Microsoft To Answer The $100 Laptop With Mobile Phones

from the anything-you-can-do-they-think-they-can-do-better dept

The decision by Nicholas Negroponte to use open-source software in his $100 laptop for the world’s poor instead of a special version of Windows CE ruffled some feathers at Microsoft, with Bill Gates described as being “privately bitter” about it. It upset them enough that the company is now working on its own similar project to get poor people online with mobile phones that have keyboards and adapters so they could be connected to TVs, with Microsoft saying that it’s a better and more sustainable idea than laptops. It’s not really clear that one solution is better than the other: on the face of it, giving people a computer might appear more useful, but there are plenty of examples of people using mobile phones for economic empowerment. The danger, though, is that the benefits of both ideas take a back seat to some sort of ego-driven battle over whose approach is best. The bottom line here should be to help people, not to create a giant PR platform for your company’s products.


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Comments on “Microsoft To Answer The $100 Laptop With Mobile Phones”

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24 Comments
Justin (profile) says:

The bottom line here should be to help people, not

Well yes but if they don’t use the PR to build their regular business, then they won’t be able to absorb the cost of doing projects like this despite what good they do.

And for all of Bill Gates willy business moves, the guy has never been afraid to share his wealth with charity. He recently gave something to the tune of $600 million for TB research.

So if he uses the microsoft name in helping people become connected to the internet and giving them a passable “computer” than so be it.

Really the only person I find at fault is the person who said no to a free and proven (although a bit buggy of course) OS in the name of open source.

Tyshaun says:

Re: The bottom line here should be to help people,

It’s not like linux isn’t used by lots and lots of people already, and in fact I’d say it’s probably a better move to use it over Windows CE BECAUSE its so buggy. The end analysis, you want an OS that works, all the time, because I don’t see some tribal child having to find a network connection and downloading the 20 or so “fixes” needed after they get their laptops.

Hell, I brought a new laptop with Windows XP Pro like 5 months ago and it has close to 20 hot fixes in it!

Cary says:

Re: The bottom line here should be to help people,

Bill Gates never gave anything to anyone until he got married and I think that Melinda is the one to credit with his philanthropy. And remember what the Wizard of Oz said to the Tin Man about philanthropists….

Nothing from Microsoft is ever free. If they give something away, it is only to tie them into the Microsoft world so that they will eventually have to give money to the great shit^Hp that is Microsoft.

Daniel Brodzik says:

Re: The bottom line here should be to help people,

FYI, Bill Gates wants them using Windows so they will be hooked on it. He helps charity by writing checks because he wants the PR to promote himself and his company, not because he wants to help people. The fact is that if Linux is running on these laptops, they don’t have to worry about Microsoft turning around and charging them or doing something equally nasty (Microsoft has a history of this kind of behavior, remember?). With Linux, there are no strings attached, the computers can be customized. Windows is proprietary and can’t be modified by the engineers.

Dave says:

Re: They're starving,

Exactly, poor people don’t need to live, they need to surf the interweb and look for free porn so that they atleast have fun while they’re dying of various diseases.

I don’t think Billy is being greedy, him and his wife donate so much money to various charities that it makes me a bit tearful.

Tyshaun says:

Re: Re: They're starving,

I think you folks are missing the point. The point of the laptops and/or cell phones is to provide an infrastructure for knowledge exhange and education, which is sorely needed. Yes, it is important to satisfy the basic needs of a poor population (like food and water), but until you teach them enough to build sustainable irrigation and agriculture for themselves, your’e only throwing a bandaid on the problem. I think it’s a great idea to give out the laptops, load them up with aids so that missionaries can teach people to read, then you can give them references on basic sanitation and agriculture, and you I think you get the idea.

The basic theme, which is great, is that you have to start addressing the roots of poverty as well as the end product.

Anonymous of course says:

Re: Re: Food for Thought

How did the green revolution of the 60’s
fail so miserably. We were going to teach
the backwards savages in Africa how to farm
the modern American way. They’d not only
be eating but exporting food in no time at
all… or so it was said. Yet clean
drinking water and food are still the
most pressing issues after all these years.

Is the (internet) technology gap holding
people back in these impoverished African
countries? Did a lack of internet prevent
people in other countries from building
their modern societies… obviously not.

The $100 laptop is a nice idea, but it doesn’t
address the root causes of the problems
plagueing Africa and in the end will not be
very helpful.

IMHO YMMV Bla,Bla,Bla

Eliot Jacobsen says:

Good thoughts

Cell phones and cell coverage are significantly more ubiquitous than the connectivity required for the $100 Negroponte laptop to work. The world is clearly headed toward web services that require only a browser, a browser that could certainly be on a cell phone. A very thin-client, cell phone based web services model is certainly a disruptive threat to Microsoft’s PC OS-based and Office-based business. So I’ve got to hand it to Microsoft. If they’re serious about this, it appears to be a genuinely valuable idea.

CUrob says:

Great but who is going to provide

Great, tons of free cell phones. OK, but who is going to be providing/paying for the service. Who is going to put up the cell tower in the middle of sub-sahara africa again? did i miss something here, or are they both just too gunho about tech’n out the stone age 3rd world countries with out regard for infastructure.

Jesse says:

Re: Great but who is going to provide

The idea of the $100 laptop was well thought out. That is if this is the discussion of MIT’s plan for the $100 laptop. They looked at the infrastructure and determined that the laptop themselves could serve as an ad-hoc network for communicating between the users. The whole cellphone idea does seem a bit outreached as far as providing the service goes.

Angry Rivethead says:

These Attempts...

To cater tech to 3rd world countries are only a means for the individuals involved to gloryhog. Theres nothing philanthropic about it. In years past, people were praised for invading areas and conquering for the crown. In todays society, where we make heroes out of victims and reward people for being defective providing a tech solution for 3rd world countries is the new millenium equivelent of slaying dragons.

Pee on em.

wolff000 says:

Bill Gates Donates Squat

When you make as much money as Bill Gates, you have to donate lots to charities or you get nailed by the IRS. I’m not saying that he doen’t genuinely want to help these charities but you can’t ignore the fact that every dollar that goes out is a tax write off. Instead of spending millions on cheap on attempting to make cheap laptops, couldn’t this have been spent on educating poor people and assisting them to better thier lives. Here is the way I see it. If I am dirt poor and starving I would rather get a hand up then a hand out. Yes a laptop is great but if I have no job and I’m starving i would rather have a meal and some advice where to find a job.

Gene Dasher says:

Grow up...

“The bottom line here should be to help people, not to create a giant PR platform for your company’s products”

Grow up…

Don’t think for a second that Nicholas Negroponte (who is ubiquitously playing the part of the lowly university professor just trying to do his part to help humanity) is not financially benefiting from this…HE IS. His book, BEING DIGITAL, has gained increased exposure and sales since his name has been in the news for this (It’s on the NYT Bestseller list). He serves on the board of Motorola (I bet these laptops use some of their technology to great fanfare…oh what benevolence). Oh, don’t forget the cover stories and exclusive interviews on the subject with WIRED magazine…which be founded.

I’m not saying it is right for Bill to make this a personal ego contest…but lets be fair. Negroponte has one of the largest egos out there and he is feeding both it and his wallet through this exposure. He’s not your childhood Sunday-school teacher going off into the jungles for a mission.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Grow up...

Don’t think for a second that Nicholas Negroponte (who is ubiquitously playing the part of the lowly university professor just trying to do his part to help humanity) is not financially benefiting from this…HE IS. His book, BEING DIGITAL, has gained increased exposure and sales since his name has been in the news for this (It’s on the NYT Bestseller list). He serves on the board of Motorola (I bet these laptops use some of their technology to great fanfare…oh what benevolence). Oh, don’t forget the cover stories and exclusive interviews on the subject with WIRED magazine…which be founded.

I don’t think Carlo was implying that Negroponte’s offering was necessarily any better than Microsoft’s.

If you look back on previous things we’ve written about Negroponte’s plans, I think it’s pretty clear we’re not necessarily believers in his vision either.

Tommy Aktins says:

There were many reasons for using Linux

One of the reasons I read about for the $100 laptops using Linux is that once people in these countries can read and browse the web, thay can use this to learn economically useful skills eg how to write computer programs, which would appear to be easier to do in Linux, because its open source-they can easily modify and aptapt their OS for thier environment. I believe Brazil is looking at buying the laptops in, a country that is developing at the moment-those who can program contuter start to move to the cities, where for the first time they can get paid work for any number of firm working with IT, using self taught skills, earning a living. Not all of these people are permantly stuck out in the wilds just that if they do go for work in the cities, they don’t have any skills for it.

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