OLPC explores commercial venues

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OLPC explores commercial venues

Educational project to share its power generator and notebooks with
capitalism.

The One Laptop per Child Project is looking into ways to bring some its technology innovations to consumer markets.

Most notably, the project is looking for way to sell the notebook computers to individuals.

"We are looking at ways to have the laptops be made available to the developed world in a way that subsidises the developing world. But we haven't got a solution to that yet," Michail Bletsas, the projects chief connectivity officer said in a meeting with reporters during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Consumer sales however pose a new challenge for the project, he cautioned, as the distribution, marketing and support costs would about double the total price of the devices. Bletsas said that "more than one third" of every board meeting is dedicated to explore commercial sales of the laptops.

Bletsas touted that One Laptop per Child has produced multiple technology innovation that could appeal to users outside of its target audience of children in developing nations.

The One Laptop per Child project is an educational project that develops a notebook computer to enable children in developing economies to educate themselves and provide them with internet access.

A company called Potenco that spun-off from the project for instance has engineered the laptop's yo-yo shaped power generator that allows children to recharge the unit's battery. Because it is designed to automatically adjust to the load that the user puts on it, it promises to much faster recharge portable device.

"We think this is going to charge a cellphone in about 5 minutes," said Bletsas.

The generator costs about US$10 to build. Retail prices typically have a 100-200 per cent mark-up over manufacturing costs to cover marketing, distribution and profit margins.

The project furthermore expects the notebooks to appeal to consumers because of their low power design and dual mode display that allows the computer to operate in both a backlight mode and a reflective screen mode for using in direct sunlight.

The laptop's designers for instance engineered a special chip that allows the processor to power down while the screen remains switched on. This so-called e-book mode consumes only 1 Watt of power, or slightly less than 2 Watts with the backlight switch on. It allows children to read digital documents with a minimum strain on the notebook's battery.

Even when running at full force, the system will consume between 11 and 12 Watts of power, in part because it lacks any moving parts such as hard drive or DVD player. Mainstream notebooks typically consume up to 90 Watts.
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