Wednesday, July 25, 2007

$100 Laptop Goes into Mass Production

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The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organisation has announced that its ruggedised laptop, the XO, is going into mass production.

The laptop will be manufactured in Shanghai by Quanta. The production line will be turned on in August for testing procedures, and the first mass-produced laptops for use in schools will be made in October.

The XO laptop, which OLPC plans to sell eventually for $100 per machine, is designed to improve the educational opportunities of children in the developing world. The costs of manufacture are currently estimated by OLPC at $175 per laptop.

OLPC's chief technology officer Mary Lou Jensen said: "Next year we should have a cost-reduced version. We're trying to take innovation in electronics, drive costs down and not use bloated software. This is the opposite of what the PC industry does traditionally."

The laptops have been designed to withstand extremes of heat and moisture, and to be energy efficient in harsh environments. The screen, which OLPC claims is bright enough to read in sunlight, stays on while the rest of the motherboard turns off, saving energy. Laptop batteries can be recharged using a rip cord, a crank, a pedal, a car battery, or solar panels - in fact, anything that can produce between 10 and 20 volts of electricity, Jensen said.

The organisation has no immediate plans to begin commercial production or licensing of its technologies, although it has been approached by major electronics manufacturers, according to Jensen.

OLPC said it has received orders for three million machines but refused to say which countries are involved.

The Sugar open source operating system used on the laptops still has some minor bugs, according to Jensen. "Firefox got better and better after it was released. There's always bugs in any operating system," she said, "but the software is running just fine."

OLPC last week added Intel to its board. The organisation plans to continue to use AMD processors in its laptops but it is currently "working with Intel to figure out how to create complementary product lines", Jensen said.

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