With the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project set to go into mass production, and with Intel as its brand new backer, we can finally hear about the machine's actual performance after so much talk over the past 18 months.
The goal was to create a low-cost, energy-efficient laptop. And while the XO didn't exactly make the $100 target price (it's currently expected to cost around $175), some remarkable achievements in the area of power consumption are worth noting. First off, the 7.5 inch display on the XO manages to work as a black-and-white high resolution screen when in direct sunlight using a mere 100 milliwatts of power or as a color screen in a room or at night, using an average of only 1 watt. Other notable characteristics include a battery that easily lasts 10 hours, alternative power sources such as solar panels and string-pull generators, and the wireless mesh technology in the XO that turns every laptop into a wireless router.
Processing power and other hardware specs are far from revolutionary, but for the price you can’t really expect much more. You can read the full hardware specifications and other details here.
On the software side, the machine runs a version of the Fedora distribution of Linux called Sugar, lacking menus and all but a minimal set of toolbar icons and onscreen buttons. It also comes bundled with popular open source applications as well as development tools.
The project hopes to bring the change in opportunities and education that are needed by many children in every country of the world. However, NComputing chief executive Stephen Dukker thinks the XO is doomed to fail due to a lack of commercial viability. Instead he proposes a reincarnation of the thin client with non-CPU-based access terminals that can be built for as low as $11 and sold for well under $100 per user, providing partners with full commercial margins. These multi-user environments, he says, tap the power of low-end PCs to support 10 or more concurrent users with power consumption of under 6 watts per user.