The '$100 laptop' may be a glimpse of the future

No, not the price, unfortunately. I'm talking about the new all-screen clamshell.

You've no doubt heard of the "$100 laptop" project. The idea is to help poor kids around the world by providing them with simple, durable, usable and wireless laptops for downloading and using textbooks and educational software, playing games and communicating.

The first iteration, the XO 1.0 -- a.k.a. the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) laptop -- looks like a toy for baby aliens (fluorescent green with two antennas). Besides a few innovations, including mesh networking and a water-resistant rubberized keyboard, the laptop is largely comparable to today's ordinary low-cost laptops.

A prototype of the next version was unveiled last month, and it looks a lot like the laptop you're going to buy in five years. No, I'm not kidding. Your laptop will look and function more or less like the XO 2.0. It's a brilliant -- and prescient -- design.

The most conspicuous and best feature is that the bottom half of the clamshell is a screen, just like the top half. Here's what it looks like.

I've talked to a lot of readers and other users who say they'll never give up the tactile feedback of a real keyboard and many who don't want to let go of the mouse, either. But I believe most users will be willing to sacrifice both keyboard and mouse in order to take advantage of the all-screen laptop of the future.

The XO 2.0 clamshell form factor works in four ways (compared to just one with conventional laptops).

  • 1. Tablet mode. By opening the clamshell all the way, the two screens snap together in the middle to form one semicontinuous touch screen.
  • 2. Laptop mode. By laying the bottom flat and setting the top half at an angle, the bottom becomes the keyboard and touchpad, and the top functions as the screen, just like a conventional laptop, but the keyboard is on-screen and virtual.
  • 3. Book mode. When you the hold up the XO 2.0 like a book, the text can be displayed on two "pages," which can be "turned" virtually.
  • 4. Two-person mode. By setting the laptop open and flat like "tablet mode," but pressing an on-screen button, one screen orients up and the other down. If you set it on a table between two people, they both get their own properly oriented touch screen, which is great for games or any other two-person usage applications.

With today's desktops, software and usage models, the two-screen clamshell design of the XO 2.0 laptop may not appeal. But in five years, I believe everyone will intuitively understand why this is the best possible way to design a mobile computer because of four current trends and where they're taking us.

Trend No. 1: Multitouch, physics and gestures, oh my!

I've reported and prognosticated extensively in this space on the next generation or "third generation" of user interface (the first two generations being the command line and the graphical user interface).

This new user interface will dominate the operating systems from Microsoft, Apple, the Linux vendors and others. There will be qualitative differences, as always, in the next-gen versions of Windows, the Mac OS and Linux, but all will revolve around the three core elements: multitouch, gestures and physics. That's why I'm now calling this UI type the multitouch, physics and gestures UI, or MPG for short.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mike Elgan

Computerworld
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

Bitdefender solutions stop attacks before they even begin! Get cybersecurity that 500 MILLION users already have and trust.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?