Design factor was a priority from the start: the laptop could not be big, heavy, fragile, ugly, dangerous, or dull. Another imperative was visual distinction. In part, the goal is to strongly appeal to XO's intended users; but the machine's distinctive appearance is also meant to discourage gray-market traffic. There is no mistaking what it is and for whom it is intended.
XO is about the size of a textbook and lighter than a lunchbox. Thanks to its flexible design and “transformer” hinge, the laptop easily assumes any of several configurations: standard laptop use, e-book reading, and gaming.
The laptop has rounded edges. The integrated handle is kid-sized, as is the sealed, rubber-membrane keyboard. The novel, dual-mode, extra-wide touchpad supports pointing, as well as drawing and writing.
XO is fully compliant with the European Union's RoHS Directive. It contains no hazardous materials. Its LiFePO4 or NiMH batteries contain no toxic heavy metals, plus it features enhanced battery management for an extended recharge-cycle lifetime. It will also tolerate alternate power-charging sources, such as car batteries.
In addition, —for use at home and where power is not available—the XO can be solar or foot powered. It will come with at least two of three options: a crank, a pedal, or a pull-cord. It is also possible that children could have a second battery for group charging at school while they are using their laptop in class.
Experience shows that laptop components most likely to fail are the hard drive and internal connectors. Therefore, XO has no hard drive to crash and only two internal cables. For added robustness, the machine's plastic walls are 2mm thick, as opposed to the standard 1.3mm. Its mesh network antennas, which far outperform the typical laptop, double as external covers for the USB ports, which are protected internally as well. The display is also cushioned by internal “bumpers.”
The estimated product lifetime is at least five years. To help ensure such durability, the machines are being subjected to factory testing to destruction, as well as in situ field testing by children.