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January 11, 2008

Tech, GP: XO-1 is the little computer that could

A persevering longshot is coming down the home stretch ahead of everybody else.

And it looks like some poor people may be getting a big payoff.

Most of the time, technologists' excitement revolves around the newer, whiz-bangier, more powerful, bigger and better whatever-it-is.

Recently, a lot of people are getting wound up about a smaller, lower-powered device with what many would call limited use, developed not by Dell or HP, but by a nonprofit educational group.

It's a little laptop computer, called the ``XO-1."

You can't even go out and buy one for yourself, at least not at the present time, although there are those who are trying to make that possible.

The brainchild of a project called One Laptop Per Child, or OLPC, its goal is best described on its website: ``OLPC is not, at heart, a technology program, nor is the XO a product in any conventional sense of the word. OLPC is a nonprofit organization providing a means to an end _ an end that sees children in even the most remote regions of the globe being given the opportunity to tap into their own potential, to be exposed to a whole world of ideas, and to contribute to a more productive and saner world community.''

Trying to compare their little laptop with any ``normal'' laptop is like comparing apples and oranges.

First, it's color is lime green. How many lime green laptops have you seen?

There are things that the XO can't do, such as run Windows or regular Windows programs.

It's got a much smaller screen display than you're used to. But then, it wasn't designed to do the things a regular laptop does. It was designed to help educate poor kids.

The original concept was that it would be a $100 laptop, able to be distributed in large numbers to children in developing countries. They say it may make that price point as production ramps up into the millions, but for now it costs slightly less than $200.

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