OLPC Laptop Price Hits $175

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The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization has revealed that the price for its XO laptop computer aimed at schools and education systems in the developing world has increased to $175 per unit. The initial goal of the program was to produce systems at $100 per unit; the price tag was eventually raised to $140, but only after several new features were added to the design, including a video-capable digital camera. However, MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte, who has spearheaded the project, remains confident costs will come down as much as 25 percent in the first year, as production ramps up and more orders are placed for the system.

OLPC currently has orders for about 2.5 million of the laptop computers, to be manufactured by Taiwan’s Quanta. Quanta recently announced mass shipment of Xo systems had been delayed until the third quarter of this year to work out minor software issues. Units were initially scheduled to begin shipping en masse in July. In a meeting with analysts in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Negroponte said the OLPC project needs to have 3 million units on order by May 30 to give its suppliers enough time to get components into the production pipelines. “A year and a half ago, we were selling a dream,” said Negroponte, “but it’s easy to sell dreams if you’re passionate and can share that passion with other people. But that was dreams, and now we’ve got to launch. We need three million units to trigger the supply chain.”

Possible customers for the remaining half million XO laptops include Peru and Russia. The OLPC group also appears to be reconsidering its stance that it would never offer the laptops to the U.S. market; Negroponte noted that the group had received inquiries from 19 U.S. states (including Massachusetts and Florida). Although the group has not committed to offering the laptops in the United States, the systems could carry a higher price in the U.S. compared to other international markets. In part, a higher U.S. price might subsidize some of the units’ cost to developing nations.

At $175 a unit, the OLPC project’s XO laptop is still substantially less expensive than Intel’s Classmate PC, which costs around $400. Nonetheless, every increase in the cost of the OLPC XO laptop makes it less compelling to governments and education system around the world.

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