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OLPC cuts workforce in half

OLPC cuts workforce in half

The XO is a fairly revolutionary bit of kit - but the cost of giving it away is weighing heavily on the OLPC project.

The end of the first week of 2009 brought more sad financial news for a tech company, with the One Laptop Per Child project announcing massive lay-offs.

According to BetaNews, chief executive officer Nicholas Negroponte has announced the “unavoidable” headcount reductions at the project, which reduces staff by half to just thirty-two employees – all of which have volunteered to also take salary reductions to help the ailing company stay afloat.

The project, founded in 2005 by current CEO Negroponte, has the lofty goal of producing a rugged laptop which will retail for under $100 for use by developing nations as an aid to learning. With a variety of interesting technologies applied to its first product, the XO laptop – which included a Linux-based operating system known as Sugar, the option of a 'yo-yo' style generator for a power supply, and a transreflective screen that could be used even in harsh daylight – the company has struggled to get costs down low enough to continue to distribute the devices to children in developing nations.

Despite the setback, Negroponte claims that his team – what's left of it, anyway – remains “firmly committed to our mission of getting laptops to children in developing countries” and thanks departing OLPC members “for their contributions to this important mission.

With belts being thoroughly tightened at the company, and a partnership with Amazon.com to allow interested parties to “Give One, Get One” - purchase an XO laptop for themselves, while also paying for a second unit to be shipped to a child in the developing world – it's fingers crossed as to whether the company will be able to continue to deliver on its promise to the world – made doubly hard by the fact that the company is currently aiming for a zero-cost laptop from the perspective of the developing nation.

Do you wish the project all the luck in the world with their lofty ambitions, or does the very idea of giving children in developing nations a laptop rather than something which feeds a more basic requirement – books, food, fresh water – need a re-think? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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