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Gates Mocks MIT's $100 Laptop 816

Posted by Zonk
from the at-leat-they're-trying dept.
QuietLagoon writes 'Reuters is reporting that Bill Gates is making fun of the one laptop per child initiative to revolutionize how the world's children are educated. 'The last thing you want to do for a shared use computer is have it be something without a disk ... and with a tiny little screen,' Gates said at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in suburban Washington. 'Hardware is a small part of the cost' of providing computing capabilities, he said, adding that the big costs come from network connectivity, applications and support. '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, 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,' Gates said.'
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Gates Mocks MIT's $100 Laptop

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  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:29AM (#14933226) Homepage Journal
    While I think Gates is right to mock these laptops, I don't think he understands the realities of the problems of helping others around the world. The only thing that helps others is letting them find or create their own opportunities to better their futures. Taking care of people today is counter-productive and can destroy opportunities in the future.

    Computers don't make opportunities. Teachers don't make opportunities. Public funding of projects, businesses and markets doesn't make opportunities. Opportunities come when a given community finds that is can accomplish something that others in a market want.

    The Internet won't help here -- it isn't here to educate, it is here to help people meet each other's needs. The people using the Internet to better themselves are already living in an economy that enables them to find opportunities to better themselves. That realization is enough to give the average person the desire to make their lives better.

    Gates is right -- the $100 laptop is useless. The people it is being built for do not understand opportunity because their community leaders have robbed them of any chance to better themselves. Many of the world's poor live under the thumb of a small group of elitists who think they can help the poor through force. They attempt to provide what their poor needs today, without realizing that just giving someone something doesn't offer any hope for the future. This is especially true if what you're giving them today doesn't really help them enough.

    The Bible offers the old fish cliche -- give a man a fish and he'll eat today, teach a man to fish and he'll eat forever. This is very important when making a consideration towards helping another person. I hate helping others through tax-and-spend wealth redistribution: there is no accountability in how the money is spent. I give all my charitable dollars (in the past few months, over 50% of my income) only to those I can hold accountable. This sounds like a "quid pro quo" situation, but it would be no different if it was my own brother or child or best friend. If the person I am helping is not making attempts to support themselves, then my help is wasted -- time, money, love or support. There are others who want to help themselves but are in a position (for whatever reason) that they just can't. These are the people I help.

    I would never fund anyone in another country, never again. When I was younger I funded some Ehtiopian charity group, and a few years later had the opportunity to visit Ethiopia. The charity group's office was luxurious and the people working for it lived a very nice life. They found an opportunity: take advantage of idiots in other countries who can't hold the charity accountable. The people the charity was meant to help received very little of the finance and support promised, and what little they did receive did not give them any hope for the future.

    It is this hope that creates opporunities. I've seen poor people climb out of poverty with no help from anyone, just because a simple opportunity opened up near them. I just visited Europe and Asia, and I saw thousands of very poor people taking advantage of opportunities that we in the U.S. would never consider doing. Many of these people realized their time investment could offer them the chance to save for the future, to give their children a better chance, to even save some money so they can better their own lives -- in the future. I would never give a homeless person a home, a car and a credit card. I would never give an uneducated person a computer or an education. I would never give a hungry person money to buy food. I would never fund health care of people who don't care about their lives or the lives of their children.

    But I would open my home to the homeless person, if they were willing to make steps to find how they can house themselves in the future. I would (and do) spend time with poor families to give their children a chance to learn in some way so that they could take on
  • Throwing Stones (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:29AM (#14933231) Homepage Journal

    'The last thing you want to do for a shared use computer is have it be something without a disk ... and with a tiny little screen,' Gates said at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in suburban Washington. 'Hardware is a small part of the cost' of providing computing capabilities, he said, adding that the big costs come from network connectivity, applications and support. '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, 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,' Gates said.'

    Fscking rich snob. You know, this git travelled around the world, donates money to fight diseases in 3rd world countries, but seems to have this wild belief that these backwaters are going to have telecommunications to each school and house, let alone broadband.

    He SAW the crank handle, what part of "they use this because they don't even have electric" doesn't he understand? It's crap like this that gives the west a worse reputation, never mind invading oil countries, but doing bugger all for poor african nations. Geez, Bill, go back to feeling all warm and fuzzy inside about your Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or maybe you could free up $100B and give people in these developing backwaters with shite infrastructure some electricity, running water and telecommunications. Then maybe the destabilizing wars will settle down, which actually go a long way towards contributing to the diseases you like to fund the fight against, and the people won't be on the move so much and they can all get down to the business of e-commerce.

    Cripes... I can just see some kid sitting in an adobe house in a rural village looking at his bright shiny Dell laptop with Windows Vista installed, 2 GB memory, 200G HD, whizzy graphics, and wondering if he could use it as a hard surface to practice his writing on.,

    Bill's probably really spiteful because it doesn't spread the market penetration of Microsoft. So where's his effort? If he hasn't got one, he shouldn't be spitting on others.

    we give money to underprivileged congressmen to help develping strategies for them to look the other way.

  • by Mattygfunk1 (596840) * on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:29AM (#14933232)
    It's fascinating where the generous and charitable Bill Gates ends, and the ruthless businessman Bill Gates begins.

    You would hope with his experience in the public eye, that he would have learnt that nobel efforts to help the less fortunate should be encouraged. Good luck to MIT and anyone associated with the project.

    __
    Funny Porn @ Laugh DAILY [laughdaily.com]

  • Hypocrites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:30AM (#14933237)
    Slashdot made fun of this. Now Gates made fun of it. Now we will see Slashdot slam Gates for making fun of it.
  • by bwd (936324) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:31AM (#14933259) Homepage
    But he has put his money where his mouth is concerning helping needy children. He hasn't sold them $100 computers, but he has given away for free various medicines worth billions of dollars over many years. So I think his criticism should be seen in that context. I think he's expressing genuine concern.
  • Urge to Kill .... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:32AM (#14933267) Journal
    ... rising ... RISING ....

    This article is clearly flamebait. So allow me to participate in the opening salvo.

    I think it's interesting how Gates proposes a solution where we need to put people to support the product, thereby charging money indefinitely. Keep your customers dependant, it's his tried and true component to his business model.

    Perhaps Gates (and his wife Malinda) are satisfied with vaccinations and hand outs. Things like food, clothing, water, etc. While these things are very helpful in the short run, they unfortunately result in the poor remaining dependant on you for more hand outs. This is convenient if you wish yourself to be seen as a provider.

    What's more valuable to you, food or a tool that could possibly help you learn how to procure food indefinitely. These laptops could be very valuable communication devices. Sometimes, it's just an open dialogue with someone intelligent that sparks the learning process.

    It seems like Gates is walking up to someone who desperately needs just basic transportation and telling them that a $1,000 junker isn't what they need. They need a high performance Dodge Viper with a personal mechanic to maintain it. Broadband connection? Why? I thought I read that these $100 laptops were going to have radio frequency repeaters so that information could be sent from laptop to laptop and act as routers for each other.

    You know, even if these laptops are mediocre or even a complete failure, at least someone tried to provide the tools to escape poverty permanently.

    Either Gates thinks that poor equals stupid or he's got something against MIT. These must have been some very hastily made remarks--think before you speak no matter how rich you are. It also doesn't help that the article implied he recommends a Microsoft "Ultra-Mobile" laptop instead (costing 6 to 10 times more).
  • by pizzaman100 (588500) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:33AM (#14933290) Journal
    The Bible offers the old fish cliche -- give a man a fish and he'll eat today, teach a man to fish and he'll eat forever

    Pretty sure that's not from the Bible.

  • by Tweekster (949766) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:33AM (#14933292)
    Gates was never a real visionary. Excellent business man right from the very beginning but he never really had the visionary spirit. It brings up the debated comment about memory, it is dumb to most people, but really it isnt that dumb of a comment, just a lack of vision in what could come next. He knows business, not technology, he just happens to be in the tech business. He could have just as easily been in a different business and been very successful
  • by bwd (936324) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:33AM (#14933294) Homepage
    He's donated billions of dollars worth of medicine to children all over Africa and elsewhere. If anyone in this world has "put up or shut up," it's Mr. Gates. He is expressing genuine concern.
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrotherNO@SPAMoptonline.net> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:34AM (#14933297) Journal

    They're running Linux on these things aren't they? No market share for Microsoft.

    Gates has valid points, but they're overshadowed by his oafishness. And it's really strange given the amount of money he pours into Africa every year. Bizarre.

  • by RenHoek (101570) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:35AM (#14933308) Homepage
    Well, it goes without saying that they won't ship with Vista. This will add to the Linux market share significantly, even though there are no profits generated by putting linux on those laptops. But it will hurt the graphs though. The PR department will hate it.

    And if Billy Boy is one thing, he's a PR man.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@NoSPAM.mac.com> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:35AM (#14933317) Journal
    Gates is right -- the $100 laptop is useless.

    Useless to him, certainly not useless to millions of poor people.

    -jcr

  • What a jackass... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kotj.mf (645325) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:36AM (#14933326)
    FTFA:

    "The last thing you want to do for a shared use computer is have it be something without a disk ... and with a tiny little screen," Gates said at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in suburban Washington.

    ...

    Before his critique, Gates showed off a new "ultra-mobile computer" which runs Microsoft Windows on a seven-inch (17.78-centimeter) touch screen.

    Those machines are expected to sell for between $599 and $999, Microsoft said at the product launch last week.

    Indeed. I mean, how are poor, illiterate masses supposed to install Office (tm) on those things? Or run Windows Media Player(tm)?

    Clearly, since the only reason for anybody to use a computer is to provide a justification for spending money on Microsoft products, the sub-$100 idea is just goofy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:36AM (#14933332)
    And if the $100 computer people want to have the last laugh, they can stop issuing press releases and giving each other awards and start making the damn things.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:37AM (#14933340)
    Sheesh, can he be any more arrogant? Most of the areas that they are targeting for these laptops don't have electricity and running water.
    So Bill, what are you going to do to improve the situation?
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:42AM (#14933409) Homepage Journal
    It seems like Gates is walking up to someone who desperately needs just basic transportation and telling them that a $1,000 junker isn't what they need. They need a high performance Dodge Viper with a personal mechanic to maintain it. Broadband connection? Why? I thought I read that these $100 laptops were going to have radio frequency repeaters so that information could be sent from laptop to laptop and act as routers for each other.

    The key thing to understand about Bill Gates is that he isn't a technologist. Sure, the general populace believes that he's the smartest man in the world, but the truth is that he has absolutely no vision what-so-ever. If you read his books (e.g. The Road Ahead), he proposes mostly fanciful ideas that might have come out of a SciFi article from 30 years ago. Actual concepts about why his ideas are useful, the reasons why the implementation will work, etc. are all missing from his books.

    What people need to realize is that Bill Gates is a ruthless business man who knows how to be in the right place at the right time. He made his entire fortune by embracing other people's ideas and extending them to be successful in the market. Everything from the Altair port of BASIC, to purchasing a CP/M ripoff to sell IBM as DOS, to announcing a non-existant "Windows" to compete with VisiOn, to cheating Spyglass out of a web browser to compete with Netscape. He doesn't know what will work until someone else shows him how. Then, and only then, does he make sure he nails the market before anyone else does.

    Don't listen to Bill Gates. He has nothing useful or insightful to say. And I sincerely doubt that most people here really want to follow in his footsteps, even if it does mean becoming one of the richest men in the world.
  • by pubjames (468013) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:43AM (#14933415)
    I think he's expressing genuine concern.

    No, I think they are dumb comments that show Gates is completely out of touch with the realities of education in developing countries. So he gives money to charities? So what. Is that such a big deal for someone who has so much of it?

    A little personal story about MS. I used to work for an educational organisation in the UK. We were working with Microsoft on a project to demonstrate Microsoft software to schools, in return they were giving the org I was working for some free software. In discussion with their head of marketing to the education sector, I raised the point that the demonstrations weren't actually very good from a educational perspective. He said to me condescendingly - "Microsoft is not interested in education, we just want schools to buy our software". That kind of sums up MS for me.
  • Not really. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vo0k (760020) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:44AM (#14933442) Journal
    Slashdot didn't make fun of the computers, it was more of disbelief - the project is very ambitious and $100 price tag seems to be unreachable. Lots of us, /. nerds would love to get that thing, but we see it as vaporware, a dream that won't come true.

    On the other hand, Gates is mocking the strengths of the idea and shows real shortsightedness. He says the cost is network and software, which is bullshit. The software is to be Linux so no real cost here. The network doesn't need to be broadband, and likely won't be - and the bandwidth can be donated by country using existing data lines, HAM radio and different other really cheap options. A single broadband line for whole school, it's neither expensive nor impossible. The remaining BIG cost is the hardware and only a guy with several $bln on his account can consider it negligible. Gates imagines this: OS: $150. Broadband line: $300 installing, $30/month. Other software (MS Office, antivirus, anti-spyware etc) $200. So why not round it up to $1000 with the hardware. The guys at MIT think: OS: $0. Software: $0. Network: old HAM radio: $0 (donated), old 2nd hand modem $5, bandwidth govt-sponsored. Hardware: $100.

    $100 may be a year or two of hard saving for an average family in some countries. $1000 is for most of them completely out of reach.

    So either aim at this unrealistic $100 (and maybe laugh with us about how vaporware this is) or just give up.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:45AM (#14933446)
    'The last thing you want to do for a shared use computer is have it be something without a disk ... and with a tiny little screen,' Gates said at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in suburban Washington.

    How big is the screen on Origami [slashdot.org]?
  • by jdavidb (449077) * on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:46AM (#14933462) Homepage Journal

    The Bible offers the old fish cliche -- give a man a fish and he'll eat today, teach a man to fish and he'll eat forever.

    Did you mean that cliche literally came from the Bible? I don't think so, but if you want to offer a reference, I'll check.

    It does teach that charity from the church should proceed by the rule that "For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat." (II Thessalonians 3:10) I'd say that allows us to infer the same concept. But the saying itself did not originate there, to my knowledge.

  • by db32 (862117) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:46AM (#14933463) Journal
    Except when it comes to tech. Then he tries to gouge these people. Look at the nambia.net stories of MS "generosity". I don't see his donations as much more than PR. Its great that these people are getting this food/medicine/money. But really, the motivations need to be examined before you declare this guy as anything genuine.
  • by YU Nicks NE Way (129084) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:47AM (#14933478)
    Gates is right -- the $100 laptop is useless.

    Useless to him, certainly not useless to millions of poor people.

    Actually, the $100 computer would be utterly useless to the millions of poor people -- if it every appeared, which I doubt.

    Gates is wrong, all the same. There's a much better reason to mock the $100 laptop: what the "$100 laptop" offers already available throughout the third world, and is, increasingly, being used by people in the third world for the same thing that we in the first world use our computers for: communication. Cheap cell phones are blooming throughout Africa and Asia.

    The average cell phone is a pretty powerful computer. With a display. And an always-on wireless link. And a storage system. And a data-entry pad. And, and, and.

    Gates' criticism is laughable -- there's a lot of use in a small screen, for instance -- but Negroponte's idea is stupid, too.
  • by jdavidb (449077) * on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:49AM (#14933510) Homepage Journal

    I would never fund anyone in another country, never again. When I was younger I funded some Ehtiopian charity group, and a few years later had the opportunity to visit Ethiopia. The charity group's office was luxurious and the people working for it lived a very nice life. They found an opportunity: take advantage of idiots in other countries who can't hold the charity accountable. The people the charity was meant to help received very little of the finance and support promised, and what little they did receive did not give them any hope for the future.

    Again, the Bible offers a model here. In the Bible, a church would send support to another church in a foreign land during times of trouble (such as famine), through a trusted person (such as the apostle Paul). The book of Acts relates at least one such church to church contribution, and I'm pretty sure First or Second Corinthians (maybe both) has Paul speaking about how he made sure to take witnesses along with him on such endeavors so everyone could know for sure the money got to the poor people who needed it. Starting point for reading would be Acts 11:27-30.

  • by Richard W.M. Jones (591125) <rich@nosPam.annexia.org> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:49AM (#14933512) Homepage
    He's donated billions of dollars worth of medicine to children all over Africa and elsewhere.

    I'm glad that he's spending all the illegally gotten gains on good causes.

    But would life be better if competition had caused operating system software to go towards zero (it's approximate real cost). Goods and services which depend for their production on computers (ie. just about everything) would be cheaper. Whole countries would not be exporting $billions to him every year, and instead would be able to spend that money on investment and growth.

    I suppose we'll never know.

    Rich.

  • by everphilski (877346) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:51AM (#14933540) Journal
    He has through his own and other charities. Perhaps you missed it, Gates and Bono were Time's 2005 "People of the Year" for their charitable work.

    Gates offered his advice and help with the $100 notebook. (this was on /. late last year...) He had some ideas on the design of the device: no only that he also offered a free custom version of Windows for the machine. Negroponte very rudely ran Gates off. This is tit for tat if you ask me, but of course being /., Negroponte and the $100 notebook can do no harm and Gates is Satan, incarnate...

  • Duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by petra13 (785564) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:52AM (#14933546) Journal
    have somebody there who can help support the user

    Says Gates, who makes billions off of support for hideously expensive software.

  • by mcvos (645701) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:53AM (#14933555)

    Many of the world's poor live under the thumb of a small group of elitists who think they can help the poor through force. They attempt to provide what their poor needs today, without realizing that just giving someone something doesn't offer any hope for the future.

    "Africa's problem is that its leaders take care of their people"? If only that were true. The problem is that they don't. Instead of investing in education, infrastructure, and economy, many African leaders invest mostly in a comfy life for themselves. If your line of reasoning were correct, Africa would have been a reasonably wealthy continent by now.

    Well, you're partially right. One of the biggest reasons the African economy is struggling, is because Europe and the US are subsidising farmers to produce more food that we'll ever eat, and dumping the surplus below cost on the African market. And free or cheap food from abroad means that the local farmers can't sell their products and go bankrupt. So in this case, we're paying money to keep them poor. (And before you ask why African countries don't raise tariffs on imported food: they'd get in trouble with IMF, WTO or similar institutions if they did.)

    As for the cheap laptops for developing countries, I support it exactly because it does provide opportunities and helps education.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:53AM (#14933569) Homepage
    Which is a great saying in hindsight. If you won, before you won they probably fought you, before that they ridiculed you and before that they ignored you. However, very few reach step 4 and many fall off at each step. So what does step 2 get you? A clown can get to step 2. That doesn't mean he's ever going to win, only that he's good entertainment. If I decided to throw a punch at a bodybuilder I'd be at step three. Wohoo so much closer to victory - not. I get really really tired of people that talk like there's some sort of automatic progression which will eventually end up at victory.
  • by serginho (909707) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:55AM (#14933588)
    Perhaps Gates (and his wife Malinda) are satisfied with vaccinations and hand outs. Things like food, clothing, water, etc. While these things are very helpful in the short run, they unfortunately result in the poor remaining dependant on you for more hand outs. This is convenient if you wish yourself to be seen as a provider.

    Well, I don't know where you live, and I really don't care, but let me guess: you have never seen poor people with your own eyes, have you?

    These things like food, clothing, water and a *very long* etc. may well result in dependency. They are really useful in the "short run", and you know why? Life is very short indeed if you have no access to these "things". Without these "things", human beings die. And, as far as I know, people have no use for computers in the afterlife.

    So please, stop making everything about Evil Bill. It may get you quickly modded as "insightful" in Slashdot, but not much more than that.
  • Re:Throwing Stones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by A beautiful mind (821714) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:55AM (#14933590)
    "that you can hook up to a TV and keyboard and use as a computer."

    Yeah, I see now. That would work perfectly well at places without electricity.
  • by rk (6314) * on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:55AM (#14933595) Journal

    I gave a sizable amount of money to help people who lost in Hurricane Katrina (not approaching the magnitude of Gates' charitable giving of course) but that doesn't make me an expert in disaster relief.

  • Useless for Vista (Score:5, Insightful)

    by babbling (952366) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:56AM (#14933608)
    Well, yeah, it's useless for Vista. It turns out that poor people don't need eye-candy or bloat.

    Bill Gates is just annoyed that this laptop isn't running Windows. Microsoft was originally trying to get involved in this project, but they were not accepted, so now they're FUDing it.
  • by Zaatxe (939368) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:58AM (#14933628)
    ...he didn't say "If they have no bread, then let them eat cake!", that was Maria Antoinette. What Gates really said was "If they can't read well in those small screens $100 laptops have, let them have a decent computer! (A $500-$1000 Origami, maybe?)". He also said "If they can't type and cranck the thing at the same time, let them plug a decent computer in a outlet, which must be avaliable in any house in third world countries". After all, what is $1000 for a third world country child? Is it something that could feed their families for about a year? Oh, yes, it is!

    One point Gates seemed to miss here is that the lack of capacity of the machines and their low price is also a way to avoid them to be robbed or sold.
  • by Mac Degger (576336) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:59AM (#14933632) Journal
    Did you see how he's saying that the hardware is cheap, but what is costly is connectivity, applications and support?

    Oddly enough, the exact reasons Windows was snubbed on the project. With an open source OS, the applications are free too, and the internet is your helpdesk.

    Oh, and hardware IS expensive, especially for the people the thing is targetted at.
  • by snowwrestler (896305) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:01PM (#14933650)
    adding that the big costs come from network connectivity, applications and support

    Applications don't have to have big [koffice.org] costs [openoffice.org] associated with them.
  • Re:Throwing Stones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dc29A (636871) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:01PM (#14933653)
    He said what we should be making and giving them cheaply are basically cell phones that you can hook up to a TV and keyboard and use as a computer.

    How are these cell phones getting recharged?
    What about people who don't have a TV and/or Keyboard?

    Both TV and Keyboard cost extra. Plus the cell phone won't be free either. And Telcos need to be paid for someone to use their cellphone network too. Many things Mr. Gates does not mention.

    IMO, the only reason Bill came up with this ridiculous idea is because he was felt left out by MIT. There is this reputable university that thinks no MS technology is good enough to help the 3d world. Must have hurt Bill's ego quite a bit.
  • by WolfWithoutAClause (162946) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:01PM (#14933654) Homepage
    He would get future sales off products like Microsoft Office, and it would give people a clear upgrade path to desktops and more expensive laptops which run XP etc.
  • by DrXym (126579) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:02PM (#14933671)
    If these handcranked machines were selling for $200 tomorrow in a consumer model, I'd buy one like a shot. Bill can scoff, but a rugged device with a keyboard that requires no power supply and can do wireless and simple productivity tasks is a KILLER DEVICE. I can well imagine these things becoming almost the iPods of the the computing world. The likes of Starbucks would be filled with people using these things, taking them out of their bags, cranking them up for instant browsing goodness with just enough juice for a coffee or two. The great part is they're so cheap and sturdy that you wouldn't need to carry them around like newborn children - just throw them into the bag with your other stuff and away you go.

    I reckon if anything that Bill is scared because if these things ever did become consumer devices that his shitty Origami project would go down the tubes just like all their predecessors. After all, how many would buy some lousy pen device costing thousands when something costing a tenth could do all they need.

    It's not just consumers either. I can well see these things being useful in warehouses and other places where you need computer access but not the bother of having devices on charge all the time.

  • Re:Hypocrites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timster (32400) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:02PM (#14933673)
    Dude, right on this page we have a bunch of people saying that Gates is right, and we have people saying that he's right of the wrong reasons, and we have people saying he's wrong. And we have you saying that there is no diversity of opinion and predicting that everyone will bash Gates. Feeling silly?
  • by P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:03PM (#14933679) Journal
    Really? Maybe the impact of email has been lost on you, but in reality it is still the mainstay of the internet. Sending emails would probably have a large impact on people in africa. I have seen so many times where people will have grandiose plans for change, but it seems that the small evolutionary ones are what matters.
  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:03PM (#14933682)
    what he means to says is profits. For a well designed computer the software and support is pretty cheap. Networking? Last I checked a chunch of removable media in the mail still had more bandwidth than any broadband you care to name, and that's dirt cheap. OTOH, providing software in need of constant upgrades and support and fun but uncecessary networking services is prtty damn profitable. I guess if gobs of money's my aim, I'd be selling cheap wintel boxen too.
  • by Marc2k (221814) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:06PM (#14933710) Homepage Journal
    ..if you're going to spend resources to build infrastructure in 3rd world countries, how about we spend it on more practical infrastructure. For instance, if you or Bill Gates are against $100 laptops for their silly cranks, instead of suggesting we build a country-wide infrastructure for wireless networking, how about suggest we build a country-wide infrastructure for electricity. Or clean water. Or vaccinations. Etc, etc, etc.

    In the context of spending money on dumbed-down laptops, your idea is tops; however, when you broaden the scope a bit, you're still faced with some of the problems they tried to address in the $100 laptop project (i.e. adding a crank to power the laptop, because electricity isn't available 24 hours a day in their area..how frustrating would it be knowing that you don't have power, but you do have wireless connectivity?)
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:07PM (#14933718) Journal
    Well, I don't know where you live, and I really don't care, but let me guess: you have never seen poor people with your own eyes, have you?
    I spent the first 20 years of my life below the poverty line on various forms of social programs. College was my escape route. While this was in the United States, I am aware of the severity in other countries. My friends regularly go to Tanzania to teach children and show me pictures. I do not have the luxury to spend that much money to help people.
    These things like food, clothing, water and a *very long* etc. may well result in dependency. They are really useful in the "short run", and you know why? Life is very short indeed if you have no access to these "things". Without these "things", human beings die. And, as far as I know, people have no use for computers in the afterlife.
    You, sir, are a presumptuous ass. I never said not to give these things to them. What I would like to see is efforts in both areas. Gates gives billions, surely he can donate a million to an area to try out the laptops.

    1,000,000/100 = 10,000

    Try it out, validate it. Continue to give immediate aid but work towards helping them help themselves. Shift the funds and try new ideas. What we're doing now isn't solving anything in the long run.
  • 100% flame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by caffeination (947825) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:11PM (#14933769)
    Dumbed down? These machines are a work of networking genius. And they run fucking Linux, which frees them up completely.

    Anything you've seen calling this an attempt to "solve the problem of 3rd world technology and computing" was market speak. This is no different to anything else - a step forward.

    Infrastructure? These laptops are infrastructure. And I can't think of anything more "from the ground up" than KIDS.

    Wireless broadband infrastructure? And what do you propose they connect to this wireless broadband? Sounds like your fantasy world is a step ahead of the rest of us.

    I'm sick to death of smug Slashdotters pissing on this project as if they know better than MIT and the UN.

  • by Craig Maloney (1104) * on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:12PM (#14933779) Homepage
    If Mr. Gates thinks kids won't sit typing into too small a screen, I'd suggest he take a look at the kids texting madly into their phones.

    It is we who are the dinosaurs, Mr. Gates.
  • The average cell phone is a pretty powerful computer. With a display. And an always-on wireless link. And a storage system. And a data-entry pad. And, and, and.

    But it doesn't have a good, easy way to enter data. Full-size keyboards do matter. It's also hard to do self-hosted development on a cell phone, though that's less of a priority.

    Now, come up with an external, plugin keyboard for a cell phone, and you might have something...

  • by iamhassi (659463) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:15PM (#14933825) Journal
    "When we want to help others, we should. I believe it is required of all people to help those less fortunate."

    What do you consider "less fortunate"? Because they dont have computers? I think a lot of us survived without computers and we turned out just fine and I'm sure there's plenty of people in the US that still dont have a PC and they're surviving without.

    Seems we're giving computers to people that would be happier with running water and fresh food. I think they'll play with the computer for a minute, see that it doesnt dispense food or water and it'll end up in the corner or sold somewhere.

    What if some advanced alien race found us and said
    "Awwww... those poor poor humans, they dont have food replicators, teleportors or antigravity tractor beams! OMG look how many die in auto accidents, and look how hard the work just to produce food or move large objects around, we must help the less fortunate and give them technology!"

    Is that what you'd want? Handouts?

  • No bias here (Score:1, Insightful)

    by harris s newman (714436) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:17PM (#14933851)
    Spoken like a true billionaire. Perhaps he should be pennyless and see if squinting is a big issue in the use of the systems. If the systems were his new clameshell, he would be all for it.
  • by panthro (552708) <.mavrinac. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:17PM (#14933858) Homepage

    Your comparison of this laptop initiative to giving a man a fish is very poor.

    Giving people laptops, without getting into too much detail, is essentially giving people in developing nations access to information that they have no other way of obtaining. It has the potential to have a somewhat analogous effect to the introduction of the printing press in Europe in the middle ages: the common uneducated person suddenly has access to something that traditionally has been controlled by a few elite.

    Education is not something you can squander, like a fish or money or even a temporary home. Information doesn't cost anything to give, and ideally lasts forever. The only thing that has an expense attached to it is the means of distributing the information - in this case, $100 per laptop, plus some distribution and infrastructure costs.

    Further, playing down the merits of this project simply because there exist better solutions is irresponsible. You are essentially claiming that we should do nothing if we aren't going to completely rework the foreign policies and internal structures of virtually every government on earth. Nothing about this project is stopping you and I from trying to make bigger and better changes (aside from the expended focus, energy, time and money on the part of those who participate in the project - all those things are renewable resources). Mother Teresa is a good parallel to consider.

    You are correct, a lack of opportunity is what is holding the 'less fortunate' people down. However, education is opportunity. It is precisely what the common population in underdeveloped nations needs to escape the shadow of their oppressors at home and abroad. Giving them laptops is not like giving them a fish. Giving them laptops is like giving them a library card and a ride to the library; all that's left is for some well-meaning librarian to point them to some books about fishing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:19PM (#14933879)
    So why is a small screen computer that cost $500-$1000 a good thing? Talk about open mouth insert foot!
    If a small screen is a bad thing Bill just came out with the most assine product ever by his own admission. There goes another $100 million to pointless R&D instead of the foundation.
  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:20PM (#14933891)
    There was one commenter who had been to Africa multiple times that said the problem was with the wrong kind of education. Western teachers would go to an area and teach the best and brightest. These people would take there educations and leave, never to return. While deep education was helping individuals, it was actually hurting the communities.

    What Africa needs is broad education. Take a few simple concepts and teach it to everyone. The $100 notebook could help this. (or hurt) Rather than supplying a villiage with one supper bang-up machine with a satellite broadband connection so that a few individuals can get enough knowledge to leave, the small laptops provide a framework that many people can use to communicate sharing their knowledge. These things are supposed to have a wireless systems built in so that they can connect to each other in a mesh. Sounds like just what they need.
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:21PM (#14933904) Homepage Journal
    Here are my concerns:

    1. This is not private citizens electing to fund a private charity. This is the United Nations, an organization who has not proven its worth to me nor to millions of people throughout the world. The UN has had its own share of scandals and wasted money, and it has made promises for decades that have rarely been met in any way that can be called successful.

    2. There is too much favoritism in terms of corporate subsidies here. Since governments of the world will be paying for these devices, there is likely going to be some concern for cronyism. On top of that, we're not looking at a competitive product being made -- Negroponte has said he hopes to see a commercial version that will subsidize the $100 version, but have we actually seen this happening? We're looking at a device bought by governments that is being built by single companies without a thought for ongoing competitive price drops.

    3. The majority of users of this laptop will NOT be in ultrapoor countries. I've heard China and Massachusetts.

    4. We're not being told exactly what support hardware, technology and support will be needed to make sure these devices work. I can sell US$0.10 razor blades to the world, but if the world governments also need to buy US$100 razor handles, we need to know the entire budget and where the hidden money goes.
  • by Bombula (670389) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:22PM (#14933906)
    Through his foundation he's been extremely generous, but most efforts up to now have been directed at diseases, which I would call a symptom of societal ill-health. In other words, diseases like malaria and typhoid and polio are consequences of other underlying problems: lack of utility infrastructure (water, power, telecom) and social development infrastructure (education, health care facilities).

    It may be tha Bill Gates regards infrastructure problems as the jurisdiction of governments, but if I had $50 Billion to spend on improving quality of life in the developing world, I would spend it addressing the underlying infrastructure problems first.

    And lastly, improving health care and handing out food could create a population explosion - it will of course save lives in the short run, but in the long run more people may die if they are born into a situation where there is no infrastructure. For example, in today's news there is rioting and fighting in Kenya over water shortages.

  • by kuzb (724081) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:25PM (#14933950)
    I don't think he cares about the PR. He's right, these $100 computers are not going to do anything to feed these people. Without food, how are they going to find the energy to turn the crank on that thing? Hell, many of these places are so poor that $100 may as well be $100,000 - for some of these people, $100 is two months of wages. For others, it's simply unattainable.

    I think considering what Gates has contributed to these places that perhaps, just perhaps, we should save the foaming at the mouth comments and have a serious look at what he's saying. There may be better solutions to the world's problems but I don't see anyone here attempting to arrive at them.

    You can't eat a $100 computer. Even one with a crank.
  • Umm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:28PM (#14933986) Homepage
    "The last thing you want to do for a shared use computer is have it be something without a disk ... and with a tiny little screen"

    lol. Did old billy gates just slander one of his own products unintentionally?

    They just announced something just like that last week... of course they don't want $100 for it.. more like $1000

  • by utexaspunk (527541) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:31PM (#14934018)
    But a laptop connected to the internet provides an entirely different kind of communication than a cell phone which could be prove quite useful for these people- You can't hold a meeting and discuss something with hundreds or thousands of people on a cell phone. Even if you could do a massive conference call, there's little chance of having a productive conversation.

    If these people are poor and predominantly rural, they probably live far apart and don't have adequate transportation to congregate in a central location and hold a community discussion on how they can work together to improve their situation whether it's starting a business, drilling a well, or overthrowing their government. In the case of overthrowing their government, congregating in one location just to discuss the possibility may also be extremely risky. Having access to the internet means they can create forums where problems and solutions can be discussed from home and with a some degree of anonymity, if necessary. Once people have access to the internet, anyone can say something where everyone else can hear it- nobody has a monopoly on mass-communication, and in a well-structured forum the good ideas can float to the top.

    It would also give them the ability to broadcast the reality of their daily lives to the outside world and increase our awareness of their situation. As it is, we may know the situation is bad over there, but we know so little that we can ignore it pretty easily.
  • by hanssprudel (323035) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:35PM (#14934069)
    "Africa's problem is that its leaders take care of their people"? If only that were true. The problem is that they don't. Instead of investing in education, infrastructure, and economy, many African leaders invest mostly in a comfy life for themselves. If your line of reasoning were correct, Africa would have been a reasonably wealthy continent by now.

    The grandparent was exactly right, and you are completely wrong. This is the socialist line of thinking that keeps people in poverty, keeps people dying, and is actively destroying hope where it exists. Many people who adhere to it mean well, but you could not possibly be more wrong. Read the grandparent again. Read what he writes, and consider that everything you have been told might be wrong.

    Infrastructure is not the problem. Education is not the problem. And most of all, money is not the problem. It is when we understand this that there is real hope.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:37PM (#14934097)
    Gates "compassion" is nothing more than PR. When you put a fiver in the Salvation Army bucket you're donating a larger portion of your wealth than all of Gates' charities. It's chump change to him.

    And his dad (a lawyer!) wheedled him into charity.

    Gates is an evil, self-serving man with no ethics or morals.
  • by tezbobobo (879983) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:39PM (#14934109) Homepage Journal
    What the hell, I'm already on negative karma. I am a politics honours student currently doing my thesis on the educational value of IT in education in Western Australia. My research is not limited to that scope.

    Most studies into this sort of feild indicate the educational value of IT in schools is minilmal and may actually negatively impact on students. The only app which is generally real world related is the word processor and those who get to the end of an education which leads into an occupation which requires those skills generally requires it at the tertiary level. That mean's they are going to learn it, whether they are taught it or not. Most it related tasks bear no resemblance to those taought in the education system and only the most basic of skills are required.

    Secondly, the students in, for example, grade ten wont be moving into an office job for at least three years, if not six. For promary school users it is even further. That means the technology they are currently learning will be SIX YEARS OR MORE OUT OF DATE. In the meantime they are experiencing the degradation caused by spelling and grammar checks.

    Thirdly, the students with access to computers at home will succeed in the classroom where they are graded on those skills and those without access will fall further behind. This has the effect of widening the socio-economic gap. This means the laptops for everone (or whatever) will need to be implemented in a way which increases equity. I'd imagine selling your free$100 laptop would be quite profitable.

    I think that serious thought needs to go into the education value and expected outcomes of implementing this program. While Bill is right to mock these people, it is for the wrong reason.
  • by jdavidb (449077) * on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:41PM (#14934129) Homepage Journal

    Because I dared to appear knowledgeable about the Bible. It's part of the cost here on slashdot. I'm automatically a troll. Because apparently anyone knowledgeable about the Bible is automatically a jerk trying to come in and force everyone to convert or die.

    It's okay, I have a 50 karma. Or 49 now, or so. It'll be back up soon. I'm used to it. :)

  • by Rxke (644923) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:45PM (#14934173) Homepage
    So... Initially he liked the idea. Must be so, otherwise he wouldn't have offered a free version of Windows? And now the $100 computer suddenly has become a mockery?

    Hmmm... I wonder why that change of heart? /Sarcasm/
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:45PM (#14934183)
    You don't solve the problem of 3rd world technology and computing by dumbing it down and providing a tool that does a few things.

    Like a shovel, or an irrigation timer...

    The flaw in your, and other, arguments supporting bigger infrastructure and more powerful machines as the solution is that it would be too much, too late. These things take time, money and a lot of effort for a good, but late return.

    What would be a useless toy to us, could be just the ticket there. How productive were people using their computers 15 years ago vs. 25 years ago? Yes, Excel is waaay more powerful than VisiCalc, but do then need Excel? Hell, an 8086 running DOS applications would be more helpful than, say, nothing.

    A simple email and browser capable system would allow people to research and exchange ideas with others around the world. Need information to fix a generator, build a water pump or irrigate a field -- google.

    Email would allow messages to be sent at anytime, without having someone to monitor the HAM radio 24/7.

    Sometimes, simple is better. Especially when the alternative is nothing.

  • I mock it too (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:46PM (#14934197)
    I mean, honestly, these children in developing countries need access to clean drinking water and such trivial things as medicine to keep them alive. They don't need some underpowered gadget they have to crank on in order to learn about the world they are missing out on.

    I find that most university students in developed countries seem to believe that every child in the world needs the same access to information and lifestyles that they enjoy, and this isn't the case. It is wrong to impose western philosophies on the developing nations. In many cases, it is unsustainable. These nations are poor and children are dying because the economy isn't strong enough to support the kind of lifestyle western people are trying to impose on these children.

    Education will not solve famine and drought. It is one thing to understand what famine and drought are, or even devise a solution, but if a country isn't rich enough to implement some solution, and the world keeps flooding these regions with cheap recycled computers, how will this solve famine and drought?

    Computers are an excess technology. Something not required for life but only attained once a person has reached a quality of life where they can sustain themselves with food, clothing and shelter and have enough excess money to afford a computer. Computers do not improve a person's quality of life, they are a result of having a high quality of life. I am so disappointed when people claim that all a poor nation needs are computers, that computers will help them and aid them in developing their economy. Sorry, these nations need money, period. They need food, clothing, shelter, clean drinking water and medicine, period. And they need to be able to sustain themselves with these basic necessities. Selling trinkets on eBay is not the kind of economy that a developing nation needs to gain access to their basic needs.

    Once you can live without threat of dying from starvation, and have a roof over your head, and can sustain that lifestyle, THEN you can worry about education and gaining such materialistic things such as computers.

    The western world sees some children playing in the dust over in some poor country and feels that they need to go to some ivy league university in order to have a meaningful and enjoyable life. I think the child will be just as happy to play in the dust if he or she new they would have a full meal waiting for them at home and could eventually contribute to the family by growing their own food on a farm that can sustain plants or helping the community by building wells or farming. These children do not aspire to become doctors or lawyers making a quarter of a million dollars to drive their SUV's around town destroying a little bit of the Earth in their wake.

    MIT has to KISS it. Keep It Simple Stupid. And the simplicity of this situation is that these children do not need cheap recycled computers, they need access to the basic necessities of life.

    Besides, where the heck are these kids going to get internet access?
  • Re:Throwing Stones (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:55PM (#14934289) Homepage Journal
    My first computer, a Sinclair ZX-80 was not the most useful machine but it got me writing machine code to so the RF encoder to my television showed "HELLO WORLD".

    Precisely.

    Many of us in computers for 20+ years didn't have internet. many didn't even have 300 baud modems. We started with Apples, Ataris, Commodores, Sinclairs, etc. and learned. Then when the internet came along, in the earliest fashion, we collaborated. You have to get these people started somewhere and he's discounting all that. Odd, that's where that bugger started, too. Short memory he has. Also the visionary who didn't give much throught to the Internet when he wrote his first famous tome "The Road Ahead"

    Bill's worth listening to, but who in their right mind would assume everything he utters is wise?

  • Gates Translation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by john82 (68332) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:56PM (#14934297)
    Shocker! Bill thinks this is a bad idea. Raise your hand if you're surprised.

    What he's really saying is this:

    "Hey, this has the potential for bringing computer use to a large population that cannot afford the current solution model. Microsoft is not part of this answer! Worse, Linux IS part of it. I better crank out some FUD or this idea may catch on elsewhere.

    First off, 'poor people need broadband and a proper machine to run it on...' Yeah, that sounds good! Now, what else..."
  • by qkslvrwolf (821489) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:56PM (#14934301)
    Consider that everything you have been told is wrong.

    These are not delinquent children that simply aren't applying themselves. These are millions of people who are diseased, starving, and desperate.

    Now, if we absolutely left them alone, some people might eventually be able to stand on their own two feet. But that would be after hundreds of years, and plenty of famine, war, and the general riding of the four horsemen of the apocalypse across africa.

    I'm sure that since you are worried about "actively destroying hope", then you obviously are going to start fighting against taking any african resources our of africa. Since that happens to be a major portion of *why* they're so poor. All the natural resources of africa went to benefit {drumroll please} Europe and the United States! Big surprise. And we're still doing it. Oil drilling operations that pull in hundreds of millions of dollars a year sit right next to people with lifespans of 30 to 40 years, if they're lucky. You konw what "doing it for themselves" would be? Rising up and kicking out sorry asses out of the country.

    The mindset of "anyone can create their own opportunities, no matter what" is utterly assinine, and really shows a very narrow, very america-centric world-view. I challenge you to spend 1 year in somalia, or rwanda, or hell, even one of the best off countries like ghana, without taking anything with you. Good luck.

    Education is the biggest problem...they need as much knowledge available as possible. And these laptops can help with that. They can help alot. These laptops are about giving people the tools they need to learn - not just to fish, but to fish, farm, hunt, gather, build, heal, and *live*.
  • by aplusjimages (939458) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @12:58PM (#14934320) Journal
    I remember laptops that had small screens and very little RAM and processor speed, but 10 years ago Americans used them to run businesses. In a poor country these would be cutting edge technology, but from the point of view of wealthy countries we couldn't imagine doing business on these machines even though we used to.
  • Normally... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @01:01PM (#14934350)
    Normally, my opinion is that complaining about spelling is a sign that a person has nothing of substance to argue, and thus is really admitting defeat in a debate. I think that when the original poster gives the "I'm right because I'm educated" argument, and then specifically discusses how they would solve poor spelling, AND makes spelling errors, we have an exception.
  • by Dare nMc (468959) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @01:07PM (#14934427)
    > what the "$100 laptop" offers already available throughout the third world,

    With that logic, if the $500 MSN/AOL rebates returned to best buy/circuit city, then the $100 laptop goal would be accomplished. those phones aren't $100, their $20-50 per month.

    What the $100 laptop would accomplish is 2 fold.
    a $100 laptop, with a sip phone/messanger speaker/mike, and wireless is a mobile call center for one, etc. In places without cheap cell phone, setup a wireless network for a lower setup cost, and lower monthly charge, with greater flexibilty, to enter data, answer questions, steal identity, mass produce atm cards,etc... worldwide.

        second you don't have to protect those computers as diligently from theft, they got no re-sale value, they would all got a ban-able macaddress to kill the usefullness if lost...
  • by Monkeyboy4 (789832) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @01:11PM (#14934462)
    It's only a cost if you think of your time as a monetized commodity. Which we in the US have been trained to due by thinking of hourly wages and billable time.

    With OSS on teh little benjamin PC, any user can modify and improve the OS and any program on there.
    With OSS software, they are providing a structured but changeable environment for the users. this may not work for the peopel that techies usually think of as end users, but for as many grandmas and word procesors there are yet exposed to computers, there are also some hard core coders out there tha have yet to realize they are hard core coders.

    And they would love to spend hours nad hours programming to learn and create their own markets
  • by Vo0k (760020) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @01:14PM (#14934510) Journal
    Routes the money travel:

    x  3rd world country Government
    x |||software               |
    x |||maintenance           XXX not enough money for hospitals
    x |||contracts              v
    x  V
    x Microsoft --charity---- > Poor kids
    x  || marketing              |
    x  || investments            | food
    x  || taxes                  | medicines
    x   V                        |
    x U S A <--------------------+

    Of course charity gives good publicity.
  • Starter Computer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheSimkin (639033) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @01:36PM (#14934729)
    Seeing that this computer is extremely more powerful than the first computers I ever used, and most of us for that matter. I don't see why this is useless at all. You have to start learning about computers somewhere, why not on a cheap easily accessible computer that doesn't require electricity! I think Bill Gates fears one thing, more open source programmers! This project is bound to make quite a few of those :).
  • by fredklein (532096) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @01:41PM (#14934785)
    Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Try to teach a man to fish, and he'll bitch you're not giving him free fish.
  • by G00F (241765) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @01:58PM (#14934971) Homepage
    Gates would not be speaking out on this, and so harshly, if it doesn't compete with something he wants to do. And he was not talking about food when he was talking about the cost of software and support staff.

    These laptops can't run any version of windows let alone Vista.
    He has the xbox, what is to say he wont extend it's capabilities

    This is his PR to shoot something down that is competition for him somehow.
  • by lawpoop (604919) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @02:16PM (#14935205) Homepage Journal
    I spent ten weeks with a poor, indigenous family in Ecuador in a university field study program. They lived on the banks of a river in thatch-roof, plywood floor huts. They farmed food to eat and coffee and cocoa to sell. Some of the men had jobs in the city -- menial jobs. They had no education, and since they were "Indians", nobody is going to give them a decent job. (Because, you know, they are always late, they steal, etc.)

    However , if they get sick, they are screwed. They have no money for doctors. All you do is lie in a hut and have a shaman literally blow smoke over you, maybe wave some leaves. People frequently die from illness.

    What your talking about is emergency relief. Yes, without food, people die. That's what's needed in famine, earthquake, war, etc. However, poor != desperate. Poor people have some kind of hook-up for food, whether it be the garden, a job, or a relative. However, if you start giving them food, they re-adjust thier strategy -- they might quit the job to be with the children, they might stop working in the garden. Then, when the free-food dries up, they have to re-jigger their life again.

    If you give them food, they are dependent on you. They have no control over that part of their life. However, if you give them something like a cell-phone or a fishng pole, they can setup a new 'income' stream in thier life that they are in control of. That is empowerment and improvement.
  • by bashibazouk (582054) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @02:18PM (#14935230) Journal
    One of the big problems of Africa is the habit of replacing food crops with cash crops. Converting wheat and other grains with coffee, cotton, or anything else that will sell on the open market. I think the original theory (beyond base greed) is the world market for a cash crops is higher per growable acre than food crops. Basic capitalism gone wrong. You plant a cash crop, sell it on the open market and end up making enough money on it to buy the grain you would have grown on the same amount of land and a small profit over that to help you run the country. Looks good on paper but the money usually gets wasted on civil war and general corruption so the cash comes in but usually too little gets spent replacing the food that was supposed to be bought to make the whole thing work.
  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @02:29PM (#14935366)
    Gates's contempt is well placed.

    Gates had contempt for the Internet. He thought that free content was for hippies. He has contempt for free software for the same reason. Gates' contempt is simply an indicator of somethng he either doesn't get or sees as a threat.

  • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot AT pitabred DOT dyndns DOT org> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @02:44PM (#14935522) Homepage
    OSS software never stops being free. You have no such assurances with Windows. I know if I were an African nation, I wouldn't want to be beholden to a monopolistic American company with a history of fucking over competitors and users.
    And your implication that Windows is perfect on shipping is stupid, because it's far from it. Especially a custom-developed system. Ever see the problems that BMW had with their embedded systems? And they actually paid for that crap.
  • by kludge99 (196947) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @02:48PM (#14935567)
    Maybe good Old 'Dollar Bill Gates' should dontate some of his billions and not just a few mere millions for decent computers to developing countries so they can get into the 21st century, instead of dissing someone else's good works.
  • by KFury (19522) * on Thursday March 16, 2006 @02:54PM (#14935633) Homepage
    I could imagine the same sentiment being raised before cellphones made it to Africa in a big way. "The socioeconomics of the region are incompatible with widespread adoption of modern mobile technologies. They'll be too expensive to maintain and the village-bound populace doesn't have the need for such devices." Yeah, right.

    Take Gates and Barrett's statements for what they are: Attempts to inspure FUD by the leaders of the two companies which have the most to lose should OLPC succeed. This must be an especially difficult issue for Gates, since his philanthropic and capitalistic motivations are in direct conflict.
  • The Road Ahead? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by deltatype0 (843675) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @02:58PM (#14935673)
    Anyone remember Bill's first book? I remember reading about his grand scheme and vision of a bunch of shiny wonderful technology coming out to improve schools, businesses, and personal lives. Or has Microsoft decided that spending billions on challenging patents, entering the game console race, and continuing to release slightly more improved versions of it's OS is more important that working on the technology surrounding it?

    I remember when Windows 95 came out way back when, as a kid I was stoked to finally have a real improvement over Windows 3.1, let alone DOS. I'd sit there for hours just playing with the damn OS like it was cool. I'd make it do all kinds of seemingly stupid things. Over time, with each new version of Windows came little innovation, nothing new and shiny to look at or play with. The GUI remaining largely the same, the backends were always changed, but rather than innovate and create a new look or a bunch of new features, they rehashed the same crap over and over.

    Of course Bill seems to apply this logic to hardware as he does to software, he obviously doesn't seem to get that hardware is changing, getting smaller, running faster, using less power. The MIT laptop is an absolutely wonderful piece of real innovation that cannot be told otherwise. Now how it will be applied time will tell, but I don't believe Bill has the right to play down on real innovation when he has barely made any real step in software or hardware innovation since the beginning of Windows.

    It's a shame too, I was kinda hoping those digital wallets he talked about would come to, but then again I doubt I'd appreciate someone coming by and hacking my digital wallet. =)
  • by KFury (19522) * on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:02PM (#14935715) Homepage
    Gates sez: "The last thing you want to do for a shared use computer is have it be something without a disk"

    Bill does know that OLPC stands for One Lapop Per Child right? Where's the shared use there?
  • by hanssprudel (323035) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:12PM (#14935812)
    Another Armchair American who's never been outside of the country yet knows everything about politics.

    No, a Swede who has lived on three continents, and traveled to more countries than you know the names of.

    Countries with social programs, such as Australia, Japan, Canada and those in western Europe have highly productive economies and high standards of living for their citizens. Poor countries, like those in South America, have few social program, and a significant portion of the population live in dirt-floor poverty. A few wealthy faimilies re-direct all of the countries wealth to themselves.

    Countries with social programs have slow growth, high unemployment, and are eating through the wealth they acquired through their otherwise liberal politics. My native Sweden (once the world's richest country, now among the poorest in OECD and poorer than every American state) is a shining example.

    Since you mention South America, take a look at Argentina. At the end of WWI, Argentina was richer then most European countries. Then the "social programs" took over.
  • Re:100% lame (Score:3, Insightful)

    by caffeination (947825) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:25PM (#14935936)
    You bigoted sack of shit (yeah, more swearing, deal with it). You really do think that 'developing countries' invariably means starvation and no democracy? Typical Slashdotter. How can you even think you can talk about "these people" like that? The rest of the world is more diverse than you think.

    And anyway, internet only flourished in our countries once there was a large enough base of computer owners. It is possible for a computer to be useful without the internet. And these computers won't be going into any black market because they're so low tech, and going straight to the bottom of the social strata in most cases. The black market has no interest in a children's computer being handed out for free by the government. The only people to sell these to are the ones getting them for free (discounting your batshit insane idea that Linux-using American kids alone will fuel a worldwide black market).

    And who exactly are the "we" you seem to be exalting? You think America or the developed world are regarded as "teachers"? Europe is seen as a good area to migrate to by many, but as the recent cartoon protests have shown, nobody's lining up for assimilation.

    for gods sake don't just give them something like this and expect it to solve the problems that go much deeper then you care to think of.
    I explicitly stated that contrary to what you bigoted Slashdotters are repeating to yourselves, this isn't a magic solution. Your shitty strawman argument won't work on me. Why don't you read an objective article on this thing and tell me if you see anything about it saving the world? [bbc.co.uk]. Are you talking about this quote? "Every single problem you can think of, poverty, peace, the environment, is solved with education or including education." At no point does Negroponte claim that his laptop solves every single problem. He is just implying that it can have a wide-reaching effect. If you take this to mean that he thinks it will solve every problem, you are assuming that every aspect of education revolves around computers.

    I don't trust Gates because he's in it for money. He has competing products to sell. His worldview revolves around his dream of hardware being free and the OS being what people pay for. This laptop is a huge threat to the credibility of this. The UN does this stuff because it's part of their purpose, whereas Bill Gates wouldn't give nearly as much if it weren't also an effective tax dodge, and besides that, being rich and providing funds doesn't mean he knows a thing about practicalities. I'll trust the judgement of the UN and the several governments waiting to buy millions of these laptops before the judgement of Bill Gates and you, thank you very much.

  • Re:100% flame (Score:2, Insightful)

    by niXcamiC (835033) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:52PM (#14936167)
    Seeing as I actualy live in a 3rd world country, I can say that the UN usualy knows CRAP, and that many of their aid programs cause more harm than help.
  • by lawpoop (604919) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:11PM (#14936315) Homepage Journal
    I bring up South America because almost every other country is a counter-example to your thesis. Glancing over Argentina's history at wikipedia, it looks like repeated coups and political instability is a better explanation as to why they aren't doing as well as Sweden. So you are saying that social programs caused Argetina to fall behind Sweden after WWII, when Argentina was richer after the war? Well, weren't Sweden's social programs were wider-reaching and more comprehensive than Argetina's? So shouldn't Sweden be further behind Argetina then? Shouldn't all the indusrialized, western nations be behind South America and Africa, since they have larger social programs?

    The reason they're not is because social programs create the middle class. Corporations would have slaves or indentured servants if they could. They have no incentive in paying for someone's retirement, or making them wealthier, if the wealth could stay with the corporation instead. There is nothing wrong with corporations making money -- that's their role. However, it is the role of democratic government to provide for the general welfare through taxes. Without that, we would live in facism -- a system in which, as Mussolini said, is the merging of state and corporate power.

    Where are the shanty towns in Sweden? Where are the poor families (mom, dad, and kids) lierally living on the street in rest of Scandinavia? In Europe? Australia? Japan? Canada? They don't exist. You only find this kind of poverty in countries without social programs.

    When you talk about wealth, you should look at the distribution of wealth. Who cares if a country has a high GDP when a few families control most of the wealth, and the average guy is living in the street or in a shanty town.

    I apologize for calling you an untraveled American. I made an assumption and I was wrong.
  • by RetroGeek (206522) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:23PM (#14936393) Homepage
    school children cranking away while they use their $100 computers to write apps

    Maybe that would be crank to charge the battery, and THEN use the laptop?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2006 @05:33PM (#14936906)
    It seems like Gates is walking up to someone who desperately needs just basic transportation and telling them that a $1,000 junker isn't what they need.

    They don't need a $1000 junker. They need a $30 bicycle. They also don't need a "$100" computer (which will actually cost $250+, according to the project itself), they need a $0 education.
  • by Saint Fnordius (456567) on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:32AM (#14940068) Homepage Journal
    You seem to be saying that entertainment is impossible without good graphics and sound. Well, the problem here is that you are mixing the container with the content. Just because I have a beer mug doesn't mean I can't drink orange juice from it.

    There are plenty of entertainment options available for low-res devices, or have you forgotten how popular Infocom used to be? How fast a graphics card do you need to play Tetris? One of the popular online games out there today is the Kingdom of Loathing, a game with stick figures and no real animation (other than a couple of animated GIFs). To claim that the computers have to run games like we know them today shows a lack of imagination.
  • Re:Normally... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by skam240 (789197) on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:50AM (#14940114)
    I really don't think he is saying, "I'm educated so I'm right". It sounds far more like, "I've done some work in this area through my schooling (at a fairly advanced level) which establishes a descent level of familiarity with this material so here's my opinion". Stating one's credentials to establish that he or she has a certain level of knowledge on a subject is not the same as saying, "I'm right".

    In regards to his spelling, being educated and having good spelling/grammar are not linked hand in hand. Furthermore, he is posting in an internet forum . I know this is extremely significant for many folks out there but for many others it's just a way to kill time. I know I frequently just quickly write out a post without checking spelling or grammar. I have other things to be doing with my self.

    It seems this guy is getting trolled to death by petty complaints. I'm noticing none of the posts here even bother to address what he's actually saying before discrediting him.

"Someone's been mean to you! Tell me who it is, so I can punch him tastefully." -- Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse

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