Hands-on with the One Laptop Per Child XO-3 tablet [video]
At CES 2012, semiconductor company Marvell has shown up at the center of two major projects that shifted from x86-based systems to ARM-based systems. In both cases, it has also been a project that Intel had withdrawn from: Google TV, and One Laptop Per Child.
Marvell's Google TV platform announcements came quickly and with little forewarning; but its OLPC participation has been long-running and easy to track. At CES 2011, we saw the OLPC XO 1.75 running on Marvell's Armada 610 chipset. The company announced this week that those devices ship worldwide in March 2012.
Even further back, we saw Marvell's first mockups for the "Moby" education tablet. This eventually became the One Laptop Per Child XO 3.0 Tablet, a prototype of which we got to see up close.
The 8-inch OLPC XO 3.0 tablet is built on the Marvell ARMADA PXA618 SOC processor, and Avastar Wi-Fi SOC. Like the original OLPC, it is highly ruggedized, waterproof, and designed for alternative charging solutions such as solar panels and friction dynamos. The display can be a standard LCD, or transflective Pixel Qi display for outdoor reading. It runs a touch-optimized version of the SugarOS, but it is fully capable of running Android, should the demand for that arise. It features Wi-Fi/Mesh networking only, a forward-facing webcam, and G-sensors for gaming or other creative uses, as you see in the video we've embedded below.
It could be argued that mobile tablets, like netbooks, are just a passing fad that will be replaced in a couple of years by something new. But moving beyond the simple popularity of tablets, this solution is actually a great approach to tackling the challenges of localization.
Tablets have the distinct benefit of not needing localized keyboards for different countries, the XO 3.0 is actually a more cost-effective solution on the supply side of things. The same units can be sent all over the world with only software changes. This could make the OLPC project more efficient and capable of broadening their reach even further.