Those guys need to get a clue about what the developing world needs. Hint: it ain’t a biege windows box with a 19″ monitor in every hut.
News.com reports that Intel chief Craig Barrett made disparaging remarks about MIT’s $100 laptop project recently, calling the hand-cranked computer a “gadget.” They quote him as saying:
Mr. Negroponte has called it a $100 laptop–I think a more realistic title should be ‘the $100 gadget’. The problem is that gadgets have not been successful.
It turns out what people are looking for is something that has the full functionality of a PC. Reprogrammable to run all the applications of a grown-up PC…not dependent on servers in the sky to deliver content and capability to them, not dependent for hand cranks for power.
He should try connecting in some rural areas in Bangladesh or Burundi. A “fully functional” PC isn’t going to do much good in the bush, with an unstable electricity source or access to broadband internet to download regular “service pack” updates.
MIT’s $100 laptop may or may not be the key to bridging the digital divide in the developing world. But Negroponte and his team are trying to develop the kind of technologies that real people can use in poor countries, and I hope they succeed.