I have been following the $100 Laptop project for the past few years. This non-profit effort seeks to widely distribute laptops to the world’s neediest children by ensuring the laptops are as inexpensive as possible, while still being robust and useful. The laptops use a Linux-backed operating system with a user interface designed for children. It boasts built-in wireless networking, an extremely small hard drive (not really needed if you have access to Gmail, I suspect, and a hand crank that can provide power when no plugs are available.
Earlier, I said that one way to give this program a boost would be to sell these laptops to North Americans at twice the price, and use the profit to donate one of these laptops to a child somewhere in the third world. And according to today’s Record, that’s what this group intends to do, for two weeks in November, anyway.
The catch is that Give One, Get One promotion will run only Nov 12 to 26. Negroponte said the limited availability is partly necessary so the non-profit doesn’t run afoul of tax laws, but mainly designed to create scarcity-induced excitement.
We need that burst, he said.
Just the first 25,000 buyers will be promised delivery of their XOs by the Christmas season. Everyone else will be on a pace reminiscent of the old Sears Roebuck catalogue, with the computer probably arriving in January.
Then again, most buyers figure to be motivated more by the Give One aspect than the Get One part.
Exactly. And I should point out that while the laptop will win no speed awards and won’t be useful to play the latest games, the specs seem ideal for writers who only need to use the computer to type in their stories and surf the Net. The Linux-backed system should be enough to run something like AbiWord and a basic browser and e-mail system, and if you need space, simply use USB keys (indeed, some of these programs have already been optimized so that they can run from USB keys).
It seems that the organization wasn’t able to lower the component price of the full laptop to below $100. The laptops are now advertised for $188 instead. So, come this November, you have the opportunity to spend $400 to provide someone with a neat new, compact, hand-cranked laptop, both here in North America, and somewhere out there in the world. Can anybody think of a better Christmas present that?