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The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has finally moved from being vapourware and over-hyped smoke and mirrors hardware prototyping to being on the verge of a proper production line at long last. It has only taken five years for the Negreponte/MIT low-cost laptop to move from global computing for everyone concept into something approaching a reality. That might sound like a long time, but truth be told it is but a blink of an eye considering the huge problems faced by the OLPC team to keep the price down and the spec acceptable.

Unfortunately, it looks as if the dream ticket price tag of $100 will not be reached during the initial production run. Despite using open source software and a back to basics Linux powered OS, the Taiwan produced machine will actually cost $175 it would appear.

Hardware manufacturers have been told to ramp up production of the 800 component parts, including the all important low-powered AMD processor. The largest manufacturer of laptops in the world, Quanta, will be tasked with putting them all together and producing the XO, as it will be officially known.

According to the BBC test machines are already being tested successfully at temperatures in excess of 50 degrees. Vitally important considering the distinctly non-computer friendly environments to which these machines will be heading. Countries such as Brazil and Nigeria, where other test units are apparently already being used out in the field.

Whether all of this means that the 3 million OLPC laptops previously quoted as being needing to be ordered so as to make production financially viable has been hit or not is open to some debate. One thing is for sure, kids in some of the poorest areas of the world will start getting exposed not only to computing but to Linux computing from the end of this year. We wonder what Intel chairman Chris Barret will make of the “$100 gadget” once it hits the intended under-resourced educational market? Or what Bill Gates, he of the high education for all aspirations, will have to say about the design once it proves workable, and without Windows, after all?

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