Friday, May 2

OLPC review: is the $100 laptop good enough?

In theory - we all love the One Laptop Per Child initiative (OLPC). But what is it really really like?

We were lucky enough to get one from Seb at ALT-C. There are so many competing views and agendas around this little green machine that we felt the best way to review it would be collaboratively.

the entire Tribal learning technologies team got in on the act, including animators, UI designers, teachers, academics and programmers.

We also enlisted the real experts: our kids! (aged 6, 9 and 11).

So what is it really like?

In super simple summary, we think the OLPC X0-1:

  • is inspirational, embedding good educational ideas and collaboration;
  • solves several big technology challenges;
  • is great fun, but pretty slow;
  • is full of first-generation quirks;
  • has an amazingly rich seam of support info on the OLPC wiki;
  • leads the field in several key directions, but might be superceded quite quickly?

For a more detailed review check out our posting on Fortnightly Mailing

Many of the first generation quirks we spotted seem to be echoed in the justifications for the shock-double-news that the OLPC president is resigning from OLPC, and that future versions may even support Windows OS!!

Shock horror. This is sending even more ripples around the OLPC community than the news that Intel was pulling out last year, and the competing commercial devices (like classmate and eeepc) that are currently hitting the market.

I kind of agree about the quirkiness of the Sugar interface, and that the users experience could be improved ... but the shock waves are greater than this. They are probably because, until now, the Open Source philosophy has been one of the strongest glues that has held all the OLPC developers together, and adoption of Windows as a platform calls that into question.

Watch this space to see what happens....

My vote?
- OLPC will remain all open source, and will keep championing "freedom for users"
- Other, commercial devices will build on what OLPC has created, offering more and more features for less and less money
- whichever way you look, learners win, so long live the OLPC !!!


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