Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Real $100 Computer

There has been all this talk about this $100 computer that some MIT dude thinks he can create and give it to poor kids all over the world so that the digital divide will go away. Good luck. These ideas that multiple times cheaper than existing technology always fail. We will see how long this takes to either a) become more expensive (which could mean subsidies) or b) fails outright. I knew this was a loser when Jim Cramer was on his show saying how big it is and then said the killer phrase "just imagine how a $100 computer changes things". Exactly. If this were real how could other computers sell for $1000, let alone $500 or $200?

As luck has it, just ran into an article on it here. Trust me, forget the hype this won't work like they are promising (though they did create some cool technology on it that I do approve of. Key quote: "The machine is expected to start mass production late next year". Yeah, we will check again next year and see what went wrong.

But then along comes a much more elegant solution. One that isn't being marketed as a way to fix the digital divide but rather is being sold as a toy to American children. Get rid of the screen and use paper. And sell it for $100. This is what China and the rest of the 3rd world ought to be buying.

Instead, the Fly is a pen - a fat ballpoint pen. (The company says that its focus groups found the term "pentop computer" infinitely sexier than "pen computer." Nobody ever said consumers are logical.)

The Fly is so fat because it contains an AAA battery, a computer chip, a speaker and, mounted half an inch from the ballpoint tip, a tiny camera. For all of its educational, interactive tricks, the Fly pen requires special paper whose surface is imprinted with nearly invisible micro-dots. As you write, the pen always knows where it is on the page, thanks to those dot patterns and the camera that watches them go by.
via New York Times also checkout the Wired writeup.

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