The first trial machines of a $100 laptop are due to be distributed next month and there will be plenty of fingers crossed that the computers are a success.

The One Laptop Project Per Child project was officially unveiled last year with the aim of getting low-cost computers into the hands of people in developing countries (http://www.laptop.org/).

The likes of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nigeria, Libya, Pakistan and Thailand have already signed up for the project, the bainchild of Nicholas Negroponte, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. 

Test versions of the machines – named  XO – will reach children in February and the aim is to start rolling the $100 laptops out in the summer (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6224183.stm).

Inevitably there has been criticism of the scheme and a fair dose of scepticism, not least because XO has a new user interface called Sugar. Some of those who have looked at the prototype machines and interface have given it the thumbs up and have praised the simplicity of both the laptop and operating system.

Others have labelled the machines “weak” or “crippled” because the laptop does not have a hard disk drive and instead uses 512 MB of flash memory (there are two USB ports to attach more storage).

Surely such criticisms should be put on hold until the machines are properly tested? More importantly, any conclusions are worthless until those that the XO is aimed at – the children of thecountries signed up for the project – are given an opportunity to use the machines.

XO deserves support and to be a success, not just for those countries taking part in the project but for the rest of us as well. 

The $100 laptop could be a vital part of the jigsaw that sees the next generation growing up in these countries take a significant step forward to helping themselves.

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