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XO-1.75: cutting through the nonsense

There’s lots of talk going on about the OLPC XO-1.75 now. A lot of it is inaccurate. I’ll quote John Watlington, VP of Hardware Engineering at OLPC:

Disclaimer: I’m VP of Hardware Engineering at OLPC
ARM processors powerful enough the support the user experience we wanted weren’t readily available (at the price point we work at) four years ago, when work started on the original XO design.
There were several errors in that news article which I would like to clear up:

  • the XO-1.75 will not have an 8.9” screen, but will continue with the sunlight readable 7.5” screen designed by Mary Lou Jepsen (now at Pixel Qi) used in the XO-1 and 1.5.
  • the $165 price is fiction (BOM price hasn’t been finalized), but probably not very far from the truth for the non-touchscreen equipped version. Please don’t forget that since we don’t add any profit margin, the laptop price directly depends on the volume ordered.
  • the switch to ARM was completely independent of any future support for ARM in Windows. That support was announced this week, while I’ve been pursuing this ARM design for three years, with active development over the last eight months. Furthermore, we are using the Marvell Armada 610, which won’t be supported by Windows (if you believe M$).
  • Linux has shipped, and will continue to ship, on EVERY XO produced. You can believe random commenters, or you can believe the person who signs off on every SKU produced.

I’ll also add that a lot of work has gone into software development, including porting Fedora 14 to ARM and adding multi-touch support to the Sugar UI. This has been a long time in the making, and the announcement of Microsoft’s ARM port is a coincidence. Sorry, no riveting conspiracies here.
Some media reports have been implying that mass production will start by mid-year. This is incorrect. It may possibly be that the design is finalised by then, but planning and tooling for mass production and deliveries is quite an endeavour beyond that.
If you want the real information on the XO-1.75, look at the OLPC Wiki page. Right now, they’re up to Alpha test model 2. If you want to view or take part in the development discussion, head over to the devel mailing list (strictly speaking, this list is for software development, but the community are discussing the hardware there too).

Speaking for OLPC Australia... just as we completed the world’s first deployment of XO-1.5 devices, I’m keen for us to do pioneering work and lead the way. To be kept updated and take part in OLPC Australia technical development, see our participation page.

by Sridhar Dhanapalan (CC-SA).