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MIT Media Lab’s $100 Laptop challenge

Seems that MIT is trying to make a Laptop for the poor for $100. More
info here. Call me a skeptic
however after reading news about the
not winning the hearts
(and more importantly the wallets) of India’s poorer population I’m
not sure offering a bumped down machine will be a viable solution unless
it can withstand the current heavy economic competition to reduce
computer prices. Here’s a choice quote from iWon News regarding
the Simputer:

Picopeta has sold fewer than 2,000 units in the past 12 months, far below the target of 50,000. Worse, only 10 percent of those Simputers were bought for rural use.

Here are some issues that I think will need to be dealt with:

  • Do the poor even have $100? There needs to be some way for them to
    save up for it.
  • When you’re worrying about starving, does worrying about the Digital Gap
    really matter?
  • Building a special design machine has continuously lost to commodity
    general purpose computers in almost any story I’ve ever read. Unless the
    folks at MIT can inspire MANY manufacturers to take on this challenge then
    Dell probably has an answer.
  • Following on the above point, you need to sell millions and millions to
    make the manufacturing/processing costs cheap over time
  • If you knew enough about computers and had a choice between getting a ‘real’
    machine and this ‘subsidized’ machine. Which would you choose?
  • There’s piles of old machines being tossed out by richer countries that
    already come close to the specs needed. How about arrange for a way
    for these machines to go to poorer countries. Might be good for them to
    learn how to fix them. (Okay that sounds like dumping a problem off to
    a bunch of poorer people, but frankly what happens to most of this stuff
    that gets tossed?)

The iWon Simputer article

Slashdot’s story

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