mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Why no $100 laptops here? Because nobody would want one...

Glenn at Instapundit wants to know why he can't get a $100 laptop like one that they are developing at MIT for the third world. My guess? Because few people would want one.

Companies have tried selling loss-leader internet-only devices for years - the earthlink mailstation, MSN WebTV, and dozens of other "internet appliances" come to mind. None have exactly been a sucess, and they all have similarities to this device.

Now, the MIT device is probably great for it's market of school kids, but most Americans want more out of their computer. For example, the low-priced machine has the following display:

First, by dramatically lowering the cost of the display. The first-generation machine may use a novel, dual-mode LCD display commonly found in inexpensive DVD players, but that can also be used in black and white, in bright sunlight, and at four times the normal resolution-all at a cost of approximately $35.

Now, that doesn't tell us a whole lot, and I'm no expert on LCD's. But I'm going to guess that this screen is way smaller than most normal laptops - since those cheap DVD players that this screen is from usually have 5" or so LCD's. Small LCD's are cheap, but once you get to larger sizes they are more expensive, mostly because there is more glass in them to break. Also, from my experience, cheap DVD players don't have the best screen - they are fine for video, but text would look horrible on them. While this one is supposedly "better", it's still probably not nearly as good as a standard PC screen.

The MIT laptop also has a very slow processor - a 500mhz AMD. That's about a 5 year old processor. Now, I will be the first to admit that most people don't need the latest and greatest in processors, especially if all they do is email and web browsing. I personally still use a 3+ year old AMD Athlon with a 1.5ghz clock speed. But 500mhz seems way low, especially given the multitude of things people like to do with their PC's - like watch DVD's, play games, and edit photos - that requires processor speed.

And then there is storage. The cheap-top has 1 gig of flash memory and no hard drive. But people love to be able to save stuff - including big stuff, like movies, music, ect. No hard drive would be a killer for many people.

Plus the cheap-top uses Linux. Now I'm not going to start an OS debate, but lots of people want their machine to run Windows.

The biggest barrier to a $100 computer is that you can get 10x the computer for 4.5x the price - like this deal from last week from Office Depot - a compaq laptop for $450 shipped after rebates for a machine with a 2+ghz processor, a nice 14" display, a dvd-rom drive, and a 40 gig hard drive. It can do way more than a $100 laptop, and it's still well within the grasp of most Americans.


Post a Comment

<< Home