June 2, 2006

$100 Laptop

i was sitting at my parents' house last weekend, when my dad (as he is known to do) commented brusquely on an article he was reading in the newspaper, about the $100 Laptop project. Speaking more about the entire idea of the $100 laptop, he said something to the effect of:

"I don't understand these people. They're so stupid. Why would they try to build a $100 laptop. It's so stupid. The hardware companies would never go for it. How would they make money?"

after a short argument with him about the topic, he brushed me aside (as he is known to do) and i was left muttering to myself about why a $100 laptop is a great idea. if we consider the Software As A Service model of technology, it's not wholly-impossible that we could (in the next ten years) see nearly all of the tasks that you perform on your computer move to the web. honestly speaking, there is very little that i do today on my computer (work or home) that i couldn't somehow accomplish on the internet. do these services (word processing, calendar, etc.) work as well as ms word or outlook? not yet. but i'm not entirely sure i need them to.

let's look at this another way. do this quick experiment: unplug your network connection on your home computer and see how many normal tasks you can perform on your machine before you're itching to plug that think back in. my guess is probably not a lot. the internet is already an enormous part of how you use your personal computer and it's just getting bigger.

and i think that's precisely why a $100 laptop could be so useful. my dad's argument is that hardware companies will never jump on-board because they don't care about social good, only financial good. and if their margins are lower to build these $100 laptops, then why would they produce chips at that performance level? but i can't remember the last time that i lamented about how slow my computer was. and, for most buyers, increases in hardware speed are not really going to provide tangible benefit for their user experience. if they're not asking for faster, they're going to ask for cheaper. and hardware companies will certainly listen to THAT.

bottom line: a $100 laptop could be very useful. it could accomplish 95+% of what a normal user (particularly a young student) needs it to accomplish, by leveraging web applications. is it ideal? probably not. but for a hundred bucks? i'll buy one if it can do all of what i need it to do. sure beats shelling out $2 G's for a prettier one...

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At 6/03/2006 11:55:00 PM, Blogger Chris L said...

It's unlikely you'll ever be able to purchase a $100 laptop. It's going to be a program for the governments of developing countries to purchase laptops en masse and then distribute them to their children. There's potential that commercial versions will be sold, but it will almost certainly be at a higher price in order to subsidize the sales to the poor countries.



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