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Friday, December 07, 2007

Microsoft, the Beast That Cannot be Fed

You may have heard of the non-profit initiative called “One Laptop Per Child.” It is essentially an attempt to bridge the technology divide between the technological west and the developing world. OLPC was founded by Nicholas Negroponte with the goal of producing a laptop as cheaply as possible and provide it to schoolchildren all over the world. While development goal was a laptop under $100, they’ve managed a production model at under $200, which seems quite in line with the group’s mission. The XO is being produced and distributed as we speak.

Now, of course, since the hardware takes up most of that $200 cost, the XO runs a Linux OS and associated open source software. And we all know that when someone actually distributes an inexpensive flash-based Linux laptop, God kills a Microsoft Marketing VP.

Funny thing is, whenever someone opens a market, Microsoft wants to stick its 800 lb gorilla foot in it. Doesn’t matter how much sense it makes, they want some of that hot Third-World computing action and they’re asking OLPC to beef up the hardware so the XO has half a chance of running a suitably crippled version of Windows XP. Wow. They’re whining about being locked out of hardware when they’ve gone out of their way to dictate terms to hardware vendors that would make it impossible to run a non-proprietary (i.e. non-Windows) OS— and incidentally making sure the same hardware doesn’t even work with Vista a fair bit of the time.

Apparently, SFWA doesn’t have a lock on irony.


aeros51 said...

I'm always amused with projects like this. This kid may have a laptop, but it is a bit worthless without a method to power it, which takes either a lot of up-front money for solar panels (1 sq. meter under ideal conditions)(which would require infastructure to maintain them or an alternative grid) and some way to connect to the internet (more infastructure), and in order to have good infastructure, the local government needs to invest money from their coffers and would actually have to care about the plight of their citizens.

But then again, the laptop is worthless to a person if they cannot provide clean water, a roof over their heads, healthy food (I think the solar panel would end up being rigged to a refrigerator), and clothing for themselves.

I know, I didn't address the MS angle, but I didn't really see the point. My mistake.

Anonymous said...

aeros51? The OLPC laptop was designed to be powered by a built-in hand-cranked generator, not unlike many battery-less flashlights that are currently on the market. In other words, they designed it to work around a complete lack of electrical power. Now if they could figure out a way to have it heal tendonitis (which it shall surely cause), they'll be in business...