A rugged low-cost laptop designed for kids in the developing world will soon be available to North Americans. For $400, they will net one computer to keep and one to give to a needy child.
The One Laptop Per Child project said Monday that it expects its "Give One, Get One" promotion to create a pool of thousands of donated laptops that will stimulate demand in countries hesitant to place mass orders with the program.
Buyers cannot direct their giveaway computer to the country of their choice, say media reports.
The "XO" laptops were designed by a non-profit organization launched in 2005 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Nicholas Negroponte. The green-and-white computers have extremely low electricity consumption, built-in wireless networking and a user interface designed for children.The screen also has settings for both indoor and outdoor use so it can be read in full sunlight.
Itbecame known as the"$100 laptop" project due tothe original estimated price, which has sinceclimbed to $188. OLPC spokesman George Snell said earlier in September that a variety of factors upped the price, including currency fluctuations and rising costs of such components as nickel and silicon.
Negroponte said he hopes the special promotion will encourage the open-source software community to create education content to support use of the XO laptop and to put more of them into the hands of schoolchildren in the developing world. The offer runs from Nov. 12 to 26.
His earlier predictions called for five million to 15 million laptops to be in production in 2006, with maybe 100 million out by now. He lowered his predictions over the past couple of years, with the first 250,000 to 300,000 due to be made by the end of this year.
While Negroponte said he expects numbers to increase to one million a month in 2008, he doesn't yet have signed orders for that many.
One reason things may have gone slower than predicted is that the project awoke commercial vendors to the promise of a low-cost international educational market. Now governments considering buying XOs for their schoolchildren have multiple options in the $200 range— including more conventional computers that can run Windows. Negroponte acknowledged the absence of Windows led Russia to say no.
The computers use free and open-source software and are being made by Taiwan's Quanta Computer, the world's leading manufacturer of portable computers.
Negroponte said he expects that they should soon be able to use Windows.But Microsoft Corp. insists it can't guarantee that, given the machine's idiosyncratic specs.