August 22, 2006 12:53 PM PDT

Negroponte: $100 laptop trials to kick off

Reports that trials of the $100 laptop project will kick off in Thailand alone have been quashed by Nicholas Negroponte.

Negroponte, the chairman of the One Laptop per Child group, said Monday that field trials of its low-cost PC for children in the developing world will start everywhere the laptop is required at roughly the same time.

In an e-mail sent to CNET's sister site ZDNet UK, Negroponte said reports that trials would initially be limited to Thailand were inaccurate. "Visual models and developer board demos" will be sent to Nigeria in September, and to Thailand in October, for field trials, he said.

Nicholas Negroponte Nicholas Negroponte

"Trials start everywhere at the same time," insisted Negroponte, adding that some journalists have erred by writing about a single country's involvement and touting it as the first deployment.

The first working integrated laptops built on an assembly line, which Negroponte described as "B-Machines," should be produced in November, he added. These devices will be "tested to destruction," he said.

Earlier this month, reports that Brazil, Nigeria, Argentina and Thailand had signed million-unit contracts for the device were refuted by an OLPC representative. "We have not signed any agreements for orders, but we are in communication with the countries mentioned. OLPC has asked that all interested parties wait to see a working machine before placing their orders," the representative told ZDNet UK.

In an interview with eWeek, Mary Lou Jepsen, the chief technology officer of the OLPC program, said that the group has solved one of its main stumbling blocks--a flexible and cheap display that can be read in direct sunlight.

"We now have a display that can readily be mass-produced in standard LCD (liquid crystal display) factories, with no process changes," OLPC noted in a posting on its wiki site. "Our display has higher resolution than 95 percent of the laptop displays on the market today; approximately one-seventh of the power consumption; one-third of the price; sunlight readability; and room-light readability with the backlight off."

While the initial goal of the OLPC project was to develop a portable PC for use in the developing world for around $100, the likely cost has risen to around $135 to $140, Negroponte wrote.

"It is a floating price. We are a non-profit organization. We have a target of $100 by 2008, but probably it will be $135, maybe $140. That is a start price, but what we have to do is with every release make it cheaper and cheaper. We are promising that the price will go down," Negroponte told attendees of the Red Hat Summit in Nashville in June.

Andrew Donoghue of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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Billions for a start-up?
I do admire the chutzpah of this "Non-Profit" organization. It is no doubt easier to raise Billions of dollars of Start-up funds for such a honorable cause, but as Silicone Valley has learned the hard way...There's absolutely nothing in this world, that is a sure thing!
D. Anthony Bright / CEO
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Public Safety industry take notice
In order to provide better information services access without an ungodly amount paid to profiteers like Panasonic (Toughbooks cost $2k)from public safety this would be great. I can't wait for the day that we can give every man and woman in our volunteer fire, law, and medical services something like this.

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