Friday, September 30, 2005
100 Dollar Laptop is a Stupid IdeaThe $100 laptop idea is being promoted by the venerable Nicholas Negroponte, head of the MIT Media Lab. It is also strikingly similar to Larry Ellison's idea of the network computer from almost exactly a decade ago.
What can a $1000 laptop do that the $100 version can't?
Not much. The plan is for the $100 Laptop to do almost everything. What it will not do is store a massive amount of data.
The network computer idea has been updated:
- It is now a laptop, not a desktop
- Instead of the Internet, it supposedly runs on top of a "mesh" network
- It is designed for poor students in the Third World, not for corporations
- People, even poor students in Cambodia, will want hard disks to store their work
- Mesh networks, when connected to a slow backhaul, are pretty useless
- Desktop Linux does not work in the First World, so why will it work in the Third
Contrast these flops with an idea that has worked, and worked spectacularly - the mobile phone. Cell phones are everywhere - Indian fishermen, Chinese farmers, they all have it. Cell phones have transformed people's lives and vocations. Cell phone charges are lower in India than anywhere in Europe or US. There is tons of cell phone innovation happening in Microsoft and Motorola's labs in China and India, geared towards cell phone users in the Third World as well as the First.
Do-gooders beware: if an idea does not work in the First World (network computer, Linux PDA), it is unlikely to work in the Third World.