OLPC to open-source hardware

February 9, 2009 | 10:34

Tags: #negroponte #netbook #nicholas-negroponte #xo

Companies: #olpc #one-laptop-per-child #open-source

If you've liked the things that the One Laptop Per Child project has brought to notebook design, but didn't fancy spending your hard-earned on a a design straight from the Fisher Price Research Laboratories, take heart: Nicholas Negroponte has announced that the hardware design is to be released under an open-source licence.

Announced by Negroponte, the founder and CEO of the One Laptop Per Child project, at the TED 2009 conference – and reported by CNet this weekend, the plan comes after the original $100 laptop – or $200 as it eventually became – found itself being copied in the form of the ultra-low-cost PC, or netbook.

Negroponte claims that netbook manufacturers “didn't copy the right things from us, but they exist” and that his XO laptop represents the proto-netbook – which his group “had to build [...] because no one else would do it.

With slow sales for the OLPC's first product – the XO laptop for developing countries – and larger manufacturers rapidly reducing the cost of their netbooks thanks to far higher economies of scale, the non-profit group has been in financial doldrums for some time, culminating in the lay offs that saw half the workforce leave the company at the start of this year.

Negroponte is convinced that the OLPC project can live on, however, even if purely as an inspiration to others – as Gizmodo reports the man himself saying, “to go from upper case to lower case” and to “build something that everyone copies.

While the XO laptop has a range of impressive functionality tailored to its target market of children in developing countries – such as the option of yo-yo power supply which is capable of generating power away from an electrical grid, and a transreflective screen that can be read in full daylight – the actual hardware has already been surpassed by commercial netbooks. That said, I certainly wouldn't complain if Asus or Samsung were to decide to release a dust proof, splash proof netbook I can use outdoors – especially if the price hits anywhere near the original target of $100. This, however, all depends on companies actually taking Negroponte up on his offer.

Do you believe that the commercial marketplace could take the OLPC idea and run with it – producing an ultra-netbook that you wouldn't be scared to use outdoors – or has the XO laptop had its day already? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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