31 March 2007

One Laptop Per Child - revisited

On 28 March 2007, the Financial Times reported that the OLPC project's sole supplier of the XO laptop hardware, Quanta Computer of Taiwan, would be introducing a laptop to developed nations with a $200 price point.

"Quanta Computer, the world’s largest manufacturer of notebook computers, will start making ultra-low-cost computers that could be sold in developed markets for as little as $200 this year or the next, according to its president. The Taiwanese contract manufacturer is already producing a laptop developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers that will be distributed to children in third-world countries – under a non-profit project called One Laptop Per Child – for as little as $150.

But Michael Wang, Quanta’s president, said on Tuesday that the concepts developed through the OLPC project could be applied to create commercially viable machines that are cheaper than anything on the market so far.

'We will definitely at the right time launch a commercialised product similar to the OLPC,' he said in an interview with the Financial Times, adding that several of Quanta’s customers were seeking to launch such a product.

. . .

But Mr Wang said the low-cost machines would not remain limited to developing markets. 'There are a lot of poor people in developed countries, too,' he said.

Quanta has now created a new business unit for 'emerging PCs' with the explicit aim of creating a new market for the low-cost machines.

He said the cheapest models were likely to be sold without hard disks, have small screens and run on open-source software, like the OLPC version."

Earlier in the week, I stated that Charles Kane, the CFO of the One Laptop Per Child project, will be coming to my current place of employment to speak about the OLPC project and the XO laptop device. I had two questions to ask but will now include a third:

  1. Given the recent announcement by Quanta Computer regarding a commercial offering of low-cost laptop computers to developed nations, will the OLTP project continue to utilize their engineering and manufacturing abilities? Was the OLTP project consulted regarding Quanta's intentions? Does this move provide any friction between the OLTP project and Quanta that could put the future of the project at risk?

I hope the questions are addressed if I am unable to attend the session. If so, and I am able to secure permission, I'll post responses here.

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