convenience so we can share our results with you,” Negroponte wrote in a blog entry, which was published on Thursday.

OLPC has its own plans to ship a low-cost tablet. The organization has said it hopes to ship a $100 XO tablet by 2012. Negroponte said India’s $35 tablet wouldn’t compete with OLPC’s offerings, but that both could align efforts to promote education.

“India is so big that you risk being satisfied with your internal market. Don’t. The world needs your device and leadership. Your tablet is not an “answer” or “competitor” to OLPC’s XO laptop,” Negroponte wrote.

The Indian government last week announced the $35 tablet targeted at students, but didn’t announce a release date. The government has previously announced low-cost devices, including a $100 laptop, but has failed to deliver. Some observers believe the tablet won’t see the light of day.

A similar promise of a $100 laptop came from OLPC, when it announced the $100 XO laptop in 2005. However, the effort was afflicted by production delays and rising costs, which caused the laptop’s estimated price to rise to $200. But OLPC says it has now deployed 2 million laptops in 40 countries. OLPC has been shy about revealing official sales figures.

As part of its deployments, OLPC has rolled out XO laptops across projects in India, but the organization has shared a hot and cold relationship with the Indian government. The country in 2006 declined to purchase OLPC XO laptops, instead opting for Intel’s Classmate PC. However, in 2009 two Indian government organizations placed orders for XO laptops.

Negroponte advised the Indian government to make the tablet as desirable as Apple’s iPad, but not to design it as a media consumption tool. The device should be an education tool.

“Caution is needed with regard to one aspect of tablets: learning is not media consumption. It is about making things. The iPad is a consumptive tool by design. OLPC urges that you not make this mistake,” Negroponte wrote.

The organization is also urging the Indian government to stick to the open-source Linux OS for the tablet.

OLPC has been praised for implementing innovative hardware and environmentally friendly designs in its laptops. The XO tablet may include new display technology from Pixel Qi, which makes screens that absorb ambient light to brighten screens and save power by reducing the need for the backlight, which is used to light up conventional screens.

As a bonus, some of the technology that was part of OLPC has come into the rest of the computing arena, and we are all better for it. Though the tablet may come in at double the aggressive price of $35, it will no doubt nudge the current producers of tablets, and again, we will all benefit through lowered prices, and possible improvements in hardware design.

Even those who say that these will not affect the iPad will be wrong, for the changes that occur will either drive down the price of the iPad, or make Apple add more value to the newer iPads as they are developed in order to maintain their price and give a larger performance advantage.

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Quote of the day:

I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

– Umberto Eco


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