Production Starts For Low-Cost Laptops

One Laptop per Child, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, recently announced that notebook production for children in developing countries has already begun, marking a new era of low-cost computing for the PC industry. The global effort is intended to give some of the world's poorest children more educational opportunities.

Taiwan's Quanta Computer has already started the mass production of the new laptop, a lime-green and white XO computer, which began at a factory in Changshu, China. The laptop, which costs about $188, runs on free Linux software and is designed to be a learning tool. The new XO offers a child-friendly user interface as well as features that are specifically created for children in the emerging world. It also comes equipped with education-oriented tools, including a Web browser, a rich media player and an e-book reader.

The project is the vision of Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Negroponte, who founded the nonprofit group (OLPC) in 2005. So far, Negroponte has traveled around the world to meet with global leaders and make public appearances in an effort to propel the effort forward and garner support for the endeavor, according to OLPC's Website.

Negroponte said in September that Quanta plans to build about 250,000 XOs this year and eventually ramp up to 1 million a month sometime in 2008. OLPC has already announced plans to distribute the computers to children in Uruguay and Mongolia. It also intends to offer laptops to children in the U.S. and Canada through a holiday charity program that will cover the cost of providing a second machine to a child overseas.

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The project ushers in a new era of affordable technology as well as accessibility to the developing world, two milestones for the PC industry. It has also spurred the world-wide launch of a new class of low-cost computers intended for adults as well as children.

Intel has developed the Classmate PC, which it says costs $200 to build, for the education market in the developing world, according to Reuters. Pakistan's Allama Iqbal Open University ordered 700,000 of them, making the institution the Classmate's biggest customer thus far.

Taiwan's Asustek Computer also recently introduced a line of notebook computers, the Eee PCs, targeted to women and children, which sell for as little as $245 in some countries, Reuters reported.