"I have to some degree underestimated the difference between shaking the hand of a head of state and having a check written," said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of the nonprofit project. "And yes, it has been a disappointment."
But Negroponte, the founding director of the MIT Media Laboratory, views the problem as a temporary one in the long-term pursuit of using technology as a new channel of learning and self-expression for children worldwide.
And he is reaching out to the public to try to give the laptop campaign a boost. The marketing program, to be announced Monday, is called "Give 1 Get 1," in which Americans and Canadians can buy two laptops for $399.
One of the machines will be given to a child in a developing nation, and the other one will be shipped to the purchaser by Christmas. The donated computer is a tax-deductible charitable contribution. The program will run for two weeks, with orders accepted from Nov. 12 to Nov. 26.
....The machine, called the XO Laptop, was not engineered with affluent children in mind. It was intended to be inexpensive, with costs eventually approaching $100 a machine, and sturdy enough to withstand harsh conditions in rural villages. It is also extremely energy efficient, with power consumption that is 10 percent or less of a conventional laptop computer.
....Late last year, Negroponte said he had hoped for orders for three million laptops, but those pledges have fallen short. Orders of a million each from populous Nigeria and Brazil did not materialize.
Still, the project has had successes. Peru, for example, will buy and distribute 250,000 of the laptops over the next year — many of them allocated for remote rural areas. Mexico and Uruguay, Negroponte noted, have made firm commitments. In a sponsorship program, the government of Italy has agreed to purchase 50,000 laptops for distribution in Ethiopia.