Actually, The Times puts a different slant on this article (Why Microsoft and Intel tried to kill the XO $100 laptop), but it is a very interesting account of the problems that Nicholas Negroponte faced and overcame to produce a laptop which at the moment actually costs $188, but which will be cheaper – and better – when the second revision hits the streets in 2010. The current product is a laptop, which in some respects is better than the much more expensive and better looking consumer equipment on the market. The article picks out three points:
The first is its screen. This was created by OLPC’s chief technology officer, Mary Lou Jepsen. It is, first of all, cheap. Jepsen points out to me that the screen is the most expensive item in any laptop and yet, for some reason, it is not normally included in the hardware costs, so it gets overlooked. Secondly, it is superbly readable in any light. It isn’t glossy or reflective. It is probably the best laptop screen in the world.
The second thing is mesh networking. This means if you have 10 XOs in a room, they can all talk to each other directly without going through the internet. So even in an African village without wi-fi, the people could have their own intranet. Mesh also means that when they do have a wi-fi connection, its range can be massively extended as the mesh picks up the signal and rebroadcasts it. The XO has probably the best connectivity of any laptop in the world.
And third, it probably has the lowest power consumption of any laptop, essential in environments where power is at a premium.
The hardware, in short, is superb.