The Associated Press has an intriguing description of the user interface and software that comes with the One Laptop Per Child $100 laptop. It abandons the application-document-folder-desktop metaphor that's been used for PCs since the original Apple Macintosh in 1984, instead arranging files chronologically, in a "journal."
[T]he main design motive was the project's goal of stimulating education better than previous computer endeavors have. Nicholas Negroponte, who launched the project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab two years ago before spinning One Laptop into a separate nonprofit, said he deliberately wanted to avoid giving children computers they might someday use in an office.
"In fact, one of the saddest but most common conditions in elementary school computer labs (when they exist in the developing world), is the children are being trained to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint," Negroponte wrote in an e-mail interview. "I consider that criminal, because children should be making things, communicating, exploring, sharing, not running office automation tools."
Negroponte's got the right goals here: Schools should not be used as training grounds and brainwashing centers to recruit new customers for Microsoft, and experimenting with user interface design is always worthwhile.
On the other hand -- and this is a big OTOH -- Microsoft software is the global standard today, and even non-Microsoft software uses the same desktop-folder-document metaphor. Shouldn't children become familiar with that metaphor -- even children in the poorest parts of the world?