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Negroponte defends the hundred dollar laptop

One laptop per child...

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Nicholas Negroponte has defended his proposed $100 laptop for kids in the developing world and promised they'll be shipping by later this year or early 2007.

Giving the opening keynote at LinuxWorld - not an open source theme park, but an IDG conference - Negroponte played to the crowd by saying: "When you have Intel and Microsoft on your case you know your doing something right."

Both firms have recently criticised the machine, partly at least for not including technology from either company. Gates said a shared machine needed a bigger screen and a hard disk. Intel also criticised the project, while announcing its own sub-$300 machine, saying it was too limited and more like a PDA than a PC.

Negroponte, founder of MIT's Media Lab, announced a tweak to the laptop's design. It will be powered by a hand crank, like Trevor Bayliss's radio, but this has been moved from the laptop itself to the power unit. Because of this, the final version may use a foot pedal rather than a hand crank.

The machine uses far less power than a traditional laptop, thanks to a smaller screen and its use of flash memory rather than a hard drive.

The machine's low price is dependent on third world governments ordering it in bulk. Negroponte said the laptop was currently costing about $135 per unit and won't fall to $100 until 2008 - assuming enough are produced.

Ethiopia is one of the latest developing nations to announce plans to increase technology investment. Ethiopia PM Meles Zenawi plans to spend $100m on bringing internet access to almost every village in the country within two to three years (see the Guardian here), in a country which had just 75,000 internet users from a population of 73m (see the CIA here). Since late last year, Zenawi has seemed more interested in arresting opponents, journalists, and students then promoting computers.

More from Businessweek here and from Negroponte here. ®

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