OLPC says it’s making a $75 tablet

Before reading any further, take a look at the ultrathin tablet computer below, imagine that it only costs $75, finish laughing, and then resume.


Yes, that’s the next project of One Laptop Per Child, the non-profit organization behind the $200 XO-1 mini-laptop, which was intended to provide cheap computing to children in third-world and developing countries. According to Forbes, OLPC’s roadmap calls for a $75 touch screen tablet, measuring 8.5-by-11 inches, available in 2012. Right now the product, called the XO-3, only exists in mock-ups.

If the past is any indication, the XO-3 hasn’t a chance of selling for $75. OLPC’s original computer, the XO-1, never met its promised sales price of $100, selling for $200 when it launched in November 2007 and currently priced at $172. The very idea of a $100 laptop is still a sketchy proposition.

But let’s at least give OLPC credit where it’s due. By working with laptop manufacturing giant Quanta on the original model a few years ago, OLPC may have spooked rival manufacturer Asus into developing a similar product, as Wired reported. The result was Asus’ Eee PC, the industry’s first netbook, and the laptop industry has never been the same, transformed by the revelation that consumers want less out of their computers, and for far less money.

But times have changed, and it’s hard to imagine the XO-3 having a similar impact. OLPC isn’t the only company trying to create a small, cheap and simple Web tablet. Several manufacturers are trying to do just that, so far to no avail. The JooJoo, for instance, was supposed to be a simple, $200 Web tablet, but those hopes proved unrealistic, and the product will instead sell for $500.

So unless OLPC has some serious manufacturing tricks up its sleeve, it’ll have to get in line with all the other companies who want their tablet to look the best and cost the least.