Monday, November 14, 2005, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)
$100 laptop project draws Apple\'s interestA novel plan to develop a $100 laptop computer for distribution to millions of schoolchildren in developing countries has caught the interest of governments and the attention of computer-industry heavyweights such as Apple, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The project, lead by Massachusetts Institute of Technology founding chairman Nicholas Negroponte, was pitched to at least two dozen countries and has received strong interest from both Brazil and Thailand, according to the report.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has also reportedly proposed spending $54 million to buy one of the laptops for every student in middle school and high school in his state.
"Although no contracts with governments have been signed, Negroponte says current plans call for producing five to ten million units beginning in late 2006 or early 2007, with tens of millions more a year later," the Journal is reporting.
Five companies — including Google, Advanced Micro Devices, Red Hat, News Corp. and Brightstar Corp. — have each donated $2 million to fund a nonprofit organization called One Laptop Per Child that was set up to oversee the project.
With Negroponte eager to place the laptop in the hands of 100 to 150 million students, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs reportedly offered to provide free copies of Mac OS X for each of the computers.
"We declined because it's not open source," said Dr. Papert, one of the initiative's founders. He noted that the designers want an operating system that can be tinkered with. Under present plans, the first production version of the laptop will be powered by an AMD microprocessor and use an open-source Linux-based operating system supplied by Red Hat.
Meanwhile, the project's designers say they are hoping to authorize a commercial version of the laptop "that would sell for around $200, with a share of the profits ideally used to subsidize the educational project."
Negroponte has been pitching the commercial version to "large, brand-name companies" and says it will be up to them to decide where and how to sell the laptop.
"I would not hold my breath for it to be in Best Buy," Negroponte said. He's scheduled to demonstrate a working prototype of the device on Wednesday at a U.N. technology conference in Tunisia.
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