Industry commentators are trampling over each other to point out that the idea of delivering laptops for under $100 to the third world was too dependent on economies of scale. And that snobby, elitist ideology alienated the first-world market that could have helped establish the product. And that the Sugar operating system is rubbish. And so on and so on.
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Well, I'm with Nicholas on this one. The first world already has laptops and, while there are plenty of poor people living in tar-paper shacks in rural Alabama and North Devon, none of them are remotely as poor as people in the walk-three-miles-to-the-nearest-well parts of the world.
I have no idea what the XO laptop is for. Mine only arrived yesterday and I haven't had time for more than a quick poke around. It connects to my Wi-Fi network and I can use Gmail. I might end up actually using it for stuff or it might just be another of the (many) gadgets I have bought because they were cool at the time. But the XO is different from everything else I own, because the Give One, Get One system means that my laptop has a twin. And somewhere in a corrugated-iron schoolroom in war-torn Madeupistan, is a little girl or boy using a laptop that I paid for.
Sure, I could have just made a donation without getting a laptop myself. Or I could have paid for a water pump or adopted a cow or any of a number of other perfectly good ways to give to charity. But I didn't because I'm a geek and a romantic; the symmetry of getting a dinky little laptop for myself and a random peasant at the same time, appealed to me. This is no mean feat: I'm white, liberal, middle class and not a church-goer. Consequently, I'm not likely to give much to charity. Anything that reverses this trend is a good thing.
Even if it does have the keyboard of a Sinclair ZX Spectrum.