When the Asus eeePC hit the road, everybody forgot about Nicholas Negroponte’s XO laptop – everybody except for the TamsPalm team. I have been able to track one down in the MetaLab – here’s a quick first-impressions ‘review’.

First of all, here is a size comparison picture next to a Treo 680 – one can clearly see how much space was wasted on the handle:
0a OLPC XO   a quick look 0b OLPC XO   a quick look

The XO can be used as ‘tablet’ or ‘laptop’ – as it does not have a touchscreen, the tablet mode is mostly useless except for things like ebook readng:
1a OLPC XO   a quick look 1b OLPC XO   a quick look

The keyboard is of chiclet type, and has dedicated ‘slider’ hard keys for things like brightness and volume. The antennas at the side of the device can be flipped up to reveal various ports:
2a OLPC XO   a quick look 2b OLPC XO   a quick look

An SD card reader is integrated into the bottom of the screen unit:
3a OLPC XO   a quick look

The screen of the machine is impressive – if the backlight is turned on, colors are visible. Once the ambient light is stronger than the internal light, the screen becomes monochrome:
4a OLPC XO   a quick look 4b OLPC XO   a quick look

As for the operating system of the XO – it has no similarities to any other user interface I have never seen before. It is based around two tabs:

Network tab
5a OLPC XO   a quick look
The network tab displays all WiFi networks that are in range. The fuller the ball, the stronger the signal!

App tab
6a OLPC XO   a quick look
The symbol in the middle symbolizes your machine – each icon around it is a currently-running application that can be brought forward with a click. The bar at the bottom contains all applications installed on the machine…a quick click and the app boots up(after 15secs or so):

Applications are based on a ribbon-like hub-and-spoke concept. You click the ribbons at the top, and the menu bar changes to reflect the new options:
7a OLPC XO   a quick look 7b OLPC XO   a quick look

In the end, the XO definitely is an innovative machine – literally every piece of the device contains at least one thing never seen before.So far, so good…but: the UI is cumbersome to use, and the case is simply too big. The touchpad was very unsatisfying…and the lack of business applications is the final straw that lays the camel flat. Fingers off if you want more than a toy – the eeePC definitely is more useful.

Thank you to Daniel Fuhry for letting me use the machine for a few minutes

Related posts:

  1. Linux on a Palm – GPE quick review
  2. Opera Mini 4.1 beta – a quick look at the changes
  3. Going CVS-Step 2
  4. Lars Schweden – Asus eeePC Interview
  5. A quick look at the GSPDA M28

10 Responses to “OLPC XO – a quick look”

  1. Why don’t people just get it? The XO is no business laptop. It’s built to be robust and easy to repair. It’s designed for children who have never used another operating system before, perhaps even have not learned to read and write yet. It’s ideal for school children to lug around (that’s why it has this handle), not for executives shirt pockets. It’s interpreted OO code top to bottom that is optimized to be easily understandable and extendible. Comparing it with a Palm smartphone or an EeePC, which is just a cheap laptop with standard software, just doesn’t make any sense.

  2. Hi Simon,
    thank you so much for talking back!

    As said – the OLPC is innovative. However, some people I know planned to buy one instead of the eeePC – and this is just what I wanted to say with this article.

    Best regards
    Tam Hanna

  3. OLPC contains full-fledged Linux OS inside. So, you should be able to install the same software Asus EeePC uses. However, battery life should be huge comparing to EeePC. Though I never touched one, I, personally, like OLPC design very much :)

  4. Hello Simon,
    thank you

  5. Hi Folks,
    I am very sorry – can’t say much here…

    As for the design…I am very frustrated with its keyboard(typing this at a midrange LogiTech keyboard) and also the handle…it is IMHO WAAAAY too big!

    Best regards
    Tam Hanna

  6. I think I wouldn’t like the keyboard.

  7. Out of the box it is bare bones. Similarily a palm device out of the box is not too business oriented.

    Some questions, Will it work with higher GB SD cards, any limits?

    Any particular WiFi quirks, like wap and web and bandwavelength?

    Will it ever be bluetoothed? Maybe by SD card that has bluetooth?

    Will it be English, German,Russian, or French languaged?

  8. I have to answer my own questions…

    * Keyboard layout pictures: international, Thai, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, West African, Urdu, Mongolian, Cyrillic, Amharic;

    # Gamepad: Two sets of four-direction cursor-control keys;
    # Touchpad: Dual capacitance/resistive touchpad; supports written-input mode; ALPS Electric Dual capacitive/resistive touchpad;
    # Audio: AC97-compatible audio audio subsystem; internal stereo speakers and amplifier; internal monophonic microphone; jacks for external headphones and microphone; Analog Devices AD1888 and Analog Devices SSM2211 for audio amplification;
    # Wireless networking: Integrated 802.11b/g (2.4GHz) interface; 802.11s (Mesh) networking supported; dual adjustable, rotating coaxial antennas; supports diversity reception; capable of mesh operation when CPU is powered down; Marvell Libertas 88W8388 controller and 88W8015 radio;

  9. Hi Folks,
    I am glad to see that all of you are that active discussing the machine. However, I am unfortunate to tell you that I no longer have access to one.

    So…I can tell you more about my personal experiences…but can’t really speak more about the XO.

    Best regards
    Tam Hanna

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