The nonprofit group that hopes to bring inexpensive laptops to poor kids around the world is now considering the possibility of allowing the $100 machines to be purchased by the general public.
The backers of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project haven't suddenly been bitten by the capitalist bug, but rather have come up with a way to offer the computers to the general public while increasing their availability to school children in developing nations.
According to one plan being considered, the computers would be offered to customers who would have to purchase a minimum of two laptops at a time -- with the second going to the developing world.
OLPC plans to deliver five million of the laptops to developing nations this summer, including to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nigeria, Libya, Pakistan, and Thailand.
Project officials hope the plan will be the start of bringing isolated schoolchildren around the world into the information age. The plan is widely considered to be one of the most ambitious educational projects ever undertaken.
The OLPC group unveiled its final prototype, dubbed the XO, this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The laptop was developed to be a low-cost, durable, and easy-to-use PC that will appeal to children with its bright green body and white trim, reminiscent of a toy.
The laptops take advantage of an inexpensive Linux-based OS and a low- display screen made by Taiwanese-based Chi Mei Optoelectronics. The XO's has been designed to work specifically in an educational context.
The laptop also has built-in wireless networking and video-conferencing capabilities so that groups of children can work together.
While a typical modern laptop requires 40 watts of power, the XO needs a mere three watts to browse the Web, and less than a single watt to display an electronic book, according to OLPC.
The new can be recharged with the yank of a string, in much the same way a lawnmower is started.
"If we started selling the laptop now, we would do very good business," Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC's chairman and founder, was quoted by BBC News as saying. "But our focus right now is on the launch in the developing world."