The green plastic XO computer, created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Negroponte, is designed to withstand searing heat, freezing cold, and the harsh conditions of far-flung villages. It can also be charged with a solar panel or hand crank, so kids who live in thatched huts can use it.
But, for two weeks, starting November 12, Negroponte hopes that kids all over America will get the low-cost laptop — and give one at the same time.
It's part of a new campaign called "Give 1 Get 1," designed to help kick-start a very ambitious goal for the nonprofit foundation he created, called One Laptop Per Child — to put laptops in the hands of every child in the developing world.
"For $399, Americans will have the opportunity to buy one of these laptops. But, when they do that, it also generates a laptop for a kid in Africa, or a kid in Peru, or a kid in Cambodia," Negroponte told ABC News. "Laptops can help kids learn … The goal is for every single child in the entire world to have the opportunity to learn."
The XO computer looks like no other laptop you have ever seen. It's bright green and white plastic, with rounded corners. It's kid-proof — so, it can be dropped or get wet, and still work.
The screen is easy to read outdoors in bright sunlight. And it's lightweight: at just over 3 pounds, it weighs about the same as a lunch box.
"People will buy it for the coolness factor," said David Kirkpatrick, Fortune magazine's senior editor of Internet and technology. "You get a $200 tax write-off, in addition to getting a really cool laptop; that, next to the i-Phone, is the coolest computer — the coolest new technology device on the planet."
But, without a built-in hard drive, or the ability to run Microsoft Windows, will American kids — who are used to high speed, high powered computers — really go for the XO computer?
When ABC News observed a class of first- and second-graders using the laptop at King Open School in Cambridge, Mass., last week, it didn't take long to get the answer.
"It's great, it's too great, I wanna keep this," said one little boy.
"It's so light, and I can pick it up," another boy said.
"You can use it for your homework," a little girl added.
The kids we observed seemed to love the games, the Internet chats, the music synthesizer, and, especially, the built-in camera. They didn't seem to care about the size of the computer's memory, or the fact that each laptop comes loaded with 1,000 books.
"It is definitely about fun," said Negroponte. "It is about fun, because, when you have fun doing things, you learn a great deal more."
For Negroponte, it's all about learning.
"If you can just make learning more a part of their life, more fun, more seamless, something they do at home, seven days a week … then you are going to see, in my opinion, a form of inoculation," Negroponte said. "Think of it as a vaccination program, and you are inoculating children against ignorance."
Pilot programs in several developing countries, such as Brazil, Uruguay, Libya, Nigeria, and Thailand have been successful, according to Walter Bender, director of software content for One Laptop Per Child, who also runs focus groups on the laptop. For example: