The Globe and Mail has solid coverage of this change of direction for the project. The base device, a tablet in the works by Marvell, is already at the right price point. It solves some of the problems of the original XO, reducing the moving parts by eliminating the keyboard and simultaneously eliminating the need to properly localize the key caps. I wonder at how well touch screens will fair in the developing world, though. Can they be ruggedized cheaply without losing functionality, the same way a keyboard can?
Negroponte is looking to unveil the next XO in January, an ambitious deadline. He didn’t mention much about the software other than the desire to use Linux and ruling out Windows 7 altogether. His reasons make sense being entirely practical, that Windows requires too much power. If he uses an existing OS, like Android, what exactly will make it an OLPC device? I suppose we’ll have to wait until January to see whether the prototype will sport Sugar or something else altogether.
What I think is safe to say is that a new manufacturing partner isn’t going to solve the infrastructure problems that plagued the original XO. I’d be more excited about this story if we’d seen more constructive responses to the economic questions around original OLPC laptop and its deployment. I would hope the OLPC project would re-focus on unresolved issues that are more critical than what the next device will be.