Wired has a profile of Yves Béhar, the designer behind some of the nifty things in the 100 dollar laptop from the OLPC initiative.
Figuring out how to protect everything from dust and moisture was harder. Béhar replaced the traditional keyboard on Design Continuum’s model with a sealed rubber one and built a sensor right into the palm rest to eliminate the seam between it and the trackpad found on a regular laptop. Other problems: The USB ports were exposed to the elements, and a pair of radio antennas had to stay outside the machine. (The Media Lab wanted the antennas to have a half-mile range for building a city- or village-wide mesh network, with each laptop acting as a node.) Solving one problem solved the other: Béhar turned the antennas into a pair of playful “ears”that swivel up for reception or down to cover the laptop’s naked ports.
“Everything on the laptop serves at least two purposes,” he says.
There are at least two places where Wired sounds skeptical of the whole OLPC initiative:
... Depending on who you asked, it was either soon-to-be-legendary vaporware or a shortcut to modern education for tens of millions of poor kids around the world. [...]
If it succeeds, Béhar’s design will become an icon. If it fails, it will be something more like the first English-Esperanto dictionary – an artifact of ill-fated idealism.
The skepticism expressed in the Wired piece is about the technology, its feasibility and its acceptability. These technical problems may well be overcome, if a lot of smart minds (and money) are thrown at them. What I would question is the OLPC's strategy of selling the laptops directly to bureaucrats, but not to the actual users.
Finally, Nicholas Negroponte is quoted in the Wired story as saying that he is willing to delay the launch of the laptop until he is able to sell a self-imposed minimum of 5 million units. This is an interesting confession.