Red Hat developer Christopher Blizzard has reported that the first 200 low-cost portables for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project have emerged from the assembly line. Earlier this week, Chinese manufacturing company Quanta constructed the first ten prototype XO-1 units by hand to test hardware configuration and system components in order to ensure the absence of flaws prior to the start of production. The prototypes met expectations, and the initial production runs have begun. These early trial runs are expected to yield 900 units for testing and distribution to developers.
According to Blizzard, the first 200 test systems “are very close to the final hardware builds of the machine. The only differences are that they include an FPGA-based flash controller, which will run at about half the speed of final chip, and that part of the new touchpad functionality is disabled.” The touchpad functionality limitations, which affect “the stylus part of the touchpad,” are the result of “last minute unresolved electrical problems.”
Full mass production will start in the second quarter of 2007, and an estimated 5 million to 10 million units will be produced for distribution in the countries that have confirmed orders, including Argentina, Brazil, Libya, and Nigeria. Those of you who have read our previous OLPC coverage are probably wondering why I omitted Thailand from the list of early recipients. Thailand was the scene of a recent military coup d’etat, and the new regime has rescinded the country’s OLPC laptop order. According to a Thai blogger, the new military government has ridiculed the OLPC laptop and is currently evaluating prospects for its own low-cost computer program. It is likely that the new regime is hostile towards the OLPC project because it was considered a high priority by the controversial, ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shiniwatra, and because Thai hardware manufacturers perceive the OLPC program as a threat to their business.
The OLPC software is in “freeze” status, which means that ongoing development will primarily consist of critical bug fixes rather than implementation of new features. The OLPC laptop features a 2.6.19 Linux kernel, and an integrated user environment called Sugar that includes a web browser, a chat system, a simple word processor, and other basic software components. Additional applications will be available for download from an official Internet repository.