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Sticker Shock

Remember the $100 laptop? Turns out, when you add up the total costs of ownership, the tab can actually top $2,600.

Remember the $100 laptop? Turns out, when you add up the total costs of ownership, the tab can actually top $2,600. Projects such as One Laptop per Child and Intel’s Classmate PC have sought to bring low-cost computers to classrooms in poor countries that can’t afford mainstream technology. A recent study by Vital Wave Consulting, however, shows that training and support expenses eventually dwarf the initial outlay, putting total costs on par with conventional machines. "You have a cheaper device, but you still need to understand those other costs," says Vital Wave’s Karen Coppock. The ultracheap devices might not even last as long as ordinary computers, leading to sizable replacement bills. Classmate PC and One Laptop per Child hope to boost computer life spans with rugged, kid-friendly designs, but so far, the end product hasn’t quite caught up with the hype. 

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