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Last Updated: Monday, 24 September 2007, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
'$100 laptop' to sell to public
By Jonathan Fildes
Science and technology reporter, BBC News

Students at a school in Nigeria

Computer enthusiasts in the developed world will soon be able to get their hands on the so-called "$100 laptop".

The organisation behind the project has launched the "give one, get one" scheme that will allow US residents to purchase two laptops for $399 (198).

One laptop will be sent to the buyer whilst a child in the developing world will receive the second machine

The G1G1 scheme, as it is known, will offer the laptops for just two weeks, starting on the 12 November.

The offer to the general public comes after the project's founder admitted that concrete orders from the governments of developing nations had not always followed verbal agreements.

Nicholas Negroponte told the New York Times: "I have to some degree underestimated the difference between shaking the hand of a head of state and having a cheque written.

"And yes, it has been a disappointment."

Walter Bender, head of software development at One Laptop per Child (OLPC), told the BBC News website: "From day one there's been a lot of interest expressed in having some way of people in the developed world participate in the programme."

Price hike

The XO laptop has been developed to be used by children and is as low cost, durable and simple to use as possible.

It packs several innovations including a sunlight readable display so that it can be used outside. It has no moving parts, can be powered by solar, foot-pump or pull-string powered chargers and is housed in a waterproof case.

cost breakdown

The machine's price has recently increased from $176 (88) to $188 (93) although the eventual aim is to sell the machines for $100 (50).

Governments can buy the green and white machines in lots of 250,000.

In July, hardware suppliers were given the green light to ramp-up production of all of the components needed to build the low-cost machines.

The decision suggested that the organisation had met or surpassed the three million orders it need to make production viable.

The names of the governments that have purchased the first lots of machines have not been released.

Developing whirl

But, according to OLPC, there has also been huge interest in the XO laptop from individuals in the developed world.

"I don't know how many times people have added an entry in our wiki saying 'how do I get one?' or 'I'd gladly pay one for a child if I could get one'," said Mr Bender.

Schoolchildren with $100 laptop, AP
The laptop was designed to be used in developing countries
The organisation has previously hinted that they were considering selling the laptop on a give one get one basis, but not this early.

In January this year, Michalis Bletsas, chief connectivity officer for the project, told the BBC news website that OLPC was hoping to sell the laptop to the public "next year".

Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of OLPC, has also previously said: "Many commercial schemes have been considered and proposed that may surface in 2008 or beyond, one of which is 'buy 2 and get 1'."

According to Mr Bender, OLPC see several advantages to offering laptops to the developed world.

"There's going to be a lot more people able to contribute content, software development and support," said Mr Bender.

But primarily, he said, it was a way of extending the laptop project to countries that cannot afford to participate.

"We see it as a way of kick-starting the programme in the least developed countries."

Early adopter

The first countries to receive the donated laptops will be Cambodia, Afghanistan, Rwanda and Haiti.

Other least developed countries (LDC), as defined by the UN, will be able to bid to join the scheme.

The laptops will go on sale for two weeks through the xogiving.org website.

They will only be available for two weeks to ensure OLPC can meet demand and so that machines are not diverted away from countries that have already placed orders.

Although the exact number of laptops available through the G1G1 scheme has not been revealed, Mr Bender said that the "first 25,000" people that purchase one should receive it before the end of the year.

Others will receive their machines in the first quarter of 2008.

Mr Bender said that if it proves successful, the organisation would consider extending the scheme.

"Our motivation is helping kids learn and giving them an opportunity to participate in the laptop programme so whatever will advance that cause we will do," he said.

"This is something we are going to try and if it looks like it is an effective tool we will do more of it."

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