Marvell Gives a Glimpse of the New OLPC Laptop, Bearing Its Tech Inside

Part of the fun during last week’s International CES in Las Vegas was coming across surprises, such as Marvell of Santa Clara, CA bringing along the yet-to-be released new computer from the One Laptop Per Child project.

The nonprofit OLPC project, whose foundation is based in Cambridge, MA, develops rugged, inexpensive laptops for children in developing countries.

Marvell has worked with OLPC over the past few years providing technology. Jack Kang, director of Marvell’s mobile business unit, spoke to Xconomy at Pepcom’s pre-CES event and gave a quick rundown on the new machine, known as the XO 4.

“The hardware has been completely upgraded and changed,” he says. Kang added that the previous generation of the green-and-white laptop used a single-core processor, while the XO 4 uses a dual-core processor.

Marvell specializes in low-power processors for mobile devices. Using the company’s technology in the new XO 4, Kang says, helps make the laptops more efficient without sacrificing capabilities. The first-generation XO 1 laptop used an x86-based AMD processor, while the latest OLPC laptops can offer dual-core technology using less power. “Now you can last much longer on a battery for much lower costs,” he says.

A firm release date for the XO 4 has yet to be announced. The previously announced XO-3 tablet was scrapped late last year.

Upgrades in the XO 4 include connectivity through Marvell’s Wi-Fi networking technology. The laptop’s touch-screen display from Neonode Inc., which has offices in Santa Clara, can be flipped around to operate like a tablet.

“[The XO 4] still follows the original goals of being something rugged that can be put in the field, easily serviced and maintained by children,” Kang says.

In addition to the new laptop, last week OLPC announced its Android-based XO Learning Systems software—due in May—that is being licensed by companies such as Sakar International in Edison, NJ. Sakar plans to load the software on a forthcoming 7-inch Android tablet that will be marketed under the XO brand.

Prior generations of OLPC laptops, Kang says, have been shipped to countries such as Rwanda, South Africa, Peru, and Uruguay. The laptops are preloaded with apps and software such as child-friendly version of Wikipedia, making content available even in environments without connectivity to the Web.

“It’s designed so that students can learn on their own,” he says. “It’s really about enabling children who wouldn’t otherwise have access to technology.”

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