$100 laptop arrives in Brazil
According to the Associated Press, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday received a prototype version of the laptop, which has been billed as a durable low-cost PC for children in developing countries. 50 of the laptops are expected to be tested in Brazilian schools beginning today.
Nicholas Negroponte, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and founder of the One Laptop Per Child (LOPC) project, said that about 1,000 laptops should be available for distribution as early as January. He noted that "all computer servers" will be built in Brazil.
According to MIT, the Linux-based, full-color, full-screen laptop will use innovative power sources -- including batteries or hand crank -- and aims to do most everything that a standard laptop can do except store large amounts of data. The rugged laptops will be WiFi- and cell phone-enabled, and have USB ports, a 500MHz processor, and 1 gigabyte of storage capacity using flash memory instead of a hard disk. It is designed to be used under the harsh conditions of rural areas in developing countries.
OLPC says it will begin full-scale production once it has orders (one million units is the minimum order) for 5-10 million machines.
"We are working on this project in at least three continents," Mr Negroponte said in Brazil. He named Argentina, Nigeria and Thailand as likely customers, though press reports indicate that Libya and Israel have also expressed interest in the affordable computers.
Currently the laptop runs about $150 each, but the cost is expected to fall as production ramps up. The PCs are being built in Shanghai by Quanta, a Taiwanese firm. Google, AMD, Brightstar, News Corporation, and Red Hat are among the companies involved in the development of the machine. Notably absent from the project is Microsoft. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and the world's most generous philanthropist, criticized the computer this past March.
The $100 laptop initiative follows in the spirit of C.K. Prahalad's The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, a book that looks at the world's masses as potential customers instead of victims of poverty. In his book, Prahalad argues that by regarding the 80% of humanity living on less than $2 a day -- whom he terms "the bottom of the pyramid" -- as potential customers, businesses and the poor will be better off. Prahalad suggests that the private sector may do a better job eradicating poverty, building dignity and respect, encouraging entrepreneurship, and reducing dependency than handouts under traditional aid programs.