Gates pokes fun at $100 laptop

I remember Bill Gates’ vision of a computer in every household. Now that there is actually a chance to achieve this, he instead chides it for not being able to run Windows. This coming from a supposed humanitarian.

Taken from Betanews:

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates derided the $100 laptop being developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Wednesday, criticizing its lack of features. Gates has been described as privately bitter over MIT’s decision to reject using Windows on the device . . .

At a speech at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in Washington, D.C., Gates mocked the devices lack of a hard disk and small screen. He also said it missed the boat on software applications and support, which he explained is where the “big costs come from” making such a device.

Before his comments, Gates had showed off one of the new ultra-mobile PCs, which run Windows XP and include a seven-inch screen. It’s not clear whether he was trying to market the UMPC as a better alternative; the devices are over six times the cost, from $599 to $999.

Gates criticized the devices as being being inadequate for shared-use computers. However, the title of the project is One Laptop Per Child, and statements from the group indicate that each child would have their own device.

“If you are going to go have people share the computer, get a broadband connection and have somebody there who can help support the user,” Gates chided. “Geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you’re not sitting there cranking the thing while you’re trying to type.”

It leaves a bad taste in the mouth when a billionaire criticizes an effort to bring technology and information to children (especially to those in developing countries) because his notion of a “decent computer” is one with costlier applications. Was he instead marketing Microsoft’s new Origami platform as an alternative? It’s at least 6x the cost!

The sooner children get exposed to technology and computing, the brighter their future will become. I remember an incident when we had to hire hundreds of call center agents, most of which have never even touched a computer. You could see the anxiety in their eyes and hear the quivering in their voices. We had to train them on the basics and literally had to hand-hold them throughout the process!

Besides, what do you actually need to run and learn about a PC? To learn the basics you don’t need a powerful CPU. A barebones PC is all you need to understand the fundamentals such as opening a file, saving a file, disk drives, monitor, keyboard, and so on. To learn the basic applications, all you need is a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation application. To learn internet you need a browser, an email client, and an internet connection—the latter does not even have to be broadband. So, given a tight budget, I would get the cheapest PC I could find and load it with the essential open-source software—mainly a Linux OS (possible Ubuntu), Open Office, and the Mozilla suite. That alone would help prepare the next generation . . .

Having said that, I wonder what happened to DTI’s and DoE’s efforts to bring 12,000 desktop computers to 1,200 schools throughout the country (as reported in Erwin Oliva’s news article)?

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