XO - The $200 Laptop
I've read about the '$200 XO Laptop' that's being promoted by the One Laptop Per Child organization. I think it's great that these will be given to children in poor countries, but is it possible to buy an XO laptop for my own child?
Purchase an XO Laptop
Almost two years ago, I wrote about the One Laptop Per Child project. At the time, the goal was to produce fully functional $100 laptops for use by poor children in third-world countries. This admirable project has made quite a bit of progress, even though they had to adjust their price point for the XO Laptop upwards to $200.
And yes... you CAN purchase an XO Laptop for personal use, or to give as a holiday present this year. But your window of opportunity is limited. Starting on November 12, you can participate in OLPC's "Give 1 Get 1" program, which is expected to be open to people in North America for about two weeks only. The program allows you to purchase two XO laptops for US$399 -- one for you or your child, and one that will be sent to a child in a developing nation.
To participate in the "Give 1 Get 1" program, sign up at the XO Giving website, and you'll receive an email prior to the November 12 launch date.
What is the XO Laptop?The $200 XO Laptop, meant as an educational tool for the world's poorest children, is about the size of a textbook, light-weight, power-efficient, and durable. The distinctive green plastic shell has "ears" on both sides that serve as powerful wireless networking antennas.
Equipped with a 433 MHz AMD processor, one gigabyte of flash memory, and the Linux operating system, this machine is not meant for the geeks, gamers or go-getters in the commercial laptop market. But it's an amazing piece of technology that suits the needs of it target audience perfectly.
The 7.5-inch high-resolution LCD screen swivels like a tablet PC and can be viewed in bright sunlight. The built in wireless networking allows XO's to easily share information or an Internet connection. The efficient power design uses only 2 watts (30 times less than typical laptops) and the XO battery can be recharged with a hand-crank, pull-cord, pedal, solar panel, or car battery when no electricity source is available.
The built-in camera, microphone, speaker and touchpad are integrated into the intuitive visual operating system. And a software suite that includes a web browser, word processor, multimedia authoring, and programming tools, will empower children to learn and develop skills needed to compete in the information economy.
The XO: Tool or Toy?
But as I mentioned before, not everyone will want this machine. With its bright green and white motif, and wireless ears raised, it does look like a child's toy. The XO Laptop has no CD/DVD drives, and the kid-sized keyboard may not be well-suited to touch-typing adults. And perhaps the biggest stumbling block is that the XO currently cannot run Windows software. But OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte says the group has been working with Microsoft and that support for Windows will come at some point. Let's hope they can do so without doubling the price and piling on the bloatware.
It's worth mentioning that the XO does have some competition, albeit with a twist of irony. When One Laptop Per Child announced their program in 2005, Intel's Chairman Craig Barrett called the device a "gadget" and said it wouldn't meet the needs of poor children in third-world countries. His criticism just might have something to do with the fact that arch-rival AMD is the CPU supplier for the XO, and that Intel was faced with the prospect of having nothing to sell to a potential market of two billion people.
Nonetheless, Intel is now offering the Classmate PC, with pricing and specs that are very similar to the XO. The Classmate has a faster processor, but lacks the alternative power inputs that XO offers. This XO/Classmate comparison chart has more information on how the two machines stack up.
Any worthy cause will have detractors, and there are some who criticize OLPC for pushing technology over food and clean drinking water. But Negroponte sees education as the key to getting out of poverty, and the XO laptop as a tool to advance education by quantum leaps.
Would you buy an XO laptop? Do you think it's a good idea? Share your comments below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 30 Oct 2007
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