from the like-it-or-not dept
The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting story looking at the rise of dirt-cheap laptops and the potential impact these laptops will have in developing countries. It gives a fair amount of attention to the One Laptop Per Child project, which was obviously one of the early players in this space. I've had my share of criticisms of the OLPC project, but one thing I do have to give them credit for is that their XO laptop seems to be very competitive with the laptops being offered by commercial companies. Most of them, such as the Asus Eee PC, are priced in the $299 to $399 range; it appears that no one has yet figured out how to produce a full-featured laptop at that magic $100 price point. The thing this article does highlight, though, is that OLPC is operating in an increasingly competitive market. OLPC head Nicholas Negroponte says "I don't want to compete with anyone," but he's going to have to compete whether he likes it or not.
One of the most intriguing competitors is Ncomputing, which is trying to resurrect the dumb terminal model for people on a shoestring budget. Ncomputing uses a cheap ($350) PC as a server to drive a bunch of ridiculously cheap ($70) terminals. Dumb terminals are almost as old as the computing industry itself, but getting the terminals to be this cheap certainly opens things up to new markets by bringing hardware costs within reach of that magic $100 price point. Of course, these dumb terminals won't be as portable as an XO laptop, and they likely require more tech support. Schools in developing countries will have to weigh those disadvantages against the XO's higher price and decide what will serve their students best. And that's the way it should be: more competition means that end users will be able to choose the computing solution that best fits their unique circumstances and budget.