Monday June 27, 2005 12:15 pm
MIT Media Lab Researching $100 Notebook Computer
Nicholas Negroponte, Chairman and co-founder of the MIT Media Lab announced to the World Economic Forum the most recent plans of the lab: a research initiative to develop a $100 laptop computer, with a 12” one megapixel screen, 1GB hard drive, and 500Mhz processor. Other features include some sort of innovative power (possibly wind-up), a plethora of USB ports, and a ruggedized exterior to stand up to the elements in harsher climates. The machines will be WiFi enabled, and have GSM cell phone connectivity as well.
When answering questions about the lofty goals of the lab, Negroponte explained that the computers were like pencils; they are tools for the children to think with. Studies have shown that there is a lot of value when laptops are used across a variety of learning and entertainment.
Negroponte expects the pricing to reach the $100 level through the large quantities of machines that would be ordered (marketing to groups such as educational ministries), and by developing technologies that will lower the cost of the display to less than $25. Currently, projection technologies are the front runner, and it is expected that they can get the cost to under $20. They are in early talks with China, whose 220 million students would be prime candidates for such a device, as well as a large enough order to really drive prices down.
The machines will run on Linux, and aggressively cutting the amount of redundant or unnecessary software will help keep the system running smoothly in meager storage space. But the real innovation comes from their connectivity. “When these machines pop out of the box, they will make a mesh network of their own, peer-to-peer. This is something initially developed at MIT and the Media Lab,” Negroponte said. Most startling is the time frame for when they plan to have these laptops ready: the end of next year, or possibly the beginning of 2007.
If the MIT Media Lab can pull this off, it would surely be something worth of a Nobel Prize. Education is the key to reducing crime, and fostering world peace, and that’s not just some hippie prognostication. They admit that manufacturing in the massive quantities that it seems such a venture would require is a monumental undertaking, but that many partner companies are solving problems through sheer force of will. This is a bonding of corporate and public need (the project is only expected to cost roughly $90 in parts, and factors in a $10 profit margin), and just goes to show that the interests of the many do not always have to be at odds with business.
Read More | MIT Media Lab
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