Neonode has just put out a press release announcing that they have a new partner. OLPC, the parent organization that works to get educational laptops into third world schools, is going to release a new device that uses the Neonode’s touchscreen technology.
The zForce IR touchscreen can currently be found in most touchscreen equipped ereaders, including Nook, Kindle, and Kobo, and if and when the bugs are worked out of the design OLPC will distribute the XO Touch, whose 7.5″ Pixel Qi screen will also use zForce touchscreen.
At first glance this looks like OLPC is still not anywhere near ready to produce their XO-3 tablet, which would render today’s news more irritating than interesting (hype annoys me sometimes). But a close reading of the press release suggests that OLPC and Neonode had signed a deal to add the zForce touchscreen to the XO-1.75, the existing model laptop. (Not all the blogs covering this story read the press release closely enough.)
Now that is interesting. They’re talking about taking the XO-1.75 laptop, which is running on a Marvell designed system board, and turning it into a tablet convertible. (BTW, there’s a hidden benefit here for Marvell; they’re going to get all this design experience with Neonode’s tech while on someone else’s dime.) That makes this more of a retrofit to a current design than a new device, but then again so was the XO-1.75.
There’s no word today on when the XO-1.75 Touch will leave the factory; given OLPC’s past hardware roll outs I would not expect to see it in less than a year. That’s a pity, because this hardware revision could really have benefited students. I also think it’s long overdue; Neonode’s touchscreen tech has been around since 2010, and given the clear and growing value of a touchscreen this is a move that OLPC should have made long ago.
I really think that the XO-1.75 should have been launched with a touchscreen when it was first unveiled at CES 2011; now it’s going to have to go through certification again.