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One point of view, taking note of sundry "cool" things that affect-- or could affect-- the education business.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Oh, SNAP! Gates Disses OLPC?!

Well, William H. Gates III, who is at the top of the Forbes list as the richest person in the world, did a little trash talkin'. Seems he was giving this talk at the M$ Government Leaders Forum, an annual shindig in D.C., and he completely dissed the OLPC project. He didn't name Nicholas Negroponte by name, and he didn't exactly come out and say "the One Laptop Per Child" computer. But there was no doubt what he was talking about. In fact, his remarks sparked the following headline on the popular blog Good Morning Silicon Valley: "Hey Melinda, what do you call a crank on a computer? 'Nicholas Negroponte!'" (Their post, here, like their blog in general, is well worth a read.)

Said His Gatesness: "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." It's worth noting that Gates was in the middle of a plug for Origami, which is not so much a specific product as a "new" (yeah ...) line of small tablet-interfaced computers (think Newton or smart phone on the Barry Bonds regimen of dietary supplements). So, sure, Billy's gotta pump up da jam on the whole Windows thang. But he just reached right out and bit*#-slapped the OLPC project.

(To continue, click the link below ...)


Not content with subtlety, Gates went on. "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."

So, Bill, to be clear: you're not a fan? Oh, wait, we get it: Origami is the way to go ... those $600 wonders will fly far in the Third World. Hey, while you're at it, they probably ought to eschew the whole Open Source thing and shell out a couple extra bills for M$ Office, right? And probably put a nice big Novell server in the school, too, right? Because if you're going to hook up the people who are technologically underserved, ya gotta do it right. We're talking about places in the world where the Junta Du Jour can't afford a ThinkPad, n'est-ce pas? And Origami is the solution for the masses?

And the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for whose work you shared Time's Persons of the Year honor, is going to front the price of entry? Gates can stick with XBox 360 and XBox live, and shrinkwrapped solutions that will serve the relatively well-heeled. That's fine. But unless he's going to roll Origami out to the needy at a $100 price-point, he oughta keep his mouth shut.

Note to Mr. Negroponte: Keep crankin', bro. Putting connectivity-- affordable, durable, accessible, connectivity-- into the hands of the developing world isn't any less sexy just because Microsoft's founder doesn't dig your plan. You go, boy. Crank it up, crank it out, and hook up the, uh, hookless. That's very cool.

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