Negroponte offers OLPC technology for $35 tablet

In a note, he urges the Indian government to make its planned device an educational tool

The nonprofit organization One Laptop Per Child wants to join forces to help develop the Indian government's planned US$35 tablet.

In a congratulatory note to the government, OLPC Chairman Nicholas Negroponte said the world needs the $35 tablet, and he offered the country full access to OLPC hardware and software technology.

"I repeat my offer: full access to all of our technology, cost free. I urge you to send a team to MIT and OLPC at your earliest convenience so we can share our results with you," Negroponte wrote in a blog entry, which was published on Thursday.

OLPC has its own plans to ship a low-cost tablet. The organization has said it hopes to ship a $100 XO tablet by 2012. Negroponte said India's $35 tablet wouldn't compete with OLPC's offerings, but that both could align efforts to promote education.

"India is so big that you risk being satisfied with your internal market. Don't. The world needs your device and leadership. Your tablet is not an "answer" or "competitor" to OLPC's XO laptop," Negroponte wrote.

The Indian government last week announced the $35 tablet targeted at students, but didn't announce a release date. The government has previously announced low-cost devices, including a $100 laptop, but has failed to deliver. Some observers believe the tablet won't see the light of day.

A similar promise of a $100 laptop came from OLPC, when it announced the $100 XO laptop in 2005. However, the effort was afflicted by production delays and rising costs, which caused the laptop's estimated price to rise to $200. But OLPC says it has now deployed 2 million laptops in 40 countries. OLPC has been shy about revealing official sales figures.

As part of its deployments, OLPC has rolled out XO laptops across projects in India, but the organization has shared a hot and cold relationship with the Indian government. The country in 2006 declined to purchase OLPC XO laptops, instead opting for Intel's Classmate PC. However, in 2009 two Indian government organizations placed orders for XO laptops.

Negroponte advised the Indian government to make the tablet as desirable as Apple's iPad, but not to design it as a media consumption tool. The device should be an education tool.

"Caution is needed with regard to one aspect of tablets: learning is not media consumption. It is about making things. The iPad is a consumptive tool by design. OLPC urges that you not make this mistake," Negroponte wrote.

The organization is also urging the Indian government to stick to the open-source Linux OS for the tablet.

OLPC has been praised for implementing innovative hardware and environmentally friendly designs in its laptops. The XO tablet may include new display technology from Pixel Qi, which makes screens that absorb ambient light to brighten screens and save power by reducing the need for the backlight, which is used to light up conventional screens.

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