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The MacBook Air vs. the XO Kids Laptop

XO laptop

Buy two, give one free hide caption

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The Apple Air laptop is pretty neat — but in the wireless game, it may have some things to learn from the $200 XO laptop. That's right, the one built for kids.

For starters, the wireless neighborhood around the XO laptop appears on a dedicated screen, with different icons for various access points. And it links in a snap to other XOs, to the point that letters typed on one are seen immediately on the other. And if one has newer software, the other automatically updates, as well.

The XO is meant to provide affordable laptops to needy children. But after seeing what they can do, I snagged one for my nephews, under a deal where you buy one laptop and the company sends another overseas. The thing is fun enough to mess with that I came close to not giving it to 'em — and at $400 for the pair, the total was about $1,400 cheaper than the Air.

After all, I'm needy in my own way: of a good, cheap way to get online anywhere.

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This is one of those stories that is touching and idiotic at the same time.

Laptops for the poor... provided the poor aren't Americans.

Aside from being a slap in the face to those of us who are impoverished here on US soil, it also shuts off a source of revenue which could help supply laptops overseas.

What's next, a solar power car that sells for $600 thats only available to those living in East African nations?

"After all, I'm needy in my own way..."

That's a little close to being insensitive.

Sent by Brian | 6:08 PM | 1-23-2008

Is the give one get one program still available? I meant to do it before 12/31 but I didn't do it. Is it too late?

Sent by Tricia, NPR | 6:26 PM | 1-23-2008

Not sure if it's too late, but good luck either way. I ordered one the day they came out to review it on my blog. It was supposed to arrive before Christmas. Since then I've gotten three delay notices, including two notices at the same time giving conflicting reasons for the problem. They only bothered to set up a phone line for customer service this past Tuesday, and email responses involved a five-day wait.

I'm still eager to try it out. I spent a decent amount of time in the developing world visiting schools with limited infrastructure when I was director of the Digital Divide Network, and the XO might be a great tool given its various abilities to work in low-electricity, low-bandwidth environments, not to mention an operating system optimized for kids. But if they can't manage to ship out laptops by the thousands domestically without lots of problems, it makes me wonder how they'll handle distribution and servicing challenges on a global scale.

I'll let you know when it arrives.

Sent by andy carvin, npr | 8:57 AM | 1-24-2008

I empathize totally -- I had some real suspense waiting for mine, which I ordered in November. Luckily, it came to DC on the same day as my nephews, the Friday before Christmas.
It's a neat little laptop; some Austrians who were in the US to visit the main XO offices gave me a demo in mid-December, showing how versatile they are and how great the screen is.
There are burgeoning forums (fora) online, but not centralized.
The B1G1 program is still going, I think, esp. since they haven't gotten the wholesale orders they pictured (see the related stories about Intel backing out, competing, etc.)

Sent by Bill Chappell, npr | 10:41 AM | 1-24-2008

Wouldn't a deck of cards be much easier to come by for playing solitaire? People only want these things so they won't feel left out. 97% of everyone online just gossip. This is great for tech moguls, no moment for world citizens, and bad for trash dumps and factory workers who die assembling computers. There's nothing magical about computers that will make you smart or "make learning fun".

Not making a dent, am I.

Sent by Winston | 12:42 PM | 1-25-2008