The One Laptop Per Child Program, which hopes to spread sub-$200 computers to schoolchildren in developing countries, has reached a milestone with the start of mass production.

The nonprofit spinoff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said assembly lines for its "XO" laptops were fired up Tuesday at a Chinese factory run by manufacturer Quanta Computer Inc.

That means children should begin getting the green-and-white computers this month.

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One Laptop Per Child did not specify how many computers will be made or how many orders it has received from international buyers.

The program's founder, Nicholas Negroponte, said in September that Quanta would build about 250,000 XOs this year, ramping to 1 million a month in 2008.

Negroponte originally expected mass production of several million XOs to have begun by now. But he scaled back that goal after encountering reluctance from potential buyers.

The computers were dreamed up as $100 laptops but for now cost $188, and buyers are expected to let children keep the computers and tinker with them at home.

The initial recipients will be children in Uruguay, Peru and Mongolia. Also, beginning Monday, people in North America will be able to buy one for themselves and donate the other to a child overseas through http://www.laptopgiving.org.

Even with mass production beginning later than expected, One Laptop Per Child can claim success on several fronts.

The small yet rugged XOs require low power and can be recharged by hand, have a screen that can be read in full sunlight and boast a user interface designed specially for children.

And the impending emergence of the XOs awakened other companies to the potential of a low-cost educational market, greatly expanding the choices that international buyers now have.

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