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OLPC Manufacturer to Sell $200 Laptop On Open Market

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the now-we're-getting-somewhere dept.

Portables 214

srinravi writes "ArsTechnica reports that Quanta, the company manufacturing the XO laptops, has plans to begin selling low-cost budget mobile computers for $200 later this year. 'According to Quanta president Michael Wang, the company plans to leverage the underlying technologies associated with OLPC's XO laptop to produce laptop computers that are significantly less expensive than conventional laptops.' While OLPC plans to sell the laptops in bulk to governments, which will then distribute the hardware to school children, the XO computer itself is not for sale on the open market. These XO-like commercial devices are still something of an unknown, but it has been announced they'll be using Open Source software."

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They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (5, Insightful)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543083)

For such a device, they sure are wanting to not release it - when that could be a good way to fund such devices. Is there some sort of problem with quality at that kind of mass amount?

Re:They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18543187)

Think what will happen when these dirt cheap laptops hit the market and the average non-business user finds out that it does everything he needs....for so much less. What will that do to the overpriced, virus infected win-laptop market?

Re:They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18543317)

The same thing that Internet appliances did to the desktop market. 90% of all people use their PC for web and email. Yet internet appliances are so hated they all failed miserably.

Re:They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543985)

That's because they usually either come with a monthly service fee or cost as much as a real computer. Sell someone an internet appliance that's significantly cheaper than a computer, and doesn't have a monthly fee, and I think you'll be able to see quite a few units. I would love a laptop that only cost $200. That's cheaper than most PDAs you see on the market now.

Re:They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (4, Insightful)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543221)

Marketing costs, distribution costs, etc.

While they may have figured out how to market and distribute to the governments that are their primary customers, they may not want to deal with the private market for some reason. Smaller purchase quantities comes to mind. But, you'd think they could hire someone else to market and distribute.

Like you suggest, it might be that the product wouldn't hold up too well under the scrutiny of knowledgeable customers in a competitive marketplace. The original product is intended for people who know nothing about compuerts and don't know anyone else who knows anything about computers.

Re:They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (5, Insightful)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544143)

Ahh, I've got mod points that I want to use, but I just...can't...stop...typing.

Anyway, first marketing costs? There are people practically begging to get these devices...and even willing to pay more than the "targeted" cost of ~$100. So, if there was ever a case of a product selling itself, then this is it.

Distribution costs are understandable. But at the same time, they have been saying that they won't take orders of less than a million (isn't that right?). So, it isn't necessarily a supply problem...that is if they could actually meet those demands. So couple that with the above paragraph and it seems like there would be at least one millionaire out there that would see this enormous opportunity to snap up a million or so of these and resell for a handsome profit.

All of this makes me casually raise an eyebrow. There are a couple of floating thoughts. First, maybe they feel like this is a *special* project and so only *special* (read: people in 3rd world countries) should get them. Second, (which the parent mentioned) is that maybe they aren't as high quality as us *non-special* (read: spoiled developed nation brats) would demand, and therefore wouldn't even sell in the first place. Third, (my own little thought) is that there are some interesting politics happening behind closed doors.

To the first, I say "get off your high horse" sell them at a markup and re-invest your profits in something you deem worthwhile.
To the second, I say "don't knock it till you (or some other schmuck) tries it". There is practically no potential for loss here. If somebody wants to purchase 1 million units, take their money and run...after you give them the laptops that is.
To the third I say, well actually I have nothing to say since I have no idea is this is the case or what is being said behind those closed doors.

I hope this project succeeds just as much as the next (excluding Dell, HP, Intel, etc shareholders) person. But let's not count any chickens (or laptops) before they hatch.

Cost of distribution and sales (5, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543231)

I think part of the reason the $200 laptop costs $200 is that they're selling them in bulk to governments. It's then up to the government to distribute it appropriately. If you're doing it yourself, you've got to pay for the distribution infrastructure yourself, which gets tacked on to the cost of the $200 laptop. Now, these days with Amazon and Dell, you can do pretty good at minimizing these costs, but it'll still make it more expensive.

If that ends up bringing the cost of the laptop into the $300-$400 range, you're suddenly competing with the likes of Dell and other low-cost laptop manufacturers.

Re:Cost of distribution and sales (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543431)

What about having one of those auctions like they did on the defunct Mercata.com, where the more people join, the lower the price goes?

Re:Cost of distribution and sales (4, Informative)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544151)

Why are you calling it "the $200 laptop?" The OLPC project has always had a target of $100/laptop. If you're using the phrase to refer to the OLPC's laptops, you're wrong. If you're using it simply to refer to $200 laptops in general, then you're being tautological. A $200 laptop is a $200 laptop because it's a laptop that is selling for $200.

Read the article. Or the summary at the very least. The manufacturer tasked with building the laptops for the OLPC project has simply decided that it can use its experience to offer a very similar piece of hardware to the public at a low price. It's not the OLPC laptop, and it's not the much hoped for "buy one for $200 and a kid in Rwanda gets one free" deal that's been suggested. There's no reason to think that these laptops will be sold in bulk to governments.

Re:Cost of distribution and sales (1)

Adhemar (679794) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544265)

I think part of the reason the $200 laptop costs $200 is that they're selling them in bulk to governments. (...) If that ends up bringing the cost of the laptop into the $300-$400 range, you're suddenly competing with the likes of Dell and other low-cost laptop manufacturers.

If I read the article correctly, US$200 is the price Quanta is planning to sell this XO-like device for to individuals. (I am wondering if a portion of the price goes directly to the OLPC project. Since the article does not mention it, I am inclined to think this is not the case.)

If I remember correctly from the OLPC talk at FOSDEM, the pricing of the OLPC project's actual XO (in bulk, to governments) is currently expected to start at around US$135-140 when production begins this year, which was slightly over the target. The goal is to reach the US$100 mark in 2008, which is why the XO is/was also known as "the $100 Laptop". Quite an impressive price, given the hardware specifications [laptop.org] , in my opinion.

Re:Cost of distribution and sales (1)

nbritton (823086) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544381)

Well even if it's $260 bucks, which comes out to 20% markup + $20 shipping per unit, I'd still be willing to buy lots of them... for embedded tasks. The cheap Dell notebook I could find is $500.

Re:They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (4, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543365)

Nothing about this project makes any sense. They won't sell the hardware at a profit to raise funding or create economy of scale. They don't attempt to get the platform into the hands of developers who might be able to develop applications, instead of relying on giving compilers to children who have never seen a computer before. My suspicion is that they simply can't make them at the price/number points they keep claiming, but who knows?

By the way, if any of the MIT people involved with this project have an explanation, drop a message in one of my JE's and I'll be delighted to walk over and be set straight.

Re:They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (2, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543453)

They do have VMWare images you can run, although this isn't the same, as you wouldn't know how it runs on the actual hardware, I'm sure that it would help out quite a bit with developing applications.

Re:They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (4, Informative)

krasni_bor (261801) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543983)

1) OLPC seems to have all the funds they need right now.
2) If the project works at all they will have huge economies of scale just selling to governments.
3) It is not difficult to get a development machine, if you get involved and write a little code FIRST (using an emulator, etc.).
4) Clearly, Quanta thinks they will be able to make them at scale and make even more than OLPC demands, based on this announcement.

Re:They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543557)

I actually think it would be a good idea just to make them cheap and sell to whoever wants one. It reminds me of this wealthy guy back in the 30's named Roger Enright. See, the government was going to build a housing project and rent out the rooms really cheap to the poor. Well, turned out, some nutjob blew up the place during construction so Enright swooped in and bought the land from the government and had the buildings re-constructed with this efficient design so he could also rent it out cheap. But unlike the government, he'd rent to anyone, not just the poor, and he did it at a profit. The irony is, Enright's buildings were truer to the design of the original architect of the housing project.

Re:They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (1)

uab21 (951482) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543561)

I don't know about the OLPC guys' deal with Quantas, but this raises some interesting questions. By making their stack open source, anyone can grab it - and now their hardware manufacturer is looking to sell a potentially functionally identical product. And there is no reason that the money from that product need go towards reducing OLPC costs rather than increasing Quantas' bankroll.

From this viewpoint it looks rather short sighted of them... but I hope that we just don't know all the facts.

Special Charity Editions (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543589)

Can I pay $50 more and have a special "OLPC Sponsor" logo etched into the case, with the $50 going directly to the OLPC project?

Think (RED) [joinred.com] only different.

Think how chic this could be:
- cool logo
- cool charity
- indie coolness: Look ma, no Microsoft!

Re:Special Charity Editions (3, Informative)

magarity (164372) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544525)

Can I pay $50 more and have a special "OLPC Sponsor" logo etched into the case
 
Alas, I think you'll find that custom etching will run you more than $50. Still, this idea has some merit. They've said though, and it makes sense, that the reason they won't sell the OLPC machine is because as soon as there is a legit market for the things there will be nefarious individuals who will procede to steal the donated ones and recycle them back into the sale channel.

hiding something? (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543635)

Maybe they're going to be even uglier than what everyone is thinking they'll be like? I don't see how that's possible; in any case, I'm sure a few will "escape" from wherever they've been deployed to the US. But the lack of access to the device by first-world coders will tend to reduce application availability and ultimate usefulness. Maybe someone could release an emulator?

Re:hiding something? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18543905)

I'm sure a few will "escape" from wherever they've been deployed to the US.
You'd have to be a serious Ayn Rand fan to sit in a coffee shop using a bright green laptop that was obviously stolen from a third world child. ;-)

Crappy software + crappy hardware = useless device (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18543753)

A real piece of shit that thing...

It's supposed to help kids in poor areas become civilized, but i don't think it will help much with the basic stuff, like bathing, drinking clean water, etc.

Kind of like buying a home media center for my dog...

Re:They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (2)

bfields (66644) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544351)

For such a device, they sure are wanting to not release it - when that could be a good way to fund such devices.

Maybe, maybe not. I imagine a lot of geeks are in the same boat as me--I listen to the neat stuff they're doing with it, look at the pictures, and say "OMG it's adorable! I MUST HAVE one!" But when it came time to actually plop down my $200 (or whatever) I might take a closer look at the specs, listen to what other users had to say about it, and say: ya know, this doesn't really make sense for me.

So I wonder if a project so targetted at a particular audience would really be as succesfull with the geek market as the Slashdot comments would suggest.

And then there's all the trouble of distributing the thing, and heck, it isn't even done yet, is it? Aren't they still just working with the first sample units and gearing up pilots and stuff?

Well, it'll be interesting to watch what happens in any case.

Re:They are very insistent on NOT releasing it? (1)

Singletoned (619322) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544557)

For such a device, they sure are wanting to not release it - when that could be a good way to fund such devices. Is there some sort of problem with quality at that kind of mass amount?

No, the problem is the black market. If you send a few thousand laptops to a poor government, they may choose to sell them rather than give them to children. If the laptop is not on public sale, this will be fairly obvious. However if the laptop is generally available, it will be harder to tell whether the laptop has been bought from government stock or not

I'll buy two with ONE requirement. (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543113)

Mine come WITHOUT the hacking locks they have in place. I will want to replace their OS with something that is my own and the current iteration does not allow that.

Re:I'll buy two with ONE requirement. (3, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543389)

Well, yeah, I imagine, that would make the thing sell much better. A sub $200 laptop would be an excellent process control computer for simple things like temperature control, CNC, weather monitoring, etc. Having a standard, plug and play platform would be very useful. Even single board computers without monitors or power supplies can cost much more than $200.

Re:I'll buy two with ONE requirement. (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544087)

You can get all sorts of old PLC hardware on Ebay for less than $200, for process control applications. I bought an entire Allen Bradley PLC5 setup, processor, a dozen IO cards analog and digital, power supply, chassis, all that, for $40 shipped to my house. Of course, having a copy of Logix 5 makes that viable but there are other controllers out there that work with freely available programming tools.

Someone industrious enough to cobble their own process control setup probably knows this, but who knows.

Should sell well (4, Informative)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543149)

People still use and support the Tandy Model 100 http://www.club100.org/ [club100.org] . AFAIR, it cost more than $200 when it was new, adjusting for inflation.

Re:Should sell well (3, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543161)

In fact Tandy 100 and 102's still go for a premium. I recently sold both my 102's for well over $100.00 each. way more than I expected.

Re:Should sell well (1)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543321)

My friend in college in the early 80's had a 100. He used it for taking notes in class. I still covet that machine. Does anyone nowadays make a small computer with a decent sized keyboard and without a big flippy screen? It seems you can get a small screen with a small keyboard (PDA, smartphone) or a big keyboard with a big screen, laptop, but if you want to only glance occassionaly at a few lines of notes as you are touchtyping them, you gotta use a PDA with some sort of addon keyboard.

Re:Should sell well (1)

Random Destruction (866027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543461)

I use a pocket pc with a fold out IR keyboard for this. Works well for the few classes in which I can type notes. Sadly its pretty useless for math classes.

Re:Should sell well (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543535)

That, and just about all laptops nowdays have the trackpad between your hands and the keys. I don't like it, but a friend of mine absolutely detests it, but recently was completely unable to buy any brand of high end laptop with the keyboard near the bottom edge.

Re:Should sell well (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544489)

Many laptops have a disabling button you can use, or you can just disable the device completely (don't load the drivers). Did that stop your friend from buying a machine?

Re:Should sell well (3, Interesting)

OECD (639690) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543781)

Does anyone nowadays make a small computer with a decent sized keyboard and without a big flippy screen?

Take a look at AlphaSmart's portable computers [alphasmart.com] . The Neo goes for $250 and is roughly equivalent to a Model 100.

Re:Should sell well (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543519)

Wow, that's interesting news. I picked one up at a garage sale a few years back for $1. I plugged it in once to a TV, wrote some funky BASIC code to print my name all over the screen and haven't taken it out of the box since.

Maybe I should revisit.

In any case, I would actually LOVE one of these OLPC machines for my kids. They're always playing on my laptop: http://www.perfectreign.com/?q=node/51

Re:Should sell well (1)

linhux (104645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544219)

Ah! You finally gave me a reason to dig that old toy out from the closet of abandoned gadgets. My grandfather, who was a journalist, used it in the 80's, and since I was the family computer geek, I hung on to it when he passed away. In 4th and 5th grade I could nerd away coding games in BASIC during the lunch breaks. Since then, once every five years or so, I've plugged it in and booted it up just to see if it works. And this time, too, it booted! It runs on 6 AA batteries for quite a while, as far as I recall. Now I'll just have to find a serial cable and see if I can transfer stuff between it and my Mac or PC. Unfortunately the storage on the T200 is battery-backed RAM, so all my old BASIC programs are long gone since it's been without battery for many years.

Here's how it looks: http://flickr.com/photos/pajp/439822054/ [flickr.com] - quite a beauty, eh?

Thanks for getting me to play with it again! :-)

Yes ... (0, Offtopic)

blowdart (31458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543237)

But will it run Vista?

*snicker*

Here's an idea (0, Troll)

hedwards (940851) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543261)

How about they just sell the laptops on the open market and forget about sending them to developing nations. Of course they won't because a child without food or clean drinking water really gets a huge benefit out of a laptop or the support infrastructure to support it.

People forget just how cheap it is to prevent water borne illnesses in comparison to other problems. If these people promoting this project have any decency, they will use the laptops to brink food and water to the people. Yes, eventually they will probably need net access, but all the internets in the world aren't going to feed somebody that is starving.

Re:Here's an idea (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18543345)

The goal of the OLPC project is education. These computers will make the world of information available to those who would otherwise have been limited to their indigent backgrounds. Cleaning their water for them is great, cleaning their water for them and teaching them how to clean their own water is even better. You're not going to make any real progress in the third world until it has been saturated by education.

Re:Here's an idea (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544013)

Perhaps, but this whole thing is a waste of time as long as there isn't the infrastructure to keep the water clean.

Laptops for the children really don't contribute to that goal. There are steps that need to be taken and for this project to skip the ones involving sanitation and food is really just a way of western countries giving themselves something to pat themselves on the back with rather than actually accomplish something.

It isn't the lack of education that is the problem. People that live in an area without the resources to have food and clean water are going to be in trouble whether they are educated or not. Pretending like we can just skip to an educated population in any part of the world without first establishing some sort of sane supply for the basic essentials is fanatasy world stuff.

With the demand the way it is for these laptops here, there is a good chance that the proceeds made from selling them could go a long way to providing the training and access to things like food and water which are much more important. Laptops are not necessary for providing the sort of training to deal with those types of issues. Many parts of the world have gotten along quite fine without them. Even if books and writing supplies are too expensive for things like sanitizing water one can teach that orally if need be.

Re:Here's an idea (1)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543397)

all the internets in the world aren't going to feed somebody that is starving.
Forget about sending them pron and email. Think of all the food and water we could shove through those pipes.

Re:Here's an idea (5, Insightful)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543573)

Of course they won't because a child without food or clean drinking water really gets a huge benefit out of a laptop or the support infrastructure to support it.

I know it might blow your mind, but there really are a lot of kids who live in areas that are somewhere BETWEEN the relative wealth levels of "must buy an iPod for my dog" and "must steal more cardboard for the roof". The XO isn't going to help a kid who can't lift her malnourished bones off the hardscrabble. The XO is going to help a kid who would have to travel 10mi to the nearest well-stocked library.

The cellphone has become a major boon for farmers in several countries-- they can call ahead and negotiate their crop's value before spending the resources to haul perishable product to an uninterested market. The XO may have other "game changing" advantages. It will only have the chance to make a difference if the rich people quit naysaying every last little nit based on their own shortsightedness.

Re:Here's an idea (2, Informative)

Peter Trepan (572016) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543895)

The XO is going to help a kid who would have to travel 10mi to the nearest well-stocked library.

In the rural U.S. community where I grew up, it was in fact 10 miles to the nearest well-stocked library.

Re:Here's an idea (1)

Lord Lemur (993283) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544355)

Would you have benifited from the internet?

Re:Here's an idea (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544461)

I think the US should really consider employing the XO in education.

The US population is very sparsely distributed. I am quite sure education in rural areas is not up to the same standards as in urban areas. This technology is cheap enough to be able to help and be barely detectable in the overall expenditures.

Besides that, the US alone could create the critical mass for this project to be successful

Re:Here's an idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18543621)

The world is not really a black and white place, you know. There are people who need food more than anyone else. There are people who don't need any help from anyone. But there are also people that are not too poor to die hungry but too poor to have any decent chance at getting good education. If you can bother about trying to make the world a better place by feeding the hungry, don't just let it end there. Once a portion of the hungry has some bread, they could really use cheap access to educational opportunities like this.

Of course you could argue about whether or not the cheap laptop is an educational tool worth the investment, but you didn't seem to concentrate on that. Did you?

Re:Here's an idea (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544161)

Just out of curiosity, why should I focus on that? Am I really so ignorant that the millions of people that die from things like malaria, dysentery, cholera and starvation are a figment of my imagination?

Of those things, both dysentery and cholera are killers as well as having a straightforward method for preventing people from getting them in the first place.

A laptop isn't a necessary device for learning. Yes, it can be used for that, but the cost is quite a bit higher than just the cost of the device, getting the support staff and somehow getting the lesson plans on it takes money. As it turns out quite a bit of money.

Considering the amount of information that can be taught orally about how to deal with the aforementioned killers, it seems really disingenuous to focus attention to a problem which can't be solved without fixing the lower level problems. There is a reason why societies typically focus on getting food/water and shelter before focusing on education that isn't directly related to that.

People like the OLPC because it is kind of feel good. It allows one to feel like one is making a difference without actually solving the largest problems. We often times feel obliged to provide treatment to people in the third world with HIV without really thinking about the cost relative to the much more urgent need for treating other things.

So, seriously, could you really explain why selling a significant number in the developed world to fund projects that make a difference is such a bad thing?

Re:Here's an idea (1)

Hufo (684441) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544443)

FYI, here is a very interesting video about misconceptions about the "third world": Myths about the developing world [google.com]

Re:Here's an idea (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544545)

We give them prophylactics, tell them how it's spread, and they insist on believing in witchcraft. I don't mind helping people, but I hate helping ingrates.

Re:Here's an idea (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18543871)

Thank you for your valuable FUD. Here's further reading [laptop.org] .

Re:Here's an idea (2, Insightful)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544307)

Of course they won't because a child without food or clean drinking water really gets a huge benefit out of a laptop


The government is already buying books for these kids, to the tune of about $20/year. Or not, in which case you can be sure they're NOT going to buy laptops. But if they are, then they convert the textbook into an ebook. Use of the laptop as an ebook pays for itself ... and then there's everything else you *might* do with it. Even if the teachers don't incorporate it into the curriculum, it's still worth doing.

Or are you suggesting that governments shouldn't provide a free education for their children? That's an idea worthy of consideration, but I suspect it's one you disagree with.

Re:Here's an idea (2, Insightful)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544357)

I can't quite understand why people insist in the misconception that these computers are for those who face terminal misery.

These computers are not for starving children. We have to reach those by other means. What they aim is to provide better education for less (printing and shipping good books is very expensive) so that more money can be used in some other projects like bringing food and water to populations in need, with the added bonus of a better educated population for what amounts to essentially no additional money spent.

I live in a third world country and I would have to drive (with my carbon-neutral ethanol-running car) about five hundred kilometers to be face to face with someone who has no access to food, water, basic healthcare or a decent social security network. And, even in the poorest parts of the country, most of those really do have access to these basic services, but nobody ever told them how to get them.

We have to deal with the most basic human problems with other tools. These computers are the tools governments will use to create the other tools, whatever shape they happen to take.

They seem firm in their patronizing pity (1, Insightful)

gelfling (6534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543271)

Yes I understand only goat farmers in Kenya are entitled to cheap usable hardware whereas poor people in the US are not. Moreover, middle class people in the US should be grateful at having to spend $2000 for a VistaBloat machine because, well that's the White Man's Burden.

What I don't understand is how they think this is going to get manufacturing efficiencies in volume working for them? I mean, couldn't they swallow their liberal guilt a little bit and at least charge Bwana $300? I think we'd be willing to do that. Because let's face reality here. I know of no school in the US that's going to gut their Windows infrastructure for these, no matter what they say about selling these units to governments to 'give' to schools.

Otherwise I guess we can go out and buy a bunch of old used laptops for $200-400 each and put Ubuntu on them and tell OLPC to got jump in the lake. At least here in the US where we don't have to worry about electricity and whatnot.

Re:They seem firm in their patronizing pity (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543361)

Moreover, middle class people in the US should be grateful at having to spend $2000 for a VistaBloat machine because, well that's the White Man's Burden.

if you spend that much on a windows laptop then you sir are a foaming at the mouth moron. I bought a vista machine (and erased the OS as soon as I got it) for $699 this is a Dual core speed demon that plays doom3 nicely. I got it from a secret online store..... Dell.com

Re:They seem firm in their patronizing pity (1)

jabuzz (182671) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543533)

That is still $500 more expensive that a $200 computer. My four and half year old neice does not need to play Doom 3, but a $200 style XO machine would be fanstastic for her, especially in pink. Also the battery life on a XO is much better than on your Dell. Twelve years ago I spend nearly $5000 for a Pentium 75 laptop with 16MB of RAM, 810MB of harddisk and a 640x480 screen. An XO has a 433MHz processor 256MB of RAM, 1GB of flash instead of a hard disk, wireless networking and a 800x600 screen. I'll have one.

Re:They seem firm in their patronizing pity (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544415)

Buy a used laptop. It may not have the best battery life, but you'll get roughly what you want.

Re:They seem firm in their patronizing pity (4, Insightful)

jamiethehutt (572315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543595)

Otherwise I guess we can go out and buy a bunch of old used laptops for $200-400 each and put Ubuntu on them and tell OLPC to got jump in the lake.

I want a OLPC. An old laptop will not be as compact, will not be as robust, will not have as much battery life, will not have a nippy solid state disk and will not have nearly as good a screen for reading on. The old laptop probably wont have wireless and probably wont have excellent linux support, in fact it's likely to have some compatibility problems. Also I think the OLPC, or at least the green one, looks pretty funky...

It's a pretty clear choice for me.

Re:They seem firm in their patronizing pity (3, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543627)

The difference here is that the poor people in the U.S. (defined as any household below the official poverty line (~$25K/year)) are rich and highly-educated compared to the poor goat farmers in Kenya.

Re:They seem firm in their patronizing pity (1)

balor (205103) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543707)

I suspect if you form some sort of buying co-op or convince your state government to buy a large number the OLPC will deal with you. As has been stated, time and again, the reason for not dealing one-to-one with individuals as buyers is a cost thing. Distributing to you and me will cost money. Distributing in bulk to governments is cheap.

Re:They seem firm in their patronizing pity (1)

mnmn (145599) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544043)

They're not called goat farmers, they're called Shepherds.

Re:They seem firm in their patronizing pity (1)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544243)

>in the US where we don't have to worry about electricity and whatnot.

I'm not so sure. Frankly, this has been on my mind lately. The power grid has already shown it's fragility. The US congress has become the poster child for "America is unwilling to see a fight through to the end". Every time I see Murtha tearing up in the well of the House or Pelosi doing her Cartman ("Respect my authoriti!") imitation, I can just imagine another attack on US soil. And this one making 9-11 seem like a bad hair day.

How does this relate to OLPC? Easy - if the power grid is down, we can't use our computers and how much stuff do you have saved on hard drives? PDFs, saved web pages, you name it. TFA didn't say if the consumer version would have the handy "wind it up and go" handle, but if it does, I'll be at the head of the line to buy one. That way when the guy with the internet-truck [slashdot.org] comes around, I'll be able to grab my e-mail.

I suppose I'll be modded down to the 13th level of hell for criticizing the cut_n_run congress ...

Sans kill switch? (3, Interesting)

OglinTatas (710589) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543303)

I would certainly be interested, if I knew that it did not include a kill switch which would allow my government or anyone to destroy it on a whim. linky [slashdot.org]

I hope they do it (5, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543333)

I know at least several cases where people working on medical diagnostics projects have tried to get their hand on the OLPC kit for the purposes of field medical lab automation and have been told to sod off.

There is a long list of diagnostic technologies which require a computer for analysing data in the field. At the moment this means using either a specialised system or a commercial ruggedized portable. In either case the overall bill for a small field lab goes into the many 1000$ range which makes this technology prohibitive for mass deployment. OLPC class hardware would have been the perfect replacement bringing the cost down into a range which will make it affordable.

So if the OLPC gets sidelined and the same kit is available commercially, personally I would give one big cheer. This will mean that people like Medicines sans Frontiers will finally be able to have proper diagnostic (and medical records) kit anywhere they go, no matter how in the middle of nowhere it is.

So which is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18543435)

> OLPC Manufacturer to Sell $200 Laptop On Open Market ...

> the XO computer itself is not for sale on the open market.

Making billions fronting as a charity (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18543471)

ho-hum

These people haven't even learned basic agriculture, they still pick grubs and roots out of the ground, and we need to get them laptops.

They don't even know how to farm or feed themselves.

I'll buy 10.

Distribution Control (5, Interesting)

petermmcc (575106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543477)

Am I the only who keeps tabs on this project who worries that the OLPC OX laptops are going to end up in the hands of people who want them as toys or cheap low-cost laptops? Call me cynical but selling these things to governments in Third World countries and expecting the distribution to be done in an honest and ethical way so that every single one ends up in the hands of a deserving child seems hopelessly naive to me. What safeguards are in place to prevent some corrupt government bureaucrat from doling them out to political cronies, black marketeers or any other undeserving party (for financial gain or not) and then just claiming that they have turned up missing or that they never got them and that they need more?

It makes sense to me to sell them outright to the general public but make them pay a fair market price to fund the distribution system so that real controls are in place to make sure that these things aren't sold in flea markets or used for nefarious purposes. I mean the intentions of OLPC are very honorable from an idealistic viewpoint- I'm just very worried that these things in the real world are just going to be too valuable to get passed down to the distribution chain to their intended recipients. We're sending what are essentially consumer electronic toys in to the heart of the poorest places on the planet and expecting that the people in control of these regions won't try to scheme and maneuver this project for personal financial or political gain. To prevent that real controls need to be in place and those controls can only be provided with a distribution system that is well funded. The funding should come from the people who want to buy these things as personal toys with the added benefit that there then will be less incentive for these things to end up on the black market.

Re:Distribution Control (2, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543693)

Mod parent up. He's absolutely right.

Allowing these to be sold by Amazon for $200, will disincentivize governments from buying them for $100 and trying to sell in bulk at a profit. If you know you can get a clean machine for $200 are you going to pay $100 + $n for a "dirty" machine? (where $n is large enough to make it worth their hassle)

Re:Distribution Control (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544467)

First defense: The governments in question are buying the machines, not receiving them as gifts. They're putting some real money into the hardware, and that gives them some incentive to make sure they don't fall off the back of a truck.

Second defense: They look, smell, and taste like toys for children. Everyone will know that a business exec using an OLPC as his primary laptop did not come by it honorably.

Third defense: It's not exactly high-powered hardware. The OS is weird and the applications are weird and you're really constrained as to the OSes that can run on it. So it won't be as useful outside its target demographic as you seem to think.

Fourth defense: The hardware is designed to be most useful when sitting among a bunch of other laptops of the same model. Mesh networks, collaborative applications, Internet connectivity, etc. Taking it away from the network hobbles it somewhat.

Your suggestion amounts to "sell them to rich people rather than giving them to poor people." Certainly, that would reduce the incentive for the owners to hock them, but doesn't that defeat the whole idea?

Re:Distribution Control (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544513)

expecting the distribution to be done in an honest and ethical way so that every single one ends up in the hands of a deserving child seems hopelessly naive to me.


So then you should conclude that they're actually not that naive. The question is not what you ask, but instead "Given that there will be massive fraud, waste, and corruption, is it worth doing anyway?" and their answer is "yes". Of course, OLPC can't actually *say* that, because their customers are the governments who will commit the fraud, waste, and corruption.

PCs like cell phones? (2, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543485)

The price of a basic PC, with just enough power to do browsing, email, a little bit of photoshop and screen shows and minor word processing has come under 200$ at bulk price. It is not inconceivable that some DSL/broadband company would not give it away for a two year broadband contract. Google has bought so much of capactity in the dark fibers, that it can become a viable broadband provider and give away PCs for free. And Google is also gaining valuable experience running metro area size WiFi network in Cupertino. Further Google has to negate the fundamental advantage MSFT has, that is ever changing standards, comaptibility issues.

Roll it all into one, you should expect GooglePC/BroadBand (beta ofcourse) sometime soon. If the hardward price drops far enough it can even sustain itself giving away the hardware and live on advertisements alone!

Re:PCs like cell phones? (1)

Brunellus (875635) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543603)

Other vendors tried this during the First Great Internet Bubble. Where are they now?

Re:PCs like cell phones? (1)

uab21 (951482) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543623)

Been tried before (PeoplePC and some others IIRC). Didn't work then. What do you think has changed in the last ten years to make it viable now? (Those previous PCs were as capable of email/Web then as what you are talking about now Oh, I forgot - Google makes everything better.

Re:PCs like cell phones? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543681)

What do you think has changed in the last ten years to make it viable now?

1. Price of hardware. Has dropped significantly

2. Someone with deep pockets who has already bought humoungous amount of bandwidth at bargain basement prices.

3. Cable/Telcos forming cartels to keep broadband prices artificially high and thwarting Metro WiFi even in areas where they dont provide service, like extended suburbs, rural areas and smaller towns. The law prohibits governments from providing wifi, but it cant stop a private company from offering one

4. Google could sell broadband at cost, which is next to nothing because it bought the bandwidth at bargain basement prices after the bubble burst, the monthly fee is just to recoup the cost of hardware.

Re:PCs like cell phones? (2, Insightful)

uab21 (951482) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543861)

The price of hardware has dropped enough that you can have a laptop, while previously it was a desktop. With modern software, the functional ability of the machines are the same compared to the less demanding software of the time. I call that a wash.

Why does everyone assume that all Google's dark fiber is for us? Google has rather large bandwidth requirements, which only get larger, and they are focused on grid type distributed processing for their business. That dark fiber could be there as their insurance against being held up by the backbone providers they have/will piss off. The market for bargain basement systems is small (how many internet appliances did you buy when they came out?), why should they risk it? Besides, the cell phone industry is the *last* industry I would like to emulate - Verizon gives me a free/reduced phone and then chips away at what it's capabilities are after the fact with software updates so that BitPim can't run - Yeah - Google needs to link themselves with that type of behavior in people's minds.

Puzzled (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543495)

I don't understand why they are not trying to market this for the educational market in developed countries. At $200 it would make sense for mass distribution to secondary school students in developed countries. With an office suite (OpenOffice) and a browser, it would fit most of the needs of secondary school students. Add an IDE (Eclipse) and it could be used in introductory programming classes. Instead of a computer lab, students could bring it to class, for note-taking, or to read documents or view presentations. And students could take the units home to do homework.

It would also help the effort to distribute machines to poor countries by increasing production volumes (and lowering costs), as well as resulting in more software being available for the laptops. So, I'm puzzled why they're not looking at this market.

Re:Puzzled (1)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544105)

Add an IDE (Eclipse) and it could be used in introductory programming classes.

My copy of Eclipse is currently running at 267MB. The install directory is over 1 GB. There's no way that's happening. Also, there's no way that will look okay on the tiny screens they've got on these things.

This is NOT a computer in the traditional sense. It's a PDA in a different form factor.

Re:Puzzled (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544201)

Contrary to popular belief, there are portions of the developed world that hope to do almost exactly that. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts was one of the first places to join up with OLPC (granted, the fact that it's based out of MIT is a huge part of that), and as a proud Massachusan I assure you that we aren't exactly living in the third world here (disregard the New Yorkers who think otherwise... I think it's fair to say that if you haven't left your borough in a decade that you aren't qualified to talk about other places as if you have a clue).

There's a lot of FUD about the OLPC project, and I'm not sure what's worse: the ill-conceived notion that improving educational technology benefits less people than improving food and water distribution (most people in the world have a steady supply of food and water, but lack the educational opportunities to really participate in the global economy or reap the economic benefits of doing so, obviously some do not, but they aren't the focus of this particular project), or the outright lie that OLPC is only available to or intended for goat farmers from Botswana.

Re:Puzzled (1)

phaggood (690955) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544347)

> I don't understand why they are not trying to market this for the educational market in developed countries.
Because in "developed" countries we have "developed marketing departments" who's job it is to make sure that the local ed tech buys "only the best" for the kids, even if "the best" is way more capacity than most kids writing papers and watching flash-powered chemistry sims online need.

This situation is not unique to schools:
There's a $200M study [washingtonpost.com] to track the effects of pre-school on children - does it *really* take that kind of money to track a bunch of pre-school kids?
We have pretty good roads, but a large segment of the population still thinks you won't be safe on the road unless you drive a $70,000 mil-spec automobile.
If you don't have insurance, you can spend $12,000 just for cracked ribs. [sfgate.com]

We'll spend $100M/mile on a ROAD [michigan.gov] .

We have so much $$ in the US ($3 TRILLON FY2007 Fed Budget) we seem to believe that there are no cheap problems.

Re:Puzzled (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544561)

I'm having a hard time imagining these laptops running OpenOffice. Eclipse? Simply no way. Nano seems user-friendly enough.

You can't give laptops to schoolchildren (1)

BigHungryJoe (737554) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543581)

what if they use it to meet online predators? Doesn't anyone watch "To Catch a Predator?"

It's like giving a monkey a loaded gun.

Re:You can't give laptops to schoolchildren (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543757)

Whoot! Bad analogy :D

It's more like giving a monkey an unloaded gun and bullets, with an anti-monkey nut making hand-motions. It takes a little work to get there, but it's definitely possible.

Re:You can't give laptops to schoolchildren (1)

teh_chrizzle (963897) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544333)

just set the hosts file to resolve *.myspace.com to 127.0.0.1 and BAM! problem solved.

after all, it's myspace that attracts predators, not ignorant children with no adult supervision.

No machines for ordinary developers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18543619)

I guess if no OLPC machines are available for us, then it's because they don't want to easily allow your average everyday sort of developer actually to be able to build software for the OLPC and actually be able to test it on the real hardware. This is the same reason most developers don't test their webapps on Macs.

Open Source my ass. How about we try open market first?

How to lift children out of poverty. (5, Funny)

supersnail (106701) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543725)

1. Make nice little $200 Laptop.
2. Announce to Geeks around the world "You cant have one".
3. Give Laptop to poor child.
4. Poor child puts laptop on e-bay.
5. Geeks gets kool laptop.
6. Child no longer poor.

You call THAT a business plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18543967)

Where is the "X. ..." step?

Why no "X. Profit!"? No profit!, no invest!

That's the problem with you geeks - no business sense.

Hmmm (3, Insightful)

Anon-Admin (443764) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543761)

I have watched the OLPC for some time. As time goes by, It seems like less of a deal. I just picked up a nice Compaq with a 15" wide screen, 512 meg of memory, 802.11 card etc. At Best Buy it was $350. By the time they get the OLPC out the door, normal low end laptops will be in the $200 range.

Re:Hmmm (1)

phaggood (690955) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543977)

> .. nice Compaq .. Best Buy .. $350
> By the time they get the OLPC out the door, normal low end laptops will be in the $200 range.

Find twin 2nd graders; give one the Compaq and one a OLPC to use for one semester. At the end of the school year, one machine will come back useable, one will be poured out from a paper bag.

Re:Hmmm (1)

jamesshuang (598784) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544577)

Umm.... I'd doubt that an OLPC will survive much bashing either. If one had to pour the compaq out of the paper bag, well the best the OLPC can probably do is be picked piece by piece from a box. Either way, the OLPC's software is open source, and sticking that on the low end compaq would be fine too.

Re:Hmmm (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544165)

The "one laptop per child" is just the "elevator pitch" for the project. In case you don't know what an elevator pitch is, it is how you describe your project/product to somebody with money and limited attention span who you bump into in an elevator. Your mission is to convince him you are worth a good look before the door opens.

Moore's law will bring conventional laptops into spitting distance of the financial parameters needed for OLPC, but not necessarily in terms of the device's operational characteristics. There are a lot of costly assumptions built into a stanard laptop, which include, but are not limited to (1) a benign office environment; (2) availability of AC power except for short stretches; (3) system administrators who can take care of networking the computer to the rest of the universe and all that that implies; (4) a user base highly familiar with a UI dictated by a handful of preexisting programs that meet their most common needs.

I want one anyway. (1)

Fyzzler (1058716) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544299)

If Quanta will sell me an OLPC with 256 meg ram and a 1-2 Gig CF flash drive and the capability to run either Puppy or DSL Linux on it. I would buy one for $200.00 in a heartbeat.

Depending on how well it worked out, I might very well end up buying 5 of them, one for everybody in my family. Primary uses would be E-Book reader, web browser and email. I particularly like the nice screen and the capability to self charge, so you could take it camping/traveling without having to worry about remote power.

Marketing to the undeveloped countries (0)

boyfaceddog (788041) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543865)

The only thing you can count on when you use one of these laptops if that the web ads will all be there. Doesn't anyone see that this is just a way to make sure these poor, undeveloped countries have access to all of the millions of dollars of ads generated by the "developed" countries.

Yes, intelligent people will use these for great things, the rest will just look at the pretty ads.

w00t! (1)

teh_chrizzle (963897) | more than 7 years ago | (#18543957)

i have been shopping for a new laptop since my wife is in grad school, which means that my current laptop is also in grad school. buying the current one was a sort of existential hardship... paying $600 for something that is too underpowered to play games on. perhaps a small device with a comparatively small pricetag and with a keyboard big enough to take notes and things on might be just what the doctor ordered.

Re:w00t! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18544217)

Look up the word "existential" in a dictionary.

Re:w00t! (1)

teh_chrizzle (963897) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544555)

existential
-adjective
1. pertaining to existence

apparently you don't game.

Thailand rejects the OLPC project (1)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544047)

and has plans to make their own low cost laptop.

Many techno-savvy people have also criticized the laptop and Nelson Mandela demonstrated it to the UN and the crank handle broke off in his hand.

I heard it is very poor quality.

I'd buy one... (1)

bxtl57 (978384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544085)

I would *love* something useful enough to browse/read/write/email on the go, but cheap enough I wouldn't stroke out when it inevitably got lost/stolen/squashed/hosed with a Diet Pepsi.

If it was as rugged as claimed, @ $249 I'd by another for my 6 year old to keep him off the machines I actually care about. I predict somebody is going to package this for the children's market and discover a license to print money...

last years laptops $400 (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544111)

Keep your eye open and you can find two year old models (512MB, 80GB) laptops in the $400 range. Will run 3rd party software.

OLPC not for sale, not a company (4, Informative)

capseed (1002778) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544187)

Note that Quanta's mobile laptop, even if the underlying hardware and most of the software are the same, is NOT the OLPC machine. AFAIK OLPC has always wanted their project to exist outside of commercial markets. One of the main reasons for this was to help prevent a black market trade in these machines. If you have an XO, and you are not a child registered to use it, it will be very obvious that it is stolen.

As far as the governments taking the laptops and doing something evil or keeping them from their intended users, does anybody know how far OLPC is going to step in with the education and support issues? Negroponte has said many many many times that OLPC is not a hardware project, it is an education project based on decades of research with children and computers. It would seem odd if they didn't send their own people out in the field to provide support and guidance to the teachers and students who get to experience the XO. I would love to be one of them!

Summary:
Quanta != OLPC
OLPC != hardware project

Re:OLPC not for sale, not a company (1)

capseed (1002778) | more than 7 years ago | (#18544303)

just wanted to respond to some other comments people made...

This is not just "last year's laptop." At the very least, it uses a pretty interesting new wireless card design for integrated mesh networking stuff. I remember that because there was all this controversy about the card having some binary blob in it that Quanta or whoever didn't have the rights to open source.

To the comments about surfing the web, dangers of online predators, etc...I'm pretty sure that in many of the target regions, there is NO WEB ACCESS. That's why the mesh networking stuff is so important. The XOs really rely on community interaction and group participation to give students the educational benefit.

sorry for the double post

Re:OLPC not for sale, not a company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18544455)

I believe a penis bird could help him forget his worries.
Maybe he's already discovered this and will never post a story again?

I know if I were a Slashdot author and suddenly discovered penis birds, I would get one and play with it 24 hours a day.

http://smoke.rotten.com/bird

--

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