The Future OELPC: One Educational Laptop Per Child

   
   
   
   
   

With all the fury of netbooks, XO-2 mock-ups, and dual-boot XO's, you might forget what we expect from the next (real) OELPC: One Educational Laptop Per Child

4P computing

Obviously, the OELPC device will be a netbook with good ratings for the 4P's: Power, Performance, Price, and Portability. How do the current netbook offerings stack up to what we need?

  • Ultra low power
    A day's worth of battery charge seems to requite ARM/MIPS chips. With a power consumption of around 5 Watt this should be possible. Such low-power laptops are available today
  • Performance
    Everyone has complained about performance since the advent of computers. Simply put, today's slow netbooks were yesteryear's workstations. It beats having no computer and connectivity at all. My idea is that performance can be sacrificed against any other of the P's. However, this does not held for the wireless connections. With bad wireless, the value of the laptop drops fast.
  • Toy level price
    I think Negroponte was right when he quoted the $100 label. This is in the range of toys and other gadgets and whoever reaches that price will sell (tens of) millions of items. Personally, I think that a price tag of $75 would saturate the human population with netbooks
  • Breast pocket weight
    Ideal weight would be around 500 grams or lower. 650 grams is already possible.

I think the 4P Computers are a reality now. The current crop of cheap, solid state netbooks come close. And gadgets like the Trendtac 700 EPC are really spot on. Obviously, we want more. Mary-Lou seems to have done it again with her XO-2. Here is my wish list:

  • Mesh, and a better scaling one
  • I want Touchscreen io Mouse. Touch-pad and mouse are logistic nightmares
  • Could we really replace real keyboards with a touchscreen keyboard? That would be great.
  • And there is never enough screen space

Educational Functionality

To stay in the mood, I propose 4C software functionality:

  • Communication
    For children, communication is everything. Email, IM, VoIP, video conferencing, message boards, they are all swamped with youths. The fact that you are sitting in your room doing your homework at home doesn't mean you do not need to "talk" to your classmates and friends. In the wider scope of things, education is all about communication.
  • Collaboration
    With 60 children to a classroom (or no classroom) and half-day classes, peer tutoring and project work is paramount to getting an education. In real life, computers often hamper collaboration efforts more than they support them. These children need functionality that makes collaboration transparent and intuitive.
  • Creation
    In school, children make things: write, draw, glue, paint. The more different things they can make, the better the education seems to be. So an OELPC should allow more of that and provide the tools for creative endeavors. Simulations (eToys), photographs, movies, audio recordings, music, stories, drawings, and mashing these all up.
    Much more importantly, on a higher level the OELPC should allow the design and creation of all teaching materials.
  • Content
    It is often said that computers in education are only useful with enough educational content and teaching materials. So whoever delivers the hard & software should also do the localization and write all the teaching materials. However, publishers do not create, authors do.
    It is simply impossible for any entity in the world to create all the teaching materials for all the schools in the developing world. The only thing that can be done is to create the tools and try to organize the construction of teaching materials.
    At some places, the idea of teacher-produced learning materials is already going to be tested. It is well known that students already share homework assignments on-line on a large scale. I think that schools should profit from that entrepreneurial spirit instead of trying to criminalize it.

Sugar comes pretty close in all these areas. Traditional software distributions are far from this ideal. Most "tools" are impervious and opaque to collaboration and are completely unintuitive to children and adults alike. Setting up collaborative projects seems to require a degree in Computer Science. VoIP and video-conferencing are almost there, but not yet completely.

So my wish list is:

  • Content for teaching should be produced as close to (or in) the schools as possible
  • Real Plug-and-Play VoIP and videoconferencing
  • Better educational tools. Maybe including SWF (Flash), a graphical IDE for Python, locally run Ajax, Silverlight/Moonlight. Whatever is most productive.
  • Better mesh

olpc developer
Safe computer usage system

The real foundation: 4S

For the above to be suitable for children, we need a good foundation in 4S:

  • Safety
    A computer for a child should be safe to own and use, PERIOD. There should be no compromises here. There should be no hazards to the child nor should hazardous components be exposed during use, service, or after disposal. The child's identity, privacy, data, and laptop should be protected against inspection, disclosure, theft, and compromise in general.
    The OELPC should remain malware-free and protected against intrusions without user intervention. Children simply do not remember passwords nor can they be bothered with security software. System integrity should not only be protected, but also be obvious to the child. There should be no silent rooting or hidden malware
  • Sturdiness
    Children will be children and the laptops will be used in hostile environments: Damp, dusty, and hot. They will be dropped and abused. The hardware should be robust and keyboards and pointers should be accordingly constructed (or removed). The software and electronics should protect batteries, memory, and system configuration.
  • Serviceability
    Even robust systems break in the hands of a child. In the developing world, sending it back to the shop is not an option. The laptops should be repairable in the field with a minimum of tools. And we should understand "field" to include open spaces with ubiquitous plant growth, dust, sand, and sun with occasional damp weather.
  • Storage
    Children lose things. And they do it often. They also tend to mess up their work with a vengeance. The software solution to this is versioning (or journaling) and backup. Consciously, children will use this even less than adults (if that is possible). So the OELPC should do it for them. Modern file systems (eg, ZFS, btrfs, Hammer) already do this, but these are not (yet) suitable for a netbook. Versioning control and snapshots can already be done automatically based on systems like Git.

What netbooks (or even computers) are up to the 4S's? I only know the XO with Sugar/Bitfrost. There really is no alternative. The only alternative on the horizon is the XO-2 with Sugar/Bitfrost. My Wish list:

  • Choice. Why is there no other netbook available that tries to make even a little step in this direction?

olpc icon
OLPC XO is unique for now

Conclusions

Wayan's 4P computing terminology has taken the market, for adults. However, a lot of the so called netbooks actually contain a hard disk drive which defeats the purpose as that worsens all four P's at the same time.

The four C's are basically ignored in current netbooks. I think that is because adults could not be bothered to change their habits of isolated desk & hub slaves. For people with a social live, like children, communication and collaboration (think social sites, YouTube) are way more important than a spreadsheet.

And all these social activities require tools to pimp them (cf, Facebook without photographs, YouTube without movies). For those who have no other computer than the OELPC, it should be all in there. The OELPC is not a second or third computer, it is the only computer these children have access to.

When you give a toy to a child you make sure it is safe and robust. If you give a computer to a child you should watch the 4S's. Current practise in the developed world is that parents (and peers) keep the child safe and her computer running. If things break down, eg, malware takes over and trashes the computer or the OS trashes itself, there are resources to "repair" or replace the computer.

If the child messes up on the Internet, there is law-enforcement to protect her. Such resources are not available to children in the developing world. Parents are not only computer illiterate, they often are simply illiterate. And if something bad happens, the child is on her own.

Looking at the "market" of educational netbooks for children in the developing world I see only a complete desert wasteland with the XO as an isolated oasis.

The Future

The XO is ageing. Even though it still beats all the other offerings in 4P, 4C, and 4S, it is too expensive to produce, it still uses too much power, and its hardware needs an upgrade. Given the wasteland of unusable alternative netbooks, how to proceed?

I think one way forward is PixelQi producing the hardware. A $75 dual touchscreen netbook like the mock-up demonstrated as the XO-2 would take the market overnight. At $100 or $150, it would still be a raving success. If Sugar labs could load an updated Sugar with Bitfrost on this XO-2, the XO-2 would take care of most requirements.

There is still a question of the hardware "extras" of mesh networking, robust casing, field serviceability, and cryptographic security in hardware etc. These are requirements that the "market" in the developed world is normally not willing to include. This could be handled by a central entity that organizes the distribution of the laptops, say, the new-and-improved OLPC ;-)

Related Entries

23 Comments

This certainly is a dream gadget and I would love to have it FOR ME, but which exactly is the EDUCATIONAL advantage over the current XO? Videoconferencing? or the ZFS file system? Which exactly educational initiative XO-1 stopped, other that running packages made for other OSs/hardware, and not having a mature OS, documentation, support and an educational plan?
Computer hardware is improving every year the last 20 years. This did not change dramatically education in places that has access to it. Did it?
In short I would love to have this machine, period.
I do not need the "education" or the "child" excuse.
I'll get it, if and when available!

@mavrothal:
"but which exactly is the EDUCATIONAL advantage over the current XO? Videoconferencing? or the ZFS file system?"

The 4C's. But more immediately: Access to information, explanation, and help.

If you look at a child in a developed county doing their homework assignments you will see it:
- Will search the internet for information
- Will search the internet for tutorials
- It will contact classmates and friends for explanations
- It will ask them for help
- It will hand in the work over the internet

Moreover, they do much more collaborative assignments because they can actually be in contact all the time.

Note that these children like to use webcams when communicating (Videoconferencing). ZFS won't run on these machines. However, journaling and snapshots are needed to preserve their work. Else, the children will loose to much.

Now change your focus to the developing world. The child has only half day classes with 60 other pupils. No library, few and outdated teaching materials, and illiterate parents (=no help). These children suddenly get a lot of the same resources as children in the developed world.

@mavrothal:
"This did not change dramatically education in places that has access to it. Did it?"

Yes it did. When I talk to children in my own country, I hear about all the above. The government has set up web sites with teaching materials and resources. The children even organized on-line systems to share homework assignments.

Our minister of education is starting pilot projects to let teachers produce and amend teaching materials (Wiki style).

When asked, the children are quite blunt that it is impossible to make even the first grade in high school without internet access (which the school can provide).

Winter

Winter wrote:

"When asked, the children are quite blunt that it is impossible to make even the first grade in high school without internet access (which the school can provide)."

Then, how come not a single wealthy country has implemented a one-laptop-per-child initiative across their school system?

Why should poor countries do what rich countries don't consider necessary (handing elementary school kids a laptop and hoping for a miracle)?

(btw, all that "collaboration" nonsense has been available for a long time to any user of any computer running Windows or Mac OS's. - why is it so "revolutionary" in the XO?)

Utter nonsense, my friend...

@Irv:
"Then, how come not a single wealthy country has implemented a one-laptop-per-child initiative across their school system?"

I really do not understand you. These "rich" children already HAVE access to a computer at home. That is why the schools can rely on that. Why should my country use tax money to give them another computer?

This is like claiming people in famine areas do not need food help because no developed country distributes rice to its citizens.

@Irv:
"btw, all that "collaboration" nonsense has been available for a long time to any user of any computer running Windows or Mac OS's. - why is it so "revolutionary" in the XO?"

Have you ever tried to set up real collaborative software transparently? In schools? And then I do not mean those crutches you find in, eg, Blackboard. The revolutionary part is not the existence of collaborative software, but making it transparently available to children. Over WiFi.

That holds for EVERY platform.

Winter

Winter wrote:

"I really do not understand you. These "rich" children already HAVE access to a computer at home. That is why the schools can rely on that. Why should my country use tax money to give them another computer?"

I agree with that: one-computer (ANY computer will do, as in rich, successful countries) per HOUSEHOLD is a much better idea.

The computer is just another tool - NEVER THE CENTERPIECE - in a kid's education in rich countries. It should be same way for poor countries.


@Irvin:
"The computer is just another tool - NEVER THE CENTERPIECE - in a kid's education in rich countries. It should be same way for poor countries."

Replace "computer" by "books", "pens" or "paper" and we see why this is complete and utter nonsense. In any human endeavors, tools are more than half the work.

So, you say that we should deny a child who has no books or writing materials the tools she needs to get a proper education. Given the fact that these children lack even the basic learning materials and resources, the laptop is library, school books, pens, paper, and phone in one.

And you think the children should get an expensive desktop computer at home instead of a cheap laptop for her own. I get the impression that the one thing you hate most (after Negroponte) seems to be children that can use a computer in class.

So if they cannot get a book and paper, they should get nothing?

This comment is not exceptional. You never showed any compassion for these children.

Winter

Access to web info is something that XO1 can do just the same, and backups too. You can have wikis or encyclopedias on your school server and don't even need the internet to get most of the required info. More important, in its current form the web info can be more of a confusion than a guide for young kids. My 10-year old is trying Google searches for his projects. 99% of the time the outcome is terrible... In short, the current hardware is just fine for that. Is how to search, evaluate and cross-reference the info that is important for education, not just the access. Access we have already. What to do with it in an educational way? We do not have!
Academic knowledge, education and science can not be achieved by blind searching and trial and error. Otherwise the human race would have been on the moon since the pharaohan era...

In many countries computers are used in the class and everywhere else. The question is what are the evidence that the kids are better educated? Is the percentage of, the US for example, elementary-school graduates that can actually read and write, increasing the last 20 years? Are more of them getting into science? Are they reading more books on average? Are they creating more novel projects? Do they like school and learning more? What is the parameter that says that they are actually more/better educated and that this is because of the computers? Sure they must have Facebook access, but have you seen many school assignments there? Sure they are turning in their papers electronically but are the papers any better than before?
I would love if you could point me to any studies that actually show with some tangible parameters that education on average in the leading country of the world (US) has been improved the last 20 years and this is (even partially) because of the computer use by the students. Now if you also know studies that show that Pendium I versus Dual-core have a difference... I'll be ecstatic...

Most of these matters have been discussed in depth in:

OLPC XO Will Improve Teacher Productivity
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/olpc_xo_improve_teachers.html

@Mavrothal:
"I would love if you could point me to any studies that actually show with some tangible parameters that education on average in the leading country of the world (US) has been improved the last 20 years and this is (even partially) because of the computer use by the students."

I think that in most developed countries, the improvements due to ICT advances have been offset by budget cuts in the last three decades.

These tax-cuts have to originate somewhere.

On the other hand, the US is neither leading the world nor in any other way a good example of a successful public schooling system. Personally, I would rather compare with the likes of Finland, Korea, Hungary, or Japan if I would seek inspiration.

Basically, your point seems to be that what does not help in rich countries, will not help in poor countries.

But if I may make a comparison, many medical drugs, like anti-biotics, do not help the healthy, only the sick.

If you have enough qualified teachers and good text books, there is not very much you can do to improve teaching beyond that. However, if you lack both teachers and books tot the extend that children get half-day classes in groups of 60, there is a lot you can do to help the teachers and children cope.

Both you and Irvin are trying to judge "intervention" in very weak educational systems where there is a lack of almost everything on the yardstick of the same interventions in strong educational systems where there is an abundance of everything.

That will not work.

Winter

@mavrothal:
"Access to web info is something that XO1 can do just the same, and backups too. "

Indeed, and the XO-1 is beyond comparison from the current crop of netbooks.

Still, the XO-1 is still too expensive and power-hungry. Also, the keyboard and mouse-pad have been reported as liabilities. Mesh still doesn't scale well enough. Its hardware is aging, meaining there could be sourcing troubles.

If these issues could be solved by an XO-2, great.

@mavrothal:
"More important, in its current form the web info can be more of a confusion than a guide for young kids."

But to the targeted kids, there is no alternative to the internet. They cannot simply go to a library.

However, setting up an educational web site for a specific school system is very cheap compared to almost every other option to get these children informed.

This is not intended for Western kids that have it all, but for "third world" children that lack even basic educational necessities.

@mavrothal:
"Academic knowledge, education and science can not be achieved by blind searching and trial and error."

Therefore, the idea is that the children get a guided search tour. But without the internet, they have nothing left to get knowledge from but a teacher that has to cope with 60 (120?) children a day without the necessary books and paper.

Winter

"Basically, your point seems to be that what does not help in rich countries, will not help in poor countries."

Winter
This IS NOT my point. Read back your article. It says that hardware and core OS improvements will make the OELPC. My point is simple. All improvements and certainly the price reduction are welcome. However, if you want to make a computer the focal point of your education you need 1% of the features that you mentioned in the article and 99% of curriculum, applications , content and teaching approach development.
The education of the developed world is just the proof that computers by themselves do not make all that much difference regardless of the hardware abilities and the OS features.
My "argument" is that the OELPC is focusing on marginal issues really when it comes to education of a developed or a developing nation. That's all.

@mavrothal:
¨This IS NOT my point. Read back your article. It says that hardware and core OS improvements will make the OELPC. My point is simple. All improvements and certainly the price reduction are welcome. However, if you want to make a computer the focal point of your education you need 1% of the features that you mentioned in the article and 99% of curriculum, applications , content and teaching approach development.¨

I think I see where I misinterpreted your comments. Sorry.

I basically see two aspect of netbooks as important to education in developing countries.

One is a way to access and create content. The last 2 Cs That is texts, books, pictures, tests, etc. In general, an extension of classical textbooks, pencils, and other learning materials.

This function itself might be a very cost effective one. Distribution and updating text books in developing countries is very expensive indeed.

The other aspect, which might in the end show to be even more important, is the communication and collaboration function. The first 2 Cs.

I think that it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of communication channels to human development.

These are children that most likely have no phone, television, magazines, newspapers, and only few possibilities to correspond with family and friends outside direct contact. In short, very little access to the world outside their own neighborhood.

The ability to reach family, friends, class mates, and teachers using the laptop will in itself help the children in school. It will actually be possible to ask for and give assistance while studying. And to be able to reach beyond your own village or neighborhood will be a revelation to these people.

This might seem rather boring technology, but just imagine being left to visit everyone you want to speak in person, by foot, over trails and unpaved "roads". No television, phone, newspaper, books, libraries and only little radio. And then imagine you have to study.

See why I think a laptop can make a difference.

Why this is no factor in the rich countries? Obviously, their children already have a cell phone, television, magazines, roads, transportation, books, libraries, and internet. They do not need an extra netbook (although every child overhere also wants one).

So my point is not that, somehow, dropping some piece of electronics will magically transform every classroom into a world class university. My point is that this piece of electronics will allow these children to reach out to all their friends, relatives, and whomever they need or want to contact. And that they can access all the information they would ever need.

They will not need to study the blueprints of the LHC (why should they?). But if they want to read fairy tales, they will have them. The current state of affairs is that even if they learn to read, they will not have much to use this skill on.

Winter

Sadly, the article is a perfect example of why all these dreams of technology changing education fail: the people with the "idea" work from the assumption that a marvelous device will "auto-magically" become a useful educational device.

Even if we could provide everything in that list (above), we still need the most important part: EXTENSIVE PILOT PROJECTS THAT WOULD SHOW THE WORLD THAT THE DEVICE IS USEFUL FOR EDUCATION PURPOSES.

That is an absolute MUST if anyone is going to become interested.

@Irv:
"EXTENSIVE PILOT PROJECTS THAT WOULD SHOW THE WORLD THAT THE DEVICE IS USEFUL FOR EDUCATION PURPOSES."

I would agree if you could show me the studies and pilot projects that lead to the introduction of books in education.

But here you are:

IERI: Integrating Speech and User Modeling in a Reading Tutor that Listens
http://drdc.uchicago.edu/community/project.phtml?projectID=102

Hourcade, J., Beitler, D., Cormenzana, F., and Flores, P. 2008. Early olpc experiences in a rural uruguayan school.
http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1358628.1358707

See also:
Reflections on a Pilot OLPC Experience in Uruguay
http://www.cs.uiowa.edu/~hourcade/ceibal-workshop.pdf

And:
Kam, M., Ramachandran, D., Devanathan, V., Tewari, A., and Canny, J. 2007. Localized iterative design for language learning in underdeveloped regions: the PACE framework.
http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1240791

But for some very specific projects regarding the use of computer based reading tutors, see:
Project Listen
http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~listen

More specifically:
Project Kané
http://www.techbridgeworld.org/kane/index.html

"Project Kané is a new initiative in Accra, Ghana that explores the role that technology can play in improving English literacy among children with few opportunities for guided reading practice. "

@Irv:
"That is an absolute MUST if anyone is going to become interested. "

But Irv, everyone IS interested already. Your presence here is the best proof of that.

@Irv and @mavrothal:
Anyhow. I think the main difference between the standpoints is that the post is about improving education for children that lack adequate teachers (too few), teaching materials (often even paper), and educational resources like libraries. In short, in places were parents are desperate because they see the only way out of poverty, education, failing on their children.

On the other hand, I see your arguments more reflecting the situation in the developed world where children have teachers, books, libraries, and internet in abundance.

Even in the developed world parents go out of their way to provide internet access to their children. An example from the US of people trying to help the disadvantaged:

Gurlz Just Wanna Be Geex
http://linuxlock.blogspot.com/2008/12/gurlz-just-wanna-be-geex.html

Winter

As always, you provide your "proof" as a bunch of links that don't actually have anything to do with the OLPC or the subject at hand.

In any case, nobody will ever invest huge amounts of money on an un-tested device of dubious educational value. That's EXACTLY what the world has said to Negroponte, isn't it?

It's a matter of simple common sense.

@Irv:
"As always, you provide your "proof" as a bunch of links that don't actually have anything to do with the OLPC or the subject at hand."

As always you will dismiss any proof offered in response to your own requests. The links are to research that studies the advantages of using (personal) computers in education. The leap to using personal laptops is trivial.

If you think the reading tutor of the Listen project, with field pilots in Ghana, has nothing to do with using computers in primary education then I am afraid you are in the wrong blog here.

I might also point out that this post is about a notebook to improve education in the developing world. All the links are about using computers to improve primary and secondary education.

If you don't want to read the research reports that are available, I suggest you stop trolling about "proof", "evidence", and "pilot deployments".

@Irv:
"In any case, nobody will ever invest huge amounts of money on an un-tested device of dubious educational value. That's EXACTLY what the world has said to Negroponte, isn't it?"

They already have. With the initial setting up of the OLPC and the XOs already sold and deployed, we come to quite a sizable investment. But I seem to sense some desperation in your comment.

Anyhow, people have long been willing to invest millions in deploying MS Windows at schools without ANY testing. So why shouldn't they do that with the OLPC? And I still have not seen a single test or study that proved that the introduction of books improved education. That must have been a very reckless move of the schools ;-)

@Irv:
"It's a matter of simple common sense."

Recent US administrations have taught me to distrust the "common sense" argument.

Winter

Winter wrote:

"And I still have not seen a single test or study that proved that the introduction of books improved education. That must have been a very reckless move of the schools ;-)"

Even if we accept the demented, childish argument that books were - at some point in history - of dubious or untested value in education, there is a crucial difference that you can't ignore: poor countries were NOT asked to foot the bill for the experiment.

Negroponte is not trying to convince "civilized" nations to buy into his grand scheme. They know better than that and he knows better than that...

@Irvin:
"Even if we accept the demented, childish argument that books were - at some point in history - of dubious or untested value in education,"

No, but they were introduced without a rigorous study and pilot projects. Just as were pencil and paper and almost every other innovation in education.

That is the way education works.

@Irvin:
"poor countries were NOT asked to foot the bill for the experiment."

At the introduction of books in primary education, the USA was a poor country. As were most other countries.

@Irvin:
"Negroponte is not trying to convince "civilized" nations to buy into his grand scheme. They know better than that and he knows better than that..."

Indeed. They all already use computers to boost educational performance. But you might know a developed country that does not use computers in education?

But that was actually not the point. Everyone would love it when all children had full time access to adequately trained teachers with 25 pupil per class. But as the world is many millions of teachers short of that goal we might as well try to make the best of the situation.

As most people in the world do not share your hatred for Mr Negroponte, they actually try to see some value in a project that tries to use ICT to boost teacher productivity. Especially if this project also could help to distribute books and libraries to all these children. My post was actually an attempt to evaluate the current market of netbooks in the light such educational projects.

Winter

I get mad at Irv, but then I remember he serves a useful purpose. He throws out bad arguments, and thereby gives people like Winter a chance to explain why they are mistaken.

@eduardo montez:
¨I get mad at Irv, but then I remember he serves a useful purpose.¨

Exactly. How could we ever imagine such bad argument ourselves?

Winter

We don't need a machine that will replace the OLPC. We need to fix the problems with the OLPC, both in terms of hardware and software.

To pull an example from Winter's article, and the proposal for the XO-2, I think that the OLPC foundation is going to make a critical mistake in the design of the XO-2: they are going to incorporate a touch screen for pointer and keyboard input.

This may sound like a great idea, but it is also an idea that was discarded from the design of the XO-1. They said that they found that too many children were too rough on the touch screen so the computer ended up being damaged. In designing the XO-2 they have forgotten what they have learned from the design of the XO-1. Which is the problem with replacing old ideas with new ones: old knowledge is simply discarded.

We know what the problems with the XO-1 are, both in terms of hardware and software. The emphasis should be placed upon fixing the XO-1 so that old knowledge is retained and built upon.

@Jordan:
¨They said that they found that too many children were too rough on the touch screen so the computer ended up being damaged. In designing the XO-2 they have forgotten what they have learned from the design of the XO-1.¨

In general, I agree that the best strategy is one of evolution. The XO-1 can (must) be improved. It must become cheaper and should use less power still. But a complete redesign is risky. It can introduce more problems than it solves.

However, with respect to the touch screen I am more optimistic.

First, Pixel Qi has designed a new touch screen. This could be more robust than previous touch screens (I do not know). On the other hand, an awful lot of complaints targeted failing keyboards and awkward to unusable mousepads.

Moreover, the double screen design allows to increase screen size without increasing the size of the notebook. More screen real estate was another common wish.

So if Mary-Lou can pull off a touch screen that can withstand 6 years of child's abuse, I am all for it. But if the screen will fail after three years, I agree they should stick to a key/mousepad.

Winter

I don't think, being easy to damage is the primary problem with a touchscreen used as a keyboard. The primary problem is that IT'S PAINFUL TO TYPE ON A TOUCHSCREEN, so anyone using it will have to use the least number of keystrokes possible. This is fine for all touchscreen-using devices we have now (iPhone included) because they are never used for typing long enough to affect anything, however it's inadequate for a laptop used in school, where one of the most common activities is writing pages and pages of text. When typing is more difficult than writing with a pen, something is very, very wrong.

Please note that a "squishy" keyboard of XO lacks this problem -- typing on it has less feedback and requires more precise movement, however keys don't hurt user's fingers.

@teapot:
"The primary problem is that IT'S PAINFUL TO TYPE ON A TOUCHSCREEN, so anyone using it will have to use the least number of keystrokes possible."

And that would kill that idea instantly.

However, There have been developments with projected keyboards:
http://www.alpern.org/weblog/stories/2003/01/09/projectionKeyboards.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Projection_keyboard

These would have the same problems with lack of (positional) feedback.

So I still wonder how such touchscreen keyboards would work (the iTouch is smaller so I suspect it cannot really be compared to a full 7" screen).

Winter

XO Tablets for Sale

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OLPC is selling the new XO Tablets on Amazon.com for just $149. Buy yours today!

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