The group behind the $100 laptop - One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) – has moved a step closer to providing low-cost notebooks to children in developing nations by giving the go-ahead to the mass production of its XO laptop. However, the computers are expected to be out in October, one month later than originally planned.

Right now the OLPC prices are at $176 per laptop, with the price expected to drop to $100 sometime next year, according to a public relations spokesman for the project. There will be 3 million laptops available in October and they will be distributed to children by the governments of participating countries, which to date include: Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Greece, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Rwanda, Tunisia, the US and Uruguay.

OLPC is a non-profit project formed by Nicholas Negroponte that intends to give specially designed low-cost laptops to children who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to purchase or use them. (See: Building the £50 laptop for more details.)

It is supported by several high-profile technology companies, such as AMD, which is providing the laptop's processors, and Red Hat, which helped design the ‘Sugar’ user interface. Both companies and others involved in OLPC such as Brightstar, Google, News Corp and Nortel Networks. have donated $2m each to the project.

The laptops in production are based on the XO Beta-4 (B4) engineering model, which is designed to be durable and withstand diverse and potentially harsh environmental conditions that might be found in developing countries. The display of the machine is fully readable in bright sunlight, and the machines are designed to operate even in areas where access to electricity is limited through the ability to be powered by alternative power sources such as a solar panel.

Before they are released, the XO B4 laptops will go through a final round of testing by developers, hardware experts, OLPC technical volunteers and some of the pilot schools around the world already using the B2 machines, according to the OLPC project.