A partnership has been announced that aims to give schoolchildren throughout the globe easier access to powerful tablet computer technology. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and the Marvell Technology Group have joined forces to create a family of educational tablets based on OLPC's OX-3 and Marvell's Moby reference designs. The coalition is aiming to show off its first product at next year's CES.

One Laptop Per Child and the Marvell Technology Group share a common aim - to give children the power to learn, create, connect and collaborate using modern computer technology. Efforts by OLPC have been aimed squarely at the needs of the developing world and Marvell's sights have been set on the U.S. education system, having recently set up the Mobylize project with the express purpose of encouraging the adoption of technology in American classrooms.

Two heads are better than one

The coming together of the two concerns is a natural progression to a relationship that has seen Marvell supplying wireless chips for OLPC's XO-1 model and being represented on its board. The cooperative project aims to create a family of educational tablet computers, some of which will be OLPC machines targeted at the developing world and some headed for U.S. classrooms. The first collaborative effort will likely be based on Marvell's Moby design and has been earmarked for a showing at next year's CES.

According to co-founder Weili Dai, the intention is to bring all the benefits of Marvell's technology "including live content, high quality video (1080p full-HD encode and decode), high performance 3D graphics, Flash 10 Internet and two-way teleconferencing" to a tablet costing no more than US$100.

Marvell's current Moby tablet platform (a version of which is being piloted in "at-risk" schools in the Washington area) runs on a 1GHz ARMADA 610 application processor which offers high performance with low power consumption and has 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS, as well as the aforementioned high definition 3D graphics and integrated webcam.

Learning and sharing

The new project will see the creation of "hardware and software to deliver a platform that will enable educators, students and families around the world to create their own content, and learn to read, write, and create their own education programs and share all of these experiences via a mesh network model." Integral parts of the design are to make devices capable of running Android, Linux and Windows Mobile operating systems (although machines distributed by OLPC will likely be Linux-based with its Sugar & Gnome overlaying) and facilitate direct access to over two million free online books.

OLPC's chairman Dr. Nicholas Negroponte said: "While devices like eReaders and current tablets are terrific literary, media and entertainment platforms, they don't meet the needs of an educational model based on making things, versus just consuming them. Today's learning environments require robust platforms for computation, content creation and experimentation - and all that at a very low cost. Through our partnership with Marvell, OLPC will continue our focus on designing computers that enable children in the developing world to learn through collaboration, as well as providing connectivity to the world's body of knowledge."

OLPC has confirmed that the first device won't be based on the XO-3 design and may not even bear its name, although the XO-3 is still on track for release in 2012. The next OLPC release is said to an update to the XO-1 laptop, which will include a Marvell ARM-based motherboard.