January 30, 2006 5:42 AM PST

Are politics delaying the $100 laptop?

In the year since MIT's Nicholas Negroponte unveiled his prototype, he has found himself wrestling with Microsoft and software politics.
The New York Times

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Rediculous Statements
"Some business and development policy specialists have raised
questions about Negroponte's laptop, pointing to the price of
Internet connectivity, which can cost $24 to $50 a month in
developing nations."

Clearly, the United States is still a developing nation.

The cell phone idea is a poor play by Microsoft to spread FUD
about the laptop project. They don't want open source to gain
mindshare in potential future markets. When Gates talks about
the ubiquity of cell phones, he's also talking about the very
markets that don't need a $100 laptop program.
Posted by themacolyte (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"He also acknowledged that months of discussions...
... with Microsoft and Apple Computer about using their operating system software for his computer had been fruitless, and that as a result, the laptops would use a version of Linux, the open-source operating system"; it appears that no mention was made about approaches to IBM which offers the OS/2 Operating System (which they no longer support except on a fee paid basis; this could be offered for "free" toward the educational development of students and teachers around the world) reputed to be a superior Operating System to Windows Operating System!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OS/2 is dead
There is no doubt IBM is now backing Linux. Why proposing OS/2 in developing countries? To me it makes no sense. I could understand the unexistance of feasible, real, open source alternatives. But Linux is there. I salute Negroponte's idea of sticking with Linux, not because it'ss free but because it's open and it can count on a wide range of developers. His hope, I guess, is to have the third world countries to be not just user, but active player in developing the platform.
For this reason Windows or MacOSX do not qualify.
Posted by feranick (212 comments )
Link Flag
M$FT is at it - Vaporware
When will this cellphone see the light of the day. Given that Symbian still rules this market and Windows plays are about $500 (4-5 times the cost of this laptop) I think it is going to be a long time.

Also, wasn't Mundie the same guy who said that a striped down operating system won't do well? I think he fails to realize that there is a full fledged OS for no cost. It is called Linux.
Posted by shikarishambu (89 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft Not Using Tactics of the Past?
Yep. You couldn't be more right there.

I am just glad that M$ didn't give the OS away for free. This would have been smarter than letting Linux get onto the laptops. One day these countries could see the potential in technology and in Linux and one of them might produce the next Google.
It is naive of Microsoft to write these countries off so quickly because one day it could happen. And if it does they will be using Linux, not Windows.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
Open source version of... Windows CE?!?
From the article: "According to several people familiar with the discussions, Microsoft had encouraged Negroponte to consider using the Windows CE version of its software, and Microsoft had been prepared to make an open-source version of the program available."

Funny: I'd be extremely interested to see the open soure version of CE.... How stripped down can that be?
Posted by feranick (212 comments )
Reply Link Flag
let me get this straight
Children are going to have to carry TVs on their backs? While I am not an M$ basher, sometimes their ridiculousness is hard to ignore. The point of the $100 Laptop is, well for one it is $100! Let me see a cell phone with that much processing power cost a 100 bucks. The laptop is meant to be a device that every child in the developing world could (again could) have. I don't know which developing country Mr Gates has been visiting, but TV in every room is a develped-country phenoumenom.
Posted by bit-looter (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
the third world can't afford this
the majority of the third world, lets take Africa, living below the poverty line makes less than $1 a day. $100 laptop doesn't do anyone any good. this is nothing more than a perfect example of just how detached from 3rd world reality the 1st world truly is. they want medicine, education, and jobs... not a subsidized laptop with linux.
Posted by mortis9 (370 comments )
Link Flag
Cell phone
I don't think the cell phone is meant to be the computer. Cell phone plus TV plus keyboard sounds like a wireless dumb terminal.
Posted by Phillep (18 comments )
Link Flag
Ummm...its not politics...
its the $100 price tag. i love how people get all riled up on the fact that MS has the balls to say what every other company approached by this guy is thinking. this product is not sustainable at $100 without heavy subsidies from the technology companies. sure, you want a goodwill grant from the tech community...i have nothing against that and i'm sure MS will be the first in line with its money. but what you are asking the tech companies for is to give away its products for free or at a loss perhaps for what is probably a long long time and how can any company begin to support such a commitment? Chips, displays, hard drives, chassis, even hand cranks don't grow on trees.

the only reason its a $100 laptop is that this guy probably has PR'ed his way to financial commitments from these oompanies to offset the actual costs.

again, you want a goodwill grant to get your good idea off the ground? no prob. you expecting an annuity of money, products or services? ummm...don't be surprised if companies aren't so keen on that one.
Posted by tlite722 (160 comments )
Reply Link Flag
what's your point?
The point of the $100 Laptop is that it will be subsidized, obviously no usable Laptop cost a $100 at the moment nor is there a cellphone that does the work of a Laptop and cost <$100. I don't know what your point is, but it is clear to everyone that this is a non-profit endeveur and I am pretty sure when Mr Negroponte approaches companies with his proposal it is clear to them as well that this is not a cash generating commitment. The key point is that the idea is implementable if the cost of producing the Laptops can be substantially reduced, which is why he choose the components (Linux,AMD,hand crank...) as he did. Ofcourse Bill Gates has enough money to bank-roll the whole project, so it seems M$'s gripe is that windows wont be on the devices.
Posted by bit-looter (51 comments )
Link Flag
well said........
its a "free cookie in the grocery store"

in India I have been told, they teach C++ before calculus.........
Posted by freq (121 comments )
Link Flag
Negroponte does not need Gates' permission
As usual, MS is spun to be the bogeyman here. Apple gave essentialy the same response but somehow that's not the headline. MS is offering alternatives as well.

Of course Mr. Gates could fund the entire thing just like he could fund any number of projects. His foundation does exactly that. Because he doesn't sign on to this one somehow he's preventing it?

Mr. Negroponte himself says that "I chose open source because it's better". So then how is this a Microsoft problem?
Posted by ORinSF (57 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is wack
Maybe Mr. Negroponte could focus on getting food and pencils and paper to all the world's kids first? Maybe he could help the UN focus on getting rid of corrupt governments that keep their population poor for the sake of more tanks and machine guns?

This is ALL a PR game to let the UN look good. Maybe Mr. Negroponte doesn't remember that when HE was a kid what he needed was some paper, pencils and teachers.
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Reply Link Flag
LEt's give third-world kids computers when their dying of AIDS and mal-nutrition and cancer. Hell, let's just neglect the needs of the abused and abandoned children in the US, because you know, third world countries deserve a crank-up computer to work with when there isn't even suitable network technology in place.

**** the 100 dollar laptop.
Posted by (461 comments )
Link Flag
Did I miss something?
Ok, the man did not create the "MIT Edible Paper and Pencils Laboratory". He created the MIT Media Lab. He can't possibly do what you demand. He can try to create a $100 laptop. It might not be edible, and it might not get rid of corrupt governments, but it will hopefully open up a whole new world to these kids.
Posted by buddha49er (7 comments )
Link Flag
necessities for life
i agree. the main thing that these kids need is good food and clean water and a better environment first then the focus can be put on their technology. the guys heart is in the right pplace but not at the right time. you need food and water and doctors and medicine to live but you dont need a computer to live.
Posted by val31 (37 comments )
Link Flag
Get out of my wallet
Why do these goons constantly see the need for government intervention? If this idea is SUCH A GREAT IDEA, why can't he set up a non-profit organization like "Save the Children" or "The Red Cross" or "The United Way" and have people volunteer their money as an act of charity?

Why does this little weasel need to use the power of government to dip into my personal wallet and fund his work...

And this c|net article plays right into that. Crying like a baby that "darn it, those mean governments and politicians just hate third-world kids". **** c|net.
Posted by gerhard_schroeder (311 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Your greed appalls me. If any number of people think like you, it's no wonder those in need can't get help! I have no problem giving some of my hard earned money to people in need.
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Link Flag
You said, "Mr. Negroponte could focus...
... on getting food and pencils and paper to all the world's kids first?"... it appears that you have left out schools, the school furniture et cetera (with all the requisite electrical and electronic "gizmos" to set up the networking) including the "shipping" and "handling" costs to get the laptops to the school children around the world; and, don't forget, some may need clothing and a place to live (re: the Street Children)!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
if you have such great ideas
if you have souch great ideas about what deveploping counties need why don you get of you cumfy suburban fat A%$ and try doing something about it
Posted by alvarobpr (1 comment )
Link Flag
let the NET save the world
If they had a laptop they could google for a place to live and a place to go for dinner and a movie. They could apply for a credit ard online then get on E-Bay and buy all the pencils paper and cloths they want.
Posted by MKenzie (23 comments )
Link Flag
since when has gates ever been right about the future?
see subject
Posted by (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
education is not a panacea!
access to information is one thing...

but schools (ie: institutions) are an entirely different matter.

there are many ways to structure a brain.... and I find it quite concerning why the global elite are preoccupied with structuring these societie's minds.... especially in the context of all the homelessness and advertising in industrialized worlds.... what makes the elite think they can take care of the rest of the world when they cant seem to do much for their homeless neiborhood brethern? this is ethno-centric to the max.
Posted by freq (121 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't be rediculious
Nobody's suggesting the kids should learn how to hack the OS.

Let's say somebody develops a great piece of cheap hardware that's perfect for this laptop that requires a change to the kernal. If you were to put your faith in one organization, that organization might not be willing to make the change you need for a number of different reasons.

Somebody might want to design a more intuitive file system that makes more sense for kids, or parts of it may need to be translated another language.

There are a million things that might need to be changed on the OS level. If you go with a closed source solution, you're screwed.
Posted by OlShue (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wahhh, why didn't Negroponte use us as consultants?
I find it odd that Negroponte didn't seek out the wise comments from CNET readers before pitching his $100 laptop to the UN.

Obviously, there are some people here who can acutally predict the future by looking in their rearview mirror.

The bottom line is their is somebody who is actually doing something, not just talking. And, the product is REAL, it's tangible, it's done.

Why is the product being delayed? Because everyone else in the world is just like us - they want to talk, not execute. Those folks are experts at not doing anything, so they'll say anything in order to avoid actually doing something. We can put the blame on companies (like Microsoft), but in reality, it's individuals who actually do the doing.
Posted by cagerattler (72 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The UN is doing something...
When the UN actually does ANYTHING let me know...
I know...let's pitch the idea of 100$ cars to the 3rd world too...I'm sure I could get everyone that currently gives up their car for a $75 tax receipt to give it up for $100 instead. Then the 3rd world could have cars too...thats just great.

I don't have a problem with the idea of a computer for all BUT I do have a problem with it being funded by governments when their money could be spent on more pressing needs. If Mr. Negroponte wants to enlist companies to give of their free will without tax breaks directly to the people in 'need' great...but leave governments out of it.
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Link Flag
No...it is not REAL or TANGIBLE or DONE...according to this article it is only a MOCKUP.
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Link Flag
Some Clarifications Are In Order ...
here for those who haven't been following this project. These laptops are not for the poorest of the poor who are starving, dying of AIDS, and don't have a roof over their heads, and there already are programs for addressing those needs (ever hear of those "minor" catastrophes like the Indonesian tsunami, the Pakistani earthquake, the Darfur and Rwandan genocides, etc.?). Once those people are fed, getting medical care, housed, etc., then they will start needing this kind of technology.

These are meant for the huge chunk of the world's population that is living in the economic band between stark survival and self-sufficiency, with the goal being to get them up to the latter rung of the ladder as inexpensively and quickly as possible. The target families this is geared toward has some form of shelter, but generally doesn't have any phone service and little, if any, electrical service, much less power for TVs (Gates really is such an idiot for even suggesting the cell phone and TV idea - he obviously knows nothing about what Life is like beyond the walls of Billionaireville). The idea is to seed a village with these, provide a terrestrial or satellite Internet connection with local wireless access, and that is then shared among all of the families. Their primary purpose is to improve education that would lead to employment, while eliminating the digital divide for sociological reasons.

This approach doesn't cost additional money to the governments involved, it's meant to make more efficient use of the money available. One of the goals is to replace the cost of textbooks and the ancillary tools used to learn to read and write, and at $100 per family, the payback is essentially immediate, since governments spend well over $100 per student just for such materials in one year. The content in the laptops will be able to be updated continuously, thereby further reducing future costs, at least until the hardware fails (which should be at least several years, even in the harshest environments).

The cost per student of providing the Internet access for a village is well under a dollar a month, if that, which is almost certainly below the cost of providing cellular phone access, particularly in a remote area, where a cell phone tower/station could easily cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on how much coverage is needed, and a link to a terrestrial phone/data system would still be needed anyway. The per-laptop bandwidth outside the local network area doesn't need to be that fast, as once one computer has been updated, the rest in the vicinity can use it as a proxy server to obtain their own copies of the same data (e.g., textbook and document updates, course material such as syllabuses and homework and exam questions, media reports and other material associated with current events, such as news, weather, science and technology, etc.). Besides, it's not like each student is going to be downloading a college dorm's worth of MP3s and DVDs every day (at least, not until they discover BitTorrent!).

I've said it before, but the economy of scale for these devices could be improved by marketing them to whomever wanted them, and I wouldn't mind having a spare laptop with wireless network capability that didn't have to be plugged in to charge, that I could toss under the seat in my car for when I needed to map someplace on MapQuest or Google Earth, or be able to use if my primary laptop crapped out, if only for basic e-mail, Web surfing, inane posts in response to C|Net stories anywhere, anytime ... If it helped bring the cost of these to the originally-intended users and their governments down even further, so much the better. I wouldn't even mind paying a 10%, or so, premium to help get things going. Basic laptops are still starting around $450 and up at retail, and the slightly-larger screens, hard drives, AC power bricks, and other whippy-keen features they have over the $100 laptops don't cost anywhere near the $350 differential being charged, which means it's mostly middle-person costs, and those wouldn't exist in a word-of-Net, direct-sales market.

As for Microsloth's offer of an open-source WinCE (the marketing weenies must still be wincing over that blunder-of-a-name), thanks, but no thanks. The open source community (even the nascent Third World portion that will sprout around the $100 laptops) already has a robust, useful OS and plenty of tools and applications to do much more than WinCE ever could, and it's a bit late to ask anyone to finally rewrite WinCE to be reliable and secure, especially for free, and more especially because it's crippled by design, compared with any other OS in widespread use today. For those wondering why some are beating up on Microsloth for making its seemingly generous offer, they're only doing it for the same reason they plea-bargained many of the court cases they've lost at the state and local levels, such that they got off with "donating" or providing discount coupons to school systems for their products. The reason is so they can get their foot in the door on the bet that it will lead to future sales, although I can't imagine how even they could convince Joe Biafran to spend a cent on their buggy bloatware, when Joe is just trying to learn to read (although I suppose the volume of security alerts, update notices, and error messages certainly would provide enough for Joe to read until a very ripe old age! :)). I do also have to admit that it would instantly create jobs, though ... as in lifetime employment for local sysadmins and network admins (Microsloth certified at a substantial additional cost, of course - batteries not included, shipping and handling extra, your mileage may vary, caveat emptor, etc.).

A software user community that is substantially different from those found in more affluent societies may eventually emerge that is focused squarely on the needs and desires of the recipients of this technology, rather than the estimated or imagined (and likely incorrect) guesses that well-meaning people who have no clue as to how this technology could best be used by the populations inheriting it. This would be a terrific outcome, especially if a dialog can begin that results in better mutual understanding between the have-a-lots and the have-very-littles, which might be just what's needed to break the cycle of poverty that inevitably leads to a rich recruiting pool for terrorists, tyrants, and other low-lifes who prey on uneducated masses to do their bidding. $100 a kid would be incredibly cheap if it were able to contribute anything at all toward that goal. In that case, sign me up for 100 of these laptops.

All the Best,
Joe Blow
Posted by Joe Blow (175 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I see that CHINA is on the list of potential purchasers...HMMM the 4th or 5th largest economy in the world that currently is purchasing North American companies and resources left right and center and these are the people that need help?

Perhaps the problem is the political structure in these countries and not the inherent 'poor'ness of their people.
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft and the Politics of Software
"(Negroponte) failed to reach an agreement with Microsoft on including its Windows software in the laptop, leading Microsoft executives to start discussing what they say is a less expensive alternative..."

Hey, I thought Bill Gates was a charitable man! Why would he want to short-change the third world kids, especially concerning a product he can easily afford to provide?

Maybe India and other third world countries where Bill Gates has so generously contributed should pool up the charity money and pay Mr. Gates for the correct Windows software.
Posted by Michael G. (185 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's not politics....
.... tho this concept is definitely becoming a political football for
anyone who wants to kick it around. But the basic problem is
that so far, no one has shown that they can build and support a
PC, especially a crank powered PC, with adequate OS and
software in multiple languages for a $100 out the factory door
price. Then, are there Distributors? Warehousers?, Shippers?
These people/companies work for free?. And if the price
delivered to the customer is supposed to be $100, the factory
cost will probably have to be less than $20. This is realistic?

Nicholas Negroponte is an idealist and a dreamer, but he is not a
miracle worker, at least so far. Nor does he seem to show much
skill in gaining help from the big boys. The situation is not likely
to change, and an idea, dubious in the first place, will probably
just fade away.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not Entirely Accurate...

There was an article a couple of months back on
CNET News.com, on a practical $100.00 laptop that had been developed. It was a prototype, but the plans for it were beyond the prototype stage. It was a hand-crank type---probably the one that is championed by Mr. Negroponte.

I would like to add that your arguments about the cost of manufacturing such a laptop are not exactly to the point. In the earlier article concerning the $100.00 laptop, it was mentioned that the laptops would be paid for by the governments of the third world countries, to improve the educational situation in their countries. So the cost of manufacture in this country is not as much of a concern as you might believe.

As to Mr. Negroponte being a "dreamer", I would say---It is "dreamers" that with enough effort make the world a better place. If it were not for "dreamers", then Thomas Edison would not have begun to "dream" of the light bulb. Of course, he invented the light bulb later---but everyone has to start somewhere.
Posted by Michael G. (185 comments )
Link Flag
China as the 4th Power
You do realize that China is (or will be) the 4th economic power for a matter of volume.
The biggest portion of the population does not live in Shangai, it does live in rural areas in very poor conditions.
One thing is to have a great purchasing power (because they are a lot), the other is how that welth is distribute. The population of China (and India) will be the perfect candidate for starting with these project.
Posted by Mostrotux (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Do you realize
that the problem of wealth distribution is directly related to the government thumb that the Chinese live under? Why do people continue to look at China as 3rd world when it is the 4th largest economy and crushes the freedoms of its people...
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Link Flag
politics delay everything...
the question to ask is Is politics delaying it more than it would usually?
Posted by shant sherbetdjian (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Political Delay
Probably not. Negroponte was talking about needing orders of 1 million units each.

Those are not easy to come up with at $100 per unit.

Eventually, there will be a political factor. Not yet, IMO.
Posted by Phillep (18 comments )
Link Flag
Message has been deleted.
Posted by thebignoticeboard.com (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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