Laptop Project for Developing Countries Hits Snag

An ambitious project to create a cheap laptop for the developing world is running into problems. Intel, one of the major sponsors of the One Laptop Per Child project, is pulling out. The project and the company could not agree on how a rival product from Intel would be marketed.

In 2005, MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte announced the effort to design a $100 laptop. The project was aimed at schools in the developing world, but it has hit a few snags. The latest was Intel's decision to withdraw.

The split arose because Intel and Negroponte's group could not agree on how Intel would market a rival product that sells for around $250.

Officials with the One Laptop Per Child project claim their laptops provide vast educational benefits.

But many foreign governments, the computer's target clientele, aren't buying. The millions of orders needed to reduce the price to $100 never materialized. That said, there are pilot projects in some countries, says Wayan Vota, editor of OLPCNews.com.

"Right now we have a lot of reports of children really excited about their laptops, children enjoying their laptops and playing with them," Vota said.

"But we don't have any reports that this play and enjoyment is transferring into real learned knowledge and real growth and development of the child," Vota said. "And that's really the key metric Negroponte needs to show to have OLPC grow and take off with the developing world."

Even if the $100 laptop project doesn't succeed, it has already made an impact. Today, there are many other companies from Silicon Valley to East Asia making laptops that cost less than $400.

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