The $100 PC

The New York Times writes:

Nicholas Negroponte, the technology guru from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory, prowled the halls of the World Economic Forum holding the holy grail for crossing the digital divide: a mock-up of a $100 laptop computer.

The machine is intriguing because Mr. Negroponte has struck upon a remarkably simple solution for lowering the price of the most costly part of a laptop – the display – to $25 or less.

Mr. Negroponte said that he had found initial backing for his laptop plan from Advanced Micro Devices and said that he was in discussions with Google, Motorola, the News Corporation and Samsung for support.

The device includes a tentlike pop-up display that will use the technology now used in today’s rear-projection televisions, in conjunction with an L.E.D. light source.

Mr. Negroponte said his experience in giving children laptop computers in rural Cambodia had convinced him that low-cost machines would make a fundamental difference when broadly deployed.

Red Herring writes:

The low-cost computer will have a 14-inch color screen, AMD chips, and will run Linux software, Mr. Negroponte said during an interview Friday with Red Herring at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. AMD is separately working on a cheap desktop computer for emerging markets. It will be sold to governments for wide distribution.

Mr. Negroponte and his supporters are planning to create a company that would manufacture and market the new portable PCs, with MIT as one of the stakeholders. It is unclear precisely what role the other four companies will play, although Mr. Negroponte hopes News Corp. will help with satellite capacity.

An engineering prototype is nearly ready, with alpha units expected by years end and real production around 18 months from now, he said. The portable PCs will be shipped directly to education ministries, with China first on the list. Only orders of 1 million or more units will be accepted.

Om Malik adds: “I think this will be subsidized product, because even the back of the envelope calculations show that this cannot be built for $100.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.