"One Laptop Per Child" Gets Green Light

The ambitious drive to put a low-cost computer into the hands of as many of the world's low-income children as possible has entered the production phase. Often mistakenly referred to as the "$100 laptop" project, the managers of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization said yesterday that they had given the signal to ramp-up production of all the components needed to build millions of the devices. A spokesperson for the group told the BBC news service on Sunday that production activities had gotten underway toward a goal of getting the units, known as the XO computer, out to children by this October.

"There's still some software to write, but this is a big step for us," Walter Bender, head of software development at OLPC, told the BBC. He declined to name the country of destination for the initial shipment.

Manufacturing the millions of XO units needed to justify the production run will be handled by Quanta, of Taiwan, the world's largest laptop manufacturer.

"This is the moment we have all been waiting for," Gustavo Arenas of AMD Corp. told the BBC. "We certainly believe very strongly in the mission and vision of OLPC, so finally starting to see it come to fruition is not only gratifying, it is also rewarding."

OLPC organizers have stated that the cost of producing the first units will be US $176. From there, the organization hopes to reach economies of scale that will reduce the cost to the countries that purchase them down to the $100 level.

A running account on the OLPC site updates developments in getting the last details worked out in the Beta 4 (B4) version of the XO prior to a full deployment.

Only ten days ago, Intel Corp. said it would join the OLPC board of directors to help promote the project with expertise gathered from its own low-cost laptop for students in the developing world, called the Classmate PC -- even though the XO runs on chips supplied by its rival, AMD.

"Joining OLPC is a further example of our commitment to education over the last 20 years and our belief in the role of technology in bringing the opportunities of the 21st century to children around the world," said Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel.

The compromise on the part of Intel, joined with successful beta test results, may have been the sign that convinced the leaders of the OLPC project to move forward with the launch of the XO.

Good luck to all concerned.

[Editor's Note: For more on the One Laptop Per Child project, see "The Laptop Crusade" by Senior Editor Tekla S. Perry in our April 2007 issue.]

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