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The $100 laptop's identity crisis

The computer's name keeps changing with concept

As if the kids in developing nations didn't have to work hard enough to survive, they now have to keep up with all the name changes of the so-called $100 laptop.

MIT's Nicholas Negroponte is now calling the device the "XO," according to Fortune. For a while, it was called the 2B1 (the name that still appears on its official Web site) and before that it was the $100 laptop from the One Laptop Per Child organization.

Laptop in orange

The name, of course, isn't the only thing that's changed--it will probably cost $130 initially and only get toward $100 in 2008. The laptop is targeted at emerging markets where a few computers can supplement the school curriculum for kids or let individuals create businesses. The results of putting PCs in villages are always interesting: In Mali, radio stations have set up e-mail services that let villagers send messages to each other and communicate quickly. There aren't a lot of phones.

Despite all the publicity, the XO is only one of several computers designed for people in the emerging world. It also seems to be the one with the most potential flaws. It has no hard drive, for one thing, and needs to be subsidized by governments. However, when you start it up, it does play a few bars from a U2 song.