One laptop per child costs $165 now

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has been showing off the next version of its famous laptops at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The outfit has slashed the price of its laptop to $165 and managed to cut its power consumption  by half.

OLPC was formed by professors at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in a bid to create a low-cost laptop for kids in poor countries. It originally wanted to do this for less than $100 but never quite managed it.

Edward McNierney, chief technology officer of OLPC, said that the price of the beast was less of a problem than power. The OLPC is shipping to places where the power supply is fairly irregular if it exists.

McNierney recharged the XO-1.75 with a hand crank. It takes 1 hour and 47 minutes to fully recharge the battery by hand. Which is not bad.

The XO-1.75, with its 8.9-inch touchscreen, will start shipping in the second quarter of this year and is the first OLPC laptop to use chips based on processor technology from ARM.

The previous XO used an x86-based microprocessor, the kind made by Intel, AMD and Via Technologies. But the ARM-based chips halved power consumption to just 2-watts.

The XO-1.75 laptop uses an 1GHz Armada 610 chip from Marvell Technology with ARM processing technology on board. The XO-3, which will come out in 2012 and use just one watt of power.

According to Computerworld, the new laptop takes a major step into the tablet era for OLPC, McNierney said. The group put the motherboard, behind the laptop screen, leaving the other half of the laptop for the keyboard and battery. The move simplifies the design so the next step can do away with the bottom half and end up with a tablet.

The XO-3 tablet will have the same screen size as Apple’s iPad, 9.7-inches, McNierney said.