Meet the $100 tablet

The folks behind One Laptop Per Child unveil their latest creation


I may be stuck in drab Toronto, enviously reading the tweets of other tech journos lucky enough to be in Vegas covering the massive CES expo. But I can still tell you what the most exciting new gadget on display there is: this X0-3 tablet unveiled by the non-profit One Laptop Per Child organization.

Sold exclusively to educational organizations in developing nations, the X0-3 is designed for use in unforgiving environments.  It can run off a battery, a solar panel or a hand crank. It has a rugged, flexible screen that switches between backlit color and reflective black and white eInk, so you can use it indoors or under the bright sun. It runs Android or Sugar, OLPC’s own kid-friendly open source OS. And it will cost under $100 for a basic model.

Or so they say. The original OLPC XO laptop was also supposed to sell for $100, but never quite got there. There were two problems. First, once you figure in the hand crank and solar panel (not included with either device) or the dual-mode screen on the tablet, the price climbs. Second, the XO only sold 2 million units globally in five years. Nothing to sneeze at, but hardly the economy of scale needed to drive per-unit costs down to the ground (by way of comparison, 900 million cellphones have been sold in India alone). By the time OLPC got the price of their laptop down near $100, so had many commercial electronics companies. And while OLPC struggles to get their thoughtful and well-designed tablet on the market for $100, quick and dirty slabs like the Aakash are already out there for an astonishing (albeit subsidized) $30 each.

That may sound like a fail for OLPC. But consider this: One Laptop Per Child’s mission is to get one laptop (or one tablet, I guess) into the hands of every kid in the world. Whether it’s their laptop or tablet is incidental. The very fact that the for-profit world is now targeting the educational market in developing nations is itself something OLPC can boast about.

After all, they helped establish this market in the first place.

Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown




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Meet the $100 tablet

  1. Every Child Connected.

    A VERY good thing

  2. It would be tremendous if a company could build cheap, reliable computer that would allow poor children around the world to access Khan Academy type videos. 

    Wired ~ How Khan Academy Changing Rules Of Education:

    “This,” says Matthew Carpenter, “is my favorite exercise.” I peer over his shoulder at his laptop screen to see the math problem the fifth grader is pondering. It’s an inverse trigonometric function …. In fact, when I visited his class this spring—in a sun-drenched room festooned with a papercraft X-wing fighter and student paintings of trees—the kids were supposed to be learning basic fractions, decimals, and percentages. As his teacher, Kami Thordarson, explains, students don’t normally tackle inverse trig until high school, and sometimes not even then.

    But last November, Thordarson began using Khan Academy in her class. Khan Academy is an educational website that, as its tagline puts it, aims to let anyone “learn almost anything—for free.” Students, or anyone interested enough to surf by, can watch some 2,400 videos in which the site’s founder, Salman Khan, chattily discusses principles of math, science, and economics (with a smattering of social science topics thrown in). The videos are decidedly lo-fi, even crude: Generally seven to 14 minutes long, they consist of a voice-over by Khan describing a mathematical concept or explaining how to solve a problem while his hand-scribbled formulas and diagrams appear onscreen.

  3. I really like this!

  4. I don’t understand why they’re limiting the sale only to developing nations. If you’re going to rely on massive distribution to bring your price point down, do you really want to cut out a huge market that can easily afford your product?

    My only guess is that they’re receiving some sort of UN subsidy or something that wouldn’t apply if they also sold the product in developed countries?

    But given what we know about the UN’s finances.. it’s a shame there’s not a Gates or Buffet out there who believes enough in education to give that level of funding without the strings.

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