The MIT Media Lab has released photos of its $100 laptop designed for children in developing nations. It features a handcrank for back up power in rural areas, wireless access via a peer-to-peer mesh technology, and (much to the disappointment of Appple & Microsoft) runs Linux.

From the FAQs:

Why do children in developing nations need laptops?
Laptops are both a window and a tool: a window into the world and a tool with which to think. They are a wonderful way for all children to “learn learning” through independent interaction and exploration.

Why is it important for each child to have a computer? What’s wrong with community-access centers?
One does not think of community pencils—kids have their own. They are tools to think with, sufficiently inexpensive to be used for work and play, drawing, writing, and mathematics. A computer can be the same, but far more powerful. Furthermore, there are many reasons it is important for a child to “own” something—like a football, doll, or book—not the least of which being that these belongings will be well-maintained through love and care.

Initial orders are being negotiatiated with Brazil, Thailand, Egypt and Nigeria with each government purchasing at least 1 million units each. They are expected to start production early next year.