Wired takes a look at how cheap little laptops hit the big time, you can read it over here.
Mary Lou Jepsen didn't set out to invent the netbook and turn the computer industry upside down. She was just trying to create a supercheap laptop. In 2005, Jepsen, a pioneering LCD screen designer, was tapped to lead the development of the machine that would become known as One Laptop per Child. Nicholas Negroponte, the longtime MIT Media Lab visionary, launched the project hoping to create an inexpensive computer for children in developing countries. It would have Wi-Fi, a color screen, and a full keyboard—and sell for about $100. At that price, third-world governments could buy millions and hand them out freely in rural villages. Plus, it had to be small, incredibly rugged, and able to run on minimal power. "Half of the world's children have no regular access to electricity," Jepsen points out.