I had the opportunity to take a One Laptop Per Child foundation XO laptop for a virtual test drive at the Fortune Brainstorm Technology 2007 Conference in San Francisco last year.
Last month I was at home and my dad had one at the house for a while, courtesy of some of his friends at the university, so I got to spend a few hours with the machine, getting online and cruising around on its Linux operating system. I was very impressed.
The laptop is lightweight, feels very durable, and didn't seem unnecessarily slow. After many years of work the OLPC foundation has created a very convincing product in the XO, although it's for sale for $200 not the $100 that was originally targeted. I don't think it matters, they have made and continue to make their point... and a difference in the world.
I'm excited to watch their progress over the next five years. In the fall of 2007 Nicholas Negroponte's OLPC Foundation announced a buy-one give-one program in which Americans and Canadians could purchase two of their production XO machines for $399.
One would be shipped to the person purchasing the machine in either of these countries, the other would be shipped to a child in a developing country at no cost to that country or the child.
On Tuesday afternoon at the Fortune Brainstorm Technology Conference that I'm attending in Half Moon Bay, California, Nicholas announced that they would soon reinstate the buy-one give-one program but that this time they would allow people in any country worldwide to participate. The crowd was excited.
Nicholas was sitting beside David Kirkpatrick from Fortune about 10 feet from me as he unveiled and displayed for the first time the XO laptop running Windows which he described was a critical milestone to getting widespread international adoption of the computer.
He said this was not because he expects countries to purchase Windows licenses for all of the laptops they will buy but instead because knowing that they could install Windows on the machines gives them the confidence to invest in the Linux OS version machines and know that they can upgrade the operating system if at any point they have the resources or the need to do so.
I think this is interesting and I wouldn't have thought this at first because anything required to keep the cost down is critical for this project but the idea of being prepared for expansion is important.