March 15, 2006 6:25 AM PST

Gates mocks MIT's $100 laptop effort

Computer intended for developing countries is being developed with the backing of rival Google.

The story "Gates mocks MIT's $100 laptop effort" published March 15, 2006 at 6:25 AM is no longer available on CNET News.

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its easy to be a jerk...
when you're a billionaire. Instead of criticizing why doesn't he
offer to help? Obviously MIT and Google aren't in this for the
money. The laptops are planned for 3rd world countries, there's
no profit in that. (I guess I answered my own question)
Posted by pacloutie (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
RE: its easy to be a jrk
Umm... while you have an excellent point I wonder, are you implying Bill only does things for profit? You had me till that last part.
Posted by (3 comments )
Link Flag
Knee-jerk is even easier
All you MS bashers conveniently forget that BG is also the worlds foremost philanthopist (oh right, big word, it means he cares about the problems in the third world in a very big way). He's already on record saying the biggest need in such areas is basic living needs (food, clean water, sanitation and basic medical) and that sending them computers is not a good step.

As an aside from the arguments here please note that the $100 price point isn't meant as a purchase price the people it's intended for would have to pay in order to get the laptop, it's meant as a price point to make it inexpensive enough that richer folks (that's you and me) could easily afford to gift someone who needs one with a PC.

That said, I think BG is still somewhat off-base in that while the $100 laptop being worked right now may not make the grade it does provide a working basis for evolving into a system that's inexpensive enough that it can be bought in huge quantities and given away to those in need to help with their education. Internet access is the key to making those PCs into a complete success but it's quite possible that with only "local networking" they'll still prove highly useful, after all the first generation of PCs had the same limitations and yet they succeeded.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
But of Course
"he said, adding that the big costs come from network connectivity, applications and support"

Yes to buy MS Windows, Office software are huge costs. Then to have an IT Dept. to support the endless patches is very costly too.

Why would Gates encourage a product that 1. Doesnt use his OS. 2. Cant use Office 3. Is sponsored by Google

As was said, there is no money in it for him. Im glad he and his wife give to many other charities but dont try and rip apart what others are doing. Oh and the crank? Great idea. I guess Bill doesnt realize that some countries dont have the Power resources we do.
Posted by viperedge (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE: But of Course
While I'm a big fan of Bill's, having grown up in West Africa, I think I agree with your point about the crank. You could be right with your first 2 points about his reasons for not supporting it although I believe he voiced disaproval before google was involved. The crank is an interesting approach. Ultimately, I think the oveal idea of the laptop is a good one. I do question the general approach.
Posted by (3 comments )
Link Flag
No, He's Right
Hardware costs are reasonably low. And if we're going to be giving them a computer we should probably be giving them something more practical.

But I think the 100$ Laptop will still be successful in widely distributing computer and internet access accross developing countries. It's definitely a step up from not having anything at all. If every person can get one and improve their education, this investment in capital and in skilled labor would help the countries develop faster and better.

I haven't actually held and worked with any of the Laptops, so I can't guage the quality of the hardware and the user experience. I would hope they would be of a reasonably usable quality. I know they will be running a scaled down version of Linux. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Maybe he's frustrated because Linux will be supporting a developing country, therefor getting the people accustomed to Linux and not windows. When they get older and have more money, they're all going to use Linux as a standard and MS will have a difficult time competing in a market that they have not created, where they have little influence. I do believe that Windows is a better OS then current Linux versions, for everyday use. My friends run Linux and I just don't like little things about it. Vista looks promising though...
Posted by coryschulz (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
There's no $100 laptop
Let's stop calling it a $100 laptop. It's a $300 device, that it's expected to get $200 from governments and other subsidy sources to make it affordable.
Viewed that way, an Origami is a $400-500 (cost) device, and similar subsidies would get ir close to $200-$300. And a Pocket PC with a keyboard is even cheaper than that.
And the thing about the crank is that it just doesn't work. Cranking your machine every few minutes to get it working makes it impossible to use for any serious use. A shared solar cell (and I'm not a big fan of solar power, but it has its uses) can give the isolated population a much better solution than a crank.
While Bill might have his own agenda (though I seriously doubt anything he says or does is for money now, he has more than enough even in his own views, and that's why he is making such large donations), he is right on the spot on this thing.
Posted by Hernys (744 comments )
Link Flag
What Else Does One Expect from Bill?
What else does one expect from the CEO of a mature product? Back in the late 1970s, I remember IBM scoffing at PCs as "toys for hobbyists" and, in the mid-1980s, DEC's CEO Ken Olsen knocking Sun Microsystems' "cheap" workstations. I guess tech leaders have short memories....

Sheridan Tatsuno
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
R.E. What Else Does One Expect from Bill?
Are you saying that you think he's not seeing a new avenue this opens up? Maybe you're right. I have no idea. but wait, didn't IBM help drive the popularization of the PC?
Posted by (3 comments )
Link Flag
Out of Context.
I'm sure his statement was taken out of context. Got to be!

I mean this is the richest man in the world, people!!!!

I mean a self charging laptop is quite revolutionary isn't it?

How can he not know that Children in developing countries
might not have access to electricity or running water or for that
matter lithium Ion batteries which are available here in almost
every corner store.

I mean how can he be that stupid not to know that the luxuries
we have in North America are not available in some developing
countries. I mean is CNET absolutely certain that it was Bill Gates
that was being interviewed? and not George Bush in disguise.
Posted by ServedUp (413 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"How can he not know that Children in developing countries might not have access to electricity or running water or for that matter lithium Ion batteries which are available here in almost every corner store. I mean how can he be that stupid not to know that the luxuries we have in North America are not available in some developing countries. "

One question, where is the network that these little crank boxes going to connect to to get to the world knowledge?

And is the network devices, that are some where in vapor land, going to be crank powered as well?

I don't believe this idea is totally thought out yet.
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
Link Flag
Power is big issue in 3rd world countries
I wouldn't be surprised if MIT laptop gets used as power source in 3rd world countries. Current 100$ laptop seems very good in capturing right requirements.
Posted by hi_rao (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Of Course He'll Mock It...
For a child of a poor nation getting a hands at this device, it doesn't matter if it has a small screen or cheap specs. Obviously, it doesn't use Window$, i think it will use Fedora Core, the community-based version of Red Hat Linux
Posted by wakizaki (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Blinding insight might serve him better elsewhere.
Trash talk from the guy who just released a "paperback" computer that costs $800, is actually twice the size of a paperback and weighs six times as much, thrown together from common SBC parts? Bill, spend more time at the office where you can lend your once sharp direction to your own game.
Posted by inthewoods (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not accurate
I don't think it is fair to note that Bill Gates doesn't care. He is far the most active Philanthropist I have seen in 3rd world charities. His foundation (also run by his wife) does incredible work and it run efficiently unlike many non for profit institutions. I find it hard to believe that he is personally being mean spirited about helping 3rd world countries. It is easier to believe that he is mocking the technology or approach rather than the effort to help others. Believe me, I have seen the good work he does and alot of it goes unnoticed because of the Microsoft Company.
Posted by rgor (332 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It Beats Me That...
... one of the richest men in the world, one of the best technology institute in the world cannot collaborate with the other richer people in the world and the other the best technology institutes in the world along with all the other countries with resources (men and material) cannot come up with the best (averaged) model (Gates's models; "Those machines are expected to sell for between $599 and $999, Microsoft said at the product launch last week plus the $100 MIT Model divided by 3 instead of 2) of a low cost computer to be used by underprivileged children around the world! Have the components from which the computers will be assembled produced in the country that would be in a position to produce them at the lowest costs... using "prisoners" from some countries if possible. After all they cost the society they live in significant but varying social and economic dollar amounts. Isn't this possible?
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bill Gates is greedy
He hates the $100 laptop because it costs $199 for windows vista. MS can't make money from this!!!
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
Reply Link Flag
He isn't greedy, he's given away millions
Bill Gates isn't greedy. He's given away millions of dollars. The $100 laptop is a useless device, especially for people who need electricity, clean water, and economic opportunity.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Link Flag
Bill Gates is right...
I own my own computer company. I have an extensive knowledge of hardware and software, capabilities and pricing. They could build a real machine that will actually do more than hurt the eyes of the user, and for roughly 300 to 400 dollars. I understand money is tight, but what's the use of making a machine that will get little or no use because it's so limited?
Posted by capngloval (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
You've never seen the rest of the world
In Africa and in many parts of Asia, a 486 is cutting edge, and many people without much to eat can make simple businesses making greeting cards, business card, etc with these computers. These discards are imported from first world countries and sold at $100.

The $300-$400 you've mentioned are above average ANNUAL INCOMES in the target markets of the $100 laptop. So you think they should get more bells and whistles for slightly higher cost? How do you propose they budget for it? stop eating and live on the streets for a year?

You don't need the latest gee whiz stuff to compute. After all, wasn't the 486 cutting edge at one time in the First world?

the $100 laptop is about bringing technology down to the masses, its not about bringing expensive cutting edge stuff full of bells and whistles to people who can't afford it.

It's also not about how the world's richest man can squeeze more money from people who make less in their lifetime than he makes in an hour.

Even though I live in a major Asian city, I also have a crank radio. Why? We need it when the power goes out, which happens every once in a while.

At least we don't become raving lunatics with looting and other anti social behavior like what happens when the lights go out in a major US city.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Link Flag
Bill Gates, we hardly knew ye. (in Africa)
There are a hundred reasons why Bill Gates would oppose
something like this and a hundred reasons why he would back it.
However the project chose not to go with Microsoft Windows
which gives him 0 dollars and 0 reasons to back it. He doesn't
want millions of people learning how to operate a computer
without Windows, be it for educational purposes or not. He
wants them learning to use Windows so that when they grow up
and work at a call center everyone is paying for "Windows 2021"
or whatever is out by then. Volume licenses pay Bill gates salary
not single users. Single users pay the electric and gas bills that's
it. He is pissed that those millions won't be using Windows 15
years from now at work. Had they chosen to go with Windows
(and pay for it) as the operating system he'd be all over it. Plain
and simple.
Posted by Dartamis (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
This to me is the point. Bill Gates does give a lot of money to charity, but in a way that doesn't affect his bottom line. The $100 computer could affect Microsofts business in the future.

These computers are expected to cost $200+ to build, but the plan is to have them subsidised to get to the $100 price. Have the hand crank power again means there are no costs going forward. You get your computer and that is it. No electricity to pay for. Keep in mind this is for the poorest of the poor where event the cost of the electricity would be an issue and thats for the people with access to electricity.

Anything that gives people access to technology is a good thing. The world is moving forward and unless you move with it you will never get ahead.

Put it this way. Everybody reading this is using a computer (obviously). Imagine going for a job and when they ask you your computer skills you say none, never used one. Think of the kinds of jobs you could actually do and how that would affect your income and lifestyle. Now, move to one of the poorest countries in the world where even these non-IT skilled jobs are over subscribed. What opportunities do you have to better yourself?
Learning new skills and gaining opportunities will make a real difference.
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
Link Flag
But If The World....
... turns to IBM's OS/2 Warp or even WorkSpace On Demand...

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

(pricing to be determined) every one will be happy, even Bill Gates! ;-) ;-) ;-)
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Link Flag
gates could better this offer
Mr Gates could afford to supply better laptops
at a better price ,...[if he wanted to]....
rather than rubbish the existing offer.....
thank you ..allan..
Posted by allanmc (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
He should!
First he should start by not decreeing that computers from one country bundled with his Windows Operating system, have to purchase yet another Windows license for the same computer simply because he now makes his licenses "country-specific."
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Link Flag
Bill Gates and Africa
Since Africa is the key target "market" for this laptop, it would be uninformed, unfortunate and unfair to misjudge Mr. Gates and his intentions. The man has given more to bringing solutions to infectious diseases than he could ever expect to earn from selling Windows in Africa in his lifetime. He has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to research, education, infrastructure, ... He knows the limitations and needs of Africa as much as anyone commenting here.

Having said this, he has misjudged key technical breakthroughs in the past and this might be another one. But I doubt it. The last 5 years of trying to bringing PC costs down have reached a valley. Whatever they succeed in building for $100 will be a poor mimic of what a computer is, leaving Africans once again significantly behind in technical wherewithal.
Posted by Sonicsands (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Let them eat cake!
Aide: "Sir, the peasants can't afford our computers."
Gates: "Let them buy an ultramobile PC with Windows Vista!"
Posted by (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Missing the target.
The demo of the ultramobile PC was never intended for audiance of the $100.00 laptop. The ultramobile PC is targeted for must have it, latest greatest audiance.
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
Link Flag
Count me in!
I love cake! :)
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
It's easy..
to be the jerk, but Bill has his points... Why would Africa use discarded cranking technology which is outdated? Do you want them to crank their computers or use it? Why would any country or nation buy a technology which is already outdated? Even if they can't afford it.

Bill gives to charity in terms of food, living and shelter. (The basic amenities..) Not in terms of computers. I am not trying to defend Bill here, but those are the facts.. He is cynical with enough reasons, having seen Africa in his position he does know more than giving a crank up model based on an 1900 technology.. Even Africans would not love the cranking machine. The cheapest solution to them would be solar. That is the best possible solution for the continent. Right from Egypt to the bottom tip..

But why is the MIT overdoing the crank? Hasn't the technology already been made available? I read about a handheld PC a few years back called a simputer designed by India.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

The touch screen driver came from the Compaq iPAQ effort. It also has an IML-based browser. And of course you can key in external peripherals through an USB interface.
And of course all the software is opensource, so there are no software costs. They can try modifying it to suit Africa's needs.. It costs about 200$ at the sales outlet so it should be lesser, probably within 170$ .. And it is quite a success from what I make of it.. Especially with the open source crowd..

But whatever said and done, let's not export outdated tech to other countries..
Posted by thedevilbegone (139 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Power is important
Simputer is not the same thing and as I recall it died a horrible commercial death.

As I read the specs, you should be able to use the computer for 15 minutes after cranking for like under 30 seconds... A laptop which is carried to an area with no power outlets will cease functioning unless it has portable power generation in the form of a crank.
Posted by UntoldDreams (91 comments )
Link Flag
Solar isnt cheap
See my comments above about why solar isnt fesable in this situation.

If you gety a Solar Powerd laptop you need the following setup:

Sun &gt; Panel &gt; Regulator &gt; Battery &gt; Inverter &gt; Laptop.

Good luck getting this for less than 1500 AUD.

Posted by Neph (23 comments )
Link Flag
Solar Free but not Cheap
See my comments above about why solar isnt fesable in this situation.

If you gety a Solar Powerd laptop you need the following setup:

Sun &gt; Panel &gt; Regulator &gt; Battery &gt; Inverter &gt; Laptop.

Good luck getting this for less than 1500 AUD.

Posted by Neph (23 comments )
Link Flag
Billionaires like to whine I guess...
I suppose Gates's philanthropy ends when something challenges his monopoly.... Sad... Does anyone here really believe the M$ empire could be toppled by a bunch of underpowered linux laptops given to developing countries?

So Mighty Gates would rather try to TANK the project rather than improve M$ crap? That's right Gates... Thank you for thinking of education and the future of those poor countries.
Posted by UntoldDreams (91 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Gates is right in some ways...
... the CREATOR has provided the world with enough resources for people all over the world to achieve a good standard of living and not move backwards. Stop building all the NUKES around the world a put the resources into uses as the building of schools , electricity generation facilities, hospitals... along with the $300 - $400 computer for all school children around the world. If all the world's "Atomic Bombs" go off... who will be there to use the what-ever computers!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Link Flag
How big is the Origami screen
Maybe the small screens are ok for the diabetic rich.
Posted by shikarishambu (89 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MIT needs a wake up call
I love the $100 laptop project, because it shows how in a networked world, brain power from remote areas can be used, improving that economy and greatly expanding the internet.

On the other hand, MIT thinks you sell a million units to government for distribution to the poor, because they still think the world works that way... big governments making social engineering moves.

It strange how they can be simultaneously so bright, and yet so completely out of touch with what the internet really is, and why it works.

But nevertheless... the $100 computer will be a reality, it just won't be MIT's baby. It will be a used computer on e-bay that now goes for $100.

Power...yes, for god's sake build some power generators in Africa... that would be a great idea for big government types to spend their money on.
Posted by rdupuy (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Provocative, I hope.
Africa's poverty is in need of a permanent solution.
And that means, not just meals today, but an infrastructure for the future.
An educated population, a computer using population, is certainly part of that.

But when you give a $100 computers to a family that isn't sure where the next
meal is going to come from, there is going to be a temptation to sell that computer.

Negraponte's venture is a detailed one, with many things being thought out in detail...
but while his technical approaches can be brilliant, his administrative approach
I see as a kind of big government top down approach.

To solve the problem of the recipient largely just selling off their computers immediately,
he thinks, how can I lock down this system, so its valueless except to the owner.
(HINT: if you cannot sell it, you aren't really the owner...but he doesn't get that).

So, then this system of locking it down gets hacked, and gets hacked again...and
then continuing along this line of thinking, people like him start to say to themselves,
after all the government bought it with public resources... so time to take firmer action.
(HINT: how many people will go to jail for trafficking in illegal $100 laptops in Africa).

For all his detailed analysis, he hasn't made an estimate of how many african's he expects to
be in prison as a result of this intiative. But thats big government types, they operate
in this vacuum where they can calculate the good, but all costs are just dismissed.

In the true spirit of the internet, a libertarian approach is what is needed.
If you give someone something, they own it. It's theirs. They can sell it if they want.

Thats treating people with respect. But they won't sell it. there is a libertarian answer
to that problem to: make the laptop more valuable to own, than to sell.

The libertarian thinks of the economy, and how, that brain power can be utilized, thereby employeeing africans
so they can feed their own family,..using them as content creators wherever possible and benefiting the whole world for this new resource.

No, its not perfect...and I understand, for some reason this project is about giving things to children,
rather than employeeing the adults...and that itself is folly. Employee the adults, then they can pay
for all kinds of education. I do not know why, and am quite frankly a little tired of the endless
ignoring of adults in need, and focusing on their children, as if adults are worthless. They are not.
Children will do very well, to have an adulthood they can look forward to with anticipation.

I am fond of the technology solutions of the MIT project, but deeply concerned about their approach to administration.
Posted by rdupuy (2 comments )
Link Flag
Handcrank vs. alternative power sources
For those who are criticizing the crank, don't forget that community power sources also require the infrastructure to deliver them.

That's an added cost, plus time of construction. A $100 laptop can get a useable computer into the hands of a kid whose family's hut isn't connected to municipal utilities.

No, it's not a perfect solution, but it works.
Posted by dagwud (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MIT cranks
MIT cranks have got it right. Africa has done so much exporting AIDS, time the west put something back. Keeping Nigerian oil in the ground is excellent for keeping prices up, as is
storage of synthetic blood diamonds in South Africa. :) :) :)
Posted by FisherKingKQJ (59 comments )
Reply Link Flag
synthetic blood diamonds?
synthetic blood diamonds? What?
Posted by tim_everett (1 comment )
Link Flag
"Tiny little screen"
It takes a great deal of hypocrisy to go from demonstrating the
new "ultra-mobile computer" with its 7-inch screen and then
turn around and complain about the "tiny little screen" on the
MIT concept computer.

So what is the goal for screen size of the MIT computer? 7
Posted by Thrudheim (306 comments )
Reply Link Flag
actually 12 inches
is the goal, but the protoype is 7 inches.
Posted by Thrudheim (306 comments )
Link Flag
Logic vs substance
Also they are able to have it so cheap because of
the new 'LED' not 'LCD' tech for the screens. So
that's probably what he's using. It just looks bad
like he is a giant industrialist trying to squeeze
money out of poor governments.
He needs to be logical then just trying to make
more money.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Link Flag
Poor headline, bordering on deceitful, CNET
This is mocking...

"oh, LOOK, they have a CRAPPY little $100 laptop that cant do squat! Yeah, that little piece of crap will save the world. As-if!"

Bill Gates wasnt 'mocking' the laptop, at least not in anything you quote in the article. He was just stating his belief that it wasnt a good idea. You know, you dont need a dramatic headline to stir people up to get them to read an article. Please be more responsible.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ya missed it!
You must have missed it:

"geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you're not sitting there cranking the thing while you're trying to type"

Bingo! Fits your mocking example perfectly.
Posted by ejevo (134 comments )
Link Flag
"Let them eat cake" proclaims Gates
"The $100 laptop project seeks to provide inexpensive computers to people in developing countries."

"'...get a decent computer...' Gates said."
Posted by jswap (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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