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Yesterday, I got my hands on an OLPC:
This was one of the prototypes that are about to go into production. Unfortunately, it didn’t have a battery pack, so I could not see it in action, but just getting my hands on one was pretty awesome. It is very small and light, and does feel more like a toy, or like an appliance than like a real laptop. All of the electronics are housed in the display, and the bottom of the case has just the battery, the keyboard and the touchpad. The display can be twisted around to function as a kind of tablet computer – I would guess that this is intended mostly for reading. The two “ears” on either side of the screen are the wifi antennae.
They built in some nifty technical details. For example, there are a number ways to save energy. The network controller can do mesh routing with the CPU turned off, and the display can hold an image with the CPU turned off. There are no moving parts (main storage is flash), and the keyboard is dust- and water-resistant. The display has a monochrome mode and a color mode; the monochrome mode is about 200dpi (enough for comfortable reading), while the color mode as a lower resolution. I don’t know exactly what processor it has, but it’s equivalent to a 400-500MHz x86 CPU (ie. enough for most tasks.) You can find more info about the specs on the OLPC hardware wiki page.
And the most important part (as a friend pointed out): I can see some kid caring about this device. It’s cool. It looks good. It doesn’t feel fragile. I could definitely see someone giving this device to a six-year-old for school. (And he wouldn’t have to worry about being beaten up for it, like he would for having an iBook.) I could see myself buying one just because it’s cool. It’s probably the only laptop you can take to the beach and be reasonably certain that it will still work afterwards.