OLPC sends laptops to production, pushes back release

The OLPC project sent its laptops into production on its final beta release, but pushed the shipment date back a month

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Monday moved a step closer to providing low-cost laptops to children in developing nations by giving the go-ahead to the mass production of its XO laptop. However, the computers are expected to be out in October, one month later than originally planned.

Right now the OLPC prices are at US$176 per laptop, with the price expected to go down to US$100 sometime next year, according to a public relations spokesman for the project. There will be 3 million laptops available in October and they will be distributed to children by the governments of participating countries, which to date include: Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Greece, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Rwanda, Tunisia, the U.S. and Uruguay.

OLPC is a nonprofit project formed by Nicholas Negroponte that intends to give specially designed low-cost notebooks to children who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to purchase or use them. It is supported by several high-profile technology companies, such as Advanced Micro Devices, which is providing the laptop's processors, and Red Hat Inc., which helped design the "Sugar" user interface. Both companies and others involved in OLPC such as Brightstar, Google, News and Nortel Networks have donated US$2 million each to the project.

The laptops in production are based on the XO Beta-4 (B4) engineering model, which is designed to be durable and withstand diverse and potentially harsh environmental conditions that might be found in developing countries. The display of the machine is fully readable in bright sunlight, and the machines are designed to operate even in areas where access to electricity is limited through the ability to be powered by alternative power sources such as a solar panel.

Before they are released, the XO B4 laptops will go through a final round of testing by developers, hardware experts, OLPC technical volunteers and some of the pilot schools around the world already using the B2 machines, according to the OLPC project.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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