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Editor's Notes From the Road: Laptop for World's Children: Priceless

Apr 04, 2006, 15:45 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

I'm sitting at the One Laptop Per Child keynote, delivered by Nicholas Negroponte. This is, more than any other keynote this year, the one I wanted to attend.

Listening to Professor Negroponte, I find myself wondering, why is this notion of a low-powered laptop for as many children as possible is so controversial? Negroponte emphasizes that low-power (500 MHz) laptops are perfectly good to do the jobs that are needed.

In fact, Negroponte, 500 MHz would do all of us just fine, had not Microsoft and other developers kept pushing the edge of Moore's Law and jammed all of our multi-GHz machines with application processing. (And yes, Negroponte indicated that Linux has this problem of "fat" applications on the desktop, too.)

This laptop is really amazing, and if I seem like a fanboy, so be it. It runs on less than 2W so it can use the wind-up feature. About 35% of the world's population does not have access to electricity, something that Bill Gates seems to have clued out on in his recent criticisms of the $100 laptop.

One thing that made Gates' critiques even more ironic is that the OLPC people are sending the development specs to Microsoft and are working on getting a version of Windows CE on this machine, too. So why, Negroponte asked the audience, would Microsoft make such harsh public comments?

The need for profit it seems, must always outweight the need to do good. Somebody better not tell Melinda Gates.