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

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.