David Pogue on the OLPC

New York Times columnist (and O’Reilly author) David Pogue) has a good column about the device variously called the “$100 laptop,” the “one laptop per child”, (the OLPC), and now the XO. Entitled Laptop with a Mission, it includes an exhortation to try one of the machines for yourself, as part of a one-time promotion during the month of November:

The program is called “Give 1, Get 1,” and it works like this. You pay $400 (www.xogiving.org). One XO laptop (and a tax deduction) comes to you by Christmas, and a second is sent to a student in a poor country.

David continues:

The group does worry that people might compare the XO with $1,000 Windows or Mac laptops. They might blog about their disappointment, thereby imperiling O.L.P.C.’s continuing talks with third world governments….

And sure enough, the bloggers and the ignorant have already begun to spit on the XO laptop. “Dude, for $400, I can buy a real Windows laptop,” they say.

Clearly, the XO’s mission has sailed over these people’s heads like a 747.

The truth is, the XO laptop, now in final testing, is absolutely amazing, and in my limited tests, a total kid magnet. Both the hardware and the software exhibit breakthrough after breakthrough….

David does a great job of outlining just what those breakthroughs are. Lightweight construction. Low power consumption and innovative battery plus optional solar and pull-string power supplies. Great screen. Simple, integrated applications. Integrated programming environment that makes it easy to learn how to program. Mesh networking that allows a whole group to share an internet connection. But more than that, fresh thinking on just what kind of computer might help millions of people in poor countries to get online.

Read his article and consider signing up for the one-time promotion during the month of November.

Disclosure: Potenco, the company that makes the innovative pull-string power supply for the XO, is a spinoff of Squid Labs, my future son-in-law Saul Griffith‘s company.