MIT's $100 Laptop to be Demoed

A working prototype of the much anticipated MIT $100 laptop will be shown off at a U.N. technology conference on Wednesday. While there is still much development to be done, production could begin in late 2006 or early 2007, according to the Wall Street Journal.

At least two dozen countries have expressed a desire to purchase the laptop, with Brazil and Thailand the most interested. Although the device is aimed at children in developing countries, the state of Massachusetts is considering spending $54 million to give a laptop to every middle and high school student in the state.

Google, AMD, Red Hat, News Corp. and Brightstar have all pledged $2 million to a non-profit group called One Laptop Per Child, which oversees the project. Furthermore, five companies are vying to produce the system, according to officials.

Other technology players are also interested in joining the project. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and strategy CTO Craig Mundie met with Nicholas Negroponte, MIT Media Lab's founding chairman, to discuss the project last week. While Microsoft is not formally involved with the project, discussions are ongoing to determine what role the company could play.

Apple even offered a helping hand, but it appears as if MIT was not interested. CEO Steve Jobs reportedly said Apple would provide free copies of Mac OS X for use in the laptop; however, officials declined as the operating system is not open source. It should be noted that a good deal of the Mac OS X operating system is indeed open source, as it is based on UNIX.

Present plans call for the $100 laptop to use the Linux operating system, supplied by Red Hat. But the machine will be able to run any operating system that supports AMD processors, according to the designers.

Hardware used for the laptop will include an eight-inch color LCD screen, wireless connectivity, and it can be powered by either an adapter or through a wind-up mechanism. There has also been talk of giving the device the capabilities to access the Internet through cellular networks.

On the software side, the laptop will have word processing, a Web browser, e-mail client, and programming software.

While the low-cost device will be offered to governments and educational institutions, a $200 commercial version is also being planned where the profits would help support the non-commercial side of the project.

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