OLPC or One Laptop per Child, the non-profit organization that produces low-cost portable computing devices targeting primary school kids in emerging markets has announced a new tablet device. The company which had claimed to bag around 5 lakh orders from the Indian states of Gujarat and Kerala in 2010, after managing to sell a meagre 2000 units, has announced XO 3.0, a low-cost, low-power tablet at the Consumer Electronics Show-CES 2012 in Las Vegas, USA.
The most striking feature of the tablet is the ability to get a charge from off-grid sources, since it sports a unique charging circuitry that allows it to be charged directly by solar panels, hand cranks and other alternative power sources. This makes the device much more relevant for emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where grid power supply is limited or erratic. The tablet will feature a cover that will double up as a solar panel with a battery. After being charged, the tablet can be hooked up with the cover to utilise the power harnessed through the solar panel.
The tablet will feature Marvell ARMADA PXA618 SOC processor, Avastar Wi-Fi SOC, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of internal storage. The company claims that the processor consumes less amount of power. It will sport an 8 inch standard LCD or Pixel Qi sunlight-readable display. The tablet will run Android and its own customized fork of Linux, Sugar OS. The Verge got a brief hands-on with the XO 3.0 tablet, and notes that despite good hardware specs, the slow software is a problem and is not optimized for touch-screens. However, it also noted that featuring Android might make the tablet more popular. We feel that there is a large development community supporting Android, so it will be easier to get localised content and applications.
Why did Aakash not include an off-grid power source?
The Indian government was never a fan of the OLPC and now with the launch of Aakash, its dream tablet venture, it’s unlikely that it will give it consideration over the home grown project. However, we wonder why the Government never thought of a device that could be powered by off-grid sources, since not just villages but even tier-2 and 3 cities face the problem of electricity shortage and frequent outages. The Aakash tablet has not received favourable reviews from users and technology enthusiasts at large, who have criticized it for it’s questionable build quality, slow performance and poor battery life. Perhaps, the government could focus on improving the tablet’s performance and battery life, making the tablet usable, rather than hyping the low price point. Also, why not bundle a solar-power charger with the tablet?