OLPC's "$100" XO laptop to go GOGO (and homophones)

Show me the money! It's Tuesday's IT Blogwatch: in which the One Laptop Per Child gang give in, allowing ordinary Joes to buy one. Not to mention the risks of medical treatment abroad...

Nancy Gohring (with fried egg) reports: [Stop making this silly joke -Ed.]

Some of the low-cost PCs designed by One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) for kids in the developing world will go to people in North America. That's the result of a program the group plans to launch on Monday that will let U.S. and Canadian residents pay $400 for one laptop to keep and one to give to a child in a developing nation.


The offer will start on Nov. 12 and run through Nov. 26 ... Mass production of the laptops is scheduled for October, with the first units landing in the hands of kids around the world in early November ... The initial run will generate 40,000 units and production will quickly double and triple that capacity to meet demand.


The original plan for the OLPC project was to create a laptop that would cost less than $100, but more recently the price has been pegged closer to $190. The $400 deal for two laptops includes some padding for the cost of sending one of the laptops to a remote location. [more]

Ted Samson tosses his flowing locks:

I've been following the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project for a while now, not only because I think it's a good cause, but also because I'm fascinated by the technology of the system, called the XO ... the goal of the OLPC project is to equip children in the developing world with rugged, low-cost laptop computers.


I'm impressed and encouraged by this system. It demonstrates that organizations can -- if they put their mind to it -- build inexpensive, eco-friendly systems if they're willing to devote time and resources to them. Whereas I'm pleased the OLPC will make the systems available to students in America and Canada, I'm ambivalent for a couple of reasons. First, it's for a limited time. Second, they'll cost $400; part of the money will go to buying a second system for a needy student abroad.

The thing is, there are undoubtedly needy students in the U.S. and Canada who would benefit from having a computer like the XO but can't readily afford a $400 price tag. Hopefully OLPC will give kids worldwide a chance to buy one of these systems -- or perhaps other vendors out there will be inspired to do something similar. [more]

James Sherwood says, "Hang on a minute":

The sales strategy is a direct contradiction to a statement made in January this year, when a representative from OLPC claimed that "contrary to previously published reports, OLPC has no plans to make the XO laptops available for sale to the general public"


[But] selling the XO laptop to consumers in the developed world could be a smart move for the OLPC project. The de facto donations of wealthy westerners could help lower the costs of machines destined for poorer countries, and will surely help spread the word about the project. And it'll also help the rest of use secure a cheapo laptop for the kids, just in time for Christmas, all in a good cause. [more]

Sam Churchill spills his guts:

At $400, the machine has a lot going for it.

  • A 400Mhz AMD Geode processor with 128MB of dynamic RAM, and 512MB of SLC NAND flash memory.
  • A 7.5-inch, 1200×900-pixel, TFT screen with higher resolution (200 DPI) than 95% of the laptops on the market today.
  • Consumes less than two watts—less than one tenth of what a standard laptop consumes
  • A video/still camera, three external USB-2.0 ports, plus an SD slot.
  • An open-source machine with free software.
  • Built in mic, with input jack, a powerful music synthesis software, stereo speakers, and a stereo line-out jack.
  • Built-in WiFi mesh networking, similar to the Meraki’s, that will support IEEE mesh standards. [more]

Wayan Vota has the backstory:

Today Nicholas Negroponte took a big bite of humble pie. He finally admitted that his grand plan to sell One Laptop Per Child to developing world governments through orders of at least one million XO laptops is a failure, that President's loving laptops doesn’t equal Ministers buying XO's: "I ... underestimated the difference between shaking the hand of a head of state and having a check written."


But rather than kick a man when he's down, I'd like to say "Thank you" to Dr. Negroponte. He's surprised me by actually admitting his mistake; I didn't think his expansive ego would've permitted it. In addition, he is trying to correct his mistake and save OLPC production. See, the OLPC USA sales plan shows failure in Negroponte led sales plan, not the overall idea. The developing world still wants XO laptops, and wants to buy "$100 laptops", just not in million-unit blocks with no maintenance plan.


Negroponte deserves credit for recognizing that developing world governments were not going to commit on his time or orders scale and changing his distribution method ... The Buy 2 Get 1 sales plan is Professor Negroponte's way to stimulate orders for his computers while simultaneously building up a war chest to self-finance his own "implementation miracle". [more]

John Naughton is more blunt:

It shows courage and flexibility on the part of Nicholas Negroponte and his team ... Most of these governments couldn’t run a bath, never mind execute a coherent, bold ICT strategy. So there was an urgent need for a Plan B.


My hunch is that the ‘buy two, donate one’ might just take off in a big way. First of all, it enables many people in the developed world to get their hands on what is a very neat device. Secondly, it ties neatly into the philanthropic instincts of many technophiles.


I love people who are big enough to change their minds in public. I’ve never shared the British media’s hysterical contempt for “U-Turns”. Often a U-turn is the only rational thing to do. Consistency — as Oscar Wilde said — is a puerile obsession. And, as Keynes famously retorted to a journalist who accused him of an about-face: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?” [more]

Here's nacturation with a question:

Why do kids need laptops? Is there some fundamental problem in teaching today that can only be solved with computers? [more]

Answered by Pantero Blanco:

Yes. Specifically, they need to know how to use computers. Most of the teachers don't really know how, and worse, most of them are certain that they do. The best way to teach them is to give them a simple one that isn't (readily) capable of playing flashy video games, music, and movies, but can be programmed.

This has to be done before they're thrown the high school "Computer 101" class where they're put through every circle of MS Office Hell. With very few exceptions, you can't start teaching someone to code in college; either they've already been doing it, or they'll never know how. The kids who took the Office classes in high school and think it made them computer savvy don't normally last past the first year in CS. [more]

Clearly, this great guy is impressed:

All the companies involved in this project are providing their best engineers: Marvell (who made the wireless chip) have their guys developing the firmware often directly according to the feedback they get from the kernel developers, Red Hat is providing plenty of sw engineers (including Marcelo Tosati, who was the 2.4 kernel maintainer!), AMD and Quanta are working on the hardware platform (recently they made efforts to track the power consumption of every single chip in the laptop), etc. This is just incredible how fast the teams are able to progress in such a cooperative environment. This is a sharp contrast with what happens too often in the ordinary Linux world where cooperation is sometimes difficult or inexistent (e.g. kernel developers unable to obtain hardware specs, or hardware vendors attempting to provide some crappy binary drivers without involving the kernel community, etc).

I certainly expect a very high quality product to come out of this project, both on the hardware level and software level. Every single piece of chip or software has been optimized and fine-tuned to make the whole platform work as best as it can. This is going to be one of the best Linux laptop ever made. [more]

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... Beware of homophones

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You too can pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon