(photograph taken by my colleague Tim Millwood on his iPhone and TwitPic'ed to Twitter)
We got the chance at the IB today to put the new Eeepc900 ( this example actually arrived the day before and is my new toy) against the OLPC ( purchased in November by the IB in North America under their get on give on scheme *), and my don't they look a handsome pair? Definitely aimed at different audiences, but together showing the way things have to go in order to get anywhere near one laptop per child in education. Both full of open source software and running Linux operating systems allowing them to be sold at a low price. Size is also important!! I mean of course, that their notebook size enables them to be carried around much more easily than a standard laptop, the functionality and connectivity ( both wireless devices) of both allied to their laptop-ness takes them beyond the pda method of personal computing ( I look forward to looking into this further at the Handheld Learning Conference at the Barbican -Oct13th-15th).
But back to the micro laptops:
The OLPC certainly scores well on its durable/rugged build allowing it to be proof against rain and being dropped (both use solid state flash drives) - it also scores well on its battery life ( the screen can be viewed without back light allowing even further battery saving) and can even be hand charged if necessary. On software it is certainly well targeted towards the 7-11 age range, I was particularly impressed by the Squeak E-Toys programming software and the range of music software.
above- Squeak Etoys screen
A winner also for the OLPC is its sharing ability. It is able to seek out and show visually on screen where other OLPC's are that are in range, these machines can then talk to each other and pupils and teachers can share files and work collaboratively on projects.
* The give one get one initiative in the US meant that everyone who bought one knew that an OLPC was being donated to a child who had previously never had a laptop/computer in a developing country.
How does the Eeepc900 shape up against the OLPC, it shares the Linux operating system - though you can get an Eeepc and OLPC with Windows if you really want to - which takes up more memory and I guess will operate more slowly, a bit of a no brainer! I have seen it working with Ubuntu as the operating system. It also uses entirely Open Source software( see my previous post on the 900) This device is aimed at slightly older kids than the OLPC- it is for the generation who store thier work on GoogleDocs and need The Periodic Table, Planetarium and the maths and science software - my guess is from 12-99 ( certainly includes this 50 year old!!!). Screen size compares well with the OLPC, screen resolution seems a bit sharper on the Asus ( although it cannot operate with the back lighting off), battery life is an issue and I plan to run it from 100% out to see how it matches up to Asus's claimed 3.5 hours. ( the Asus was tested by listening to the latest EdTechRoundup podcast (episode 5) on VLE's in education and streaming Internet radio(BBC radio 4 of course!) both using a wireless connection and trying to prevent the screen going into sleep mode, the result starting at 9am was that the Asus finally auto shutdown with a dead battery at 11.53am - giving me 2hours and 53 mins battery life from a full overnight charge)The Asus is aimed more at being that device you will carry in your bag in order to keep up with emails and post blogs and photographs onto the Internet from an increasing amount of free wi-fi spots. In other words the Eeepc is much more of a personal notebook than an education tool.
Both are very impressive, and I must admit that even though the price point of the Eeepc takes it very close to low end laptops - the sheer ease of carrying it around more than makes up for its limitations.
There are more of these notebooks coming to the market (Elonex One - oooh ugly!!!) this niche will as if it hasn't already become a very competitive area of the market place and the OLPC and Asus Eeepc family certainly have a great head start on the competition.
I guess it's all in the timing, just as we report on the OLPC and ASUS, out come OLPC with their version2, which certainly looks very slick in these pictures from the Techcrunch report ( A striking E book and a step in the right direction). It certainly looks the part with 2 touch sensitive screens one of which can operate as a keyboard for normal use or as a additional screen for paired work. The new device seems aimed at being a genuine E book, view here the video of the release of the OLPC2.0
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