UK's Elonex releases £99 OLPC rival

The PC maker claims its Linux-based notebook will help close the digital divide while fighting Microsoft's operating system 'monopoly'

PC maker and services company Elonex is to launch a £99 laptop aimed at students, at an upcoming educational conference.

The British manufacturer will unveil the "One" laptop at The Education Show, which is to be held in Birmingham from 28 February to 1 March. According to Elonex, the Linux-based laptop will boast a three-hour battery life, Wi-Fi, a flash-based hard drive, a "hard-wearing case" and a "wireless music server", and will weigh less than one kilogram. However, the company has refused to release any hard specifications for the device ahead of the show.

"The One removes the cost barrier that has prevented the one-laptop-per-person, large-scale uptake of computers in the education system that has for so long been just a pipe dream," said Sam Goult, Elonex's marketing manager, in a statement last week. "Investment in digital technology is paramount to help the next generation achieve their full potential."

Speaking to on Monday, an Elonex spokesperson justified the company's reluctance to reveal hard specifications by claiming that "the main thrust of the whole One project is not really about the specs — the most important thing about it is it [costs] £100".

Referring to the device's use of Linux, the spokesperson said that — aside from the fact that avoiding Windows brings down the cost of the laptop — the decision was influenced by government guidelines that encourage a "move away from the monopoly Microsoft has".

According to Elonex, the One laptop "fits in line with the goal of the [Department for Children, Schools and Families] to close the gap between those from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers". To this end, for every 100 laptops sold, the company will donate one of the devices to underprivileged children.

The One laptop is not the first low-cost laptop to be aimed at the educational market — the One Laptop per Child project's XO device, Asus's Eee PC and Intel's Classmate PC all fit the same bill. But, so far, the Elonex machine looks to be the cheapest option for UK customers, due in part to the lack of local pricing from the other vendors.

Elonex claims its £99, Linux-based laptop removes the cost barrier to large-scale uptake of computers in the education system