No Laptop Left Behind - InformationWeek
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4/7/2006
10:34 AM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
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No Laptop Left Behind

I wrote recently about Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child initiative, and snarky responses to it from Intel's Chairman Craig Barrett and Microsoft's Chairman Bill Gates. Then I went snarky myself on Intel's Community PC platform for India. I'm happy to report two follow-ups: Negroponte took the high road in his res

I wrote recently about Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child initiative, and snarky responses to it from Intel's Chairman Craig Barrett and Microsoft's Chairman Bill Gates. Then I went snarky myself on Intel's Community PC platform for India. I'm happy to report two follow-ups: Negroponte took the high road in his response to Gates, and Intel's Community PC may actually be a real program, not just the publicity stunt I assumed.It wasn't Intel itself, but Wipro, the India-based services company, that has announced a desktop computer for rural users designed on the Community PC platform. The Wipro SuperGenius Bharat PC operates on either AC or battery power in a kiosk environment, and it includes a UPS to it keep running without data loss if AC power is interrupted.

Wipro says it designed the machine in collaboration with Intel, which worked with Indian hardware, software and service companies to deliver the Community PC platform.

So it isn't exactly what Intel said it was — a laptop computer with implied comparisons to the OLPC $100 laptop — and details are still largely missing, but at least Intel seems to have been telling the truth about putting some effort into doing some global good.

Nicholas Negroponte appeared as a keynote speaker at Linux World in Boston this week and used the podium to talk up his OLPC project, give some more details about the machine, and reply courteously to Bill Gates' discourteous attack.

"It's not about a weak computer. It's about a thin, slim, trim, fast computer." Negroponte said. And then he gave as good as he got, complaining of the growing bloat and complexity of new hardware and software releases. (Read "Vista.") He didn't spare his hosts, either, including Linux among his targets.

Negroponte also mentioned a few tidbits about the OLPC device: It will run Linux, which we knew, and be powered by an AMD 500MHz x86 processor. It will have 128MB of DRAM, 512MB of flash memory, and Wi-Fi mesh capability for wireless communications. It will cost about $135 when it is initially released next year, and drop to $100 in the following year, he said.

Negroponte said the OLPC and Microsoft have also been working on a more expensive laptop that would utilize a stripped down version of Windows, and praised Gates for his extensive charitable works in third world and developing countries. Which makes the cause of Gates' remarks even more mysterious.

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