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Is The OLPC Project Doomed?

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What began as an ambitious, but admirably noble dream of providing the world's underprivileged children an opportunity for the future is rapidly looking less like a charity and more like a sting operation as the project threatens to move from its present state of farce to a mechanism for exporting western corporate hegemony to the developing world.

Thankfully there are still some bright spots, Quanta Computer has promised to manufacture the OLPC notebook computers for just US$3 profit per device. However, considering the enormous amount of publicity Taiwanese manufacturing giant is getting out of its association with such a grand philanthropic endeavour, it may have been more appropriate for it to offer the manufacturing at least at cost if not contributing a little from the company's own marketing budget.

Quanta Computer last week announced First Quarter 2007 results that showed its after-tax profit had increased 24 per cent over a year ago to US$102 million for the first three months of this year.

The US$100 laptop has now been priced at US$175. The project leaders have always said it needs orders for at least US$3 million to get the manufacturing underway. That will only buy about 17,000 units.

That's hardly enough to reverse decades of third world poverty and debt, but at US$3 a pop its hardly making much impact to Quanta's business

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Making Sausage: How the OLPC Machine Was Designed

Software and hardware are very different. Software is malleable and has no cost to reproduce; hardware is a very different experience.

Hardware systems design is like sausage making.

I will explore the sausage making that is the first One Laptop Per Child System, a novel, very low cost and low power laptop for kids education in the developing world, that runs Linux. The reailities of life for many or most of the world’s children present novel challenges to our hardware and software design, particularly due to lack of power, infrastructure, and available expertise in the field.

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