'$100 laptop' consumer launch rumours denied

'$100 laptop' consumer launch rumours denied

Summary: Nicholas Negroponte quashes speculation that XO laptops may soon be available on eBay, but hints that 'commercial schemes' may come next year

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TOPICS: Hardware
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The organisation working on a low-cost laptop for developing-world education has rushed to deny speculation that the machines may become generally available to the public, following news reports earlier this week.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC), headed by MIT Labs' Nicholas Negroponte, insisted suggestions that the XO laptop would be sold through eBay, to anyone who was willing to pay for a second machine for third-world countries, were untrue.

"Contrary to recent reports, One Laptop per Child is not planning a consumer version of its current XO laptop, designed for the poorest and most remote children in the world. XO will be made available to governments in very large quantities to be given to all children free, as part of the education system," said Negroponte in a statement issued on Wednesday.

However, the statement went on to add that many commercial schemes, such as "buy two and get one" have been considered and "may surface in 2008 or beyond". Negroponte also revealed that an OLPC Foundation would be launched later this month, "specifically to accommodate the huge goodwill and charity that has surfaced around the idea of a $100 laptop".

News organisations forced to retract their earlier reports included the BBC, which had to change the headline on its $100 laptop story from "Public can buy $100 laptop" to "$100 laptop could sell to public".

The notion that the laptops would be made generally available clashed with Negroponte's previous statements, which had suggested that exclusivity to the developing-world educational sector was essential to stopping the machines ending up on the "grey market". This approach was compared to that of the US Postal Service, which has never had one of its trucks stolen due to the social unacceptability of doing so.

OLPC aims to produce the XO laptop for under $100 (£52), although current designs have production costs at around $150 (£77) per machine.

Topic: Hardware

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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3 comments
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  • Lost Opportunity

    I would have thought that it would be a good idea to distribute the OLPC through the likes of Toy'R'us to generate additional funds and reduce unit costs from the higher turnover. Young children would surely benefit from having such a computer and it would make an ideal Christmas or Birthday present as well.
    The Former Moley
  • True, but...

    ... here's still that thorny problem of the grey market. And let's not kid ourselves, with some of the countries where these laptops are going, getting them to the kids is going to be a hurdle in itself. Once that's happened, stopping the parents from selling the laptops for food - not an unreasonable thought for them to have - would be an even bigger hurdle.

    So, any venture into the commercial market in the developed world - where, let's be honest, a lot of people can afford to buy kids a developed-world laptop - would have to be extremely carefully managed to avoid making it OK to be seen with an XO laptop. One solution that has been suggested has been to make the commercial version a different colour.

    Of course, the other problem with XO laptops in the developed world is that, if you want to use it as an internet terminal, it remains to be seen how well it would cope with the bandwidth-hungry web apps the nippers would want to access. Remember, these things are being designed for classrooms in rural areas with questionable infrastructures, not YouTube and Second Life!
    David Meyer
  • XO Laptop to public

    What better way than to sell some to the public to get some funds to off set the 'free' ones to children in the third world countries? PSION sold a solid state computer years ago the MC400, not every one wants a power hungry PC some times you just want a machine to type on. What better machine to carry on an around the world trip for instance?
    Mucklegipe