First $100 laptops to roll out this year

The first US$100 laptop PCs for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program will roll off production lines by the end of this year, and mass production will start in the first quarter of 2007, Quanta Computer Inc. said Tuesday.

The Taiwanese company, the largest contract notebook PC manufacturer in the world, had previously estimated it would begin mass production of the low-cost laptops in the second quarter of next year.

The company expects to ship 5 million to 10 million of the laptops next year, and said orders to Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria and Thailand have already been confirmed.

The OLPC initiative is aimed at ensuring school children in developing countries keep up with their peers in modern nations by putting a laptop PC able to wirelessly access the Internet into their hands. The founders of the OLPC group hope the program keeps people in poor nations from being left behind in the digital age. The $100 laptop PC concept has also prompted companies, including Intel Corp., to start creating lower cost notebooks for developing countries.

A number of academic and industry groups worked together on the $100 laptop design. The leader of the OLPC group, Nicholas Negroponte, is also a co-founder of the MIT Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The group plans to offer the low-cost laptops to governments and organizations worldwide as an educational tool.

The $100 machine will run the Linux OS on a 500MHz microprocessor from Advanced Micro Devices Inc., will be wireless broadband-ready, and contain 128M bytes of DRAM and 500M bytes of flash memory for storage. The only major component missing will be a big hard disk, according to the group.

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