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mardi, janvier 08, 2008

 One Laptop Per Child project dropped by Intel

Let me tell you a secret ambition of mine which I've kept close to the vest for the longest time - I've always wanted to bring the One Laptop Per Child into Singapore. Not to GIVE kids the laptops, but to bring the development into Singapore itself - manufacturing and maybe assembling the stuff here. I've kept a pretty close eye on this project since it pretty much combines most of my interests into one cute lime-green package - take a look:

(Photo from Wikipedia)

Sure, it looks like the early iMac laptops, but this cute little thing is supposed to be for kids. In case you're not familiar, the OLPC project aims to give one laptop per child in developing countries. Laptops should cost approx US$100 each. They're into their fourth prototype already, and it looks pretty nifty, doesn't it? The guy who thought of it is Nicholas Negroponte, formerly the Chair of MIT's Media Lab (I actually filled in the application for this school way back in the day - but stopped when I saw how much it cost), and almost everything's designed by MIT geeks.

If I remember correctly, the laptops can connect wirelessly to the Internet - but that's par for the course, innit? But wait, there's more - as the OS was built from the ground-up from Open Source Software (OSS), and is thus completely free. Also the distributed computing brains spent an extra five minutes on the can and thought: 'hmmm, maybe networking the OLPC laptops together in their own little network would be fun' - and they did it. So all OLPC laptops can network wirelessly with each other, even without Internet connections! How cool is that? *complete geek out*

The project is not without its problems of course. A lot of stuff is derailing it now, not the least being the environmental people (damn you, Al Gore!) insisting that the project be made of recyclable and responsible materials. I wish they would go make a difference somewhere else, let's say, oh, I don't know, maybe the dumps in India? They should start thinking of refuse disposal instead of bothering the geeks.

Now it's been reported that Intel Quits Effort to Get Computers To Children. This is clearly a twin failure - a flawed business plan on Negroponte's side, and a short-sighted perspective on the Intel side. Negroponte should have made some business school deans sit down and work out a win-win plan with the industry - or better yet, why stop at a new OS? Have the entire project developed by new technologies. Dump Intel - just get some MIT people work on a new processor. The possibilities are endless, and those kids without computers aren't going anywhere.

Intel's also short-sighted - this is a completely new market, completely untapped because the price of a computer is beyond what any of these children (and their communities) can afford. Why not just break into it first, and let the aspiring computer hacks have access to the Intel chips? They'll build more country-specific hardware and apps to use your chip, and voila - there's your ready and willing market all primed for your big entry. Might take a couple of years, but it's not like Intel's in this industry to make a quick buck. The pie is big enough for everyone. These puny little laptops aren't going to last very long in each child's hands before they start clamouring for more computing power, which they can't provide because that would bust the US$100 target sales tag for each laptop.

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[One Laptop Per Child project dropped by Intel]
Sngs Alumni @ 8.1.08 { 0 comments }


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