The OLPC project is finally taking their low cost laptop into production later this year , Their low cost laptop for children in third world countries is called XO which is expected to cost around $175 at launch though it is expected that volume production will push the costs down . On the other hand Intel has already started shipping small volumes of its own $285 low cost laptop called the Classmate to India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines . Intel plans to extend this to Malaysia Indonesia and Sri Lanka by the end of this year under its World ahead program .
Recently in an interview with the Washington Post, Intel VP Sean Maloney discussed the company’s plan for the Classsmate. He reiterates the fact that Classmate is not aimed at bridging the digital divide that exists between the West and the third world and I quote

“It is amazing how many mainstream, made in Taiwan or made in China, notebooks are sold in emerging markets. People have the same aspirations and brand aspirations. You can’t patronize people and say we get the big one with the 14-inch color screen and you get the little one, that’s not going to work. My view is that these things, like Classmate PC, are much better targeted at kids, with a much smaller screen, smaller keyboard. “

Moloney also states that the aim of the low cost classmate PC is to enable the children to access the World Wide web more than anything else . ( read the interview here ) .

Low cost alternatives like XO and Classmate face a lot of problems in realizing their goals . Take for example India where $285 translates to Rs 11,400 which is way beyond what a poor family can afford . Even if any of the state governments decide to bear the cost , even for 100,00 kids its going to cost them Rs 11,400,00000 or $28500000, now that’s is quite a big number . Subsidy is an option but not the definitive answer.
Content delivery is another hurdle , the software and the training material will have to be customized according to the particular needs of the country and that requires a support staff , fixing a conked laptop will require trained manpower which is another overhead especially when you are at such shoe string budgets.

Accomplishing the goals set by the OLPC project or Intel is not going to be easy, especially when there are over 2 billion children who do not have access to computers . Its a very long and winding road ahead

Find out more about OLPC here.

Read about Intel classmate .

Download the Classmate brochure here .