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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 November 2007, 11:12 GMT
'$100 laptop' begins production
XO laptop production line
The first machines have started rolling off the production line
Mass production of the so-called $100 laptop has begun, five years after the concept was first proposed.

Computer manufacturer Quanta has started building the low-cost laptops at a factory in Changshu, China.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC), the group behind the project, said that children in developing countries would begin receiving machines this month

Last month, OLPC received its first official order for 100,000 machines from the government of Uruguay.

"Today represents an important milestone in the evolution of the One Laptop per Child project," said Nicholas Negroponte, founder of OLPC.

The organisation had reached the critical stage despite "all the naysayers," he said.

Price hike

Since Professor Negroponte first put forward the idea of distributing low-cost laptop to children in developing countries in 2002, the plan has been both praised and mocked.

cost breakdown

Intel chairman Craig Barret described the XO laptop, as the machine is known, as a "$100 gadget" whilst Microsoft founder Bill Gates questioned its lack of hard drive and "tiny screen".

Other critics have questioned the need for the laptops in countries which, they said, had more pressing needs such as sanitation and health care.

But Professor Negroponte has always maintained that the project is about education not technology.

However, the green and white XO machines pack a number of innovations which make them suitable for use in remote and environmentally hostile areas.

The machine has no moving parts and can be easily maintained. It has a sunlight-readable display that allows children to use it outside and, importantly for areas with little access to electricity, it is ultra low power and can be charged by a variety of devices including solar panels.

Although OLPC eventually plan to sell the machines for $100 or less, the current price is $188 (93).

Christmas gift

Initially OLPC has said that it required three million orders of the XO to make production viable.

Children with $100 laptop
Uruguay is the first country to order the machines

Governments were originally offered the machines in lots of 250,000.

So far, however, the organisation's only confirmed order is from Uruguay. The South American country has ordered 100,000 of the machines with an option to purchase a further 300,000.

Other governments have expressed interest in the machines.

For example, the government of Mongolia has announced that it plans to launch a pilot project providing 20,000 laptops, to children aged six to 12.

OLPC has also allowed a limited number of the machines to be bought by people in North America through its Give 1 Get 1 programme (G1G1), which will allow members of the public to buy a machine for themselves as well as one for a child in a developing country.

The programme will offer laptops between the 12 and 26 November. OLPC said that the start of production means that people participating in the scheme will receive their XO by December this year.

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