The hundred-buck PC
MITís Nicholas Negroponte pushes a cheap PC for the rest of the world.
January 29, 2005
The founder and chairman of the MIT Media Lab wants to create a $100
portable computer for the developing world. Nicholas Negroponte, author
of Being Digital and the Wiesner Professor of Media Technology at MIT,
says he has obtained promises of support from a number of major
companies, including Advanced Micro Devices, Google, Motorola, Samsung,
and News Corp.
The low-cost computer will have a 14-inch color screen, AMD chips, and
will run Linux software, Mr. Negroponte said during an interview Friday
with Red Herring at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. AMD
is separately working on a cheap desktop computer for emerging markets.
It will be sold to governments for wide distribution.
Mr. Negroponte and his supporters are planning to create a company that
would manufacture and market the new portable PCs, with MIT as one of
the stakeholders. It is unclear precisely what role the other four
companies will play, although Mr. Negroponte hopes News Corp. will help
with satellite capacity.
An engineering prototype is nearly ready, with alpha units expected by
yearís end and real production around 18 months from now, he said. The
portable PCs will be shipped directly to education ministries, with
China first on the list. Only orders of 1 million or more units will be
Mr. Negroponteís idea is to develop educational software and have the
portable personal computer replace textbooks in schools in much the
same way that Franceís Minitel videotext terminal, which was developed
by France Telecom in the 1980s, became a substitute for phone books.
Mr. Negroponte has been interested in developing computing in the
developing world for some time. He and his wife have funded three
schools in rural Cambodia, helping outfit them with regular laptops and
Major companies from Hewlett-Packard to Microsoft to Dupont, facing
saturated markets in the richest industrial countries, have shown an
interest in developing less expensive products to sell in low-income
countries in south Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
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