OLPC jumps ARM bandwagon with $165 laptop at CES

One Laptop Per Child, the outfit dedicated to bringing affordable computers to children in developing countries, became the latest name to jump on the ARM bandwagon as it demonstrated the latest version of its portable PC at the Consumer Electronics Show 2011 in Las Vegas.

The organisation's new XO-1.75 laptop uses an ARM-based 1GHz Armada 610 chip from Marvell Technology. It has an 8.9-inch touchscreen and uses just two watts of power - half the figure consumed by its x86-based predecessor, the XO.

The new laptop replaces the cancelled x86-based XO-2, and takes a major step towards tablet computing. By placing the motherboard behind the device's screen, it leaves the other half containing just the keyboard and battery - paving the way for future models to do away with the keyboard entirely.

The forthcoming XO-3, which will have a 9.7-inch touchscreen - the same size as Apple's iPad - is due to be released in 2012, and will consume just 1 watt of power.

The XO-1.75 will begin shipping during the second quarter of this year. The new device's $165 price tag also brings it closer to the company's original goal of shipping laptops for less than $100 per unit.

OLPC's chief technology officer, Edward McNierney, explained that the firm has shifted its focus from price to power consumption, owing to the fact that it was shipping PCs to users with little or no access to regular power supplies.

"The biggest obstacle has been power," said McNierney. "We are pretty excited about getting a lower-power laptop out there."

McNierney demonstrated recharging the XO-1.75 with a hand crank, saying that the unit could be fully recharged by hand in just 1 hour and 47 minutes of twisting and turning, so the machine also doubles as a portable gym.

In another change of technology, the new laptop's battery is made from lithium ferrous phosphate, which McNierney claims is less prone to overheating than lithium ion.

OLPC's batteries are designed to last five years, and slow-recharging is one way to extend the life of the battery, McNierney said.

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