The $100 laptop? Sooo 2007. Now it’s time for the $75 laptop, from the same One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organisation. The new model is also raising eyebrows thanks to an interesting new design strategy: it’s ditching the keyboard entirely.
The new machine will also be smaller and lighter then original XO model and the lack of keyboard will be replaced by a touchscreen display. Kind of like a big Nintendo DS really.
“You can fold it flat and use it as one continuous display,” OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte explained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab announcement and said that the clamshell design is modelled after a book and intended to be legible under direct sunlight.
I’m not convinced that a touchscreen display can ever truly supplement a proper keyboard (especially not without tactile feedback), but it will give laptop a far better scope for laying out different key sets for different languages so maybe that will help broaden its scope.
Other improvements in the XO-2 include reduced power consumption. The XO only uses 2-4 watts (very little compared to the 20-40 watts used by normal laptops) and the XO-2 has cut that down to just 1 watt.
As you can see from the pic, it’s a pretty snazzy looking piece of kit (wouldn’t mind one myself) but OLPC still faces an uphill battle to see this project achieve worldwide success. Sales of the XO model have been a “disappointment” so far and fallen well short of the lofty goals Negroponte was aiming for two years ago.
Disagreements over the direction of the organisation have led to high profile departures and some hardware supporters have pulled out. However, Microsoft made an encouraging move last week by offering up a cut-price version of XP for the ultra-cheap system and maybe the redesign will be enough to spark interest afresh.