OLPC, Marvell Join Forces, Announce sub-$100 Tablet by December 2010

Is the dream of a $100 laptop finally coming to fruition? One Laptop Per Child and Marvell today announced a partnership to develop the next generation of laptops for children in developing nations. The nonprofit OLPC said that by using Marvell’s Moby platform, the two would be able to produce a reference design by the end of 2010, two years ahead of OLPC’s original goal.

The new device, known as the XO 3.0, could cost as little as $75, said OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte in an interview. In exchange for helping OLPC create a system for the education market, Marvell will have a blank slate, so to speak, that it will be able to easily customize and sell to other companies looking to get into the tablet market, said Weili Dai, the founder, VP and GM of Consumer and Computing Business Unit of Marvell, in an interview with LAPTOP.

“We’re trying to create a tool where we can offer a complete pizza to someone,” said Ed McNierney, the CTO of OLPC. “They’ll say, ‘Can you take off the mushrooms and pepperoni?’ and we can get a product out to them much more quickly.”

The 10-inch tablet will use an Armada 610 processor, 1080p encoding, Flash support, and will be able to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 8 users. Initially, the dual-mode display will be glass, but OLPC is looking to use plastic in the future. OLPC hopes that by switching to the tablet format and the new processor, it can reduce power consumption by half, to less than two watts, which will enable children to recharge the device without needing an outlet.

McNierney said that several factors would help bring the cost down to below $100. Moving from a traditional notebook format to a tablet will reduce the number of parts needed to actually make the notebook. “One of the most expensive mechanical pieces in our current laptop is the hinge for the display,” he said. “We currently have 118 different SKU units for different keyboards and different configurations around the world. Going from the device we have right now to a tablet means fewer parts, smaller parts, a smaller device, and a lower overall system cost.”

Secondly, said McNierney, if consumer-focused companies start licensing the design, then OLPC and Marvell can achieve economies of scale.

OLPC and Marvell said that the device, which would be able to run Android and Linux, could be ready by December 2010.

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