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XO Laptop, Designed For Poor Nations, Is Headed To Alabama

The City Council in Birmingham, Ala., approved a $3.5 million plan that would provide 15,000 XO laptops to pupils in the first through eighth grades.

W. David Gardner

March 6, 2008

1 Min Read

The One Laptop Per Child Foundation, which has been distributing hundreds of thousands of its XO laptops to poor children around the world, moved closer this week to gaining approval to ship thousands of the inexpensive machines to children in Birmingham, Ala.

Birmingham's City Council approved a $3.5 million plan that would provide 15,000 XO laptops to pupils in the first through eighth grades. The plan has been supported by Mayor Larry Langford, but it still needs the approval of the city's school board.

The brainchild of MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte, the foundation has seen its original target price of $100 per computer rise to $188, although Negroponte expects the cost will drop as the price of components falls. The effort has also been slowed by a dispute with Intel, which has dropped out of the program and is marketing its own low-cost machines in developing countries.

The Birmingham program is the first such effort by a U.S. city. The XO laptop has won high praise for some innovative design features like its non-glare display, its ruggedness, and the capability of a hand crank to supply power to the laptop.

During the lengthy period of the XO's development, prices of standard commodity PCs have dropped, prompting some people to suggest costs of commodity PCs could eventually drop below the cost of the XO. The Asus eeePC, which is a full-featured durable laptop loaded with software, sells for $250 in some global locations, for instance.

Mayor Langford has said he hopes the XOs can be distributed to children by fall.

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