If you missed the opportunity to buy a low-cost mobile computer from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative late last year, you’ll have another chance: OLPC plans to resume its Give One, Get One program, in which people spend $400 to buy one of the nonprofit’s rugged computers and donate a second one to a child in a developing country.

Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the laptop group, announced May 20 the return of the donor program as he disclosed plans for a second generation of the group’s "XO" computers. By 2010, Negroponte hopes to unveil a smaller, more energy-efficient version with two touch screens and a price closer to the long-term goal of $100. Negroponte said his new target price for the device is $75.

"Based on feedback from governments, educators, and–most important–from the children themselves, we are aggressively working to lower the cost, power, and size of the XO laptop so that it is more affordable and useable by the world’s poorest children," Negroponte said in a press release. "The delivery of the first-generation XO laptop has sparked tremendous global interest in the project and provided valuable input on how to make the XO laptop an even better learning tool moving forward."

For now, the group has sold about 600,000 XO machines, which cost $188 each. About 162,000 of them sold in the first round of the Give One, Get One program, which ran in November and December. Negroponte said the program brought laptops to countries that couldn’t have afforded to buy the computers themselves for their schoolchildren, including Haiti and Afghanistan.

The second run of the donor program is expected to begin around the end of the summer and will be open to buyers in Europe and the United States.

OLPC recently announced a partnership with Microsoft Corp. that will enable international governments to choose a Linux or Windows operating system on the XO computers they buy. (See "Low-cost XO laptop now runs Windows.") But buyers in the Give One, Get One program might not be able to opt for Windows unless the nonprofit and Microsoft work out a licensing arrangement.

The first-generation XO laptop requires only one-tenth (2 to 4 watts) of the electrical power necessary to run a standard laptop, according to the group, but the next-generation "XO-2" reportedly will reduce power consumption even further, to 1 watt. This is particularly important for children in remote and rural environments, OLPC said, where electricity is scarce or non-existent. Lowering the power consumption will reduce the amount of time required for children to generate power themselves via a hand crank or other manual means.

The XO-2 will be about half the size of the first-generation device and will approximate the size of a book. The new design will make the XO laptop lighter and easier for children to carry with them to and from school, OLPC said.

Dual touch-sensitive displays will be used to enhance the eBook experience; in its next generation, the device’s keyboard will be replaced with a (second) touch-screen display surface. The design provides a right and left page in vertical format, a hinged laptop in horizontal format, and a flat, two-screen-wide continuous surface that can be used in tablet mode.

Younger children will be able to use a simple keyboard interface to get going, and older children will be able to switch between keyboard interfaces customized for various applications or languages. The dual-touch display is being designed by Pixel Qi, a spinoff company founded in early 2008 by Mary Lou Jepsen, OLPC’s former chief technology officer.

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One Laptop Per Child