XO - The $200 Laptop

Category: Laptops

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?

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...

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Most recent comments on "XO - The $200 Laptop"

Posted by:

Jason Wallwork
14 Nov 2007

Very cool! I don't think it looks like a toy and I'm usually the one that thinks Macs look like toys. I wrote these guys a while back when I first saw it a few months back asking if they'd be willing to send one for review or purchase. I hope they offer it again.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You can buy one NOW! See the link in the article for the "Give 1 Get 1" program.

Posted by:

19 Nov 2007

At present Australia is in the throes of a Federal Election, and the promise of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is to give every child attending private and public schools their very own computer until they complete their basic schooling.

Will have to wait until Saturday 24th November 2007 to see if this ambitious move can be attained

Posted by:

Harry Crane
25 Nov 2007

Update on computers for kids:
After winning the Federal Election on Saturday 24th November 2007, Australia's 9000 primary and secondary schools will be connected to the newer, faster broadband service and the new government (ALP) will also ensure that all of Australia's secondary students in years' 9 to 12 will have access to their own computer at school.

Posted by:

B Clyde
15 Dec 2007

How can a retired teacher help in this cause to provide learning tools to children in need? I would love to be a part of such a worthy goal.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Click the "Give 1 Get 1" link the article...

Posted by:

14 Apr 2008

I'm all for the cause, but I'm poor too, and I have three kids, that would benefit in this program. The problem is, I do not have $1200 to buy them, and poor kids from other countries, these laptops. So I guess we'll stick to going to the library to use the computer. My point is are they going to have a similar program to help poor kids of AMERICA?

Posted by:

02 Sep 2008

hello just checking to see where I can buy one of these computer. my daughter is has dyslexia. she is 6 they recommend to buy her a computer and get the software that they need to help with dyslexia. she is in first grade and can not read. the school system in Alabama does not put dyslexia as a disability so they don't have to provide any services to her even under the no child left behind. just want to see if they are any way to buy one since they are cheap and more durable for children thanks

EDITOR'S NOTE: The XO laptop probably won't suit your needs, since it doesn't run the Windows operating system, and the software you need is almost certainly Windows-based. A low-end Dell, Gateway, or eMachines

desktop should work well for you.

Posted by:

20 Dec 2008

i think this is a waste of effort and time this kids dont need computers they need food and clean water , lets start caring for our kids in the u.s instead of saving the world of people that hate us for this type of crap.

Posted by:

Michiel van der Blonk
19 Jan 2009

I think besides water, information is the next best thing. And since handing out laptops is a much longer term solution, I even prefer that over giving them water (although the cheap water pumps are also great).


Posted by:

Leia Ambra
22 Jun 2009

My 9 year old son also has dyslexia and much trouble writing legibly and spelling; I want to get him a laptop too so he can type instead of write, and his evaluator also suggested the XO, but it sounds like that won't be the best for him. Any suggestions?

EDITOR'S NOTE: The main problem with the XO is that it won't run most popular Windows programs, since it's unix-based. He could use it to learn to keyboard, but a regular Windows-based laptop might be more useful for him.

Posted by:

cheap laptop
13 Feb 2010

The XO is a potent learning tool designed and built especially for children in developing countries, living in some of the most remote environments.

Posted by:

21 Mar 2010

Sadly it looks like I can no longer buy one am I correct? And all my fellow Americans please remember our version of poverty is nothing compared to thiers.

Posted by:

18 May 2010

Andie - Please remember that our version of poverty may be different, but no less important. Do you realize that in America the definition of poor means virtually homeless? I signed up for Medicaid with my daughter, and they informed me that I made too much money - working a just over minimum wage job. Needless to say, I had to cut my hours to fit their requirements because I could not afford to have her - it was an unexpected pregnancy.

American children suffer as well. So, if they are not going to implement this charity in America, they should not for other countries. I am tired of our monies going to other countries before our own. It is not that I do not care, or that I am unsympathetic to their plight. However, when you speak of "One laptop per child", why not in America? How many parents here can afford "one laptop per child"? I mean, seriously?

I am lucky that my situation has become better since my pregnancy, but how many mothers are still suffering from being abandoned with children to support on their own? Come on!

Posted by:

18 May 2010

I am pleased to say that after further investigation I have found that they have approved the coverage to include American students in under-privileged areas. http://www.olpcnews.com/ - if the link becomes changed, you can search OLPC America for further information.

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