Peer Review: One Laptop Per Child computer leaves testers excited, grumpy

Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program has been around for a few years now, but it is only in the last couple of months that real, live OLPC laptops have been shipping, not just to third world countries, but to Americans, courtesy of the "Give 1, Get 1" program. The program's been extended through the end of the year, which means that there's still time to pay $400 for two laptops— one for yourself, the other for a child in a poor country.

Originally the company was going to keep its rugged little XO laptops out of Western countries since the laptops are so much less powerful than most computers. But since they are available (even if just for a limited time), some publications have reviewed them. The resulting opinions vary widely, based on what the writers think of the OLPC mission, and based on what they think children want and need in entry level computers.

A round-up of views about the XO laptop and the OLPC mission after the jump.

It's no fun for adults
"The emphasis is firmly on child … kids in a classroom setting will probably grok [the inteface] quickly, but grown-ups will wrestle with OLPC's software as much as they do its hardware." , Wired

Don't say it's worse than other computers. Say it's better than textbooks
"It is not about teaching children to work with a computer. It is about teaching. It means, that OLPC and especially its GUI should not be directly compared to any other computer system. Compare it to other education materials instead." , Blog of Gentoo, via Linux Today

Actually, we think it's really hard to use
"You would think that a product geared towards children would be as intuitive and simple as possible. Unfortunately, OLPC's XO laptop is not newbie friendly at all." , Mobile Magazine

This thing is awesome!
"[The Laptop] is absolutely amazing, and in my limited tests, a total kid magnet … Incredibly, one keystroke reveals the underlying code of almost any XO program or any Web page. Students can not only study how their favorite programs have been written, but even experiment by making changes… Despite all the obstacles and doubters, O.L.P.C. has come up with a laptop that’s tough and simple enough for hot, humid, dusty locales [and] cool enough to keep young minds engaged." , The New York Times

For kids, it's as cool as the iPhone
"If you think you're buying a full-featured laptop PC for $199 net cost you're deluding yourself, yet for children… the XO-1 is as appealing as the other "most desirable object" of 2007, the Apple iPhone. The colors are bright and friendly, the rubber-sealed keyboard is protected against splashes from beverages, and the keys are responsive. I got the mother of all pouts when I had to take the XO-1 back from my 9-year-old tester." , PC Magazine

Even first world kids can learn something from it
"I felt that a lot of effort would be needed by hard-pressed teachers before [the laptop] became more than just a distracting toy for the children to mess around with in class. But [my son] has changed my mind. With no help from his Dad, he has learned far more about computers than he knew a couple of weeks ago, and the XO appears to be a more creative tool than the games consoles which occupy rather too much of his time." , BBC News

The curmudgeon: This is the stupidest idea ever
"Let's give these kids these little green computers. That will do it! That will solve the poverty problem and everything else, for that matter. Does anyone but me see this as an insulting "let them eat cake" sort of message to the world's poor… do you now feel better about the world's problems, knowing that some poor tribesman's child has a laptop? What African kid doesn't want access to Slashdot?" , PC Magazine editorial

A response: No, you're the stupidest person ever
"Perhaps [Dvorak is] just afraid that a Nigerian schoolchild, empowered by the technology entrusted to them, will take him to task for his patronising attitude, or perhaps even turn out to be a better journalist. It wouldn't be hard." , BBC editorial

We think OLPC's a great idea, but we wouldn't want one of the computers ourselves. What do you think of the XO laptop and the give one, get one scheme?

Last Week: The Pleo has landed