OLPC announces the next XO

There's been a lot of evidence mounting lately that OLPC has been steadily, inexorably losing its mind. At OLPC's Global Country workshop today, founder Nick Negroponte revealed the prospective design of the XO laptop Mark II, cutely deemed the XOXO (or, shorthand, XO-2). Jettisoning the keyboard of the XO, the XOXO will be a dual-screen touch-screen affair, and they are aiming for one-watt power consumption and a $75 price tag. The XOXO seems like a rubber stamp smashed against the forehead of the company: "INSANE." It's simply a concept design, granted, but OLPC still can't get the XO-1 below $100. The dual-screen set-up is a fantastic idea — it can double as an e-book, especially since it will contain the same display technology as the currently XO, making it ideal for reading in outside conditions — but this hardly looks like technology that will be affordable in 2010. And where's the hand crank? Is it solar powered? How are the hundreds of millions of children living without electricity supposed to charge it? God speed, OLPC, but this looks like something Apple would release for a retail price of a couple thousand. I believe in your mission, but I simply don't believe you guys can pull this off... at least not in 2010 for $75 (or even twice that). Perhaps you should concentrate on getting the XO-1 under $100 before you start pulling your next-gen designs straight out of Minority Report First Look: OLPC XO Generation 2.0 [Laptop Mag via Gizmodo] Image: Gizmodo
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24 Responses to OLPC announces the next XO

  1. themindfantastic says:

    I think the OLPC has been not so much a success for the third world as it has been a success for the first world, without such things like the XO has made such projects like the Eee PC from asus so damn attractive, its gotten away from the computer that was more horsepower = better computer so what if it gives you a hernia… to understanding that a small PC might be exactly what a person needs because they don’t need huge. This maybe will help kickstart actual Ebook readers to be popular and available… sounds good to me. Too bad about that whole Third World side of everything however.

  2. things says:

    typing on a touchscreen, no thanks.

  3. a random John says:

    #7 – that’s my question exactly. How will you type on the thing? Touch typing will be difficult if not impossible. Add to that the fact that you’ll have to hover over the keyboard rather than rest your fingers on it. Unless it is pressure sensitive rather than simply touch sensitive.

    Also, what OS is this going to run? Now that they’ve dumped their custom stuff and the team that built it for XP how are they going to get anyone to join a team to build custom stuff for this project?

    They should have taken Steve Jobs up on his offer of free OS X for the thing several years ago. If I remember correctly they rejected that offer because free wasn’t good enough, they needed the OS to be Free. Now they’ve got XP. Lovely.

  4. Leonard Low says:

    It’s vapourware, and unimaginative vapourware at that. “Mediocre”: do you pronounce that “SO-SO?”

  5. Enochrewt says:

    Logistics problems that Mr. Brownlee pointed out aside, this little notebook concept picture looks HAWT.

  6. Halloween Jack says:

    Remember those groovy wearable-computing designs from ten years ago? A day-glo pseudopod that wrapped around your non-dominant arm with an embedded chording keyboard, and a one-eyed HUD display that would overlay the world with info-rich Terminatoresque pop-ups? Still waiting for that one.

  7. SeppTB says:

    Indeed. I’ll take one right now, and I’d be willing to pay far more than $75 for it.

  8. knifie_sp00nie says:

    Why don’t we just send these impoverished people some of our old textbooks? The basics aren’t obsolete and books hold up to the environment better than computers.

  9. gabrielm says:

    I have another word for Nick Negroponte: GENIUS!

    The olpc may never reach it’s described goal, but in striving for that goal they are pushing the boundaries of hardware design and bringing to light the educational conditions that millions of children face.


  10. technogeek says:

    The OLPC effort was in trouble from the start; the model wasn’t going to fly as long as their target countries are still struggling simply to feed their populace. A $100 PC — or a $75 PC — would be a lot more likely to get traction in India than in most of Africa. I know that bootstrapping the poorest of the poor is a much more exciting goal, but I don’t think it has a chance of happening until the rest of the world is willing to donate a large part of the cost — and given the current economic concerns, this is not the moment to expect that kind of support.

    The redesign does look very much like an attempt to put the dice back in the box for another throw rather than admit that the basic concept has flaws.

    I’m also somewhat skeptical about the robustness of touchscreens in that environment. Maintaining calibration is always a challenge, and as we all know touchscreens get scratched over time… and if you thought the tactile feedback was dubious on the original OX, just try to touchtype on a touchscreen. (Go ahead, I dare ya…)

    Can you say “Jumped the shark”? I knew you could…

  11. nex says:

    So now we’re criticising OLPC machines for not having a hand-crank? (Hint: the XOs don’t have one either. The idea simply turned out not to be all that great.)

    I like the design. Yes, $75 seems insane, and I’m wondering if this thing could possibly have more computing power than my ancient Palm. But then, for many educational tasks, you don’t need much more, and what if they made a deal that lets you buy one of those sexy beasts for 400 and at the same time enable some poor child to get another one for 75? A lot of people might buy that.

    I guess presenting such a beautiful concept is a way to make potential volunteers want to help make it a reality. Have they taken this idea and run with it too far? Dunno.

  12. tp1024 says:


    Just because it looks like something that Apple might sell for over a thousand bucks doesn’t mean that this is necessary. Especially if you don’t have to pay for bleeding edge electronics or Apple marketing. The OLPC itself is a specialized piece of rugged electronics with custom made interfaces, displays and batteries plus a custom made software suite that had lots of work going into it. Had Apple made it, the price would be much closer to $1000 than $100.


    Because old textbooks don’t have recent information. (They are old after all.) They are written in wrong languages. And the logistics of transporting several blocks of paper per pupil per year are mind-boggling when you keep in mind that infrastructure, especially in Africa, is a NIGHTMARE. (And we’re not even talking about pencils and paper to write on.) And in fact, almost any country that has a somewhat decent infrastructure that allows it to bring the books to the people, is rich enough to do just that.

  13. Mechz says:

    I love how they photoshopped that kids hands BROWN.

  14. the Other michael says:

    Isn’t typing on resistant flat surface asking for hand-trouble?

    Looks sweet; sounds suspicious.

  15. SeppTB says:

    #7 – Everyone in the future has been doing it for thousands of years without any problems, according to sci-fi shows all over!

  16. ZekeSulastin says:

    #10: Concepts are useless until they are turned into a real device. Give me a week with image/3D software and I’ll make you a trifold touchscreen! Does that make me better than AppleSoft?

    They really need to get the original XO down to the original spec before coming out with crap like this.

  17. Anonymous says:

    It is entirely possible to build this thing for $75 in 2010. Haven’t you folks ever heard of Moore’s Law? And stop confusing retail prices with wholesale. The EEE PC sells for >$400 while the OLPC is $188 and better (more rugged, better screen, etc). The difference is profit, and where they focused their design attention.

    The XO-1 had dozens of chips on a motherboard as big as the screen; in the XO-2, that will all shrink into a single custom System-on-chip, plus commodity RAM and Flash chips. Plot the price of your $200 20″ LCD monitor, and you’ll see that motherglass for small screens like this should be readily available for $20 each. OLPC’s focus on very low power consumption means that it will only need a tiny, cheap, light battery. (The XO-1 uses cheap NiMH or LiFePO4, not expensive lithium ion like every commercial laptop.) If you’ve taken apart the XO-1’s keyboard you’ll see that indeed it IS flat; the molded rubber bits are just for show. Yes, they absolutely will need a new touchscreen supplier: Alps screwed up the touchpad in the XO-1 and isn’t being proactive about debugging it. Rugged plastic & rubber packaging will cost only a dollar (a smaller laptop is inherently stiffer and stronger than a large one anyway). With free software there’s no per-unit software cost. It’ll fly.

    There’s a worldwide competition to build interesting pocket-sized gadgets these days. A cellphone, a PDA, a webpad, a digital picture frame, a laptop, a GPS, a camera, an LCD monitor: they’re all largely the same inside. The challenge is how to package, arrange, and enable the same components to solve a problem that millions of humans share (so you can replicate one design a hundred million times at very low cost). The companies that think this through right will win big. Bravo to Nicholas for thinking outside the traditional design space. Lord knows the commercial companies need some help with their bland and ill-designed “clones” of each other. E.g. why can’t any commercial vendor but Apple design a good looking and functional laptop? They’re all built in the same factories — the ugly ones and the pretty ones.

  18. Dustin Driver says:

    Wow John, why so pessimistic? Who knows, by 2010 they might be able to make this notebook for a few hundred bucks. And even if that’s way too much money for most of the world’s poor, at least it’ll be affordable for inner-city kids in the US and Europe, probably China by that time.

    And those inner city kids might get inspired to invent some great new technology to help the world’s poor.

  19. gobo says:

    Negroponte & Co. might be crazy, but I’m glad we’ve got loonies like that at the helm of OLPC rather than Steve Ballmer. Yeah, this design is ridiculously optimistic at those specs, but the OLPC is the X-Prize of computing; releasing this concept is a cold shower for Microsoft and Apple, challenging them to step up.

  20. DeWynken says:

    Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.

    Give a man a fishing pole and he can eat for life.

    Give a kid a XO-2 and they can trade it for an AK47.

  21. technogeek says:

    Negroponte is indeed a genius… at taking technology that’s just reaching commercialization and seeing what else it can be good for. He led some of the earliest work with computer-controlled splicing of videodisk output, for example.

    On this project, I think he’s pretty far out of his depth.

    I applaud the bravery of the idea, and there’s a lot of interesting spin-off stuff being produced… but I don’t think he’s going to achieve his stated target. There’s too much real world in the way.

    It’s a fine goal. But until he can come up with moon-shot funding, I don’t think he’s going to achieve the landing he wants.

  22. Anonymous says:

    THis is complete OLPC fiction. Total fiction.

    The problem is the hardware designers are GONE. The brilliance behind the XO’s hardware, including the great screen, field reparability, the ruggedized design, the lack of electrolytic capacitors, the use of LiFeP batteries, etc, have all left for greener pastures and startups.

    This is “designware fiction”. EG, the touchscreen keyboard not only would have far worse feel than a real keyboard or even the XO chiclets, it offers no localization advantage over a different paintjob on the keyboard.

    The problem is the OLPC foundation is faced with obsolescence: this is a way to get more attention

  23. GuabaMan says:

    They could sell the fancy new XOXOs and finance giving away the rugged old ones.

  24. Anonymous says:

    >>”How are the hundreds of millions of children living without electricity supposed to charge it?”

    Don’t be ridiculous, everyone knows it’ll be powered by the magic of wishful thinking!

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