One Laptop Per Adult?

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People just love the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project. The hardware is great: It’s water-resistant, dust resistant and even to a large degree child resistant. The project have made huge innovations, especially in terms of the unique user interface developed for the machine, as well as large amounts of development that have gone into it’s mesh networking technology and the display that has a super-low-power black and white mode that is clearly visible outside in the sun. The project also aims to develop it at US$100 when it is produced on large scale, which makes it a great cheap and durable machine for the developing world.

Jenni with OLPC Laptop

Jenni with OLPC

Then there’s the slightly lesser well-known Classmate PC. Another low-cost machine intended for use by children. It has a nicer keyboard (although I don’t think it’s water-resistant) and has better processor (the OLPC seems to be a bit underpowered for some of the Python applications people want to run on it). The Classmate PC’s are even capable of running Compiz, which is quite impressive for such a small device. The Classmate PC costs more than US$200, and will probably be more appealing to youth who would already have at least computer at home.

Ogra with classmate
Oli with Classmate PC

Both these laptops use flash memory for storage, which generates less heat and uses less power than a traditional hard disk. In some cases, performance is even increased, since the storage is solid state and there is no seeking that has occur. The innovations in both laptops will benefit young humans everywhere, but why stop there? There are literally billions of adults on this planet that don’t have access to basic information technology and the technology used in the machines mentioned above could certainly be used to create a low-cost, low-powered machine for adults. Or can it?

Yes, it can, and the ASUS Eee is the answer. It contains a Celeron-M Ultra Low Voltage CPU, up to 1GB of RAM, and up to 8GB of flash storage. Just like the OLPC, it also contains a built-in webcam. The great thing about the Eee is that it will make access to information cheap and accessible to people from around the world. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t think that this is a machine that will only be used by the less fortunate. The compact size and the low power consumption makes it an ideal machine for the traveler. It’s also easier to carry along than the traditional bulky laptop (weighing less than 1KG), and it even has a smaller power supply. What it misses though, in my opinion, is an integraded GPRS/EDGE card. It would probably only cost US$10 per machine to build it in, and would go a long way to help people stay in touch. Eee stands for “Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play“. It will be available with either Xandros (tailored version for this device) or Windows (not that ASUS was really keen on Windows on the device in the first place). The Eee costs around US$400, depending on which options you select.

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Eee PC (Photo from ASUS Website)

This is probably not the last low-cost laptop we’re going to see. There will be plenty of manufacturers who will follow, and the great thing is that these machines tend to love GNU/Linux, which should improve uptake of free software everywhere. I suspect that Microsoft will also use its bad business tactics to try to circumvent this, we’re in for interesting times!

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12 Responses to “One Laptop Per Adult?”

  1. T. Lord Says:

    Hear, hear!

    I’m planning to get either an EEE or (through the give-1-get-1 program) an XO laptop. I lean toward each of them along different axes, but at the moment am keener on the XO. (I like *looks* of the industrial design of the EEE a bit better as well as its more conventional keyboard, in fact, but superior antennae and stronger case, not to mention better battery and screen technology, make the XO the more likley.)

    For $400 (for 1 logical laptop, even if 2 physical ones), I see the XO as a justifiable luxury and — if all works as advertised — a fantastically cheap tool. Too bad it might be hard to find many other people with them in order to play with the collaborative features.

    And since I like the idea of the EEE anyhow, perhaps I’ll find one at a decent price on eBay a year from now. At the originally quoted price of $200, that’s one thing, but as the price has crept up, the XO has gained favor in comparison.



  2. Wayan @ OLPC News Says:

    Over at OLPC News, we’ve spent a fair amount of time contemplating adult uses of the XO laptop – everything for a dating service to a gorilla fighter communications tool:

  3. bla Says:

    The Free Deed Foundation supposedly ordered 1 million of them. With Windows XP and… MS Office.

  4. nasrullah Says:

    IT is very interesting to provide the world with a cheap and powerful laptop in order to beat illiteracy and poverty in a way.
    Thank you.

  5. jonathan Says:

    Yep, I also think that Microsoft will use every tactic they can think of to keep their market share on top. About the Deed Foundation… wow… 1m PC’s is a lot! :O

  6. jonathan Says:

    Nice story about Linux on the Eee on Arstechnica:

  7. sofia Says:

    [..]My previous comment got garbled somehow.[..]

  8. Henk Kleynhans Says:

    Am very keen on the Buy One Get One program, but for different reasons.

    I’d like a laptop that I can use when doing rooftop Wi-Fi installations! That sunlight friendly screen sounds like just the thing. And carrying a robust machine up and down a ladder on my back would be much more desirable than using a MacBook…

    But does it have an ethernet port? And does Xandros have the standard network utilities you’d find on most linux boxes? If not, can one install them easily?

  9. Teacher Says:

    OK I love the idea of children receiving opportunities that would normally not be available because of lack of money. However, I teach in a very low income neighborhood and 80% of my high school students do NOT have computers at home. In addition the computers we have at our school, we received with grant money, are five years old and are less than adequate. So my question is why can’t my students have the opportunity to become recipients of these laptops? Why can’t my school have the opportunity to purchase these laptops for our school?
    I guess what I am most confused about with our society is why do people have to either give to other countries OR the United States. Can’t this program work to help all less fortunate students regardless of region. I guess what I am trying to say is takes a great program and make it better.

  10. Jon Says:

    To Teacher
    Developing countries are poor. Sometimes the teachers won’t get payed every month, sometimes even soldier or generals don’t get payed. In countries like this they could never aford computers in education.
    The United States is a wealthy country, and you could afford computers in the class room if you chose to prioritize it.
    I come from Denmark our GDP per capita is only a little higher than the US GDP per capita, but we have mordern computers in all schools no matter how low income the neighborhood is! How can that be!?
    Take my parents as an example they er both teachers like you, but they pay 61% in taxes (thats the highest tax group). They are not sorry about this and they never complain because they are proud to support those that need it. They could have plased me in a private school, but why should they when the public schools are just as good!

    I guess what i am trying to say is that the US is a democracy, when you chose low taxes you chose bad education. The developing countries don’t have the money to prioritize at all!

    ps. this was not meant as an atack but simply my answer to your question :)

  11. Marj Says:

    please tell me where i can buy these XO laptops been looking everywhere …

  12. may tinh xach tay Says:

    IT is very interesting to provide the world with a cheap and powerful laptop in order to beat illiteracy and poverty in a way.

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