The list of features is enough to make your eyes cross: waterproof, twice as thin as an iPhone, semi-flexible 8.5" by 11" touchscreen, wireless induction charging, and energy consumption under one watt. And it will cost a mere $75. At least this is what is being claimed of the XO-3, the third generation One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) designed by Yves Behar.
MIT's Nicholas Negroponte sparked the OLPC non-profit venture in 2005 to bring affordable ($100), web-connected computers to school kids the world over. Things haven't gone exactly to plan (the computers still cost well over $100 and poor nations aren't quite clamoring for them as anticipated), but the project rolls onward, recently unveiling the conceptual design and hard-to-fathom specs of XO-3, due out in 2012.
As outlined in Forbes, rather than a touchscreen made of glass like the iPhone's, the XO-3 will use a semi-flexible plastic display that will constitute the device's entire interface. The large screen (the size of a piece of office paper) will be rotatable from portrait to landscape view--like the Kindle DX--and will take the place of the physical keyboard sported by the current OLPC, the XO-1. Like the current version, the display will be optimized for both indoor and outdoor use.
To do away with physical clutter (and points of entry for dirt and water), Behar has designed the XO-3 with wireless induction charging, meaning that the tablet will likely be laid on some kind of charging pad in order to juice up, rather than plugging in.
Yves Behar is something of a sex god in the design world. His golden touch has given birth to products as diverse as the Jawbone headset, LED lighting, eco underwear, sex toys, bike helmets, furniture, and the world's fastest production motorcycle (it's electric, of course).
Enticing as the XO-3's specs sound, skepticism is in order. Even with two extra years to do it (the XO-3 is slated for 2012), if the third generation OLPC lives up to its claims it will be topping the Amazon Kindle and the forthcoming Apple tablet at a price point that is ludicrously low. Wired is seriously cynical (calling Negroponte's efforts to date "a flop however you look at it").
To help propagate the technology, the architecture of the XO-3 will be made open, meaning any hardware maker could produce the machine. Negroponte and Behar both acknowledge that the third-generation One Laptop Per Child is still very much in its conceptual stage, and what you see now is not necessarily what you'll get in 2012. So hold off before writing that $75 check.