Battle Raging Between Mini-notebooks and One Laptop Per Child

One Laptop Per Child, the company that wants to help the "world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning" isn't getting much love from global PC makers.

Coming on the heels of a Wired magazine story touting One Laptop Per Child as having hit the big time, reports today that while the company has decided to open-source their hardware design, global PC makers are unlikely to participate, instead opting to focus on their own agenda of producing competitive mini-notebooks.

OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte has said recently that current notebooks lack three important design features: low power equal to or below 2 watts; ruggedness and the ability to be repairable easily; and displays that are readable in the sun.

While such features could be made available by non-traditional vendors, Big multinationals, such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell, are not interested in helping out. According to Reuben Tan, IDC's senior manager for personal systems research in the Asia-Pacific region, these big vendors are more interested in copying One Laptop's price and optimized operating system—features that have not been properly addressed in the mini-notebook market yet.

One Dell spokesperson told ZDNet Asia that user demands differ according to markets or need. And a Lenovo spokesperson said that it was "premature to comment" as the company does not have details on the OLPC offering. While OLPC has seen successes in Latin America, penetration is "very low" in regions such as the Asia-Pacific. Mini-notebooks, on the other hand, which emerged after OLPC's XO laptops came onto the global scene, have seen strong growth in those areas.

One Laptop Per Child may have thought that their altruistic mission would insulate them from competition, but in this economy, the world's poorest children is a market niche that PC makers are not willing to ignore. Please don't miss Big Think's interview with Mary Lou Jepsen, the co-creator of One Laptop Per Child on her plan to change the world.

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