OLPC News: The OLPC Tablet at CES?

OLPC Tablet A1 board prototypeOLPC Tablet A1 board prototype

It seems that the upcoming OLPC XO 3 Tablet is getting some buzz right before its debut next week at CES. It is said to be an 8" tablet that may come in a few models. Information about it is currently very sketchy but supposedly some will be revealed next week. I am NOT posting any of the early concept pictures because they are dated and I'm fairly sure the real thing looks quite different... since it is designed to be very rugged for children. Here are some external links to get you in the mood:

COMPUTERWORLD - OLPC's XO-3 tablet to debut at CES

ELECTRONISTA - OLPC XO 3.0 tablet to show at CES with Android, Sugar

ENGADGET - OLPC outs XO 3.0 tablet at last, will make its debut at CES

GIZMODO - The $100 OLPC Tablet Is Really Real and Debuting at CES

OLPC News - What Will OLPC Show at CES 2012 Next Week?

OFFICIAL OLPC WIKI - XO-3 Tablet Alpha test model

There is a lot of repeating of the same speculation (echo chamber) and even some misinformation... but at least there appears to be some interest. For one thing the XO 1.75 is NOT out yet (March 2012?). They are keeping the Pixel Qi screen layer that gives it an eInk display mode just like in all previous OLPCs... but probably not in the $100 model. I think both Amazon and Barnes & Noble really missed the boat when they DID NOT but the Pixel Qi eInk layer in the displays of their Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet products. An eInk display mode in a color display from book sellers would have been a no-brainer. Who would of thought the OLPC project would have remained innovative with a 5 year old feature they pioneered?

I have to wonder if the OLPC folks have finalized the design and all of the models they plan to offer and what features they will have. I doubt it because the alpha board appears to have arrived about a month ago and they said they have more shrinking to do and a few more features to add... although it is currently half the size of the XO 1.75 board. The $100 model will almost certainly sacrifice some features because they can not sell them at a loss and make up the difference with "content sales" like the commercial vendors.

Is the $100 entry-level price hard to believe? Not really. The upcoming $25 / $35 Raspberry Pi devices (not shipping yet but probably within a month) have shown that modern SoC designs can actually be inexpensive. The OLPC XO-3 Tablet will have more hardware features than the Raspbery Pi including the not-cheap display, camera, wifi and battery (although no wired network port).

While the low price points are definitely achievements, there are three factors that make such pricing possible:

  1. Both OLPC and Raspberry Pi are non-profits
  2. Both are using completely free (speech and beer) software
  3. Both are aimed at the education market

One big difference though is that the OLPC project remains focused on only selling in bulk directly to governments and school systems whereas the Raspberry Pi is targeting single-unit direct-sales to the public.

Update: I found some images of the real external design. It is supposedly going to be shown early (Sunday night). The images look real and to the best of my knowledge, they are... and some ports are visible. Note that the thickness is what you'd expect in a rugged device... and is very reminiscent of the display-half of the current OLPC models. Since the existing OLPC models ALREADY had all of the guts behind the display (with the exception of the battery), this is definitely what I was expecting... but the lids are a surprising twist, eh?

OLPC XO 3.0 Tablet with coverOLPC XO 3.0 Tablet with cover

Two OLPC tablets, one with solar panel charging lid(?) and other with flexibleTwo OLPC tablets, one with solar panel charging lid(?) and other with flexible

By the way, a package showed up in my mailbox yesterday... a long lost OLPC XO 1.5. I just updated it to the latest stable software release and will be revisiting it since I haven't gotten much time with a 1.5. It will be available in the OPLC Lending Library RSN.