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MIT $100 Laptop Thoughts

Cool Tech

December 10, 2005 12:05 AM PST

We haven't talked about the MIT $100 laptop. This laptop is interesting technically, but much more interesting from a social perspective. Read on for my thoughts, and please comment with yours.

Today's sour grapes article from the Chairman of Intel on the laptop is pretty rich, given that it contains an AMD chip and undercuts the large profits Intel has made with premium computers, and especially their dominance in the laptop arena. It's frustrating that that basic message of the article is: sure you can probably give people a $100 laptop, but what you really need is a bad ass Centrino® machine with "full desktop capability". Also, derogatorily calling them "gadgets" is pretty funny considering how many "handheld gadgets" including most PocketPCs contain Intel Xscale chips. We won't even get into his comments about how no one will run apps from "a server in the sky" (Hello - Web 2.0? Microsoft Live services, Google apps, Yahoo apps...)

At least Steve Jobs combined his desire for increased market share with some altruism by offering OS X for free on each laptop. Initially I thought the decision to reject the offer was a bad one. But I do feel that a fully open source software solution is the right one for the goals of the project. Maybe they'll also make the hardware "open source" and all the components license free...

Anyway... the article did get me thinking about these laptop a little more. The goal seems a bit lofty given the current state of technology, but it should be lofty if it's going to change the world. I actually have a signed copy of Being Digital and this guy thinks big. My categorized thoughts:



Overall, I'm so glad to see something like this that's not motivated by greed. I think that content developers and service providers will join the project or be left behind. Imagine, as an open (or closed) source developer, being able to write a Web service that could instantly be deployed to MILLIONS of users. None would pay to use it. Will people still develop these services? You bet. And corporations will rush to scale the hosting and bandwidth if for no other reason than to advertise to an entirely new market.

It may seem a bit techno-centric, wasteful, or mis-prioritized to spend $100 per kid on a laptop when you can keep another alive with food for a couple months, or buy (overpriced) AIDS drugs for those in need. But consider that the biggest threat to world peace now (and probably always) is a lack of understanding and a common base of reference. We can end extreme poverty in Africa, curable diseases can be stopped, and a global community of respect and communication can be created.

Comments (10)

Paul, December 11, 2005 10:22 PM:

They should replace the crank with an iPod scroll wheel... easier to use.

John, December 11, 2005 11:59 PM:


Nice post. When I get a little bit of time I'd like to post a reply worthy of all the effort you put into this one.

J, December 12, 2005 12:09 AM:

Come on dude - I was expecting some heavy responses. I have no choice but to "mashup". I present the iPod Crank. :-)

John, December 12, 2005 12:41 AM:

Seriously Iíve been working mental or I would have responded already. All this hard work for an OS Paul probably wonít even use now that he drinks the 'different' Koolaide ;)

Paul, December 12, 2005 07:17 AM:

Single computer operating systems are so 20th century. The network is teh OS. Word.

John, December 12, 2005 08:04 AM:

Yeah, and Google is teh nework. Peace, out.

J, December 12, 2005 08:10 AM:

Oh, I was responding to Paul with the mashup. I didn't refresh the page to see your comment. Long posts definitely are harder to comment on. Also, I was thinking that the blog format isn't really that great for commenting on multiple points. Email quoting is much better for that actually.

cam, December 14, 2005 12:47 PM:

I think that this is a great idea, all of it, i think that people need to get behind the idea and help to shape it, i feel that within the next few years if teachers would be willing to give small portions of their time then lots and lots could be done for future generations in the form of the following type of open textbook system. Can you imagine in five or ten years the savings if all of the course materials for teaching are online and kids no longer need to pay for books:

Then if these laptops can be used as a book aswell, you have the first years students teaching the second and the third and the fourth etc... How quicly would you get a change in the educational standards. Not only this but lets just dream for a moment and say that remote communities within a very short space of time will be able to send into the working world their most gifted students to earn money to send back to the community... I think this has got legs and wish it all the luck...

J, December 27, 2005 08:01 AM:

Ok, this seals it for Craig Barrett. This guy should NOT be the spokesman for Intel. This is horrible in so many ways. What marketing idiot thought this would be "cool and hip"? (Requires IE to view the embedded WMV video).

Paul, December 27, 2005 05:36 PM:

Wow, that opening bit was painful to watch (but I was able to view it with Firefox and WMP).

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