Kindle vs. OX

If you were looking for a new gadget to get this holiday season and were ready to spend, let say, $400, what would you get a Kindle from Amazon or OX from the OLPC program? I’d like to argue for the second option. If you are to spend $400, I think it makes more sense to spend it on the OX computer and I will try to explain why.

I feel a little bit overwhelmed by the massive marketing machine Amazon put in place to push its new device. For me it started from some random news reports a while ago, moved into a massive and uber-optimistic article in Newsweek, and continued with this thing stuck on every corner of Amazon website and some flashbacks in the blogosphere. Frankly, i still cannot understand what is so revolutionary about this device.

Of course there are some neat solutions in Kindle. Although it is not really new, the use of ePaper sounds promising for the ease of reading from screen. The fact that you can quickly buy a book and have a copy of it stored at Amazon in case you loose the device, also sounds nice (though the dependency on Amazon’s eternal existence is a bit scary and i doubt the dominance of impulsive online purchase when it comes to books, but I may be wrong with the last point). The ability to have many books on a single device is also appealing as well as the idea of semi-dynamic content (i.e. subscription to newspapers and magazines to be delivered directly to your Kindle). So far, it all is nice, but nothing is really innovative. On the innovative side, I think the wireless solution they have is interesting (only I didn’t figure out how much you have to pay for the air time) and the fact that people can sell their own writing in a form of eBook sounds really great.

At the same, I still don’t understand why one would like a separate device just for reading books? Are you suggesting that today I need a laptop, a mobile phone, a PDA, and now also Kindle? Each one as a separate device? Why? Then, the format issue and the fact that you have to transfer all your eBooks to Amazon format seems to me as extremely annoying. Unless Amazon format will become the standard, such as PDF today, there is no logical explanation from a consumer point of view. However more important is the digital rights management (DRM) implemented in the device, thus taking from a user any ability to share, give, or recreate with the book they are buying from Amazon (for that matter you might want to watch a great lecture by Larry Lessig given at TED). This last part is completely frustrating and if anything, i think this may be the killer of Amazon format.

Now, if you look at XO, for the same $400 you are getting a laptop with quite advanced abilities. Starting with the con’s one could probably point at the size of the laptop (242mm × 228mm × 32mm) and its weight (about 1.5kg or 3.2 lb and up). However this would be the only disadvantage for someone who is counting on it as primarily a reading device. If we consider the main strength of Kindle for example, i.e. its screen, XO offers a similar experience (although it isn’t using eInk) as well as a color option. In addition to a great screen, you would get an open system with all the functionality of a laptop including WiFi capabilities, option to use PDFs, and actually have control over your music files, meaning that you can listen to audio-books from anywhere, not just Amazon (you can find the complete specs of XO here). I think these were the main points of complain against Kindle, something that together with the price tag drove its ratings on Amazon to 2.5 stars only. In addition you would get a durable build and a very long battery life together with a series of alternative energy solutions.

However this is not all.

One of the top reasons why I think you should consider XO (and not Kindle) for your $400 is not the fact that you are getting a better product for the same money for yourself, but the fact that by buying one, you are automatically contribute another one to a kid in developing country. In fact, the XO laptop costs only $200 and the rest of what you pay is a (tax deductible in the US) donation, which is going to sponsor the second laptop for that child in a village in Africa or elsewhere in the world. According to the recent updates the XO laptops are in demand and have been bought at a rate of ~5K a day since the beginning of “give 1, get 1” less than 2 weeks ago. Moreover, yesterday OLPC announced that they are extending the “give 1, get 1” until December 31st. So, there is now even more time to think and make the best use of your $400.

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7 Responses to “Kindle vs. OX”

  1. Karin Dalziel Says:

    I bought an OLPC myself, and I doubt I’ll get a Kindle (unless the price drops dramatically and they change their policy on transferring, storing, and viewing files.)

    Needless to say, I totally agree with your assessment. :)

  2. Dima Says:

    Thank you Karin for the comment! Could be great to hear your impressions from XO when you get it…

  3. Michael Byrne Says:

    I bought mine as well. XO laptop is a real deal. It beats Kindle anytime. In term of value, it’s on par with EEE pc. It has an outstanding charitable mission. This is one time I feel good spending money.

  4. Guy Dickinson Says:

    Couldn’t agree more – I think the marketing problem for the OLPC is that by the time they start appearing in blogger’s hands and get breathless reviews of the screen quality etc, the purchase program will have ended!

  5. Ian Howard Says:

    Hi Dima, thanks for your comments on my post. I certainly agree with your notes, my impression of Kingo is that it really is an early adopter gadget – that amazon is trying out this new concept, even though the technology is not yet mature. I saw one of these e-Book devices earlier this year and I was certainly impressed — the cost needs to come down, usability needs to come up and I am most reticent about the proprietary nature of this particular solution — that limits its potential. Great post.

    Ian

  6. Ian Howard Says:

    Hi Dima,

    Interesting post. I certainly think that there is little contest today, between the XO and the kindle in the US market. The XO offers much more in a country where wifi is available in most cafes, airports etc. The “give-one” part of this is a bit abstract, like Plan programs for giving cows to families, but it is a good marketing trick. This said I think the engineering of the XO is a huge leap forward and that building a device that is suited for this huge and forgotten BOP market is stupendous. I think that this endeavour is a great effort for addressing the need for ICTs in the developing world, and will spurn much development of a new model of computing, though I do think that the project is too Utopian in some ways… its potential is big, but still limited. There is much work that needs to be done that a laptop cannot solve. But, I too will have one for myself in a few days…

    Cheers!

    Ian

  7. Dima Says:

    Michael,

    Thank you for your comment. It would be great to hear about your experience with OX, particularly if you have a chance to compare it with EEE.

    Guy,

    I don’t know if you heard, but right now the program is extended until December 31. I know it is the holiday season, but i hope the delivery won’t be that bad…

    Ian,

    Sorry you had to post twice. Because of spam, the system is set in a way that your first post has to be manually approved. Once this happens, all you later posts are automatically approved.

    Thank you for the comment!. I share your careful optimism, and of course laptop itself won’t solve any problems. The hardware, as challenging as it is (and it is!), is probably the easiest step. Building human capacity would be the real challenge.

    As to your point about marketing, you are right, it is a smart move. However, i think the motivation for this move is contrary to what it seems to me you are assuming. XO was not designed to be sold in developed countries and originally was not supposed to be available here. It was only after the project failed distributing it via centralized channels (governments). OLPC came up with the G1G1 initiative.

    Would be great to hear about your experiences with OX.

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