Sunday, July 15, 2007

Government websites 'too complex'

Many government websites are still too complicated and difficult to use, says the National Audit Office.

While services like online road tax renewal are very popular, other sites such as HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), are too complex, the report said.

Nearly 25% of departments do not know who is using their sites, or how much they cost.

Government sites cost £208m a year overall but little improvement had been made to quality since 2002, it said.

In January the government announced plans to close at least 551 of 951 websites, in order to streamline services through its "super sites".

'Radical extension'
The NAO report said the growth in online government services was "perhaps the most radical extension of access to public services as a whole for several decades".
Two fifths of the population do not have internet access, many people rely on "intermediaries" to use online services but in general, people were increasingly using the sites - particularly with the spread of broadband, the report said.
Local authority websites appear to be very popular - with 180m visitors a year.

Iceland - 55
Sweden - 52
Finland - 47
Luxembourg - 46
Netherlands - 46
Estonia - 31
Austria - 29
Slovakia - 27
UK - 24

Figures taken over three months in 2005

But most people only knew a few key sites and tended to use "transactional services" once or twice a year - like filing income tax returns or renewing their car tax.
The Jobcentre Plus site was among the most popular and was visited at least once a week by 78% of users.

But others were difficult to use, too "text-heavy" and filled with policy material that was irrelevant to the visitor, the report said.

The average central government site had 17,000 pages - roughly equivalent to that of a large department store - yet most of their search engines "often fail to work satisfactorily", the report said.

'Lost in documentation'
The HMRC website was criticised by some of those interviewed who said they got "lost in complex documentation" looking for tax codes.

But the Directgov and Business Link "super-sites" were popular with the NAO's focus groups, who found they were "laid out clearly".

However few knew about them beforehand, and some felt the name Directgov was difficult to remember.

Up to a third of government websites may not meet standards for disabled or visually impaired people while, of the 3,400 forms available to download, only one in eight could be filled in and returned online.

"The vast bulk (85%) of forms still need to be printed and filled out on paper," the report said.

The report said that government websites had "improved slightly" between 2001 and 2006 in terms of quality, and about a tenth of all government sites had made "major improvements," but one in six sites had got "significantly worse".

NAO head Sir John Bourn said progress had been made in getting more information on the internet, but "little improvement" had been made in information held on the cost and use of websites.

"Departments need to focus on understanding the cost effectiveness of their websites and who uses them and why, so that they can better meet the needs of citizens."
The Conservative chairman of the public accounts committee, Edward Leigh, said it was "disappointing that there had been so little improvement in the quality of government websites since 2002".

"Departments have poor information on costs, websites are still hard to navigate and citizens have to wade through masses of irrelevant information to find what they need," he said.

In January, the government announced plans to close at least 551 of 951 websites, in order to streamline services through its "super sites".

China firm sues Google over name

A Chinese firm is suing the internet giant Google over its Chinese name, saying it is too much like its own name and is harming its business.

Google's Chinese subsidiary has transliterated its name to Guge.

Beijing Guge Science and Technology Ltd told Reuters news agency that people were constantly phoning its office trying to contact search engine Google.

"We just want Google to change their commercial name," said Tian Yunshan of Beijing Guge.

Mr Tian said that people looking for Google in a local telephone directory assistance service were directed to his company because Google is not listed.

Google started its Chinese subsidiary in 2005.

Since then, it and other major IT firms such as Microsoft and Yahoo have been criticised for censoring themselves in order to enter the Chinese market.

The fight against net crime

The recent high profile investigation into a UK-based internet paedophile ring has served to highlight the dark side of the web

Images of child abuse are shared across closed chatrooms and underground peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. The sites hosting the content are generally set up to last for a few days at a time, often jumping servers, making them difficult for the authorities to track.

A number of agencies have been formed across the world to prevent and deter online child abuse. These agencies use broad skill-sets including law enforcement, forensic computing specialists, covert internet investigators and, in some cases, help from the public.

Visiting any website leaves tell-tale signs: an individual computer's temporary internet folder, server logs and a record of that machine's individual IP address.

All of these things can build up a picture of that machine's web activity.

Users may feel the web offers a degree of anonymity but with the right tools and know-how, tracking where and what a computer has been doing is entirely possible.

Law enforcement

A list of websites which are known to contain images of child sexual abuse are banned from major search engines and some ISPs.

This list is maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation. It fields reports from members of the public who have come across material on the web they think might be illegal. In the last year it received 32,000 reports.

"The IWF has a team of trained analysts, they process every report that we receive," said the IWF's Sarah Robertson. "They develop intelligence from those reports and, once that assessment's made, the content is then traced to find which server it's hosted on around the world.

"If it is indeed illegal content we will pass all of the intelligence about those reports onto the Child Exploitation Online Protection centre.

"Because so little of this content is hosted in the UK that's then for them to pass out to the relevant law enforcement agencies in the host country. That goes out via Interpol."

The Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre (CEOP), is a law enforcement body created by the UK government to protect children from exploitation and abuse. It has a particular focus on the internet.

In June 2007, Operation Chandler saw CEOP infiltrate a paedophile peer-to-peer network.

"Our strategy was to identify the co-ordinator of that peer-to-peer network," explained Jim Warnock, head of operations at CEOP.

"We gathered evidence against him by applying some covert internet investigators within that group; once it was successfully infiltrated we prosecuted that person."

After the arrest of the site's administrator, officers working from CEOP's covert investigation suite assumed his online identity, spending 10 days posing as him to gather further evidence against other users.

The man running the site, Timothy Cox, was handed an indeterminate sentence, which means he could serve life in prison. Police forces across the world are following up intelligence gathered in the operation.

Forensic evidence

Gathering intelligence and performing arrests requires law enforcement experience, but gathering further evidence from computers, hard drives and other electronic devices requires specialist computer forensic skills.

When forensic teams arrive at a physical crime scene their goal is to not disturb the scene and record the evidence as faithfully as possible. The same is true when it comes to computer forensics.

"Whatever action we take shouldn't change or in any way alter what we're looking at," said IT forensics expert Robert Brown.

"Typically we will use a piece of hardware for taking a copy of the hard drive, which prevents us from making any changes to the disc itself or the data it contains. In effect we take a cloned copy of all of the data.

"That's not just the data that you the user can see or can work with, but information that you may not even know exists, information that's created as a result of your actions or activities, information that's created simply by the working of the computer.

"So if you're accessing the internet there's a trail of evidence that extends beyond your computer to other computers on the internet, as well as the servers that you might be accessing, the systems that you go through, perhaps the computer that you connect to.

Computers provide excellent evidence for net detectives; they leave digital fingerprints everywhere they go. No matter how cautious or careful, nobody is really invisible on the web.

Intel to join '$100 laptop' project

The nonprofit that aims to seed the developing world with inexpensive laptop computers for schoolchildren has made peace with Intel Corp., the project's most powerful rival.

The XO laptop uses very little power and can be mechanically recharged by hand.

The One Laptop Per Child program and Intel said Friday that the chip maker would join the board of the nonprofit and contribute funding.

The nonprofit effort -- known as the "$100 laptop" because of the low price it hopes to reach with mass production -- has been trying to line up governments in several countries to buy the machines, which for now cost $175.

But Intel has been an obstacle. Its chairman, Craig Barrett, derided the "XO" machine from One Laptop Per Child as a mere "gadget." And Intel recently began selling its own child-focused Classmate PC, which is a more conventional machine than the radically rethought XO computers.

The Classmate costs around $225, and Intel expects that to fall near $200 this year. Intel has deals in Pakistan, Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria, spokeswoman Agnes Kwan said.

Under their new partnership, Intel and One Laptop Per Child might seek ways to package their computers together for overseas governments. For example, Intel's Classmate, which has to be plugged in, might be an option for urban settings, while the XO laptops, which use very little power and can be mechanically recharged by hand, could go into rural districts.

"There are an awful lot of educational scenarios between K and 12," said William Swope, Intel's director of corporate affairs. "We don't think all those are going to be served by any one form factor, by any one technology, by any one product."

Walter Bender, who oversees software and content for One Laptop Per Child, said the biggest benefit for his group would be Intel's work with the project on future technical developments. That will deepen the pool of software and hardware designers available to perfect the XO machines.

"It's a big problem, more than 15 people at OLPC can do all by themselves," Bender said. "Getting more talent lined up to help us is only a plus."

At least the initial wave of XO computers, expected to reach developing countries this autumn, will continue to use processors from Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. AMD has been a major partner in One Laptop Per Child, along with such other big names as Google Inc., News Corp. and Red Hat Inc.

AMD said in a statement that "Intel's apparent change of heart is welcome, and we're sure they can make a positive contribution to this very worthy project for the benefit of children all over the world."

But without a doubt, Intel would love to oust AMD as the chip supplier. Although Swope said "philanthropy is the reason" for the partnership announced Friday with One Laptop Per Child, he also said: "We're going to go compete for the XO business, because we think we build first-class silicon."

Although several countries have expressed interest in the $175 laptop, One Laptop Per Child's leaders have backed away from predicting which governments will be first to officially sign contracts to buy the machines. The project needs orders for 3 million laptops so its low-cost supply chain can get cranked up.

"We're definitely going to be doing stuff in South America, Africa and Asia right from the very beginning," Bender said Friday.

China Internet surfers save more than 800 cats

The power of the Internet has saved more than 800 cats from being skinned and served up on Chinese dinner tables.

About 30 animal lovers rushed to a parking lot in Shanghai after reading an Internet posting sparked by animal rights activist Huo Puyang that said two trucks carrying cats in wooden boxes had been intercepted, Huo said on Monday.

Huo's daughter-in-law had been looking for their missing pets and stumbled into the trucks, one of which sped away. The daughter-in-law called Huo, whose animal-loving friends then sent out an Internet alert last Friday.

The felines were on their way to the booming southern province of Guangdong, where some residents pride themselves as gourmets who will eat anything that flies, crawls or swims.

"It was a cruel sight ... Pregnant cats and kittens were packed into the boxes," Huo told Reuters.

"Many cats had died and smelled," she said. "Some were trampled to death. Others bit each other."

Huo also telephoned police, who took the driver and the truck to a police station.

Police said Huo had lacked evidence to prove the 42 boxes held stolen pets and told the animal lovers to buy the cats.

The driver demanded 14 yuan each.

After hours of haggling, the animal lovers paid more than 10,000 yuan ($1,300) for 840 cats.

"We have a difficult task. The cost of feeding them pales compared to medical fees, vaccines and sterilisation," Huo said.

She called for donations and for other animal lovers to adopt the cats, which were initially being cared for at her shelter.


Huo's expensive act was another small victory of sorts in Chinese citizens' efforts to harness Internet and cell phone technologies to mobilise around often long-stifled grievances.

A slavery saga at brick kilns in the northern province of Shanxi came to light partly as a result of an Internet campaign conducted by the fathers of missing children.

The Maglev train project between Shanghai and nearby Hangzhou was put under review after petitions by thousands of residents.

Construction of a chemical plant in the southeastern port city of Xiamen was shelved after thousands of protesters received cell phone text messages that warned the plant would be the equivalent of an "atomic bomb" and threaten seaside environment.

Internet censorship is common in China, where the government employs an elaborate system of filters and tens of thousands of human monitors to survey its 140 million Internet users' surfing habits, surgically clipping sensitive content.

EA CEO calls video games 'boring', complicated - WSJ

Most video games are "boring" or too complicated, and game makers need to do more to appeal to casual players, according to the head of the world's largest video game publisher, Electronic Arts Inc.

"We're boring people to death and making games that are harder and harder to play," EA Chief Executive John Riccitiello told the Wall Street Journal in a story posted on its Web site on Sunday.

Riccitiello became CEO at EA in April in his return to the game maker. EA's former chief operating officer had left the company in 2004 to help found Elevation Partners, a media and entertainment buyout firm.

The video game executive criticized the industry for rolling out sequels to new games that add little from the previous version.

"For the most part, the industry has been rinse-and-repeat," he was quoted as saying. "There's been lots of product that looked like last year's product, that looked a lot like the year before."

The comments were made as the $30 billion video game industry prepares for its annual gathering, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Santa Monica, California. Anticipation is running high that cheaper hardware and a host of keenly awaited new games will fuel the strongest sales in years.

Sun Micro to revamp Solaris with Linux features

Sun Microsystems Inc. is revamping its Solaris operating system, incorporating key pieces of rival Linux software in a move that could gain better support from developers who have massed behind Linux.

Solaris is one of the main varieties of the Unix family of operating systems, known for their ability to safely and securely handle major computing tasks rather than for ease of use.

Sun itself is known for its business computers that can handle major corporate loads and it long has courted programmers who cooperatively develop Linux and other so-called open-source software, with mixed success.

The revamped Solaris system will have features borrowed from Linux that could make it easier to use, correspondence on Sun's Web site shows.

"This is a big deal to the extent that it lowers the barrier for adoption of Solaris," said IDC software analyst Al Gillen.

The new system will keep the Solaris kernel, which is a basic group of code at the heart of the operating system that controls the way other programs interact with each other as well as the computer's hardware.

"Solaris is hard to set up. It doesn't have good hardware support," said Ladislav Bodnar, founder of, a Web site that reviews open-source software. "The hope is that things may change."

Sun executives declined to comment in advance of a formal unveiling next week of the plans, called Project Indiana.

First ever tri-fuel car set to rule Indian roads

In what could be called a breakthrough in the field of science and technology India's first ever tri-fuel hybrid car was launched in the capital recently. And what's more, the car has been developed by students of an engineering college.

Here comes the first tri-fuel car in India - a car that runs on petrol, LPG and electricity and that's not all, this hybrid has not been developed by any leading car manufacturer but by the students at the Amity School of Engineering and Technology. But why make a tri-fuel hybrid car, in the first place?

One of the engineers Nakul Gupta says, “Basically, the purpose is not to run the vehicle on three fuels. The main purpose is to run it economically and reduce the noise pollution.”

The team of 10 students prepared the car with a budget of Rs 2.5 lakh. It can run at a maximum speed of 60 km-ph using its internal combustion engine and 42 km-ph using its batteries.

A little slow we agree but the mileage balances it out. You can drive this baby for 35-40 miles on one litre of petrol while on batteries it can run 80-90 km on a single charge.

Now, would you like to buy a car that runs on three fuels? If yes then if the industry experts are to be believed, your wait is almost over.

Automobile Expert Tutu Dhawan says, “This concept is tried and tested by all car manufacturers. The minute you see a hybrid car successfully running in Europe or America, within 48 hours, it'll be in India also.”

The students are now hoping that auto companies would come forward to manufacture this concept. For the moment, they are basking in the glory of being the hybrid pioneers.

Internet blamed for Shanghai teen pregnancies

Nearly half of the pregnant teens in China's financial hub, Shanghai, met their partners on the Internet, state media said on Tuesday.

Zhang Zhengrong, a doctor who oversees the city's first-aid hotline for pregnant teens, said 46 percent of the more than 20,000 teenage girls who called the hotline over the past two years said they had sex with boys they met on the Internet.

"Most of the fathers disappeared after learning about the pregnancy, and some of the mothers did not even know the fathers' names," the China Daily said.

Zhang blamed the situation on adult Web sites, videos and books and appealed to parents, teachers and society at large to pay more attention to sex education.

A survey by Zhang's hospital found that only 7.9 percent of the parents queried talked to their children about sex, and 79 percent of high school and university students said they got their ideas about sex from the Internet.

Chinese attitudes towards sex have relaxed in recent decades, triggering a boom in extramarital relationships which the ruling Communist Party blames on bourgeois mores imported from the West.

Global online firms search India for net gains

Global online firms are turning India-centric hoping to capitalise on a growing mass of Internet users, online advertising and an exploding mobile user base.

India's Internet penetration at a mere 3 percent is among the lowest in the world, but the fourth largest in the Asia-Pacific region with more than 30 million users, according to data from comScore Inc. and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Broadband users are even lesser at 2.34 million, TRAI said.

"A lot of companies like ours tend to focus not only on penetration but also on growth rates," said Jaspreet Bindra, country manager, MSN India.

Yahoo!, Google, MSN India are aggressively going local. AOL Global Operations recently entered the race for Indian eyeballs with an India-specific site. eBay and are aggressively wooing Indian customers.

"The India online advertising market is still very small but is beginning to grow rapidly. There is tremendous opportunity for a company with AOL's expertise, network and technology," said P.G. Ponnapa, vice-president and head of the portal business.

A recent report by SSKI Securities forecast India's Internet advertising revenue to grow nearly 50 percent by 2010 to 7.5 billion rupees against a global growth of 20 percent to $47.5 billion over the same period.

"The growth rates, if you look at it from the Internet advertising market point of view, are huge," Bindra said. The drivers are classifieds in matrimonials, real estate and jobs.

"We trebled our advertising revenue last year and we will at least double it this year," said George Zacharias, managing director of Yahoo India, which has only advertisement revenues.

Auction site eBay relies on user fees for revenues. The business-to-consumer e-commerce market in India is estimated at around 23 billion rupees, and growing nearly 100 percent annually, an Internet & Mobile Association of India report said.

eBay India has 2.5 million visitors a month and 2 million registered users across 670 cities, Rathin Lahiri, chief marketing officer, said. "It's just a question of getting a certain critical mass before one looks at monetising."


The low Internet penetration does not worry them. "The way to go about it is not to think of the obstacles alone but what is going to happen a few years later," said Zacharias.

The telecom ministry, which declared 2007 as the Year of Broadband expects 100 million Internet users with 20 million broadband connections by 2010. Huge investments are being made by local service providers Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. and Bharat Sanchar Nigam to upgrade broadband infrastructure.

It's not merely PC screens but delivery over mobile screens which the companies find exciting. Yahoo, in a market research report, has estimated mobile value-added services to rise to $600 million in 2010 from $210 million last year.

"Nobody has really figured out how to make a lot of money from there but they see it growing like mad. Therefore the market size is suddenly looking bigger than just the PC market," Bindra said. MSN India is increasingly focussed on the mobile market.

Of the 165 million mobile users in India barely 5 million access the Internet on their handsets. Industry players believe that 50 percent of phones in 2-3 years will be GPRS-ready.

"The pie is very small now but it is going to grow large. For everybody it is just a question of executing to get as much share of the pie as possible," says Zacharias.

Oracle starts marketing drive on database upgrade

Oracle Corp. launched a marketing effort on Wednesday to promote an upgrade to its database software, its latest effort to maintain a market lead against IBM and Microsoft Corp.

Oracle executives told a gathering of analysts and customers in New York that the upgrade adds features that will make their data centers more efficient, saving them money and making them more "green," or environment friendly.

Company president Chuck Phillips cited several examples, including compression technology that allows companies to triple the amount of data on their storage equipment over current software.

"Our friends basically don't have any of this ... this innovation," Phillips said during a presentation that was Webcast. "We don't mind defining the roadmap for them."

Unlike upgrades to consumer software such as Microsoft's Windows operating system, Oracle will not be charging most of its customers for the new software, dubbed Oracle 11g. They will be able to download the product at no charge under the terms of service agreements they purchased when they bought products they are currently using.

Ari Kaplan, chief executive of the Independent Oracle Users Group, said he expects about 35 percent of the more than 20,000 members in his organization to upgrade to the new database over the next year.

Kaplan said that was a much higher rate than for previous upgrades to Oracle's database software.

"These are features that customers have been asking for, in some cases demanding," Kaplan told the audience at the Oracle product launch.

It is common for companies to wait several years after the launch of a major software upgrade to start using it amid concern that their business could suffer if bugs crop up after installation.

Companies generally prefer to wait until the upgrade has been tested in the real world, then try it out in their own test centers and gradually deploy it in their data centers.

The users group is an independent organization that educates members on Oracle technology and also lobbies on behalf of its customers on issues related to its products and policies.

Kaplan and his staff advised Oracle on functions that customers wanted included in the new database and also participated in testing it out.

Market researcher IDC estimates that Oracle last year claimed 44 percent of the $16.5 billion relational database market, as sales rose 15 increase from the prior year.

IBM ranked No. 2 with 22 percent of the market as its database sales rose 12 percent.

Microsoft grew at the fastest clip, with its sales rising 25 percent to $3 billion, and giving the software maker a 17 percent database share, according to IDC, which released the data in April, saying the figures were preliminary.

Sybase ranked fourth with just 3.5 percent of the market and NCR Corp.'s Teradata unit was fifth with 2.9 percent.

Oracle, based in Redwood City, California, was founded 30 years ago as a database software vendor and that software remains its top-selling product.

In its most-recent fiscal year, which ended May 31, sales of database and related products accounted for 71 percent of its $5.9 billion in new software license revenue.

Google takes swipe at Viacom, talks social networks

SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) - Google Inc. took a swipe at media conglomerate Viacom Inc., which is suing the Internet search leader and its video sharing site YouTube for $1 billion over "massive copyright infringement."

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt told reporters at a hotel bar at the 25th annual Allen & Co. moguls meeting that litigation was the foundation of the company that owns MTV Networks, Paramount movies studio, and video game developer Harmonix.

"Viacom is a company built from lawsuits, look at their history," Schmidt said on Friday.

"Look who they hired as CEO, Philippe Dauman, who was the general counsel for Viacom for 20 years," he added.

Dauman, a long-time advisor to Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, served as general counsel from 1993 to 1998 and served as deputy chairman from 1996 to 2000. Before joining Viacom, Dauman was a partner at law firm Shearman & Sterling.

Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone responded by saying that despite a long history of suing rivals, he preferred to resolve disputes outside of court.

"I would rather be a lover than a fighter," Redstone told reporters at the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Viacom has demanded that YouTube takes down hundreds of thousands of segments from its popular programs including "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "The Colbert Report" and "South Park."

Viacom has said it sued Google because the companies failed to reach a distribution deal that adequately compensated Viacom for its content. A court hearing begins later this month.

Schmidt, who said he had spoken with Dauman while at the conference, also said Google intended to fight the suit.

He alluded to Viacom's $2.4 billion antitrust suit against Time Warner Inc. in 1989. That suit claimed Time Warner's HBO pay cable movie service tried to put Viacom's Showtime out of business by intimidating cable operators and Hollywood studios to give preferential treatment to HBO.

The suit was ultimately settled out of court by 1992. As part of the settlement, Time Warner paid $75 million and agreed to purchase a cable system owned by Viacom for an above market price, as well as agree to distribute Showtime more broadly on Time Warner cable television system.

The two companies eventually agreed to merge their rival comedy cable networks to form Comedy Central, now home to popular shows hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

"We have engaged in a lot of litigation. We sued John Malone. We sued Time Warner. We sued Barry Diller. I don't enjoy battles," Redstone said.

For its part, Google has been the target of numerous lawsuits, most recently one filed by the Australian government charging the company with promoting deceptive business practices with its lucrative pay-per-click advertising system.

Separately, Schmidt said the surge in popularity of Internet social networks such as News Corp.'s MySpace and Facebook would ultimately be positive for Google.

Google, whose main source of revenue comes from selling advertising based on text keyword searches, relies on its catalog of documents from the Web, its so called index.

But sites such as Facebook, whose members and third party companies have rapidly created new content for Facebook, prevent the indexing of its pages.

Schmidt said the closing off of social networks was a "transient" phase and that these companies will eventually see the value of open borders.

Google shares rose 1.2 percent to $551.75 on Nasdaq. Viacom's Class B shares were down 0.64 percent at $41.72.

Intel backs project to give laptops to poor kids

Intel Corp. said on Friday it will support a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher's project to put computers in the hands of poor children around the world, reversing its long-standing opposition to the proposal.

The world's biggest chipmaker will join the board of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation, which developed the XO laptop -- a personal computer that it plans to put into production in September at a cost of $176.

Intel and the foundation said in a statement that they will explore collaborations involving technology and educational content.

Current backers include Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc., which makes a microprocessor that runs the XO laptop, along with Web search engine Google Inc., which is providing users e-mail accounts and free back-up services.

Software maker Red Hat Inc., which developed computer programs for the device and media giant News Corp. also have board seats.

The foundation plans to sell the multimedia laptops to government agencies around the world, requiring each country to purchase hundreds of thousands of the devices, then give them to impoverished elementary school children at no cost.

Until now, Intel has criticized the approach, promoting its own Classmate PC, which it distributes in smaller numbers to poor children in developing countries, giving educators instruction in how to use the devices in their classroom.

The One Laptop Per Child project is the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte, the former chief of the MIT Media Lab.

Negroponte had accused Intel of trying to undermine the project in a string of recent media interviews, including a recent appearance on the CBS news magazine "Sixty Minutes."

Analysts who have seen early versions of the XO laptop say the group has made breakthroughs in developing a low-cost, high-resolution color screen that can switch into a black-and-white so that it can be viewed in the sunlight.

They have also praised its low-energy consumption technology, which allows it to be run on hand-crank-generated power, and durable construction.