Wednesday, October 10, 2007

OLPC Hardware - Not Exactly Child's Play

I was motivated by the ASUS EEE Laptop to more closely examine its bargain basement priced competitor - the One Laptop Per Child laptop.

If you've never done so, you should really check out this list of unique hardware attributes of the device. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Folds into an E-book mode for easy on device reading
  • Fanatical attention to battery saving capability, such as allowing the screen to remain on while the CPU is powered down, using 1/10 the power of a normal laptop
  • Ruggedized case and keyboard, with no spinning hardware, fan or fragile connectors
  • WiFi that has better range/performance than most laptops
  • Touchpad that also serves as a tablet drawing
  • Audio jack can be trivially hacked to read in any voltage providing device, such as a thermometer or other cheap sensors

The software list is fairly impressive too, offering Logo, Python and Smalltalk as built in software options. Naturally, it runs on Linux.

It seems like an impressive device, especially considering the $100 - $200 price tag. I can't recall hearing about a laptop being this thought through for truly mobile activities. It seems like no feature was examined and re-examined to find maximum performance for the buck.

There's one more feature the OLPC laptop has that the AUS EEE laptop doesn't - you can buy one. OK, that's exaggerating a bit, you can technically get one in 2 days.

I think there's only one real catch to the OLPC device. It's so well designed to its audience, that my guess is, it really is designed for children. It's not just the childish look and feel that leads to me this conclusion. Smaller details, like making the keyboard child sized, and setting up the screen to be viewable from a closer distance, all have me thinking that an adult would (rightfully) be disappointed with the device.

What we really need is a One-Laptop-Per-Geek project, that takes all the work that's been done for the OLPC, and makes the laptop adult sized. I'd tweak very little about it - just get the details right for someone a bit on the more mature side.

I really applaud the OLPC for their incredible work - they found a way to to not only meet the intense demands of their project, but found a way to do it at a reasonable price. Dell, Toshiba and even Apple could learn a thing or two from these guys.

1 comment:

  1. Also another benefit to buying an OLPC is that the cost for 'us' the everyday buyer includes the price required to provide one laptop to a 'child'. Basically it is 2-for-1 deal. Of course the OLPC will not be available to the public until Nov 12th at a price of $400.