Negroponte Unveils 2nd Generation OLPC Laptop: It’s an E-Book

I’m “live blogging” from the One Laptop Per Child Foundation’s day-long media event at the MIT Media Lab. The big news is that OLPC founder Nicholas Negrponte has just unveiled the design for the foundation’s second-generation laptop, which isn’t really a laptop at all but a double-screened, fold-up electronic book.

Below are five shots of Negroponte’s presentation taken with my iPhone. [Update 4:15 pm 5/20/08: And below those are three high-resolution images that OLPC sent out to the media after the presentation.]

Negroponte says the cost of this 2nd-generation device, which uses dual-touch screens with 16:9 aspect ratios, will be kept to $75. (Compare that to the $188 cost of the foundation’s current first-generation XO laptop.) Costs will be kept down in part by using screens built for portable DVD players, which are rapidly coming down in price, Negroponte says. “The reason you can have the audacity to do this is that the 16:9 displays on DVD players are so inexpensive that to anticipate them costing $20 each is not out of the question,” he says.

The book-like design of the device “comes from something we’ve learned over the past couple of years—that the book experience is key,” Negroponte said during his presentation this morning. “Some people have asked me why not just give kids cell phones? And in fact there will be 1.2 billion cell phones manufactured this year, and cell phones are of huge consequence in the developing world—but the cell phone is not a learning device. The next generation laptop should be a book.”

Negroponte said the foundation plans to bring out the second-generation device by 2010. By that time, he added, the cost of the original XO Laptop will also have been brought below $100.

Click on the images below to see larger versions.

2nd Generation XO Laptop from One Laptop Per Child Foundation - Photo 1
2nd Generation XO Laptop from One Laptop Per Child Foundation - Photo 2
2nd Generation XO Laptop from One Laptop Per Child Foundation - Photo 3
2nd Generation XO Laptop from One Laptop Per Child Foundation - Photo 4
2nd Generation XO Laptop from One Laptop Per Child Foundation - Photo 5

UPDATE 4:15 pm 05/20/08

Okay, we’ve got the official high-res versions of three of the XO 2.0 images now. As before, click on the thumbnails below for larger versions.

XO 2.0 Laptop Concept, showing touch-screen keyboard
XO 2.0 Laptop Concept, e-book mode
XO 2.0 Laptop Concept, pong mode

Addendum 4:30 pm 5/20/08

I’m back at the office, and wanted to add a few more details.

In a press release issued shortly after Negroponte’s presentation, OLPC said that key goals for the so-called XO-2 computer include the aforementioned $75 price tag; power consumption of 1 watt, reducing the amount of time required for children in unelectrified areas to generate power manually; a smaller footprint (the XO-2 is about half the size of the XO) so that the device is easier to carry to and from school; and an “enhanced book experience” that resembles the right and left pages of a book in vertical format, a laptop in hinged horizontal format, and a flat continuous tablet in flat two-screen format.

The dual touchscreen display is being designed by Pixel Qi, the hardware design firm founded by former OLPC CTO Mary Lou Jepsen.

OLPC also said that a new version of the original XO laptop, called XO-1.5, will be released in the spring of 2009 “with the same design as the first generation but with fewer physical parts and at a lower cost than XO-1.”

Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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  • ARGH.

    I’m so tired of the same old, poorly thought out criticisms of the OLPC. You just don’t get it. These people are not making a choice between “a toy” or food and medicine. These computers are for children who go to school but cannot afford to buy $200 worth of books every other year. Yes. that’s right. Most students have to buy their own books. Why spend $200 on a book that you will use for one year when you can spend $75 on a computer and then a whole school can share a PDF for $10 at total cost to the school?

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  • This is way cool.
    It would be cooler if they had a version that used e-paper (instead of lcd screens).
    This would drastically improve battery life and reduce strain on the eyes – a big reason why many people prefer printouts.

    The disadvantage would be that e-paper would probably be black and white, but there are a lot of applications (not necessarily to do with poor children) where such a device would be apt and would save a *lot* of paper and electricity.

    Th Kindle comes close but is clunky, expensive and US specific.

    If they make an e-paper version available for about $100-$200 they would have a commercial hit which saves the environment and may help finance more initiatives for needy children.

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  • ThomasW

    Let’s use the XO and other channels to teach everyone the basics of civilization:

    The Two Laws:

    1) Do not encroach on other persons or their property.

    2) Do what you have agreed to do.

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  • nary

    I love the idea idealistically but would like to have real feedback on the success of the 1st OLPC completely wrong. You must be able to read to use it and read in English – besides. I could not get the interface. I also thought it was for children of developing countries – do they speak English? Does a child in Kenya understand the same logo as a child in the US? How was the concept tested?
    Irrigation ideas are provided by an innovative NGO in that area IDE leaded by Paul Polack.

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  • Alex

    I think it doesn’t need a keyboard; one of the photos shows the child typing on one of the screens. I’m envisioning a screen reminiscent of the iPhone, only it will work well.

  • I have been conceptualizing a reader device for over a decade. The applications I want to design to run on one could possibly be transposed to run on this fantastic XO-2. If I had help from Python developers to transpose my Lingo code (Lingo has the best string handling capability of any known computer language) I believe the lesson material that could be assembled employing interactive multimedia will revolutionize education. All school children should have the very best that we can provide.

    I would like to be assembling content for the OLPCs. My favorite development platform is Adobe/Macromedia Director (not Flash).

    I wonder how much work it would be to author similar interactive multimedia for the XO’s (Would I have to master Linux and Python?)


  • The ePaper display, was something I looked into, before Sony and Amazon built their devices. For the applications I want to develop for learning, the display refresh time is too long. The display on any of the XO PC’s is better suited. I’d had a goal of developing a reader device that could be purchased for about $75. I’m overjoyed with Nicholas Negroponte’s and the OLPC team have created. I hope I can develop interactive multimedia content for students for it.

  • I am a recipient of the G1G1 program.My hopes were high, but I have had numerous problems with the machine and the software. These have not been addressed:
    1. Problem with control ket sticking
    2. Erratic mouse
    3. problems with python,etoys, tam tam
    4. Problems with network
    5. Lack of email
    6. Unable to recover password
    7. no longer updates
    With these problems I have essentially green bricked my initial plans to develop programs for the xo on the xo.
    the new machine requires even smaller kids for the photo ops!

  • I am a recipient of the G1G1 program.My hopes were high, but I have had numerous problems with the machine and the software. These have not been addressed:
    1. Problem with control key sticking
    2. Erratic mouse
    3. problems with python,etoys, tam tam
    4. Problems with network
    5. Lack of email
    6. Unable to recover password
    7. no longer updates
    8. sugar frame is terrible. makes it impossible to update this
    With these problems I have essentially green bricked my initial plans to develop programs for the xo on the xo.
    the new machine requires even smaller kids for the photo ops!

  • Greg

    I have an XO laptop, perhaps not the lastest software update. I participated in the Give One Get one promotion. They are interesting. It’s hard to maintain incentives to update and perfect the current software if you keep coming out with another version of the hardware. I also have a Apple Iphone and have owned Newton message pads. I recently bought a Newton Emate 300 off ebay to compare the technology. What’s amazing, (the newton emate battery pack needed to be replaced) is the Newton Emate from 1996 used a battery pack that consisted of 4 AA rechargable batteries soldered together with a heat sensor to prevent overcharging. The Emate had admittedly a grey scale display and didn’t have WIFI, etc. But it would do the basic functions of a computer and had handwriting recognition and a touch screen to boot. You can talk about how green and efficient the XO laptop is, but what surprised me is the Emate can run up to 24 hours on the battery pack. The battery pack (four AAs) had 5.4 watts of power. So that works out to about .3 watts of power/hour. Or about 1/3rd the lowest power consumption of an XO laptop.

    The XO laptop uses more power (yes it has a color screen) and the XOXO or XO2 will be attempting to get down to 1 watt of power (which is the passive black and white power mode of the XO laptop. But the Emate 300 has 3 times less power usage with 24 hour power times off 4 double A batteries and it was made by Apple in 1996 – 98. So Apple Computer apparently in some ways was not only 10 years ahead of time, even with Scully at the helm, but perhaps 15 or 20 years ahead of other computing platforms who are trying to save energy to be green.

    The question can often become, what is the message we are giving to the third world? Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not totally against the XO laptop project as some others.

    But if things like “peak oil” are happening and impacting the world with population growth and limited resources are we really sending the right message by saying, wait until the next year or two and we’ll give you an even better computer.

    The message of consumption, becomes somewhat clear and utopian. We can all share in the wealth and keep growing further. But if there are resource limits and energy limits, then in some cases it’s a matter of cutting back in the “developed world” in other words as the India, China and others get more wasteful and move to American Car culture and consumption, there’s less resources for Europe and America. So it’s a challenge and perhaps more of one to decide how to consume less in the higher level worlds and level them down toward poverty.

    In other words, we have the same basic resources, living in a small world, but the “ignorent” or “developing cultures” who multiply like rabbits decide their kids need all the same toys and education that the restrained more aged and population controlled countries have. It’s interesting dilemas we face. Just searching through and looking at all the massive populations it’s amazing that modern society can use efficiency and economies of scale and mass production to feed everyone. Is peak oil and energy limits going to play a role in all this as countries start to feel depressions and food shortages due to fuel costs? That’s the bigger question that could lead to war and starvation. Will continued (wars of cleansing) happen with different religious groups starving others, and other sects and cultural groups as well, due to ethnic, religous and anti-religous cleansing? It seems that the poor fall off the table first and are pushed down further as things get worse. It seems like the mega-rich prosper no matter what and perhaps even engineer the problems for profit.

    There are huge problems happening right now, and I’m not trying to put down the laptop or helping kids in the third world. I just wonder if some smart folks aren’t focusing on larger issues at hand.

    Obama states he’ll give $3 billion to the auto companies. Ford invested $3 billion this year to put auto plants in Mexico where workers agreed to $2.50 to $5 an hour wages. If Ford won’t help it’s own US auto industry, how can the government be expected to do this with Obama bailout plans?

    Developing economies are used like slaves for slave labor wages, meaning wage disparities to make the rich man richer as they ship cheap manufactured goods to more expensive markets. This continues to happen. It’s difficult to say if the XO concept really can have an impact on the major problems. It’s more of a small pet project by the richer countries to try to help the poorest kids. The “curriculum” will be the educators propaganda, maybe good or maybe bad. The xo laptop is just a tool, and who knows how it will be used?

  • Hi webmaster!

  • KnowledgeWorker

    Companies today want to hire people who can solve unstructured problems. The emphasis has shifted from knowing information to knowing how to find information. The OLPC project will allow children in third-world countries to develop those knowledge-finding skills by giving them access to the knowledge.

    I work for a company with offices worldwide, including Nigeria and South Africa. At a recent training I spent hours talking to employees from those offices. Opportunities exist for advancement in those countries.

    Perhaps the OLPC project will not be effective in areas of extreme poverty. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that certain basic needs must be satisfied before others will be pursued. But there are many different levels of poverty.

    The book “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs studies countries in various stages of poverty and development. By categorizing the levels of poverty Sachs was also able to propose an explanation as to how certain countries advanced.

    The OLPC project may have its greatest impact on countries already progressing out of poverty.

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  • Chris

    I wonder how many of the commentators on this article have actually LIVED and TAUGHT in developing countries…

  • I have, Chris, although in Dominica, the government of which isn’t like the ones I mentioned. Although in fairness, it doesn’t take that specific set of experiences to make some of the observations that people make about the OLPC project, such as that it would have enjoyed better economy of scale if it had set out to make educational technology affordable to all kids instead of just kids in specific countries.

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  • This reminds me of the Primer from Neal Stephenson’s book, The Diamond Age. I want one, and if there is any way within my means of obtaining one, I will have one. I’m not about to let any of the business-model masquerading as a useful device from the likes of Amaze-on, Barely Noble or Stony onto my roster of personal possessions, but this device is different. I expect that I’ll be able to download anything I can legitimately get my hands on, annotate it (or at least make my own complementary set of digital text notes), store and retrieve it or whatever. On top of which I won’t be required to support a wireless carrier for the privilege. Negroponte has my full support, and if it takes buying 2 to get one, I’d gladly come up with bucks.

    TY Nicholas for offering an alternative to corporate customer gouging. Hopefully this effort won’t be subverted by Indel of Microshlock in the manner of the first XO.