The One Laptop Per Child project was supposed to start production in October, but due to "last-minute bugs," the bulk of production has been delayed until November 12. That means the project will have trouble delivering laptops to children in Uruguay and Peru, the only countries that have ordered the machines so far, in time for kids to use them over their summer vacation.
And while OLPC still plans to offer the laptops for sale November 12 to 26 individuals in the U.S. and Canada under its Give One, Get One sales effort, it's now quite uncertain when those machines will be delivered. Under that program, Westerners would buy two machines -- one for a child in the developing world and one to keep. If consumers don't know when they'll receive laptops, they might be less interested in participating.
Wayan Vota, editor of OLPC News, said that people should still participate in the program. "What I really hope is that they will be able to deliver laptops to Uruguay and Peru," he said in a telephone interview. Those countries have already ordered the laptops. "They need them. I would be happy to get mine in February or March if the 'give-one' laptop goes to kids today."
Facing Production Crunch
The delay might be more than a few weeks, however. Vota pointed out that the delay, which he said was due to "a combination of lack of orders and the need to take more time to finish the project," now pushes OLPC into competition with major computer manufacturers.
OLPC is facing a "very serious problem" because the fourth quarter is the "highest demand time for laptop producers," Vota said. "It's crunch time for laptop producers. OLPC had originally expected to get machines out in early 2007; now they're facing competition for the Christmas rush with Dell and Apple." Producers such as Quanta, which will make OLPC's XO-1 laptop, will honor existing contracts with major computer companies over OLPC, he said.
New 'Give Many' Program
Meanwhile, OLPC announced a new sales program that invites philanthropists to donate as few as 100 laptops to children in the developing world. Under the Give Many program, donors can purchase between 100 and 1,000 laptops at $299 each and direct where the donations are sent. A portion of that purchase price is used to fund an additional 50 laptops that go to an OLPC-chosen destination. In addition, philanthropists can give blocks of over 1,000 laptops at $249 each in a donation that also funds 250 laptops for an OLPC-chosen destination.
The new donation plans show that the organization is "waking up to the realization" that founder Nicholas Negroponte's original idea of selling millions of laptops to developing governments has failed, Vota said. "They really need to start at the grass roots and work up," he added. The current plan is a "much better idea," Vota said, because it "allows individuals and communities to be the ones buying the laptops and implementing them on a local scale."
OLPC got a huge boost from John L. Thornton, a former president of Goldman Sachs and an Intel director, who is underwriting the launch of an OLPC initiative in Mongolia. Wednesday, President Nambaryn Enkhbayar and Negroponte announced a commitment to 20,000 XO-1s. A press release stated that the Mongolian initiative "comes through the ongoing support of Mr. John L. Thornton." It is unclear how much money Thornton has pledged.