Negroponte Talks $100 Laptop, Disses Gates

During his keynote address on the first day of the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in Boston, MIT Media Laboratory founder Nicholas Negroponte promoted his $100 laptop, which will help consumers in emerging markets get access to digital technology and the Internet. It will ship in 2007. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has publicly criticized the laptop project, dubbed One Laptop Per Child. Negroponte says the reason for the criticism is simple: The laptop will run a stripped-down version of Linux, not Microsoft Windows.

"Bill Gates the philanthropist and Bill Gates the businessman are in conflict," Negroponte said Monday. "I think we need to collaborate and not go to war." Indeed, Negroponte says he did approach Microsoft about using Windows for the laptop project. But the software giant wouldn't agree to give away Windows. (Nor, for that matter, did Apple agree to give its Mac OS X system.) So Negroponte turned to Linux.

That Gates is a world-renowned philanthropist isn't lost on Negroponte, but as he said yesterday, that's actually part of the problem. He says that Gates is regarded with "god-like respect" in the emerging markets that are the target of the $100 laptop. Thus, his hollow complaints are all the more damaging to the success of Negroponte's project.

Furthermore, Negroponte says that Microsoft and One Laptop Per Child have, in fact, recently agreed to create a second version of the $100 laptop that will use Windows Starter Edition. "So why criticize me in public?" Negroponte asks.

Negroponte used his keynote address to reveal more details about the laptop, which he says will be ready in prototype form later this year. The system will feature an inexpensive but powerful microprocessor that uses only 2 watts of electricity, compared to about 40 watts for a typical notebook today. A user can plug the laptop into a standard electrical outlet or power it with a hand crank or foot pedal. The machine will also feature Wi-Fi wireless networking and a screen that works in daylight (with a black-and-white display) or darkness (with backlighting and a limited color range).

Negroponte says initial versions of the laptop will cost about $135 in early 2007. However, the price should drop to $100 by 2008 and $50 by 2010.

TAGS: Windows 8
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