The wrong machine

Here is a very good article by STEVE STECKLOW and JAMES BANDLER for the Wall Street Journal about Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child cheap computer and it’s marketing fate. A former MIT Medialab founder and professor, Negroponte dreamed of leaving a personal mark in the digital revolution agenda. He embarked in developping a fully inclusive portable computer project based on small operating systems and rugged plastics. Such designs already existed in the past and some may argue that a PSION palmtop or a NOKIA architecture (Symbian is the name) with revised screen specs might have delivered a solid base to the project. But professors like to elaborate on blank pages and the project went into a full product developpment, the kind of soft+hard project that even the computer industry had flown out of by the mid-eighties. Now, after foru years and millions invested, the product is here and it lacks it’s orginal sales pitch. It is three times more exepnsive than expected, faces serious competition and, alas, looks like a toy made by a gentle white grandfather with a poor eyesight for it’s distant african grandchildren. Sure, one mobile phone per child might have been better. Even one real computer per class, one simple PC per family or a decent game console with good educational software might have done the trick. But to come to such pragmatic vision requires a good understanding of the way people live out of Boston.


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