When reading through the invitation for OLPC Learning Club DC's next meeting on Saturday, October 15 and seeing "Published information on the XO-3 multi-touch tablet due for later in 2012" listened on the agenda I stopped for a second to wonder whether I had missed something. Had there been an answer to our question "Where is the XO-3?" out there which I was unaware of? Well, not quite, but almost.
OLPC has begun work on a low cost, low power, robust tablet for use by kids.
The actual dimensions are still in flux, but the display surface will be roughly 10" diagonal, with a 4:3 aspect ratio. The tablet electronics will be based around the Armada 610 ARM system-on-a-chip from Marvell, which is also used in the XO-1.75 laptop.
We are hoping to have working prototypes available for software development and hardware testing and refinement by the beginning of 2012.
At this time, it is hoped that production might begin in the latter half of 2012.
Now that of course leaves many questions unanswered, especially when it comes to the software platform this device will run on. However it is the first indication of OLPC Foundation's increased focus on XO-3 development as XO-1.75 mass production preparations are now well underway at OLPC Association in Miami.
From a development point of view it will be interesting to see whether they will be able to keep up with what sounds like an ambitious timeframe. However the more interesting question will be how OLPC positions and sells the XO-1.75 - which should hit mass production at the end of the year - when the next big thing is right around the corner?
In related news a recent ZDNet article focused on the latest developments around Intel's Classmate PC product line mentions that Intel is also considering a Classmate Tablet:
Of course, I had to ask Intel reps about true tablets. This is, after all, the year of the iPad, for better or worse. While Intel is investigating a keyboardless tablet that may become part of the Learning Series (and actually showed a non-working proof of concept under glass at IDF) they continue to promote the idea of convertible tablet/netbook as the ideal form factor for schools looking for tablet functionality.
This is about as much solid information as I could find out about such a potential Classmate Tablet. Other than that I have heard plenty of rumours about such a device in the past few months: Some say that it will come with a 7" display and run on MeeGo while others talk about an 8.9" display and Windows 7 combination. However it remains to be seen what the final reference design really ends up looking like.
One thing seems certain though: Despite all the excitement around tablets, especially in the education sector, most pupils and teachers around the world will continue to use netbooks and similar devices for the foreseeable future.