Home Frequently Asked Questions
What is the XO?
The XO laptop is Linux-based, with a dual-mode display — one mode is full-color and transmissive, the second is black and white, reflective, and sunlight-readable at three times the resolution. The XO-1.5 has a 1GHz processor and 1GB of memory, with 4GB of Flash disk. It does not have a hard disk, but it does have three USB ports and an SD-card slot for expansion. The XO-1.75 is a lower-power model that uses roughly 30% less power, using an ARM-architecture processor.
The laptops have wireless broadband that, among other things, allows them to work as an ad-hoc network: each laptop can talk to its nearest neighbors, creating a local area network even if there are no routers nearby. The laptops are designed to be highly power efficient, enabling the use of innovative power systems (such as solar, human power, generators, wind or water power).
Why do children in developing nations need laptops?
Laptops are both a window and a tool: a window out to the world and a tool with which to think. They are a wonderful way for all children to learn learning through independent interaction and exploration.
Why not a desktop computer, or a recycled desktop machine?
Desktops are cheaper, but mobility is important, especially with regard to taking the computer home at night. Kids in the developing world need the newest technology, especially really rugged hardware and innovative software. Recent work with schools in Maine has shown the huge value of using a laptop across all of one’s studies, as well as for play. Bringing the laptop home engages the family. In one Cambodian village where we have been working, there is no electricity, thus the laptop is, among other things, the brightest light source in the home. Regarding recycled machines: if we estimate 100 million available used desktops, and each one requires only one hour of human attention to refurbish, reload, and handle, that is tens of thousands of work years. Thus, while we encourage the recycling of used computers, it is not a solution for providing a computer to every child.
How is it possible to get the cost so low?
First, by dramatically lowering the cost of the display. The current machines have have a novel, dual-mode display that represents improvements to the LCD displays commonly found in inexpensive laptops. These displays can be used in high-resolution black and white in bright sunlight—all at a cost of approximately $35.
Second, we market the laptops in very large numbers, directly to ministries of education, which can distribute them like textbooks.
Why is it important for each child to have a computer? What’s wrong with community-access centers?
One does not think of community pencils — kids have their own. They are tools to think with, sufficiently inexpensive to be used for work and play, drawing, writing, and mathematics. A computer can be the same, but far more powerful. Furthermore, there are many reasons it is important for a child to own something — like a football, doll, or book — not the least of which being that these belongings will be well-maintained through love and care. Portability makes it possible to share a tool with others, but it is important to be able to take your own home with you to work with whenever you need it.
What about connectivity? Aren’t telecommunications services expensive in the developing world?
These laptops can connect directly to one another, peer-to-peer. Each deployment also explores ways to connect them directly to the backbone of the Internet at low cost. A single point of access to the Internet can be shared among a community of XO users.
What can a $1000 laptop do that the $200 version cannot?
The XO laptop is built for learning and designed specifically with children in mind. Because of this, features deemed most valuable for its purposes are as good (and in many cases, better) than comparable features on a $1000 laptop. For instance, the XO’s screen can be viewed as clearly as a newspaper in broad daylight, and the wireless range of the XO is longer than that of your average laptop. It is roughly five times as power efficient as most laptops on the market, as rugged as many "tough" computers, and designed to be repaired quickly in the field by users with a minimum of training. While other features, such as power and speed, do not compare to more expensive machines, they meet the necessary requirements for reading, learning, and using the Internet.
How will these be distributed?
The laptops are generally sold to governments and issued to children by schools on a basis of one laptop per child; using this model, we began deployments around the world in 2007. An additional allocation of machines was used to seed the developer community, to enable a broader community of participation, and roughly 80,000 laptops were donated to countries around the world through grassroots donation efforts. As of 2011, over 2 million laptops have been distributed under this model.
Who is the original design manufacturer of the XO?
Quanta Computer Inc. of Taiwan has been chosen as the original design manufacturer (ODM) for the XO project. The decision was made after the board reviewed bids from several possible manufacturing companies.
Quanta Computer Inc. was founded in 1988 in Taiwan. With over US $10 billion in sales, Quanta is the world’s largest manufacturer of laptop PCs; the company also manufactures mobile phones, LCD TVs, and servers and storage products. In addition, Quanta recently opened a new US $200 million R&D center, Quanta R&D Complex (QRDC), in Taiwan. The facility has 2.2 million square feet of floor space, and a capacity to house up to 7,000 engineers.
How is this initiative structured?
The XO was developed by One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a Delaware-based, non-profit organization created by faculty members from the MIT Media Lab to design, manufacture, and distribute laptops that are sufficiently inexpensive to provide every child in the world access to knowledge and modern forms of education. OLPC is based on constructionist theories of learning pioneered by Seymour Papert and Alan Kay, and on the principles in Nicholas Negroponte’s book Being Digital. The founding corporate members were Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Brightstar, Chi Lin, eBay, Google, Marvell, News Corporation, Nortel, Quanta, Red Hat, and SES Astra.