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By Barry Wood
Washington
08 January 2008

Last week the world's biggest computer chip manufacturer, Intel, withdrew from the non-profit program to get low-cost laptop computers into schools in developing countries.  But as VOA's Barry Wood reports, computer analysts believe Intel's decision is unlikely to have much impact.

The One Laptop Per Child program's XO Laptop
The One Laptop Per Child program's XO Laptop
Nicholas Negroponte, the head of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, says Intel withdrew because it is developing a competing low-cost computer. Speaking to Fortune Magazine, Negroponte said Intel was always skeptical about this program because it uses a processor from AMD Corporation, Intel's chief rival.

Larry Magid, a computer analyst based in California's Silicon Valley outside San Francisco, sees benefits in there being competing entries in the under $400 laptop market.

"I don't see any harm in having more than one standard," he said.  "This isn't like two different DVD standards. As long as they all access the same Internet and as long as there is a suite of software for both, I don't see a big issue."

The first OLPC computers, built in Taiwan, are already in production. Even though they cost nearly twice as much as the $100 per unit originally planned, they have been ordered by the governments of Peru and Uruguay.

Negroponte, who heads the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says two to three million units will be shipped in 2008.

Computer analyst Magid has tested the OLPC computer.

Intel's Classmate PC
Intel's Classmate PC
"I think the Negroponte machine is brilliant," he added.  "It absolutely fits a need. At the same time I don't see why children in the developing world any more than in the rest of the world should be stuck with only one option."

Intel's competing Classmate computer is to cost about $250, about 30 percent more than the green and white XO model from OLPC.  Other companies are also working on low-cost laptops for schools in developing countries.

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