OLPC XO-4 Touch Expected to be Released in Q1 / 2013


Resumen en español al final del artículo

Early touchscreen prototype from mid-2011

Last week OLPC formally announced that the touchscreen-enabled ARM-based model - which we knew was coming after Neonode's announcement in late July - will be called XO-4 Touch:

Part laptop, part tablet, the XO-4 Touch will represent a huge leap forward in what OLPC can offer. As its development name, the "XO-4 Touch" suggests, the device will come equipped with an optical multi-touch capable screen from Neonode. The XO-4 Touch will combine the XO's existing laptop functionality and sunlight-usable display with a full-fledged tablet mode.

Aside of the touchscreen functionality the new model also comes with some incremental hardware upgrades. Instead of the Marvell Armada 610 used in the XO-1.75 the XO-4 Touch is built around the Armada PXA2128. Engadget also mentioned some additional specifications which they received from OLPC:

OLPC has offered us some specs for device including 8GB of storage, 2GB of memory, a 1200 x 900 display, SD slot, HDMI out, an accelerometer, 802.11a/b/g/n and two USB 2.0 ports.

To me the most interesting component here is the HDMI out port (which is also mentioned on the XO-4 A2 prototype's wiki page) which would allow the XO-4 Touch to connect to external displays, TV sets, and projectors. At the moment people have to use external USB-to-VGA adapters to do that and I've talked to many teachers in Latin America who said that a display connector was high up on their wishlist. As such I'm happy to see the XO-4 Touch integrate it, though if Engadget's specs are right then the HDMI out port does seem to come at the cost of one USB 2.0 port (all XO models to date had three of them).

In terms of mass storage some countries/organizations are already using XO-1.5 or XO-1.75 units with 8GB but the bump to 2GB RAM is definitely a welcome new option. It's important to note though that the mass storage and memory configuration are generally dependent on the purchaser.

Beyond these technical details OLPC's announcement mentions that:

While the XO-4 Touch's launch date and pricing are yet to be confirmed, the release is expected in Q1 in 2013.

One thing which will be interesting to see is which deployments will commit to XO-4 Touch models. And related to that: Whether OLPC will also make an XO-4 without the touchscreen available and what cost difference that would result in?

(Update: In an e-mail on the IAEP mailing list OLPC Association's Martin Langhoff wrote that: "Two variants will be available -- XO-4 Laptop and XO-4 Touch (a laptop with multitouch screen).")

On the software side of things the recently announced OLPC OS 13.1.0 release plans mentions "add support for XO-4" and "add support for touch" at the top of the scope and aims section. However as previously mentioned I'm still not sure what to expect in terms of the touchscreen experience with Sugar.

After the announcement of an XO-4 many people are of course also wondering what's happening with the XO 3.0 tablet which received a lot of attention in early January. According to an article by IDG's Agam Shah from late June:

...OLPC is talking to potential partners and device makers to take on manufacturing and the job of pushing the tablet to market.

With last week's announcement it sounds like there's been more interest in the XO-4 Touch model than the XO 3.0 tablet. So I would guess that the former is now likely to be available sooner than the latter, especially since according to Shah it will take "about five months" for the XO 3.0 to become available once OLPC reaches an agreement with a partner. As I don't see OLPC having the resources to release two new models in parallel and the potential of confusing costumers with two separate devices also shouldn't be underestimated I assume that we won't see XO 3.0 tablets in quantities well into 2013 at the earliest.

Though in my mind that's not necessarily a bad thing as I continue to be somewhat skeptical of tablets in education in general. Plus with Sugar and the Activity ecosystem only starting to move towards support for touchscreen input an intermediary device such as the XO-4 Touch is a good stepping stone in my opinion.

Resumen en español: La semana pasada OLPC anunció formalmente que el modelo de pantalla táctil basado en ARM - que sabíamos que iba a venir después del anuncio de Neonode a finales de julio - se llamará XO-4 Touch.


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It seems the physical aspect of the XO-4 is only vaguely described. Thus I worry about the issues I discussed in critiquing the XO-3 a couple years ago in several postings starting at: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Talk:Hardware#Against_the_integrated_pad_.28XO-3.29_industrial_design

Ron, for your information: I just updated the article with a link to an e-mail which OLPC Association's Martin Langhoff sent out earlier today. In it he wrote:

"Two variants will be available --
XO-4 Laptop and XO-4 Touch (a laptop with multitouch screen).

The XO-4 Laptop is in general terms externally similar to XO-1.75, but
gruntier guts. XO-4 Touch adds multitouch, so the frame changes a bit."