OLPC Gives Holiday Shoppers More Time to ‘Give One, Get One’

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project is extending a promotional program designed in part to appeal to consumers filled with the holiday spirit of giving. The organization’s “Give One, Get One” promotion, initiated on Nov. 12 and originally scheduled to run for two weeks, has been extended until the end of the year.

OLPC, the brainchild of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab’s Nicholas Negroponte, offers low-cost, rudimentary personal computers — which run Red Hat’s Linux — to developing nations.

Under the Give One Get One program, people in the United States and Canada can buy two of the nonprofit’s XO laptops for US$399, or roughly double the $188 retail price. One computer gets shipped to a child overseas — to developing countries including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Mongolia and Rwanda — and the other goes to the buyer. The program has already generated $2 million per day, according to OLPC.

Economic Factors

The Give One Get One program was met with enthusiasm, and it was extended because many individuals and organizations requested more time to purchase the laptops, Negroponte said. However, analysts point to this year’s struggling dollar and decrease in consumers’ disposable income, which will likely put adamper on charitable giving.

“According to all the economic indicators I’ve seen, retail prices have gone up, and what little disposable income consumers have is going to their own holiday shopping,” Mukul Krishna, global manager of digital media practice at Frost & Sullivan, told LinuxInsider.

“Although retail outlets report that ‘Black Friday’ sales were better than expected, in the real world, things are not improving,” he said.

In addition, Krishna added, those consumers looking for their own laptop can find them fully equipped for less than $500, a figure that could limit the number of prospective XO buyers.

Increased Competition

Manufactured by Taiwan-based Quanta Computer, the durable XO laptop is built to withstand adverse environmental conditions, and features a central processing unit from AMD, a screen that can be read in bright sunlight, wireless capability, and low power requirements that can be augmented with a hand crank. In the U.S., the purchase price includes free access to T-Mobile’s network of 8,500 WiFi hotspots.

Though they were dubbed “$100 laptops” during the early phases of the project, the OLPC computers are currently selling for nearly double that price. The group hopes eventually to achieve the $100 goal through bulk sales, and it has made headway in developing markets. Still, industry observers remain skeptical that the organization can achieve Negroponte’s initial goal of 150 million users by the end of 2008.

Part of the problem is encroachment by competitors, who are also looking to cash in on the market for personal computers in developing nations. For one thing, OLPC’s aggressive pricing has led Microsoft to sell Windows for $3 per copy. In addition, Intel — AMD’s arch competitor — has garnered sales withits ClassMate PC, priced at $300. Pakistan, for example, has snapped up 700,000 of the ClassMate PCs.

Aside from the ongoing promotion, OLPC hopes volume purchases will help the organization keep units moving in the face of the competition. Educational organizations can buy quantities of 100 to 199laptops for $299 each, 1,000 to 9,999 for $249 each, and 10,000 or more unitsfor $199 each.

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