Classmate 3 impresses with its touch screen

   
   
   
   
   

It's been literally impossible to escape the news that Intel demonstrated its next generation Classmate design at IDF in San Francisco this week. And I have to admit the machine seems quite impressive and apparently Intel has also done some pretty neat things in terms of overlaying a simplified UI over the vanilla Windows XP installation. But let's take it step-by-step, shall we?


Talk about hands-on...

In terms of the technology the third generation Classmate is built around a 1.6GHz Atom processor, comes with 1GB of RAM, an unquantified amount of "Next Gen SSD" flash memory for mass storage, 802.11b/g/n for connectivity and a camera for taking photos and videos. So far so good, this is pretty much the standard configuration found on many netbooks by the likes of Acer, Asus, Lenovo and others these days. The really interesting feature is that the display can be flipped around into tablet mode and unlike on the XO it's actually a touch screen! Additionally the design includes an accelerometer so the screen changes automatically depending on how you hold the unit (like on the iPhone / iPod touch).

Since seeing is believing Intel released a short YouTube video to demo the Classmate 3 (funny cutting error at the beginning included)

With regard to the touch-screen and the UI this video (scroll to the bottom) done by Joanna Stern from laptopmag.com (who brought us the hands-on with Windows XP on the XO the other week) is almost more interesting.

To me the three coolest features shown in these videos are:

  1. the palm recognition thingy which allows you to rest your palm on the touch screen while using your finger or a stylus to interact with the device
  2. what little you see of the touch friendly interface overlay sitting on top of Windows XP
  3. how well writting "hello" in mspaint seemed to work

And I'm not the only one who's impressed. Joanna obviously spent some time toying around with the Classmate 3 and she concludes:

In the case of the Classmate 3, maybe the kids shouldn’t have all the fun! It could be the best iteration of touch we have seen on a netbook thus far.

So at this point it would be quite easy to come to the same conclusion as BeckyJ from our forums:

Given the emerging development road map for the Classmate (touchscreen, atom processor, good keyboard, etc.) it's hard to imagine OLPC hardware will survive much longer.

However the way I look at it the Classmate 3 isn't really competiting with the XO and while (feature) comparisons might make sense on paper both machines are actually targeted at quite different markets. Why do I say that? Price.

Probably the most widespread criticism of OLPC is that so far the "$100 laptop" is still a $188 laptop and that's simply too expensive for most developing nations. With the Classmate 3 expected to come in somewhere north of $400 go figure how many developing nations will be able to afford these machines.

There's no doubt that Intel is spending quite a lot resources on developing laptops for educational purposes and by all means they seem to be doing pretty good. OLPC's mission on the other hand was always focused on affordable and appropiate laptops to be used in education in developing nations.

So in the end the Classmate 3 might just be the best thing since sliced bread when it comes to laptops for schools in places such as Portugal, the United States and Austria. But I honestly don't see countries like Peru, Uruguay, Nepal, Mongolia, Rwanda, etc. trying to implement 1-to-1 computing in education based on any of Intel's products, not even if the Classmate 3 ran Sugar...

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19 Comments

Wow that is impressive. They really are going all out, huh? But like you said, it wouldn't be all that good of an idea in developing nations, but it does give the XO a run for its money on the home front. Actually, this makes me wonder about the progress of the proposed XO-2. Does anyone know how thats coming along?

In terms of usability, the Clssmate 3 will probably pass the XO. It has only one really missing feature, the sunlight-readable screen technology. Apart from that it seems superior to the XO in every segment of the hardware (bigger screen, touch screen, usable keyboard...etc). Forget mesh-networking, it is a minor feature.

The software would be an open question if OLPC had a working, bug-free operating system (Sugar is hardly that). Without this, even a virus-ridden but working Windows XP is a superior opponent in the comparison.

If Intel can lower the price to ~350 USD and make it available for everyone, OLPC can forget developed countries completely. Even developing countries will choose the Classmate due to Windows and safe-side thinking (OLPC's track record is hardly flawless at supporting its sold products: no replacement parts for G1G1 users at all and keyboards are buggy: grrrrr)

actually, according to this report: http://www.deviceguru.com/2008/08/20/intel-previews-next-gen-classmate-pc/ the classmate does include mesh networking.

greetings, eMBee.

no mention of low power usage and long battery life. These are in the top 10 list of requirements for the OLPC. Something all too often lost in the comparisons with these so called imitators.

How much? $500? $600?

That tablet form factor has never worked for business nor education. Why insist on it with this?

I'd rather see a $100 Laptop using a basic ARM processor, sunlight readable OLPC-screen, WiFi Mesh and also Cellular internet. And then provide a separate pocket sized $200-max e-ink based E-book with a wacom touch-screen, low-power WiFi Mesh and cellular. Children can hardly read digital books on a laptop or such big tablet form factor.

Also battery life on this large Intel Tablet is probably 2 hours. OLPC could do a $100 XO-1.5 using an ARM processor and embedded Linux OS that could have a 20 hour battery life easy within the same size and weight of this tablet from Intel.

@Charbax

There is no problem with the tablet form factor but it needs to have a touch screen to be usable. My REB-1200 ebook reader is a perfect example of the usable touch-screen/tablet device (8 years old tech).
I could still be satisfied with the XO's tablet mode if Sugar supported that correctly (rotating the mouse directions and the navigation buttons for example).

The problem is that OLPC hasn't been able to ship a spec-following 1.0 product so no point in dreaming about a 1.5 product with an even higher spec.

The Atom based processors are quite efficient compared to traditional laptop processors, so I would guess 4-5 hours of battery runtime (with a normal laptop battery).

The sad thing is that the XOs AMD Geode is an ultra efficient processor (consumes even less than the newest Atom) and yet we get 3.5 hours of runtime on our XOs.

The price is said to be ~400USD for the new classmates.

"" The price is said to be ~400USD for the new classmates.

Said by who?

I'm sure the price of this Intel Classmate tablet is closer to $500 or $600.

Intel probably plans to make the Portuguese tax payers pay that price of at least $500 each for it.

That's more then 2.5 times more expensive then the OLPC XO-1.

OLPC XO-1 battery life is probably double compared to this Classmate tablet. And that is in full backlight mode. If you use the OLPC XO-1 in black and white mode the battery life is more then 7 hours, and if you use it in black and white ebook mode (where the CPU is turned off while reading) the battery life is more then 12 hours. Thus 6 times longer battery life on the XO-1 compared to this Intel Classmate tablet.

And OLPC could double, even quadruple battery life with an ARM processor inside instead of X86.

OLPC is working on doing ARM based laptops. They are working among others with Marvell to use the Xscale processor.

This would be really great from OLPC, to release a XO-1.5 that would look the same as XO-1, might even have the same exact case, just use less components inside, use an ARM processor on the simpler motherboard inside. This way OLPC could more rapidly reach the $100 Laptop price point. Battery life would increase by at least twice or four times within the same form factor and weight. They could probably reach double the battery life in a lighter weight, since one of the XO-1 problems is its weight.

XO 1.5 is confirmed, Nicholas Negroponte has said priority is to reduce the amount of components in the laptop to reduce the price further. Reducing the amount of components probably means using an ARM processor.

Porting the Sugar Linux educational applications to an embedded version of Linux would probably be relatively easy.

@Charbax:

A lot of 4P laptops are appearing. When, and if, the OLPC is delivering even better machines, we will all be very happy. Until that time, I do not hold my breath. I really do hope the OLPC gets more XOs out of the door, but I do not see them, nor do I see any reports. Just as I do not see reports of "Classmate successes". Until now, we only have the no-tender give away in Portugal for quite high unit prices. If the Classmates are such a wonderful option, where are they?

On the other hand, how anybody can say "Forget mesh-networking, it is a minor feature." is a mystery for me. If working, this is a huge advantage in any collaborative environment.

Just as I do not see how you can try to help disadvantaged children and then say put their safety at stake with "a virus-ridden but working Windows XP". You don't give them bicycles with failing brakes because "any bike is better than no bike", because it isn't.

Winter

Winter,

"I really do hope the OLPC gets more XOs out of the door, but I do not see them, nor do I see any reports.Just as I do not see reports of "Classmate successes"."


Well, since this is supposed to be OLPCNews site rather than Intelmate (aka "another day another Classmate article" :) one - here's a recent report on OLPC XOs deployment:

BBC 22nd Aug - One laptop for every Niuean child
( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7576573.stm )

The most interesting article about OLPC recently was the announcement that the OLPC pilot with 1000 laptops in Birmingham is a success: http://www.al.com/news/birminghamnews/index.ssf?/base/news/1219565748206780.xml&coll=2

That another 6000 students are getting the laptops in the next few weeks and the remaining 4000 within a couple of month.

What this means, is that unless Intel coorporates have influence on Obama or whoever wins the white house, that the whole of the US could quickly be getting $200 XO-1 (AMD based) or XO-1.5 (ARM based) Laptops for all the children nationwide to get rid of the digital divide instantly, all the while providing sunlight readabillity, ebook mode, WiFi Mesh, journal activities OS, waterproof, environmentally friendlyness (why would Intel care about the Environment if they aren't forced to by politicians?) and most importantly, using the XO laptop is the best way to help education in other countries, as scale reduces prices, as developping strategies on a common standard for a Laptop makes education better in developping countries using the same system as well. Since knowledge and guides for good experiences are given.

If the most interesting thing about OLPC is a 18-month article about the "successes" of the program in Birmingham, that's pretty sad. Here is a much more up-do-date and accurate description of the Birmingham program:http://www.bwcitypaper.com/Articles-i-2009-11-26-232786.113121_A_Costly_Lesson.html

Charbax, where in this article, except for the title that is, do you find information about this being a success? And doesn't it depend on how you define "success"?

Personally I'd have to say that I find the article's measure of "success" to be pretty shallow:

(a) keeping students busy from 7:15 to 8:00 a.m.? A lot of things that money can buy for $200 per student would keep them busy
(b) "We've been last in so many things, it just kind of dawned on me it would be kind of nice to be first in something that makes sense," said Mayor Larry Langford on a video about the XO computers shown at the Expo." - Does being first necessarily mean that it's a success? I doubt it.
(c) "Prothaniel Harris, a fifth-grade teacher at Glen Iris, said the laptops changed the way he teaches class. He incorporates the computers in his vocabulary, geography and reading lessons." - Okay, so he uses the computers in his classes, is that a success?

By most accounts the real impact of ICT on education is a very long-term and slow process. To talk about "success" at this early stage in the OLPC (and also Classmate) deployments is nothing but marketing talk and has very little to do with realities on the ground.

We can quietly start talking once the first full school year is over in Peru, Uruguay, Nepal and Birmingham. For a serious discussion about whether OLPC is a success in its impact on education and the larger community, especially as a tool working against poverty, we shall have to wait several years and see what independent long-term studies done by people who understand something about education and sociology find.

"BBC 22nd Aug - One laptop for every Niuean child"

"The most interesting article about OLPC recently was the announcement that the OLPC pilot with 1000 laptops in Birmingham is a success: "

The more the better, I think. Sadly, these are small runs of machines. Nothing that can keep Quanta happy, I am afraid.

I just watched an old recording of LSM2005 and heard Jorge Arellano (the Dillo developer) claim that MS killed the Simputer project in India. (no confirmation found, ogg link fragment starting 19:05 minutes)
http://free-electrons.com/pub/video/lsm2005-jorge-arellano-cid-dillo.ogg

Original link:
http://free-electrons.com/community/videos/conferences/

OLPC might not have been the first computer for the poor to feel the wrath of Bill.

Winter

I quite strongly believe that if OLPC and similar initiatives "fail" [definition needed] it's not because of entities such as Intel or Microsoft but rather because projects are started based on wrong premises and mistakes are made along the way. Those are the main reasons why most "projects" (regardless of what they are and do) fail in general.

Having said that I equally strongly believe that OLPC has a pretty good shot at making a "positive" and "lasting" impact. But *a lot* of efforts, work and sleepless nights will have to take place before that happens.

But hey, that's what we're here for, right?

"I quite strongly believe that if OLPC and similar initiatives "fail"..."

Indeed, most initiatives fail all by themselves. No need to assume outside influences.

However, we also know of initiatives that failed due to MS interfering, eg, Netscape and DR DOS. MS did pay an awful lot in damages for that. Intel had their hand in the failing of Transmeta and is in court over very illegal practices towards AMD.

It does happen, and MS are paying on average $1B a year in damages, settlements, and fines to keep this policy up-and-running.

Winter

It's really impressive!
It's clear that XO-1 and Classmate-1 are far from being the last ones of their kind. Far from this, it seems we'll have lots of impressive new portable devices appearing every year.

How far can technology go?
How low can prices get?

@ChristophD,

You a make a lot of good points about how to measure success. However, I think you are being too harsh in rejecting what is described in the article. Success comes in stages. Suppose the students didn't use the computers before school because they found it boring or confusing, or because the hardware or software were too buggy? Suppose teachers weren't integrating it into their lessons? In that case the project would be failing. But these things all seem to be going right, and are successes to be cheered.

It appears that the Classmate is speced out to compete with the G1G1 price of the OLPC 1.0. So, I'd expect it to be priced around $450-$500 or so, since there will be a premium with the Intel brand, etc.

I wonder, can Sugar be ported to it?

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