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OLPC Developing $99 Tablet PC

One Laptop Per Child is emphasizing the educational value of its planned low-cost, low-power, Android-based XO tablet.

The One Laptop Per Child organization and chip manufacturer Marvell announced Tuesday they have teamed up to bring a $99 computer tablet to the world's children.

The partnership is planning to use Google's Android operating system in the design of a new family of XO tablets in what could eventually result in a direct confrontation with Apple's popular -- and comparatively expensive -- iPad.

The OLPC-Marvell device will be based on Marvell's Moby reference design, but will draw heavily on the OLPC's experience in working to bring inexpensive computers to the children of the world.

In what appears to be a departure for OLPC, the new tablet approach will feature a major campaign aimed at brining the device to American children. The non-profit OLPC is based in Cambridge, Mass., and Marvell maintains its headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif.

Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of OLPC, is seeking to separate the Moby solution from other tablets currently on the market and is emphasizing the educational uses of the Moby.

"While devices like eReaders and current tablets are terrific literary, media, and entertainment platforms, they don't meet the needs of an educational model based on making things, versus just consuming them," said Negroponte in a statement. "Today's learning environments require robust platforms for computation, content creation, and experimentation -- and all that at a low cost."

While the OLPC never fulfilled its original ambitious plans of providing $100 laptops for the world's children, it did pioneer the idea of bringing low-cost computing to poor children and succeeded in delivering hundreds of thousands of XO laptops to children in a few countries including Afghanistan and Uruguay.

The new OLPC-Marvell devices promise to build on the hardware and software experience of the early OLPC effort, which garnered feedback from the nearly 2 million children and families who have been using the current XO laptop. While the existing XO laptops require about 5 watts, the Moby will only need 1 watt of power to operate. With its multilingual soft keyboard, the new device will be able to be used by children speaking any language.

The Moby will also be able to utilize the more than 2 million free books that are available on the Internet.

Marvell co-founder Weili Dai indicated that recently developed technologies, including 1080p full-HD encode and decode, Flash 10 Internet, and two-way teleconferencing will be included in the design of the new tablet. Dai said the improvements "will fundamentally improve the way students learn by giving them more efficient, even fun tools to use."

The Moby will be powered by Marvell's ARMADA 610 processor, which features gigahertz speed and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM/GPS connectivity. Android, Windows Mobile, and Ubuntu platforms are supported in the processor. According to media reports, the first XO Moby generation will probably utilize Google's Android operating system, although later iterations could use Linux OS software.

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