Stung by Bill Gates' attack on his $100 laptop for poor children, Nicholas Negroponte has answered back. He announced criticisms of his own and a progress report on his plan to deploy inexpensive laptops in the world's poorer countries.
"Why criticize me in public," Negroponte asked rhetorically of Gates' recent criticism. "It's not about a weak computer. It's about a thin, slim, trim, fast computer." Negroponte, chairman of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, made his comments at Linux World in Boston where he gave the keynote speech this week.
Negroponte didn't limit his criticism to Gates and Microsoft, as he complained of the growing bloat and complexity of new hardware and software releases including Linux. Negroponte plans to fit Linux operating system software onto the inexpensive laptops.
He also said the laptop will likely cost $135 when it is initially released next year, although he expects prices to drop to $100 in the following year.
Negroponte, who recently left his position as head of MIT's famed Media Lab to work on the OLPC program, also released new details on the device. Powered by an AMD 500MHz x86 processor, the laptop will have 128MB DRAM, 512MB flash memory, and Wi-Fi mesh capability for wireless communications. Windup power should power a laptop for 24 hours.
In a meeting in Washington last month, Gates criticized the planned laptop, because its screen would likely be too small and the crank power feature too cumbersome. Now Negroponte has countered, noting that the dual-mode screen will be illuminated in poor light and high-resolution in daylight.
The OLPC and Microsoft have also been working on a more expensive laptop that would utilize a stripped down version of Windows. Negroponte praised Gates for his extensive charitable works in third world and developing countries.