Talks under way to put Intel inside OLPC's $100 notebook

Talks are underway to put an Intel processor inside a future version of the OLPC's low-cost laptop for emerging markets.

Discussions are under way to put an Intel microprocessor inside a version of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project's "$100 laptop" for children in developing countries, according to representatives from both parties.

"Intel, like a lot of other people, is more than welcome to try to design great silicon for this project and this mission, and we've been working with them to help them do exactly that," said Walter Bender, OLPC's president, in a telephone interview.

Despite its nickname, the OLPC's lime-green XO laptop actually costs US$175. The first version of the machine runs on Advanced Micro Devices's 433MHz Geode LX-700, an x86-architecture chip that is slow by the standard of mainstream processors but consumes little power and costs less.

OLPC is close to starting production of the XO. The group has already gone through four generations of test systems to refine the laptop's design. A production run of 300 machines was completed in August, a final preparatory step before the XO goes into mass production later this month or in early October.

While OLPC has yet to decide whether or not to use Intel processors, Intel confirmed its engineers are developing a motherboard based on one of its chips for an OLPC laptop. That process required the engineers to start from scratch, since the current XO design isn't based on Intel's chips.

"It requires a new design, a new product," said Leighton Phillips, the manager of Intel's World Ahead Program in Asia.

The design, which Intel plans to submit for OLPC's consideration, will be based on either existing mobile chips, such as modified versions of the Celeron M called A100 and A110, or Silverthorne, an upcoming processor designed for small, mobile computers.

The dual-core Silverthorne processor will be made using a 45-nanometer production process and will be available early next year in different versions.

Silverthorne's main advantages are lower power consumption and size. The chips are so small that Intel can fit 2,500 of them on a single 300-millimeter silicon wafer, helping to keep unit production costs low enough for them to be used in handheld devices and low-cost computers.

Whether Silverthorne is cheap enough to be used in laptops like the XO remains to be seen. "We're looking at ways to get there," Phillips said.

If an Intel chip ends up inside an OLPC laptop, the laptop may be different from the existing XO design. That laptop was designed for use in harsh, rural environments with lots of dust and high humidity, but OLPC wants to develop laptops for use in urban areas where better infrastructure is available.

"I can imagine there will be a family of laptops in terms of processor power and maybe there will be a larger form factor for older kids," Bender said.

The discussions over an Intel-based laptop are part of wider talks on how Intel and OLPC can cooperate on technology and product development. Those talks started in July after Intel and OLPC signed an agreement that, among other things, gave Intel a seat on the group's board and prevents the two sides from disparaging each others' products.

Besides putting an Intel processor inside a future OLPC laptop, the talks could see some of the technology developed by OLPC find its way into Intel's hands. For example, the chip maker is interested in the low-power screen technology developed by OLPC.

Offering an OLPC laptop with an Intel processor doesn't mean the group will stop using AMD's chips, Bender said. "The Geode's been very easy to work with and hasn't been a limiting factor whatsoever," he said.

As part of OLPC's desire to offer systems based on different processors, the group is looking to work with other vendors, in addition to Intel. One such company is Marvell Technology Group, which could see its Xscale processors, which the company acquired from Intel in 2006, also end up in future OLPC laptops, Bender said.

"We want to have lots of choices, lots of people doing this, because there are lots of kids and lots of need," he said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sumner Lemon

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?