Between January 10 and 13 the massive CES 2012 IT tradeshow will be taking place in Las Vegas. While this excites the general gadget geek in me there's also a good chance that we'll see some interesting news on the OLPC front.
Back in mid-December several Web sites reported that the XO-1.75 made an appearance at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Combined with the XO-1.75 page on wiki.laptop.org saying that "definitive XO-1.75 laptop specification will be available soon" this is a good indication that the machine is very close to being finished and will likely hit mass-production soon.
The XO-1.75 looks identical to the XO-1 and XO-1.5 from the outside yet its hardware guts are quite different as OLPC switched from an x86 architecture to an ARM platform. I had previously expressed doubts whether this move would really led to a much improved battery life. However reading an e-mail that Richard Smith (OLPC Foundation's Director of Embedded Engineering) sent out in November it seems like my guesstimates where quite off as he mentions feeling...
"...safe in saying that regardless of what you do on the 1.75 you are going to get 3.5 hours of battery life. Period."
Additionally he wrote:
An interesting data point is that the 1.75 is the first laptop of the XO series that has ran 100% from a solar panel for an extended period. During my solar testing I often swap in different batteries. The 1.75 can consistently survive battery removal under moderate solar conditions when connected to the OLPC 10W solar panel.
Aside of these promising power characteristics the XO-1.75 also includes a three-axis accelerometer which people like Bert Freudenberg and Saadia Husain Baloch have already used for some cool things such as this little eToys project or an "etch-a-sketch" program in Turtle Art.
The big unknown at this point is the price of the XO-1.75. The New York Times recently reported that the price for the XO-1.5 is between $209 and $229 these days and I hope that the XO-1.75 will come in below that. It will certainly be interesting to see whether OLPC reveals any information here during CES 2012.
At this point we know quite a bit less about the XO-3 tablet than about the XO-1.75 but again I hope that CES 2012 will change that. My best guess at this point is that OLPC might show a very early prototype of the XO-3 at the show.
After all OLPC Foundation did receive the first prototypes of the XO-3 in mid-December according to this page on wiki.laptop.org. In terms of the hardware platform the XO-3 will be quite similar to the XO-1.75 as both use the Marvel Armada 610 ARM SoC. However the motherboard itself will be significantly smaller than in the laptop-version as you can also see on the photo to the right.
In a presentation at the Social Good Summit back in September 2011 Nicholas Negroponte briefly talked about the XO-3 and mentioned that it will come with a cover that doubles as a solar-panel charger. This certainly sounds like an interesting solution, especially when combined with the low-power characteristics of the ARM platform mentioned earlier. However it remains to be seen just how effective such an approach really is.
In terms of the timeframe of the XO-3 development the XO-3 page mentions that "it is hoped that production might begin in the latter half of 2012" which goes along well with the aforementioned New York Times article also referring to the "XO-3, which it hopes to introduce late next year". In terms of the price that article also says that the "XO-3 is intended to cost less than $100, or so OLPC hopes".
The name Nell is a hat-tip to Neal Stephenson's book The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer where a young girl receives an interactive book which teaches and guides her over many year. Having said that C. Scott also wrote that Nell could just as well be an acronym for Narrative Environment for Learning Learning.
If you're interested in hearing some of the early ideas C. Scott had about how such a software environment might be useful in the OLPC context then I'd recommend you to follow the links and watch the video embedded in the OLPC Foundation Update post from mid-June. Plus you can find links to some of the first puzzle pieces, benchmarks, and technology tests for Nell in this November update on C. Scott's blog.
So overall it looks like CES 2012 could turn out to be a very interesting show from an OLPC perspective. As we sadly can't go to Las Vegas ourselves we'll keep our eyes open for relevant content and news to be posted online. I'll particularly focus on video-blogger and OLPC fanboy deluxe Charbax as I'm sure he'll upload any OLPC related videos to olpc.tv the very second he's done filming them.