$100 laptop gets its first production run

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Santa Clara (CA) - The One Laptop per Child initiative, short OLPC, has completed a busy week that included a test production run of the notebook as well as a first public showing in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Images of the $100 laptop ...

There's light at the end of the tunnel for the OLPC, which has developed a portable computing device that promises to run basic software and access the Internet for around $100. Walter Bender, president of software for the organization, demonstrated what was believed to be a close-to-final system at the Silicon Valley Challenge Summit, held at Santa Clara University, last week.

According to Bender, 221 laptops were built on Tuesday and 600 on Thursday in a production test run. 35 people are required to assemble the device, he said.

The prototypes used a lime-green and white case design and were built on a Beta "B1" motherboard and a 366 MHz AMD Geode processor, while previous specifications had promised a 500 MHz unit. The system uses 128 MB of and a 512 MB Flash unit serves as mass storage device. There will be four USB ports as well as a Wi-Fi chipset that is provided by Marvell.

The unique features of the notebook include a dual-mode 7.5" LCD, which displays 640x480 pixel in color and 1200x900 pixel in black and white. The B1 notebooks also included a wind-up power feature that allows users to recharge their notebook by turning a crank.

The OLPC initiative, however, still faces hurdles that may slow the introduction of the notebook. Pricing of the device is expected to be in the range of $120 and $130, which in absolute numbers are marginal, but represent a 30% increase over the originally anticipated cost. And for countries that have ordered substantial numbers of the devices, including Libya, which will get the first 1.2 million notebooks, that price jump could be substantial.

Bender believes that $100 per device is still realistic, but he anticipates reaching the mark not immediately after launch. "The goal is to get it to $100 by 2008," he said.