Does Intel fear the $100 laptops? Such is the title of an article on CNN Money which you can read here. These $100 laptops, manufactured under the brand name of XO laptops as per a project called OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) Programme, aim at bringing the power of computers and the Internet into the lives of children from developing nations. An analysis of the technical specifications for the laptop can be found on ars technica.
A project which has the whole computing world watching and anticipating with bated breath with all the big software and hardware companies showing considerable interest (read this piece here for more on this), the XO project is possibly the most radical idea to come out in computer sciences since their speedy inception - an idea that is as fantastic as it is difficult, an idea which has been borne out of a single minded dedication of the people involved to create a non-profit machine which will help children across the world take advantage of the computer revolution that has failed to touch their lives till now.
Sure there are detractors...and the competition is only just heating up, with Intel bringing out its Classmate machines which will be prices just a little higher but probably provide better computing capabilities. (A comparative study of OLPC's XO laptop and Intel's Classmate can be found here on CNN Money.)
So how does this bode for the world of computing? It all depends, of course, on the sales that OLPC can make - something that should be clear by the end of 2008. Indeed, it is a testament to the potential of these laptops - whether for being a harbinger of an educational revolution or for being a great opportunity in marketing computing solutions and products across the globe - that everybody from Google to Microsoft to Dell is involved/trying to get involved in this project which initially meant to work on and open source platform (Linux). For me, after reading this stuff, I just hope that the target of this project isn't overshadowed by some marketing war that comes up between OLPC and Intel with regards to their respective products or by the politics that may get in the way of the XO sales (a very distinct possibility since governments are involved).
All said and done, this is a beautiful concept which deserves to achieve fruition beyond the wildest dreams of its creators. After all, it will bring a smile on the faces of children across the globe, won't it?
And a last word on this: Apparently, India is planning to create a $10 laptop, aimed at outshining the OLPC endeavours, though I wonder whether it's a genuine attempt or just a hoax to gain some publicity.