Quanta Selected to Build $100 Laptop

Taiwan's Quanta has been selected as original design manufacturer, or ODM, for MIT's $100 laptop, the One Laptop per Child organization said late Tuesday. While the company may not be familiar to many, it has manufactured computers for Hewlett-Packard and Dell among other companies.

MIT has worked with Quanta before, signing a $20 million five-year research pact in April. The company has agreed to devote research resources to the project in the first and second quarter of next year, with the goal to release the first laptops in the fourth quarter.

The initial launch of the product will involve five to 15 million units, the OLPC said. Projects will launch in seven countries, including China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria and Thailand with each receiving one million laptops. Smaller numbers of the devices will be shipped to various projects in other countries as well.

Although no final launch date was set Tuesday, the feasibility of a commercial version would be investigated.

"Any previous doubt that a very-low-cost laptop could be made for education in the developing world has just gone away," said the program's chairman Nicholas Negroponte.

Negroponte's comment was probably directed at Intel, after chairman Craig Barrett last week derided the project as a likely failure due to its not being a "full-featured device."

The $100 laptop will ship with the Linux operating system, supplied by Red Hat. But the machine will also be able to run any OS that supports AMD processors, designers say.

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 capability 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.

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