Low-cost Laptops Battling for Markets

It used to be easy to write off the hardware specs of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) device, called XO, as a novelty. They were designing what appeared to be a low power laptop for sale only to 3rd-world countries. But the trend can be ignored no more.

First of all, it is not low-powered–rather is a different paradigm of what is needed in a laptop. If you look at this device with a mentality of the large-storage-with-huge-applications implementation of todays computers, you will likely miss the concept. The XO takes a different approach: Laptop With a Mission Widens Its Audience – New York Times

There’s no CD/DVD drive at all, no hard drive and only a 7.5-inch screen. The Linux operating system doesn’t run Microsoft Office, Photoshop or any other standard Mac or Windows programs. The membrane-sealed, spillproof keyboard is too small for touch-typing by an adult. And then there’s the look of this thing. It’s made of shiny green and white plastic, like a Fisher-Price toy, complete with a handle. With its two earlike antennas raised, it could be Shrek’s little robot friend. And sure enough, the bloggers and the ignorant have already begun to spit on the XO laptop. “Dude, for $400, I can buy a real Windows laptop,” they say. Clearly, the XO’s mission has sailed over these people’s heads like a 747.
The truth is, the XO laptop, now in final testing, is absolutely amazing, and in my limited tests, a total kid magnet. Both the hardware and the software exhibit breakthrough after breakthrough — some of them not available on any other laptop, for $400 or $4,000…

As you read further, there are many well-thought out features available on this machine. Truly, it is not a low power machine.

Another reason one cannot ignore the low-cost laptop trend is that the competition is heating up. The Intel/Microsoft coalition now produces the Classmate PC that is going after the same market as OLPC: eSchool News online – Low-cost laptop deals heat up

Low-cost laptop deals heat up– Intel, OLPC supply special computers to students in developing nations. Mere hours after news broke that Uruguay’s government placed the first official order for the One Laptop Per Child initiative’s XO, or “$100 laptop,” chip giant Intel Corp. announces that Libya has ordered 150,000 of Intel’s own version of the low-cost laptop, the Classmate PC.

Other low-cost laptop companies are now getting into the fray: Cheap Linux PCs may pressure One Laptop Per Child | InfoWorld

Cheap Linux PCs may pressure One Laptop Per Child–Non-profit OLPC’s XO notebook has jumped from its original estimated price of $100 and now faces pricing competition from commercial laptops

As component prices drop, the aggressive pricing of commercial Linux notebooks could hamper efforts by One Laptop Per Child to supply inexpensive laptops to children in developing markets. Asustek recently shipped its Linux-based Eee PC, and Everex on Thursday said it would soon sell Linux-based PCs with an x86 processor for under $300. Those competitive prices may draw buyers to commercial laptops over One Laptop Per Chilld’s (OLPC’s) specialized XO laptops, which will carry a $200 price tag when it ships on Nov. 12, analysts said.

Why should educators in our area even be concerned? Looking at the sheer volume of tech R&D; and sales that go into these laptops, it is virtually impossible for the technology/features of these laptops to not creep into the laptop market of the US. The problem is that if our attention is focused solely on the traditional Gateway/Dell/HP/Apple commercial laptop offerings, we may get broadsided. I suspect it is really in our best interest to keep a pulse on where these technologies go because it will most likely show up in our schools in the very near future.

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