'Marketplace' Report: A Laptop for Every Child Buy two laptops and donate the second one to a child in a poor country. The One Laptop per Child project has announced a new way to get North American consumers involved in sending computer overseas.
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'Marketplace' Report: A Laptop for Every Child

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'Marketplace' Report: A Laptop for Every Child

'Marketplace' Report: A Laptop for Every Child

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ALEX COHEN, host:

From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.

Maybe you remember that ambitious plan to arm kids worldwide with laptops that cost just a hundred bucks a pop. Well, it turns out despite that little price, not many developing countries are buying the computers. So the folks at One Laptop Per Child has come up with a new deal to help jumpstart the program.

Here to tell us about it is MARKETPLACE's Steve Tripoli. So, Steve, what are they going to do to get these computers to kids?

STEVE TRIPOLI: Well, you know, what they're doing is based on the fact that they can't get that price down to a hundred dollars yet, that target. There are not enough orders so not enough volume to lower the price. So here's where this new deal announced today comes in, Alex. Under this plan, Americans can buy two of these so-called XO laptops for $399 total. Just for a couple of weeks in November, they're making them available to Americans at that price. And here's the interesting angle: you buy two, but you've got to give one away.

COHEN: And that one that you give away goes to a kid somewhere in another country?

TRIPOLI: Exactly. That kid will be chosen by the program when you make your purchase.

COHEN: So this is kind of a feel-good deal - marketing meets philanthropy meets incentive.

TRIPOLI: Right again. And industry analyst Josh Bernoff told me this morning - he's from Forrester Research - we can think of this as priming the pump for this computer.

Mr. JOSH BERNOFF (Industry Analyst, Forrester Research): By generating the first 250,000 units off of this program of buy one get one free for someone in the third world, they can get some of those units out there. People can try them out. And they'll probably be in a position to say, they hope, hey, look, this is working here in a village in Libya. Maybe you should buy a million of them here for the rest of Libya.

TRIPOLI: You know, Alex, the thinking is that it'll take three million orders to get the price down to a hundred dollars. And since those orders aren't forthcoming right now, the idea is to get American curiosity about the product and marry it to their charitable impulses in a way that gets this project launched.

COHEN: Okay. So let's put aside, for the moment, that maybe kids in developing countries would prefer clean water or food rather than a place to post their MySpace profile. What exactly would this computer be able to do?

TRIPOLI: Well, you know, for 200 bucks, or a hundred later maybe, you get - you can do quite a lot. It's a simple laptop with a simple interface that's kid-friendly, and it can get you onto the Internet. Its operating system is Linux, not Microsoft.

And more on that in a minute.

COHEN: And does this computer actually work well?

TRIPOLI: Very well. According to early performance reviews - some of the small, early tests - kids find it very easy to use.

COHEN: And what about this Linux versus Microsoft thing that you mentioned?

TRIPOLI: Well, the Linux system is there in the XO laptop because it's free. It's so-called open-source software that anyone can download from the Internet, but putting it there into that computer that may have - if this thing works out - millions of owners is a competitive challenge to Microsoft. So we've seen Microsoft cut the price of its Windows software to $3 in developing countries. You know, you and I pay 100 or 150 and then - so the chipmaker was actually partnered with the XO people - it also has competing low-cost laptop.

COHEN: And quickly, Steve, where are we going to start seeing this XO laptop?

TRIPOLI: Well, Americans can get into this program between November 12th and 26th at the xogiving.org. It's going to into countries like Peru, Mexico, Uruguay, and Ethiopia. If you supposedly order these now, in November, you can have your computer by Christmas.

COHEN: Steve Tripoli of public radio's daily business show MARKETPLACE, which is produced by American Public Media.

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