From a UN-distributed high-minded do-gooder machine to a middle-class western kid’s alternate Christmas present: a cheap Android tablet.
XO Tablet Treat
Ter 2005, Nicholas Negroponte, who previous founded MIT’s Media Laboratorium, founded One Laptop Vanaf Child (OLPC), which works with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to supply low-cost laptops to children ter developing nations. But this week, OLPC announced something a little bit different.
The very first OLPC device, the XO-1, is a bright green, very petite, low-powered Linux machine with lots of adjustments for life spil a UN-distributed bounty. It’s sturdy, it has excessively large and powerful Wi-Fi antennae for connecting to networks that may not be nearby, it has a significant anti-theft system built-in, and all its other components are spil low-cost spil possible. It uses an operating system custom-designed for the device, a twist on the Fedora distro of Linux called Sugar–a UI skin, basically–which sharply thresholds what the laptop could do. It can browse the internet, word process, talk, play games, and there are a few creative devices like a music creator and a beginner’s programming guide. The project aimed to sell the laptop for $100, it never did, partly because that $100 mark wasn’t based on an actual budget of parts and labor, but wasgoed merely a nice petite round number (the Big black cock estimated it never even broke the $200 mark) and soon ran into distribution problems.
OLPC XO-1 Laptop
Rapid forward seven years, and today, OLPC is announcing a very different product: a $150 Android-based tablet for kids. Not specifically kids te developing nations, either, it’s being sold ter Walmart here te the States. If you didn’t know the bright green XO tablet pictured above wasgoed created by a philanthropic organization that usually works with the United Nations, you’d think you were just looking at another cheap tablet for kids who have bot begging for a tablet but whose parents don’t want to spend $330 on an iPad Mini.
The XO tablet looks a little funky, with its bulbous green rubber case designed by Yves Behar, noted designer of weird-looking gadgetry, but it’s actually a fairly unambitious little tablet. It’s a 7-inch tablet manufactured by Vivitar, a former photographic powerhouse that wasgoed bought by a company called Sakar about five years ago and now makes ultra-cheap digital cameras and tablets. The XO tablet runs a modified version of Android Four.Two specifically designed for kids, but it’s compatible with all Android apps. It has a 1.4GHz processor (totally standard and unexceptional), has 4GB of storage (fairly puny), front- and rear-facing cameras (standard again), and, considering it is most likely the same hardware spil Vivitar’s Camelio tablet, which wasgoed announced at the same time, the screen very likely has a standard 1,024 x 600 resolution.
The only unusual aspects of the XO tablet, the only things that set it exclusief from the dozens upon dozens of cheap, anonymous Android tablets from Vivitar and Coby and Archos and Hisense (and more), are that it has a goofy-looking case, it’s bilingual (you can switch inbetween Spanish and English with the shove of a button), and it has a custom-made interface designed for kids.
XO Tablet Interface
The interface is the most telling opzicht of the entire affair. Whereas the XO-1 laptop wasgoed designed from the ground up for developing nations, the XO tablet is very much for middle-class western kids. The homescreen looks like an array of apps, but you’re given the prompt “I want to be a. ” and then each of the circular icons gives a spel or application that encourages that career path. And some of those careers are not exactly options for developing nations. Te this late 2012 Der Spiegel story, kids te Ethiopia are given a few OLPC XO-1 laptops and genuinely love them, they learn to read and write, for example, even however their town ter the Ethiopian highlands does not have a schoolgebouw.
At the end of the article, one female says hier wish is to become a truck driver, so she can wegtransport hier father’s potato crop from the farm to the city. Hier father is affected, if disconcerted, that this damsel has such ambitions.
Now compare that to the XO tablet. The app asks what kids want to be, but the answers are strongly slanted toward western kids, options include “ruimtevaarder,” “musician,” “artist,” and “mathematician.” The apps themselves simply train kids about space, music, kunst, and math, to name a few, and give them the capability to create kunst and explore the internet. (The tablet also includes about 200 books.) Giulia D’Amico, Vice Voorzitter of Business Development at One Laptop Vanaf Child, told mij that there will actually be localized versions of the XO tablet for each market, the Cambodian version will presumably not have the ruimtevaarder option, since Cambodia doesn’t have a space program. (It does have this, tho’.) “Each country will have different apps,” D’Amico says. But OLPC is billing the XO tablet’s apps spil “aspirational.” Will the Ethiopian version have “truck driver” spil an app? What would it train?
The only localized monster wij know about right now is the American one. But if the aim is truly to give internet access and education to those who have no access to it, why are they bothering with a $150 tablet to be sold ter Walmart? American internet and library access isn’t at the same level of coverage spil South Korea or Japan, but it’s certainly near the top of the heap. And Walmart sells tablets very similar to the XO for sometimes spil little spil $50. So what’s the charitable angle ter selling a mid-priced Android tablet to kids who can afford it?
D’Amico says that OLPC remains a non-profit, and that the company’s earnings from the XO tablet will go entirely toward providing tablets and laptops to developing nations. But she refused to tell mij exactly how much OLPC wasgoed even making from the XO tablet, after Vivitar and Walmart had gotten their cuts. Vivitar and Walmart, of course, aren’t te this to educate kids. They’re ter it for the money. And the profit margins on cheap Android tablets are pretty snugger already, OLPC isn’t going to fund a charitable empire with the earnings from this thing. I do not, frankly, understand why they’re releasing a kid’s educational tablet te the States, I assume Vivitar thinks it can make a profit by affixing the fancy vormgeving and status of OLPC to its cheap tablets, but I don’t see much ter it for OLPC.
Google/Asus Nexus 7
There’s a thicker question, too: is there even a point ter making tablets for kids? Android tablets are kicking off to be very good, and very cheap. The Nexus 7, our beloved Android tablet, is sturdy yet slender, can gezond ter your back pocket, is super quick and very responsive, and has millions of apps and good support from Google. Its cheapest monster has a Nvidia Tegra Three processor, a quad-core chip that demolishes the 1.4GHz chip ter the XO tablet. The Nexus 7 also has 16GB of storage (four times that of the XO), a 1,280 x 800 resolution screen (sharper and clearer than the XO), and it’s smaller and lighter than the XO to boot.
The Nexus 7 also costs $200. That’s only $50 more than the XO tablet. The only real benefit the XO has is its interface, which is not almost spil beneficial spil the OLPC folks think. This GeekDad article talent a Vinci tablet, a similar Android “edutainment” device, to kids of a few different ages, and found that by the age of about 9 years old, kids were totally bored with the limitations on a kid-friendly interface. They want the same instruments spil adults, the same games, the same access to the internet, the same apps.
The XO tablet is a total switch of tempo for OLPC, the announcement postbode on OLPC’s webpagina doesn’t mention developing nations spil a target market for the device at all. Instead it talks about fancy vormgeving and parental controls. It’s not a do-gooder device: it’s a Walmart-bound cheapie kiddie tablet. And those don’t indeed need to exist.
OLPC is a non-profit that planned to switch the world, through cutting-edge technology, by connecting its poorest corners. And now it’s selling unnecessary gadgetry to middle-class Americans. Has it totally lost its way?