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$100 laptops for kids in developing world

Nicholas Negroponte announced detailed specs for his $100 computer, and said that his nonprofit One Laptop per Child is in negotiations with five developing countries - Brazil, China, Thailand, Egypt and South Africa - to provide the machines.

Speaking at MIT's Emerging Technologies conference Nicholas Negroponte announced detailed specs for his $100 computer, and said that his nonprofit One Laptop per Child is in negotiations with five developing countries - Brazil, China, Thailand, Egypt and South Africa - to provide the machines.

He said a goal of the project is to make the low-cost PC idea a grassroots movement that will spread in popularity, like the Linux operating system or the Wikipedia free online encyclopedia. "This is open-source education. It's a big issue."

Negroponte said the idea is that governments will pay roughly $100 for the laptops and will distribute them for free to students.

The proposed design of the machines calls for a 500MHz processor, 1GB of memory and an innovative dual-mode display that can be used in full-color mode, or in a black-and-white sunlight-readable mode. The display makes the laptop "both an electronic book and a laptop," he said.

David Berlind is attending the conference, and he comes up with several intriguing ramifications of the $100 PC. On Microsoft:

Whereas there are plenty of naysayers who say the $100 laptop cannot be done, Negroponte appears to be on a course to prove them wrong.  During the presentation, Negroponte said:

50 percent of cost of today's laptops is in sales promotion, marketing, etc.  We have none of that cost.  The rest of it is the display — and we have a lot of expertise working to bring the cost of that down to $35.  As for the rest of the parts, at least 75 percent of it is there to support the weight of the operating system…I'm not just picking on Microsoft.  This is true of Adobe and others as well.  Invariably, next release [of software] is worse than next one… It's gotten so fat, so slow, so obese, so unreliable that it's time to start over and dumb it down with skinny Linux — skinny open source."

As I was listening to this, I thought of how Microsoft already has enough challenges on its hands and that Bill & Co need Negroponte's vision of a $100 laptop and billions of children running Linux on them like most people need a hole in their heads. (With MIT based in Massachusetts and with the recently ratified ODF initiative also being in Massachusetts, is that state turning out to be a real thorn in Microsoft's side, or what?).

On Google:

As a side note, the notebook isn't slated to have or need the big honkin' hard drives that today's system have. Where will all that data be stored and what applications will be used in the process? Make a note that Google, already specializing in rich thin-client applications, is a project sponsor.  Then, see my treatise on the Google PC.

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