July 23, 2007 / 7:36 PM / 10 years ago

Non-profit may launch $350 laptop by Christmas

BOSTON (Reuters) - A non-profit group that designs low-cost computers for poor children hopes to start selling multimedia laptops to consumers by Christmas, a foundation executive said on Monday.

<p>Nigerian pupils work on computers at a primary school in Abuja, in this May 30, 2007 picture. A non-profit group that designs low-cost computers for poor children hopes to start selling multimedia laptops to consumers by Christmas, a foundation executive said on Monday. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde</p>

The One Laptop Per Child Foundation’s rugged XO laptop could initially sell for just $350, or twice its production cost, although the group is also considering a $525 price tag, said OLPC chief technology officer Mary Lou Jepsen.

If the XO laptop does make its way onto the market this year, it could surprise personal computer makers who have already spent months planning their strategy for the 2007 holiday season.

In an interview with Reuters, Jepsen said the foundation -- founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Nicholas Negroponte -- is still working out the details of the plan and expects to know within about a month whether it is feasible.

The green-and-white, kid-friendly laptops that can be powered with hand cranks were designed for use by poor children in the world’s impoverished nations. They were designed to withstand severe weather common in areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America. They run on Linux software, feature a high- resolution display that can be read in direct sunlight and are known for their low power consumption, operating up to 12 hours on one battery charge.

As the foundation prepares for mass production of its first model, the XO, to begin in October, it is looking for ways to subsidize manufacturing of the devices so that it can get more of them into the hands of poor children, Jepsen said.

Profits from consumer sales would go for that purpose, said Jepsen.

“We’re trying to get the best deal we can,” she said.

She added the foundation is looking at selling the machines over the Internet and talking to companies with “a big presence on the Web,” although she declined to identify any by name.

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