Sunday, August 09, 2009

Tech Misdirection

I've about had it with netbooks. OLPC created netbooks for poor children in the developing world as a substitute for textbooks and to impart typing skills which would mean the difference between being a clerk who earned a lot more money and being a farmer, herder, or some other low income occupation. David Pogue pointed out that the XO laptop had many features that normal laptops lacked such as excellent power consumption (2 watts), a very bright screen readable in bright sunlight, mesh wireless networking, excellent security software, flash storage, and on and on, breakthrough after breakthrough. Yet, Microsoft and Intel tried and likely succeeded in killing the XO laptop. The XO laptop ran a version of Linux called Sugar, not Windows. Windows couldn't have run on an XO. It's a hog. This couldn't be tolerated since if children learned to how to use Linux and free software, they would not be future Microsoft customers. So Microsoft lowered the price of Windows overseas to $3 per license. Intel couldn't let the XO live either because it used an AMD chip that needed little power. Intel chips are power hungry. Microsoft and Intel have a symbiotic relationship. Microsoft sells bloated software that needs more processing power for each new version and Intel needs to sell chips to support each new Microsoft release. It's a synergistic partnership for them. For the consumer, it's a fleecing.

So, why am I still angry. Because tech writers are still waxing enthusiastic over netbooks, or complaining that they aren't big enough. Most netbooks now ship with Windows and they are priced at $300-400. They are growing in size because consumers want bigger displays. The market for them has shifted from the poor to the comparatively rich. It is not worth it for someone to buy a netbook unless they are giving one to a student. You can get almost the same functionality from your smartphone, and for $200-300 more, you can get a laptop that has more storage, a bigger display and a larger, more comfortable keyboard. But all of this is lost on most people. It's kind of sad really, how two tech giants have successfully killed a charity and transformed a low power, secure, and cheap educational laptop for children in poor countries into a pricey, cramped, crippled, insecure, and power hungry laptop for kids and everyone else.


The hardware-software, upgrade, ratcheting, dynamic, does truly suck as you describe John.

Its a bit like when motor companies in LA bought the bus and tram services in the 50? and 60?then closed them down - to promote what is now LA's car dependence.

But Microsoft/Gates are folk hero darlings of World and American new age capitalism so can't be touched much.

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