OLPC Unveils Radical Laptop Design for 2012

One Laptop Per Child is unveiling the development road map for its XO low-cost notebook through 2012, including one new XO powered by chips from Via due out in January 2010 and another with an ARM-designed processor aimed at 2011. OLPC also unveiled a one-panel laptop made of flexible plastic that is scheduled for launch in 2012.

One Laptop Per Child, the organization that is aiming to make low-cost laptops available to children around the globe, is laying out its product road map for the next three years, including a single-panel design targeted to be released in 2012.

The group also announced Dec. 22 that it is cancelling its XO 2.0 system, which was announced in May 2008. Instead, OLPC will rolled out XO 1.5 in January 2010 and XO 1.75 in early 2011, before launching the XO 3.0, which the organization said will have a target price below $100.

The non-profit organization's goal in the next three iterations of its XO laptop are designed to increase the system's performance while developing a design that will make it easy to use by children in poor, rural and remote areas.

It hasn't been easy. In early 2008, the OLPC split with Intel, which started developing its own low-cost Classmate PCs. In January, OLPC, struggling financially, laid off half of its staff, partially due to the failure of its G1G1 program, where when a person bought an XO, another would be given to a child somewhere in the world for free.

However, the OLPC's debut XO-powered by an Advanced Micro Device processor and running a slimmed-down version of Fedora Linux-has been distributed to more than 1.4 million children in 35 countries, according to Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC founder and chairman.

"To fulfill our mission of reaching 500 million children in all remote corners of the planet, OLPC will continue to innovate in design and performance," Negroponte said in a statement.

XO 1.5 will have the same basic design as the current laptop, but the group will replace the AMD processor with one from VIA Technologies. The new system will have twice the speed, four times the DRAM memory and four times the Flash memory than the current laptop. It will run both Linux and Microsoft's Windows and will cost about $200 per unit.

XO 1.75 also will have the same basic design, but will include rubber bumpers on the outside and an 8.9-inch touch-sensitive display on the inside. It also will be based on an ARM-designed chip from Marvell that not only will give the system twice the speed, but will consume a quarter of the power. The ARM-based XO 1.75 will be offered alongside the x86-based XO 1.5, and will start at $150 or less.

It's with XO 3.0 that OLPC radically changes the design. It will be built on a single sheet of flexible plastic, and will be designed to be unbreakable. It also will have no holes in it, and a ring attached to the upper right corner to make it easier to hold and carry.

The technology used on the inside of the system will come from the XO 1.75 design, according to OLPC.

Concept images of the XO 3.0 design can be found here.