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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  • How much coverage is this thing going to get? Can everyone just pause for a second and instead of saying how “neat” it is ask: A: Is this a useful venture? B. And does this toy ultimately lead to a better educated child?

    Seriously, these kids need medicines and clean water and instead they get what amounts to a toy (and to be part of a photo op). Do they learn anything using this device that isn’t done cheaper with old school materials?

    Also, there is also a reason for the HUGE cost over runs, missed deadlines, broken partnerships — its a ego play of epic proportions. Let’s see some tougher coverage of this organization and stop giving them a free ride because they are a non-profit.

  • Ted

    I for one am a student and i will purchase this right away since most of the study material we get is in pdf. :)

  • Margot Yale

    Well, fmmodzelewski, there are already several dozen programs in existence to deliver food and medicine to these children. Negroponte is now taking the next step of finding a way to get education materials to these children cheaply. Doing so in electronic format provides many benefits to this end (like not having to ship, or carry several books per child, rather just a single device). It also opens up new learning experiences not found with simple text books like learning by example via video.

    Added benefit here is that this type of device isn’t just for poor, third-world countries. I think children in developed countries to greatly benefit from this as well. I think the biggest hurdle is not the hardware, but actually the creation of (and providing access to) a library of USEFUL educational materials for these devices that come royalty/rights free to everyone in the world.

    Is it a useful venture? Absolutely.

    Does it lead to a better educated child? Considering most of these children wouldn’t have had any education otherwise, the answer has to be absolutely yes.

    It’s a cheap-shot and narrow-minded to call this a “toy”. It’s far from it.

    And even if you still don’t agree, so what? It’s funded through private donations. Its existence has next to zero impact on you, so why bother?

  • william

    the main problem of the third word is education not food or water, the human factor education, technology and access to internet, having that you can create prosperity. don’t give fishes, teach them how to fish instead of be complaining seating on the couch angry because you dont have more news about fancy gadgets

  • Joshua Pritikin

    I was a little worried that the second generation might cut into sales of the first generation device. However, it doesn’t look like this will be the case. Both devices seem to address slightly different needs and it sounds like both will continue to be sold.

  • jim

    Will this ebook have a keyboard and audio inputs/outputs as well? That would make it useful. Otherwise, if it’s just something that provides an entirely passive experience, it’s hard to see what the real advantage is over books, or even Amazon’s “Kindle”.

  • AlPeloPa

    I think fmmodzelewski’s opinion is probably shared by other caring people, but not necessarily those with first-hand experience. Barriers to economic development are interconnected, so dealing with medicines and clean water exclusively until those needs are “solved” will not move the ball forward as much as working on multiple issues simultaneously. Health stats improve a lot with literacy, and $75 won’t buy nearly the number of books that will likely fit on this new device.

  • zac

    For fmmodzelewski:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=malaria
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_purification
    More information than they would ever have access to otherwise.

    But you’re right, we should probably sell them expensive water purification systems and medicines instead of providing access to information on dew collection and disease prevention. There’s a proverb in there, see if you can discover it.

    And as to your comment on non-profits being somewhat less time-efficient than more “American” corporations: in this case, absolutely. That was the first mass-market product created by the organization, and it was a very public process from the outset. There is a reason most corporations don’t announce products when they are only ideas on the board. They do this so that false expectations aren’t set, and the consumer isn’t strung along. But we were never intended to be the consumer. Get over it.

    What are you suggesting as an improvement?

  • I wonder if the screens on the XO-2 are going to be color e-ink or if they are of the same dual-mode used on the XO-1 and invented by Mary-Lou Jepsen.

    2010 seems a bit far off. I’d like to see a lower cost, lower power, lower weight ARM based XO laptop sooner then that…

  • Evan Holder

    I think fmmodzelewski’s opinion is not only a valid point, but having first hand knowledge, a not entirely inaccurate one. Basic security, sanitation and healthcare for these people is priority and unfortunately most often left up to governments with their own agenda or foundations where most of the money goes to ‘adminsitrative expenses’ and marketing. Until you’ve *been there* – and *I* have – the idea of one laptop per child making a dent in anything but ideal situations is a romantic notion at best.

  • psingh

    In my own personal experience, I can tell you education will not only remove poverty but can make big difference for whole society around you. I came from not so well family in rural area of Punjab but was good in education and now able to make whole family in very good position. Because of my success, next generation of my village also now doing well. Well done OLPC. You doing a great work for people of third world.

  • MArgot Yale: The program isn’t supported by donations. OLPC doesn’t give away laptops. It sells them to third world countries.

    Living in a third world country, I’d much rather spend my taxes on building schools and producing learning materials tailored to our specific problems than on toys which will probably end up exchanged for votes.

  • Justy

    Jim said “it’s hard to see what the real advantage is over books, or even Amazon’s “Kindle”.” The main advantage is being able to provide a child with many many books in the space of one. In this it is similar to the “Kindle.” However, Kindle is black and white, kids like colour. Kindle has ‘whispernet’ tech which only works in the US, inflating the cost for outsiders. A $75 e-book reader with colour where one screen can act as a keyboard (as seen above) seems like a great idea to me. I know my son would LOVE to have one of these e-book readers. Especially if publishers start creating colour children’s books for them.

  • ARB

    The best way to deliver medicine to a village in the developing world is for the kids growing up in that village to graduate from school able to attend a university and a medical school. The best way to feed a society is to produce knowledgeable farmers (and grocers who can participate in a global market). This is about long-term solutions.
    Will the world be a better place tomorrow because of OLPC? Probably not. Twenty years from now? Absolutely.

  • Someone said the biggest problem in the developing world is lack of education rather than access to clean water or health care. All of these are symptoms of the real problem, kleptocratic governments that get in the way of people who otherwise would better their own lives. Zimbabwe and Burma are prime examples.

  • Very promising tool for kids.

    I hope this device will help them to advance in school and life much faster than without.

  • John Dalton

    The Global Peace Index has found that education is a major contributing factor to peace in a country. If you give people peace, food and medicines have a much higher chance of happening. Thus indirectly OLPC is feeding the hungry and healing the sick.

  • Hank Roberts

    Brilliant. Finally, what I’ve been hoping for since I was about nine years old. I’ve been gaining on it for decades but I didn’t know if I’d ever catch it.

    My old Sony Clie SJ30 _will_ last until I can move my reading collection to one of these.

  • What saddens me the most from this blogpost is the Negroponte quote that “the cell phone is not a learning device.” This may sound like a truism to some but, to me, it actually sounds both myopic and incompatible with the constructionist nature of the project.
    A cell phone, an eBook, a textbook, a pencil, a portable media player, a twig… None of these is truly a learning device but all of them can be used in learning. Especially if we use a constructionist (hands-on and guide) approach to learning, inspired by constructivist perspectives on knowledge.

  • Rob Demon

    its not just an e-book, its a dual touch screen computer that can be used as an e-book. Don’t you people read articles / look at pictures? Do you just read the headline and make silly statements? So its much more than a kindle, but it aint e-ink unfortunately, so it will use more power look worse but will be a fraction of the price.

  • Johan

    I still wonder how this is going to work out here in africa. The moment there is a price tag on the item it is a liability to carry it with you. Feel free to read up on how safe you are when you carry a cell phone with you. So what I am saying is that there is a clear problem with values which have to be addressed even before you can start educating the people here with technology. Thanks for trying though – but this project aims at the wrong target at the moment.

  • Cronje Fourie

    I have to agree with Johan.I’m from South Africa (the no 1 country in Africa) and we are a long way from being able to use the XO.Crime rates in SA will see XO’s being either stolen or sold at an exorbitant price to only the fortunate by some greedy politician and his friends.Before looking at spreading XO’s all over 3rd world countries.Perhaps Negroponte should look at attempting to solve the real issue in 3rd world countries, which is crime and 0 political process.Without those the 1st world dream of education and medicine will not flourish.

  • Revelation

    Just a little confused on this release. I read a few days ago that the XO notebook was getting re-fitted with a copy of XP rather than Sugar OS. Personally, not a big fan of the decision, however reasons such as development time for tools were the consideration, over investing time on UI design. (although I hope the tech is big enough to also support Norton… or some such. The mental image of thousands of 3rd world children writing thousands of viruses that run off the roam the mesh reducing every XO to an expensive paperweight is somehow really amusing)

    So, is OPLC going to ship with Microsoft (XP I assume. The Vista footprint would be too massive. Ooh. Vista…. BuuurrrrnnnN!) or another variation on Sugar?

  • I am disabled and I would like to have an Ebook so I could read while laying down in my bed. I seldom have enough strength to hold a hardcover book and I a can’t afford the newer paper backs.
    Where can I purchase one?

  • Durkin

    Alexandre said “What saddens me the most from this blogpost is the Negroponte quote that “the cell phone is not a learning device.””.
    Actually, I thought the whole children living in poverty thing was kind of sad too.

  • Fmmodzelewski

    In response to William’s comments “the main problem of the third word is education not food or water.” WIlliam with all do respect, lay off the crack. More than half the deaths among the young in the developing world are from water borne illnesses. Knowing multiplication won’t stop a parasite from killing a 7 year old in many parts of Africa How many must die before change takes root due via education?

    I am not, by my comments being a hater. I am just asking that instead of deifying the project someone actually ask tough questions.

    Why are so many of you so afraid of inquiry? You are all so liberal and open minded and support education, why can’t questions be asked as to is this program a good idea and is it effectively managed?

    It is frankly gross bias on the part of many of this projects supporters that very well may be creating blind spots to exist that may doom this effort rather than make this –and many other programs for the developing world –more effective. Frankly I can’t help but see an insufferable academic superiority complex in effect that doesn’t allow many of you to even believe this could be less than a great idea.

  • pat

    I am also curious about Windows XP. It seems that free software (Sugar OS) versus paid for software (XP or Vista) is a better choice for developing communities.

    When the children wish to upgrade, how will they afford the software? The hardware costs alone are staggering, but then you add additional cost of software…..

  • think big

    They need more then food, water, and medicine they need to understand that they are starving to death because their government has sold the natural resources of their country to foreign interest and the U.N. is using it’s stated “food as a weapon” strategy to reduce global population. The Renascence of the Information age is the eye opener these 3rd world human need to empower them to control there destiny. Do you want them to just sit in the dirt with a bowl of rice waiting for the “New World Order” to send some black masked or blue helmeted assassin police over to reduce the excess population? Networking and sharing ideas is one of the strongest ways to fight the NWO. The OLPC/Linux is great technology to assist fighting the global slavery problem.

  • ThinkOfTheChildren

    The U.N. will reach its goal of 80% population reduction with or without the OLPC, who is kidding who?

  • JP

    This device is not intended to be a cure-all for the problems of struggling countries. These countries need changes and assistance on many levels: government, infrastructure, policy, health, education, etc.

    I see this device as a good way to introduce computing to young people. Whether it be in the USA, UK, or anywhere else in the world, a cheap computing device that appeals to children and that contains educational material is a good thing.

    I also agree with Fmmodzelewski that it’s always good to challenge and question the effectiveness of technology in education. Having a computer doesn’t make you smarter or more intelligent or solve any societal problems. Having knowledge and access to resources empowers people to make their lives better. If this device, along with content, and an educational system that leverages it can help, then it’s a good idea.

  • BC

    I find a lot of these *ideas* to be great in theory but when the practicality of it comes to the fore we realise just how woefully inadequate it really is.

    One of the most important things to take into consideration here has been totally overlooked. Where would any of the kids in a 3rd world country, who I might add walk 10-15 kilometers a day just to get water, find a repair centre when this little baby stops working?

    Education IS what is needed in Africa – I’m African myself so I really do understand and get this – but it needs to be tackled in a way that will actually benefit the children who are the intended audience.

    I’m not saying don’t do this, what I am saying is that there is a long way to go before something like this will actually make a difference to a malnourished African child.

    Not even looking at food and sustenance, or politics, or even the maintenance of the equipment, but the very distances that some of these kids have to go just to get to a school to learn in the first place, make these ideas that much harder to put into practice.

    We all have to let go of the 1st world view of life that we have – our comfortable homes and our running water – to TRULY see what it is to live life in the 3rd world.

    I do hope very much that OLPC carries on with what they’re doing and manage to overcome what will be very large barriers.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • nary

    Hi,
    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.
    Nary

  • Alex

    Jim-
    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?)

    /Rob

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.