The XO-1 kids laptop from the One Laptop Per Child is the most inspiring product design I've seen i quite a while. And oh yah, its also supposed to help kids learn around the world. There's one gotcha, though. You can only get one by participating in the Give On Get One program, and that runs out Dec 31st.
Don't think, just do.
There's way too much to discuss in one blog entry - but since you need to act quick, let me give you a quick list of why I find it so compelling - I think the most important product of 2007. I'll just give a quick bullet list here:
- As a hardware platform, its truly amazing what they have managed to pack into a sub $200 device. No moving parts, wifi, x86 platform, usb, camera, microphone, etc.
- It comes with Linux plus some custom UI ("Sugar"). Its a stripped Fedora Linux, though it runs X, etc, and appears to run normal x86 linux binaries. Its just Linux, folks, no gotchas.
- As a kids laptop, its got a bunch of software, including the Sugar UI/app framework that are meant to be simple and not let kids get confused or hung up. This is where a lot of the software design effort has and it really shows. Its a bit awkward for us adults used to the traditional window/desktop metaphor, but its growing on me.
- The design features of the hardware are outstanding. Clearly designed for rugged use by kids, this device really has a lot of innovative features, including: wifi antennas that flip down and double as clasps to keep the shell closed, a screen that flips around to make the XO-1 a ebook reader, integrated camera/mic,
touchpad AND two styluspadsa stylus pad that is also a touchpad in the middle third, a carrying handle that makes the xo-1 fun to carry, and a bunch of other features. A lot of work was put into design - I need to write a lot more about this.
- The price point (under $200, heading to $100) is pretty impressive given its usability and features. Thats getting into the game-changing zone. Someone will figure out how to make it free...
- Its a completely Open Source software platform. You don't like something, fix it yourself! You want new features. you can build them! There are some anti-theft features on some devices that are tied into the firmware, but I don't think those are enabled on the machines being shipped to the States.
- Its truly a fulfillment of the promise of Linux as a platform that sets free people to innovate without commercial constraints. Amazing what people can do when they don't have to worry about software licensing deals...
- The support community for the OLPC early adopters is simply awesome. The wiki and IRC channels are active, attended by OLPC folks, and made relatively easy to use, even by non-techies. Newbies are most definitely welcome.
- The XO-1 appears to be a pretty compelling e-book reader. I've been excited about the potential of e-book readers, not only in education, but also as a new way to carry around libraries of my own. The XO-1 has numerous design features to make it a competent ebook reader (flip screen, button placements, display technology), and what appears to be a vibrant community of educators and others compiling content for use on the XO-1. The e-book reader features alone would make the XO-1 worth getting.
- I happened to pick up Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson to re-read. Its about a technology created by the elites being taken for use by underclass kids and the unexpected transformative effect it has. I'm not the first to think about the parallels with the XO-1.
- When my OLPC arrived in a box last week, it came in minimal packaging. Two pieces of paper, a power brick, and the laptop in a plastic bag. That initial experience speaks volumes about the XO-1's simple, clean, and friendly experience. Compare this with opening a new box from Dell...
- The XO-1 makes heavy use of Python. Ruby and Java aren't even installed (though you can install them yourself). There is at least one educational tool for learning to program using Python. Sugar is built in Python. Just sayin.. ;-)
- It runs an x86 compatible processor and is basically PC compatible. I've heard reports of people installing other Linux distros on it and that Microsoft thinks or wants XP to run on it..
- My daughter loved the Logo-like programming environment (Turtle) - anecdotal evidence shows that the XO seems to appeal to girls as much as boys. The programming educational tools seem to attract both girls and boys - something that may help to get girls more involved with computing.
- I dumped crumbs all over it while eating in Starbucks. The membrane keyboard just 'shakes off' - this is kid and slob-friendly. Something that's an absolute requirement for me, personally.
- Its impressive that this is the product of a non-profit with humanitarian goals in mind. Now, mind you, its not exactly your typical non-profit, but it does give you the warm fuzzies that maybe geeks can actually do their part to save the world.
- As much as I like using it, I can't wait until we get first hand reports from kids in developing countries using it. I suspect they will have a very different response - though who knows!?!
- The XO-1 and the Sugar framework are designed with social features at the core, primarily for use in the classroom (including, but certainly not limited to mesh wifi networking). I haven't had an opportunity to play with those features yet - still looking for nearby people with XO-1's. If you are in the San Carlos, Belmont, Redwood Shores, Redwood City, etc area, and would like to get together to play with XO-1 socially, let me know.
- I really hope the XO-1 or something like it is made available to us in the first world after Dec 31st. Its a really compelling platform for kids and beyond. It would be a shame if its innovations weren't allowed to seed imaginations of kids and adults here too!!! While shipping a consumer version of the XO is clearly outside the scope of OLPC's efforts, I believe someone will make this available here in the States (or something very similar). Its just too good!
- I've personally convinced 4 people to give one/get one, and met a number of other folks in Starbucks who wanted to know more. People are interested, and its seems like a good way to make friends with like-minded folks. Leave comments here or drop me email if you are finding the OLPC XO-1 interesting - I'd like to gauge how much interest there might be as a consumer product available here in the states.
Oh, and of course, this blog entry was mostly written on my XO-1.