$100 Laptops. The Ultimate Vaporware?

MIT's Nicholas Negroponte has been touting his idea of giving an inexpensive laptop to kids in developing countries. His One Laptop Per Child foundation started out with a per unit target of $50 by 2010, then became widely publicized as the $100 laptop project.  How far have the goalposts moved to date?  Well, you can have one for $188 -- if you buy two and give one away.

Negroponte's plan to heal the world with laptops is well-meaning but fundamentally flawed. What good is a laptop in the middle of rural Thailand when electricity, much less Internet access, are spotty at best? Rather than getting laptops into the hands of every schoolchild across the world, why not start with an intermediate step? Probably because One Blackboard per Child or One Teacher per Classroom just doesn't sound as sexy.

Even if you believe that computers can solve the world's educational woes, it's hard to see how the "Give One, Get One" program will help OLPC blanket the world with cheap laptops. Getting Americans and Canadians to subsidize computers for 100,000 students really isn't going to do a whole lot of good in the long run. If Negroponte really wants to make a difference, he should eliminate the educational angle and the two-for-one gimmick and simply sell a laptop that goes head-to-head with other low-cost devices.

Slate points out that Asus and Intel both already make inexpensive laptops that retail for around $250.