Negroponte in talks with governments for $100 laptop

A large number of children in Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria and Thailand may be getting a $100 laptop soon.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC), the nonprofit group founded by Nicholas Negroponte to make a durable low-cost PC for children in developing nations, has confirmed that it is in communications with those governments.

Contrary to reports, no orders for Linux-run laptops from any of those four countries have yet been placed, a representative said.

OLPC has received support from Advanced Micro Devices, eBay, Google, Nortel and Red Hat, who Negroponte has asked to build the machine's Linux-based operating system. If the platform proves workable for the laptop's needs, Negroponte said OLPC would go with Linux. The move would potentially spread the open-source platform throughout the world, if the laptops are a success, perhaps making it as ubiquitous as the Microsoft Windows software platform is today.

As with most new ideas, Negroponte's concept for a low-cost PC has been met with skepticism. Naysayers have been eager to point out the potential flaws in the $100 laptop idea. Tony Roberts, chief executive and founder of U.K. charity Computer Aid International, warned that it would be hard to convince government politicians to commit to nonstandard, untested technology. But Tuesday's report seems to dispute that criticism.

Other critics have said the project is taking attention away from other worthwhile projects for children in developing nations. In response, Negroponte has pointed out that OLPC's laptop is not a gadget for its own sake but an educational tool for children who otherwise have little or no worthwhile educational resources in their community.

In May, Negroponte revealed a colorful tough-book prototype of the $100 laptop. Suggested appetizing kid colors for the PC have included bright orange, leafy green, powder blue and raincoat yellow.

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