One Laptop per Child – not a chance

I truly hate myself for this as it’s hard to put down what was and still is a very worthy campaign but I’m going to predict that the One Laptop per Child scheme is doomed to failure after it’s European release on November 17th was announced on the BBC.

For those who aren’t aware it was a scheme to produce a laptop for under $100 that could be purchased in the order of millions to provide access to computing to children in the developing world.

It never did get down to the $100 price tag, arrived late, had distribution problems and since then has shifted away from trying to get mass orders from governments to a sort of charitable ‘person from richer country buys two, they keep one and the other is donated’ scheme.

A great idea but it wasn’t particularly successful when they rolled out the scheme in the US and if the BBC article is correct, a price tag of £268 will kill it because to be fair, for that price, it’s crap.

Unless you want a laptop that looks like one of those Leapfrog toddlers learning things with a pitiful 256Mb of RAM, an undisclosed x86 processor, 1Gb of “mass storage” ie a solid state hard drive and a weight of 1.5Kg then it’s not a runner.

The principle was great, if they’d got them to market a couple of years ago as planned then they could have made a killing and would have found a rich seam or Western buyers signing up for what would have been then, a not too bad bit of kit to pick up for the little one here and feel good about donating one to a less well off child in some far flung region of our planet but things are decidedly different now.

£268 will buy you a lot in the current market. Typing this as I am on an MSI Wind (rebadged as an Advent 4211) that cost £280 back in July with an Intel Atom processor 2Gb of Ram (comes with 1Gb, I had it upgraded) an 80Gb hard drive, all the connectivity of a OLPC plus bluetooth and comes in half a kilo lighter (actually it is a bit heavier than the circa 1 kilo that I bought because I have a replacement 6 cell battery that adds a bit more to the weight but it’s still not more than the 1.5Kg weight of a OLPC). You could get these for £250 (£220 from PC World Business briefly) at one stage but PC World/Currys put the price back up. You can get exactly the same model rebadged as a Medion Akoya from Morrisons for £250 with a 160Gb hard drive the other week.

You could get an Acer Aspire One for a lot less or a Celeron based Eee PC 904 for the lower end of £200 or two original Eee PC 701’s for £268 if you shop around which still out-spec the OLPC.

Faced with those real consumer choices no one but a few trendy dinner party liberal types who want to boast about their charitable nature are going to fork out for a OLPC machine.

Sad I know. Personally I wish it were otherwise because the original idea was a very noble one but the market has been overhauled in the last 12 months alone and I just don’t see it working anymore particularly as consumers will be looking for a lot more for their money in the current economic climate.