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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Design revamp for '$100 laptop'

The wraps have been taken off the new version of the XO laptop designed for schoolchildren in developing countries.

The revamped machine created by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project looks like an e-book and has had its price slashed to $75 per device.

OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte gave a glimpse of the "book like" device at an unveiling event at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The first XO2 machines should be ready to deliver to children in 2010.

Mr Negroponte said he hoped the design would also be used by other manufacturers.

Dual use

"This laptop comes from a different point of view," he said.

The new version loses the green rubbery keyboard, sporting instead a single square display hinged at its centre.

This allows the device to be split into two touch screens that can either mimic a laptop with keyboard or the pages of a book.

"Over the last couple of years we've learned the book experience is key," he said.

The idea is for several children to use the device at once, combining the functions of a laptop, electronic book and electronic board.

"It is a totally new concept for learning devices," said Prof Negroponte.

The new machine will also be more energy efficient, half the size of the first generation device and lighter to carry.

It will continue to sport the XO logo in a multitude of colours so that children can personalise them.

"The XO2 will be a bit of a Trojan horse," said Prof Negroponte. Initially it will be promoted as an e-book reader with the capacity to store more than 500 e-books.

"Currently developing nations such as China and Brazil are spending $19 per student per year on books," he said.

Dual boot

The launch of the XO2 is being seen as an effort by OLPC to revitalise adoption of its machines. Initially, Prof Negroponte set a target of selling 100 million machines by 2008.

So far OLPC has only sold about 600,000 machines. Prof Negroponte said he expected a further 400,000 orders in the next "60 to 90 days".

Many countries have been reluctant to buy the machines because they did not run Microsoft's Windows operating system.

In mid-May OLPC announced a deal with Microsoft to make Windows available on the XO machine.

Previously the machines used a version of open source Linux operating system.

"There is no question that demand goes up when you offer dual boot," said Professor Negroponte.

The laptops which originally had a target price of $100 now cost $188 each.

The OLPC project believes the price tag for the new devices will be achieved thanks to falling prices for flat panel screens, the most costly of all laptop components.

At the MIT event, Prof Negroponte announced the resumption of the Get-One-Give-One programme to allow people in wealthy nations to buy two XO laptops and donate one to a child in a developing country.

The programme will be open to people in North America and Europe and start in August or September.

Prof Negroponte said the previous programme enabled OLPC to distribute 30,000 additional laptops to children in Rwanda, Mongolia and Haiti.

(taken from : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7411904.stm)

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