It’s not a product, but let’s attack it anyway

More news this week on the MIT Media Lab effort to build a $100 laptop. Nicholas Negroponte announced agreements with several governments and technology companies.

Mr. Negroponte said that he had a commitment from Quanta Computer of Taiwan to manufacture the portable computers, which would initially use a processing chip from AMD. He also said he had raised $20 million to pay for engineering and was close to a final commitment of $700 million from seven nations — Thailand, Egypt, Nigeria, India, China, Brazil and Argentina — to purchase seven million of the laptops.

Microsoft, apparently worried about the prospect of tens of millions of PCs around the world running Linux, is trying to derail the effort. They’re advocating smart cellphones, adding a keyboard for input and a TV as a display. It’s not clear whether this is a serious proposal, or just throwing sand in the gears.

“Everyone is going to have a cellphone,” Mr. Mundie said, noting that in places where TV’s are already common, turning a phone into a computer could simply require adding a cheap adaptor and keyboard. Microsoft has not said how much those products would cost.

The M.I.T. Media Lab had experimented with the idea of a cellphone that would project a computer display onto a wall and also project the image of a keyboard, sensing the motion of fingers over it. But the researchers decided the idea was less practical than a laptop.

[Some specialists] have raised questions about […] the price of Internet connectivity, which can cost $24 to $50 a month in developing nations. But Mr. Negroponte said networking costs would not be an obstacle because the laptops would be made to connect automatically in a so-called mesh network, making it possible for up to 1,000 computers to wirelessly share just one or two land-based Internet connections.

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