New XO-3 Announced: Just a Marvell Moby Tablet, Re-branded (Yawn)


Back in the day, One Laptop Per Child was innovative with its technology. It came up with a low-cost, durable, Open Source laptop for education when no one else would. And in bringing the XO-1 to market, it changed the technology industry.

That OLPC is now long gone.

In its place, we have a shell of a company. They don't do software anymore - that's spun off to Sugar Labs. They don't do deployments anymore - that's the country's responsibility or OLPC Foundation (whatever that is). And now OLPC has just given up on hardware innovation.

Re-branding is not innovating

Marvel's $100 Moby tablet

Today, Andy Greenberg writes that Marvell will re-brand its Moby tablet as the XO-3. This isn't shocking news to those that follow OLPC - Charbax predicted this in March.

It is sad news for all of us that remember that original OLPC. The OLPC that could push an industry create a whole new form factor overnight - the netbook. Now OLPC is reduced to selling out their name to make the claim that they have new hardware. And the sell out isn't even impressive. Just listen to Andy:

Though the new tablet may still be fashioned by acclaimed XO designer Yves Behar, it won't yet include many features OLPC's founder Nicholas Negroponte had described: The device won't, for instance, have the touted all-plastic components for durability, it won't be waterproof or half the thickness of an iPhone, and its Marvell processor will likely be one gigahertz, not eight. The low-power, reflective displays built by Pixel Qi may not make it into the 2011 version of the tablet either.

Wow, you'd think that OLPC could've at least gone for the Notion Ink "Adam" tablet - it already comes with the Pixel Qi screen and runs Android. That would've been innovative and shaken up the hardware market yet again.

But that OLPC is gone.


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Take a look at this video from Nick Barber at IDG News service. When you listen to Nicholas Negroponte talk about the XO-3 usage, do you notice anything odd? [more]


This is good news. It means XO-3 is coming earlier than 2012 as originally planned. It'll basically start coming as soon as the next generation Marvell Armada 61X processor is ready. Check my videos of Marvell Armada 610 and 618 to have an idea how impressive this processor is. Means prototypes with "test" wafers (test processors) could be avaiblable today and I'm guessing mass manufacturing start before the end of year.

This is also good it means the 5000+ people at Marvell are now working for OLPC.

I've heard Marvell is saying that the units will be available later this
year (2011).

But this doesn't mean that "5000+ people at Marvell are now working for OLPC." In fact, its the other way around - Marvel got a great marketing angle and OLPC will now be working to sell Moby tablets.

So its a great win for Marvel in terms of branding, but they're not gonna do much for OLPC.

Wayan, it's been a few years now, you seem to always argue negative angles on OLPC news.

The great news with Moby Tablet is that the CEO and leaders at Marvell openly aim to fulfill all of OLPC's design and pricing goals. This is a big deal when chip providers aim that high in terms of what they want to deliver to the market.

Marvell could decide to just provide a cool processor and let competing OEMs take it and sell a half dozen $500 iPad clones. Instead, Marvell sounds to me to be much more ambitious, and they may even go all the way, design, manufacture the whole Moby tablet and sell it even themselves directly to Governments School budgets, just like the foundation goal of OLPC.

Marvell is not exactly aiming to be a non-profit, but instead they are aiming very very low price, to thus try to manufacture and distribute literally hundreds of millions of units, directly to all school children of the world.

Side strategy to this, this will also provide cheap Tablets for everyone else in society, not only the children. Intel and Microsoft will loose big if all can buy Tablets at $75 and Laptops at $50 running ARM processors and free Linux OS such as Android.

Marvell has already invested a lot in XO-1 design, as they are behind the WiFi Meshing technology, as well as low power, long range WiFi technology, and all the wake on wifi, standby WiFi meshing etc. That was huge work. But Marvell not only does connectivity processors and technologies, they also make the main processor, so of course Marvell wants to provide the main processor in the next generation OLPC laptops, as this would also validate ARM and Marvell to power laptop and tablet form factors.

Supposedly some of the Marvell Moby's will be running Android, but from what I understand it won't be the OLPC versions.

But you are right, Notion Ink's ADAM looks like a beast of an Android tablet. Plus, 1080p support & pivoting camera.

here is the offical press release from Marvel, with a telling quote on the market that Marvel is excited about:

"Weili Dai, Marvell's Co-founder and Vice President and General Manager of the Consumer and Computing Business Unit.  "Marvell's cutting edge technology – including live content, high quality video (1080p full-HD encode and decode), high performance 3D graphics, Flash 10 Internet and two-way teleconferencing – will fundamentally improve the way students learn by giving them more efficient, relevant – even fun tools to use.  Education is the most pressing social and economic issue facing America."

the full press release

Why this announcement is not the game changer that we used to get from OLPC - it's just the normal market direction and timing:

VIA predicts $100 tablets in 2010:

" Now VIA Technologies VP Richard Brown says he expects that we’ll start to see cheap tablets in the US later this year, with prices ranging from $100 to $150.

Like the 7 inch tablet mentioned above, these machines will likely run Google Android and use low power ARM-based chips from VIA and other companies."

This is a huge game changer. OLPC first created the Netbook market out of nothing. Now they are creating the sub-$100 Android tablet market, which basically revolutionizes the whole Smartphone, Tablet, E-reader and Laptop form factors, all in one.

As the vision is the Tablet gets to be used for productivity applications. With a touch screen keyboard or with a $3 external USB keyboard, and a pod to be able to set it up on any table.

Then also the Tablet with Pixel Qi is an improvement on e-readers, replaces laptops for all reading activities.

With XO-1 OLPC disrupted Intel and Microsoft. Now Intel and Microsoft are basically dead. With XO-3 OLPC is disrupting Apple.

Sad all the way around - not only is OLPC just repackaging, it's not even repackaging technology suited to the environment it will be in. At this point, they should just go vendor-neutral and start selling ClassMates, Asus EeePCs, smartphones[1], or whatever other portable device du jour fits the local need best.

[1] Please take any smartphone v education discussions elsewhere, like, say, where it's been well hashed out.

I do not think that 8GHz or half the thickness of the iPhone is an issue really...
However, durability and daylight readable screens are.
_IF_ XO-3/Moby does not have these, would indeed be a step back.
Is not clear however if PixelQi even has a touch screen (Adam is advertised with a trans-reflective OR a touch-screen) and I *think* I remember a MLJ's old statements that their technology somehow "conflicts" with the touch-screen technology.
However, in the (ever unreliable) XO roadmap there is/was also an XO-1.75 with the current form factor/screen and ARM processor...

Let's see what happens at the end... But how XO-1.5 will fair, if new big deployments materialize and what the data (if any) will show about the whole project, can change everything.

As of who works for whom a) is not really important, the final product and its abilities is. b) We will not know till we see the final product and see how much of OLPC is in there and c) OLPC said some time ago that they will not produce anything anymore.
Also look at the bright sight of Marvel Moby (XO-3). You will not need a G1G1 or 1000 units to get an XO-3/Moby :-)

On the one hand, I'm ok with this - OLPC made it's big splash by birthing a new form factor, as you point out, and now they are letting the private sector hash out the cost cutting that a non-profit might not be able to effectively.

On the other hand, what on earth does OLPC even DO anymore?? Maybe they'll spend the next year working with Marvel to XO-ize this Moby tablet. Stop me if I'm wrong, but something tells me a child with a screwdriver wouldn't be able to fix this thing...

It's like asking what on earth MIT is all about. It's not just R&D, it's not just inventions, it's setting the agenda for the industry and improve the use of IT worldwide.

The ARM Powered Tablet is by definition 10x easier to fix and 10x less likely to break than the X86 Powered Laptop.

This is a good thing!!!

They have scarce resources to develop their own hardware. It is enough if they slightly-customize a well-built reference design (the Moby) and port their Linux distro to ARM.

Even this is a lot of work for OLPC given their resources.

At least, they are not repeating their mistakes with the XO-1. They had much more resources that time and basically failed to reach their cost, power consumption...etc targets.

They stand a much better chance of reaching a $100, long-battery-life device with the Moby reference design.

If I were them, I wouldn't customize the hardware of the Moby too much. Change the colour of the casing to bright green, and put a PixelQi screen into it and thats all.

It will be enough work to port the Sugar OS and make sure Sugar and Gnome both works well. I would definitely start from Marwell's Linux distro (If they have one) instead of porting Sugar OS from scratch.

It is possible, that porting the Sugar Apps to Android is smaller work. In this case, I would drop Sugar OS completely.

I think they should stick to Android, port Sugar Learning apps and features to a customized version of Android OS. It's best to draw all the Google open-source engineers and use their stack into optimizing the cheap tablet revolution OS.

This would probably not be a bad thing for Sugar at all, it would just be re-prioritizing the way they allocate their efforts and resources. Making the apps on Android means all other Android devices get access to all those free educational apps.

Perhaps provide Sugar Home customization option to Android, and somehow add a layer on top of Android to add support for all existing Sugar apps.

I just hope the OLPC brass get to their senses in regard of distribution and forget about G1G1-style nonsense completely.

They should sell the XO just like any commercial entity. It is their private thing that they don't do it for profit.

They should sell the new XOs through every possible sales channel like AMazon, BestBuy ... etc.

Of course, they can still try to make milion-unit deals with country governments but that should not hinder individual sales.

I think that this may put things in their right dimension

Everyone who is making excuses for why this is a "good" thing are forgetting one thing that was and is still touted as one of the main benefits of the XO hardware over other computing platforms, durability. That is something that is NEVER mentioned with either the ADAM or the Marvel product, consumer grade is drastically different than the durability level of what XO is produced with. I wonder if either of theses devices would survive Walter's famous dropping of the open XO from 5 feet in the air test that was previously all over youtube? Children are not delicate when it comes to school materials and if you factor in the realties of the 3rd world , which last time I checked, is the primary target of hardware associated with OLPC. These new devices simply do not make the grade. Large screen? translation: easily breakable screen plain and simple...The XO has always been notable in that you compare its reliability to the likes of its First world brethren, the engineer's beloved ToughBook, these machines completely miss the mark.

from the link above:"In some of the press interviews around this release, there's discussion of the goal of introducing something at CES 2011 (in January). That's important to Marvell, but that device will certainly not be an "XO-3.0" and probably won't be an OLPC product at all. But it's one of the steps along the way. Remember that this cooperation is intended to help our goals as well as Marvell's goals, so some of the things announced from the partnership won't be things directly pertinent to OLPC's product plans."

Check the press release. This year XO-3 is released with a glass breakable screen, thuss more likely eevelopped countries schools, next year they hope to have the plastic unbreakable screen ready, for developping countries.

Wayan, olpc is not abandoning the original X0-3.

"This is a stepping stone," says Negroponte, who insists his initial XO-3 vision will still be achieved by 2012."

The article is confusing. It sounds like the origninal X0-3 is being abandoned,but then it becomes that isn't happening. Wayan,I think you need to read a little more carefully before you post.

This is the XO-3, or as close as OLPC will ever get to it - a branding of someone else's technology. Anything else is marketing fantasy.

XO-3 is not one product, it's a product segment. Anyone making any ARM powered tablet project at the same target price, with the same education goals, with the same readability, battery runtime, OLPC, as a project for IT in education spun out of the MIT, is going to support it.

If Apple wants to sell iPads for $100 with Pixel Qi screens and 50 hour battery runtimes, then they should go for it and OLPC is going to support it 100%.

OLPC is a global education project, it's not a product. You need to understand this.

"OLPC is a global education project, it's not a product."

I couldn't disagree more. They've always said this, but that doesn't make it so. They do not do teacher training, education product development, rollout support, curriculum aid, infrastructure grants or interact with educational sectors of governments in any way beyond the sales document. How does this make them a global education project? Sugar is their one major contribution here - the learning environment itself, but that has been spun off.

They created a tool, and now they are not doing that anymore. I don't deny that they could put some work into the product and make it into an XO - durable, easy to repair, etc. But we'll have to wait and see.

All that being said, I am not altogether opposed to this. It may be the right decision, it just makes me question whether OLPC needs to really be around any more. Haven't they been subsumed by their successors?

They DO NEED to be around in order to reach thos sub 100$ figures.

Whatever Via says about $100 computers, I don't really see it happening.

First, every producer comes out with a stunningly low price. Then they continually raise the estimates in the development phase. By the time the tablet gets into production we are at $300-400.

If OLPC can release a $100, Noion-Ink-Adam-level tablet to the market, it would be a huge boon for everyone. (Not meaning G1G1 and other sales nonsense).

So, five years later, we have:

1. Access to source code - NOPE.
2. Battery life measured in days, not hours - NOPE.
3. $100 price tag - NOPE.
4. Screen used under sunlight - NOPE.
5. Crank power generation - NOPE.
6. Education revolution/constructivsm implementation. NOPE.
7. Millions of units sold. NOPE.
8. Every promise broken - YES!!!!!


1. Access to source code - YES.
2. Battery life measured in days, not hours - NOPE.
3. $100 price tag - NOPE.
4. Screen used under sunlight - YES.
5. Crank power generation - NOPE.
6. Education revolution/constructivsm implementation. MAYBE
7. Millions of units sold. MAYBE
8. Every promise broken - NO!!!!!

OLPC didn't push the industry to do anything. OLPC was a distribution failure relative to negroponte's plan. sugar is a paternalistic preachy plan to intentionally deprive users of business software for social engineering reasons. ultimately nobody wants it. india has rejected it completely. marvell makes the chips, and intends to re-brand the moby to many entities. nobody will be able to beat that plan as far as price. negroponte is closer than ever to giving the peeps what they want and reaching his intended price point. all he has to do is
dismiss your objections as irrelevant. not a tough choice.

give a marvel moby armada 600 tablet a liquavista display and you'l gett a realy chaep rugged tablet with a sun-readable plastic-display. that will be state of tec for