OLPC laptop to be sold to the public

The One Laptop Per Child project’s XO laptop is designed primarily to be an ultra-low-cost machine for schoolchildren in developing countries, but according to a report by BBC News, the system will also become available to the general public. The machine will go on sale next year, some time after the first five million units hit countries like Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Thailand this summer.

The laptop will cost $150 at first, and its price will go down to $100 eventually. However, members of the public buying the system will have to pay double the price, which will allow one extra XO laptop to make it to the developing world. The system might not show at Best Buy or Newegg; OLPC chief connectivity officer Michalis Bletsas told BBC News that the OLPC project wants to minimize supply chain cost, and he added, “We’re discussing it with our partner eBay.” Interestingly, the OLPC folks want to connect buyers of XO systems with children in the third world to whom they’ll effectively be giving a free laptop. “[They] will get the e-mail address of the kid in the developing world that they have, in effect, sponsored.”

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    • zqw
    • 12 years ago

    I got to try an OLPC at siggraph. The hardware and concept are impressive, but the keyboard was unusuable for me. Maybe for my kids …if OLPCs were actually for sale that is.

    • fyo
    • 13 years ago

    I wouldn’t mind one of these right now. However, for me personally, the current (model X0) configuration hits right between two uses. I’d rather pay a bit more for a beefier solution or a bit less for a slimmed down version:

    Slimmed down version:
    Same base hardware configuration, but locked in “tablet” mode and with the extra plastic removed from the case (e.g. the handles). Removing plastic plus the swivel-joint should save a bit on production costs, although not much, and allow a much “leaner” look.

    Beefy solution:
    More memory (maybe 512MB, as opposed to the 128MB in the X0).
    Faster processor. The current one is a K6-ish processor at 366MHz, with integrated 2D graphics. The same chip is also available in 400MHz, but that’s not much faster. More enticing is the GeodeLX-series, which features twice the L1 (32kB/32kB), a random number generator (security) and a DDR memory controller (according the the laptop.org wiki (offcial olpc site), the X0 uses the GeodeGX-533, which only has a SD memory controller according to AMD’s datasheet, but the wiki claims 266MHz DDR. Not sure which is correct. The LX is available up to 500MHz with only marginally higher power draw.
    Form factor: I’d still love to lose the handles.

    AMD makes a GeodeNX-series as well, which is based on the K7 architecture (and is thus much faster), but that would require a complete redesign – so that’s not at all feasible. Among other things, it would require a seperate graphics chip and a complete “socket A” type motherboard.

    I remember reading at one point that the OLPC hardware design was free (both the beer and speech kind) and that they even encouraged others to copy and develop it. I may have been mislead, though, since I haven’t read anything about it for a long time. Anyone know?

      • wierdo
      • 13 years ago

      I don’t think it’s gonna be available for us to begin with. See post 21.

        • fyo
        • 13 years ago

        I know. I read Ars ;-). The point is, if the design is FREE (as in beer AND speech), anyone could start up a production of olpc-type systems and sell them in the west. Design changes could be made, or not, per market demands.

        I hope this is the case – and I believe I read something along those lines a long time ago when the project was in its infancy, but I don’t know if that is in fact the case now.

    • wierdo
    • 13 years ago

    Sorry to disappoint but…

    §[<http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070110-8593.html<]§

    • Delphis
    • 13 years ago

    That’s a nice idea .. you can buy a laptop and sponsor someone else less fortunate …

    .. then you’ll be their tech support since they have your email address and know you have the same machine as them 😉

      • wierdo
      • 13 years ago

      (oops wrong thread)

    • Shining Arcanine
    • 13 years ago

    This was a good idea by the people running this project. Now economics of scale will allow the price to be lowered to $100 like originally planned.

    • albundy
    • 13 years ago

    thats all nice and dandy, but how are the 3rd world people going to receive the email without an internet connection?

    • IntelMole
    • 13 years ago

    I can see a definite market for this as, say, an Internet machine etc etc.

    Selling lots of these to the public would also mean that they could hopefully make it cheaper to manufacture. So everyone’s happy.

    • DreadCthulhu
    • 13 years ago

    $300 seems like to much for such a limited device, unless you are really in a charitable mood – my $400 Wallyworld special laptop has a 15.4″ screen, a Sempron 3300, 512 MB RAM, and a 60 GB HD.

      • stmok
      • 13 years ago

      Can your “$400 Wallyworld special laptop” withstand the harsh environment of a child in a developing country? Dust ingestion? High operating temps?

      Will it survive if its accidently dropped repeatedly by kids?

      Is it able to fulfill the low electrical requirements of developing countries?

      Can it look for other OLPCs to form a wireless mesh network?

      The OLPC uses a trimmed down version of Linux, your solution uses a bloated Windows install. (Which further adds to the cost of the system)

      Dude, get off your high horse. You’re comparing apples and oranges.

      Have a look at the design goals of your laptop vs OLPC, maybe then you’d come up with a more thoughtful comment.

      BTW, you aren’t buying one OLPC. You are paying $300 for two. One goes to you, and the other goes to a kid in a developing country that is involved in the OLPC program.

      My point is, it was never designed to be a performance system. Its supposed to be an affordable rugged solution for kids in developing nations. Not for the average Jane/Joe user in a developed nation.

        • Tupuli
        • 13 years ago

        q[< Its supposed to be an affordable rugged solution for kids in developing nations. Not for the average Jane/Joe user in a developed nation.<]q Perhaps this is exactly what DreadCthulhu meant? This article is about selling OLPC computers to "the average Jane/Joe user in a developed nation".

          • DreadCthulhu
          • 13 years ago

          That is pretty much what I meant. For $100-$150, this is not a bad little machine, and for helping out kids in developing nations this laptop fits the bill; for that matter, schools in first world nation might want to look into purchasing these (at the $100-$150 price.)

          However, at $300, it makes no sense to buy one of these, unless you are doing it for the charity portion. No high horse, I am just not that charitable of a person.

            • bhtooefr
            • 13 years ago

            The ruggedized part helps, though.

            Your $400 Wal-Mart special will be a LOT less ruggedized.

    • setbit
    • 13 years ago

    Well it’s happened yet again: some reporter takes a quote out of context and — presumably by accident — ends up more or less fabricating a news item. Tech Report and others repost the non-news with further speculation and errors. Meanwhile, Ars Technica actually /[http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070110-8593.html<]§ Bottom line: there are no solid plans for a commercially available OLPC yet, although there certainly might be in the future. Update: Opon further reflection, I was unnecessarily snide in the way I phrased that. Permit me to try again. "I think Tech Report's news posts could be vastly improved by applying some healthy skepticism and /[

      • Ragnar Dan
      • 13 years ago

      If TR did as you wished, all those AMD PR pieces on the front page might disappear, too.

      • alex666
      • 13 years ago

      TR mostly refers readers to other sites. It does not appear to have much in the way of direct reporters. That said, yes, they should be careful, but they seem to get it right 99% of the time, and this one looks like an honest error as it was misreported by the original source.

    • Hattig
    • 13 years ago

    It’s a nice device but I don’t pay $300 for nice devices. I’d put down $200 possibly because the device has a lot going for it. Maybe $300 if they boosted the spec a little – 2GB flash, 500MHz CPU, more tactile keyboard. However you are now getting close to the price of a low-end laptop – although they’re not completely comparable (an OLPC is hopefully a general system you can have lying around for many years and won’t break because it will be built robustly).

    #1 there is apparently a strange pull-cord Yo-Yo style recharging mechanism that can generate 10W – i.e., 10 minutes of recharging will give you 30 minutes of use. Obviously it has a battery built in to get recharged!

      • HardcoreTech
      • 13 years ago

      Thanks Hattig. I know there is a battery but I was actually thinking of another way to recharge it, say with solar power. I know solar panels are not cheap (more than the notebook) but a lot of these intended countries are near the equator and have a lot of sunny days and could share the solar panel. Just wild speculation.

    • eitje
    • 13 years ago

    :S

    how do the people in the 3rd world feel about getting emails from people in the US?

      • bthylafh
      • 13 years ago

      <insert 419 joke here>

      • Sahrin
      • 13 years ago

      Hi! I’m from America, and I need your help! I have 20,000 wicker baskets that were handmade by slave children in a vault in America. I need to borrow just 1,000 wicker baskets from you, to deposit them into the wicker basket repository, and then I will be able to get my 20,000 wicker baskets handmade by slave children out of the vault. I just need your wicker basket manufacturing ID number…

        • indeego
        • 13 years ago

        Post of the dayg{<.<}g

        • IntelMole
        • 13 years ago

        I think that’s my post of the year so far.

        Good going Sahrin.

    • HardcoreTech
    • 13 years ago

    Seems like a noble cause but most people in USA would not use them much except maybe give one to a small child to learn (play) with. I am all for spreading technology and communications. Do they still have a hand crank or some type of easy to recharge battery?

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