$100 laptop set to ship next year

Taiwan’s Quanta Computer Inc., the world’s largest maker of notebook computers, will manufacture an ultra-low-cost laptop developed by Nicholas Negroponte, the chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Media Lab.

Negroponte, who is also chairman of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) non-profit group, has said he expects the laptops to be available to governments next year at a price of US$100 each. A prototype of the laptop was unveiled at the recent U.N.-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis.

Under terms of an agreement with OLPC, Quanta will devote engineering resources to develop the $100 notebook design during the first half of the year, according to a statement issued by the group. At the same time, Quanta and OLPC will explore the production of a commercial version of the laptop.

OLPC did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for additional information.

The first notebooks are expected to hit the market during the fourth quarter of next year, OLPC said, saying it expects initial orders for the machines to range from 5 million to 15 million units. OLPC said pricing of the Linux-based notebooks will start “near $100” and decrease over time.

OLPC said that trials of the notebook are planned for China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria, and Thailand, with 1 million notebooks to be shipped to each of these countries. In addition, OLPC expects “an additional modest allocation” of the notebooks to be shipped to developers in other countries.

The group did not offer an explanation for the numerical difference between this forecast, which would involve shipments of at least 7 million notebooks, with the forecast that initial shipments could number 5 million units.