The One Laptop per Child organisation has pencilled in October for the launch of its ruggedised device, the XO, and has orders for three million machines already.
The laptop will be manufactured in Shanghai by Quanta. The production line will be turned on in August for testing procedures, and the first mass-produced laptops for use in schools will be made in October.
The XO laptop, which OLPC plans to sell eventually for US$100 per machine, is designed to improve the educational opportunities of children in the developing world. The costs of manufacture are currently estimated by OLPC as US$175 per laptop.
"Next year we should have a cost-reduced version," said OLPC's chief technology officer Mary Lou Jensen. "We're trying to take innovation in electronics, drive costs down and not use bloated software. This is the opposite of what the PC industry does traditionally."
The laptops have been designed to withstand extremes of heat and moisture, and to be energy efficient in harsh environments. The screen, which OLPC claims is bright enough to read in sunlight, stays on while the rest of the motherboard turns off, saving energy. Laptop batteries can be recharged using a rip cord, a crank, a pedal, a car battery, or solar panels -- in fact, anything that can produce between 10 and 20 volts of electricity, Jensen said.
The organisation has no immediate plans to begin commercial production or licensing of its technologies, although it has been approached by major electronics manufacturers, according to Jensen.
OLPC says it has received orders for three million machines, but it refused to say which countries were involved.
The Sugar open-source operating system used on the laptops still has some minor bugs, according to Jensen. "Firefox got better and better after it was released. There's always bugs in any operating system," said Jensen, "but the software is running just fine."
OLPC last week added Intel to its board. The organisation plans to continue to use AMD processors in its laptops, but it is currently "working with Intel to figure out how to create complementary product lines," Jensen said.
Tom Espiner reported for ZDNet UK from London