The idea of a $100 tablet computer for children in developing parts of the world may become a reality sooner than originally expected, but it won't have all the features that were originally part of the project.
The "One Laptop Per Child" program has been successful, despite a lot of setbacks that caused production costs to go up and large orders to be canceled. The so-called "$100 laptop" actually costs $172.
Last June, the non-profit group's founder Nicholas Negroponte told Technology Review that a million children in run-down parts of the world now have a laptop thanks to the program. The most current numbers show that 2 million of the computers have been sold, but it's unclear if that's counting 2 units for people who participated in the "Give One Get One" program, which sends one laptop to a needy child and one to the person who bought it. Negroponte's initial goal was to have given out 100 million by this time.
Hopefully there will be new energy pumped into the program with the introduction of the XO-3, a new tablet computer that OLPC will be revealing in January at CES 2011. It will be an upgraded version of the XO computer, which is the current model.
However, like many times in OLPC's history, the ambitions appear to have exceeded reality. Initially, Negroponte wanted a waterproof design, a slimmer form factor than the iPad, and an 8 GHz processor. None of those will come true in the final version of the XO-3. The Marvell processor will only have 1 GHz of power.
Negroponte calls the scaled-back device a "stepping stone" and clarifies that "We haven't changed our mission ... It's all still on the road map," according to a quote from Forbes.com.
Some critics are unconvinced. Altimeter Group analyst Michael Gartenberg told Forbes, "It's like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football. We've seen this before. They should stop talking, go quiet and then deliver something. Until then it's hard to take them seriously."
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