'$100 laptop' consumer launch rumours denied

Nicholas Negroponte quashes speculation that XO laptops may soon be available on eBay, but hints that 'commercial schemes' may come next year
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

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.

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