The $100 device has nearly all the functionality of a modest, general purpose laptop computer: 7.5" full-color transmissive screen, stereo speakers, full-size keyboard, touchpad, 128 MB RAM, 500MHz AMD processor, and USB and Wi-Fi communications. The wireless mesh network capability is key to the device, because it benefits greatly from shared data and applications. The operating system is a Linux distribution carefully tuned to the device, removing bloat which makes today's 3GHz business machines perform common tasks more slowly than 500MHz machines did five years ago. The free, open-source software available includes a web browser, VOIP and IM, e-book reader, Microsoft compatible office suite, graphics editor and educational software, as well as software development tools. Its greatest disadvantage compared to typical office laptops is its local storage; it uses a 1 GB flash drive for permanent storage instead of a hard drive, in order to add durability and to reduce power consumption and cost.
Its display, in contrast, surpasses today's laptops in key respects. Its new technology is not only less expensive and more durable, but it can operate in a very low power mode, and, most importantly, is visible in a lighting range from nighttime darkness to the sunlight of high noon.
Rugged engineering is also critical. A rubberized case and keyboard cover keep out moisture and dust. The two points of most common failure are addressed by eliminating the hard drive and replacing the display with new technology. Key internal components are designed to be particularly easy to replace.
Another key feature is power generation as well as low power consumption. The display, storage and processor are key to frugal energy consumption. While the device can be powered by external electricity, it also contains its own hand-cranked power supply. Each minute of cranking supplies electricity to operate the computer for ten minutes. The internal crank cylinder can be removed and replaced with conventional C or D cell batteries. The device might also charge its electrical supply with "parasitic power" by converting keypresses into electricity.
The design of the device is being coordinated by Design Continuum, an international brand, design and strategy firm with a Boston office. New York's Museum of Modern Art is also providing parallel, long-range design expertise from thirteen influential designers under the leadership of Rebecca Allen, professor in the UCLA Department of Design and former Media Lab Europe scientist.