$100 Laptop for Everyone

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The $100 laptop is a great initiative designed to make computers affordable to developing countries. In order to make this initiative viable there has got to be significant volume which I'm not sure developing countries can sustain. The question is: Why wouldn't the manufacturer also offer this computer to consumers/businesses in Europe or North America? There are a lot of people in these countries that can't afford a computer and would jump at the chance to purchase a $100 laptop. There are also a lot of people that don't need a lot of computing power and use it mainly to surf the Internet and access their email.

Every day more and more processing is done via the web rather than on the computer. Reminds me of the old mainframe days when everyone had a "dumb" terminal at their desk. There are a significant number of people that want something similar to a "dumb" terminal which would allow them to quickly and easily access the Internet. I would personally buy one if the price was right (i.e. $100) because there are numerous times either my wife or I want to search the Internet for something. Since both of us use our laptops for business, we want to keep it out of the way so it doesn't get damaged. Also, it takes 10 minutes to boot up my computer. I'm too impatient to wait.

An inexpensive "dumb" terminal that only allows me to access the Internet would be perfect. Since the device would be have limited features, boot up time should be instantaneous. Access to the Internet would never be more than seconds away. It would only be a matter of time before businesses figured out how to use thin client machines.

I recently had a discussion with a technical architect from a fortune 500 technology firm. He does not buy into the thin client concept because he believes the technology is not good enough. His firm also makes a lot of money from PC sales so that might also have something to do with it. Back to his original point. Good enough is a relative term and means different things to different people. Big firms have a terrible time managing disruptive technology because they believe it has to be a Cadillac out of the gate. Disruptive technology rarely starts out high end.

I believe it is a matter of time before an Internet only computer takes off. Here is my prediction of how it will materialize. The technology will be adopted in developing countries as well as consumers in Europe and North America. People will love the simplicity of the computer - no painful operating system to load, no upgrade hassles, and they can turn it on in seconds. With a low price point, they will be less concerned about damaging it so it will be in places such as the kitchen which often spelled disaster for laptops.

In the mean time, more and more on-demand software (aka SaaS) will become available and Internet access will be faster and more available and reliable. Most consumers work and some will start using these inexpensive devices at their business. Initially, SMB office workers (people that don't travel) will use the device because it is not only inexpensive to buy, but it is also inexpensive to maintain. Less complexity equals less cost to operate. As on-demand software proliferates and Internet access continues to improve, other employees will adopt these devices. As the eco-system becomes more reliable, bigger firms will start using the devices because of the significant cost savings without the drop in productivity. Power users would be the last group to adopt if they adopt at all.

The point is there are a significant number of people that are over served with today's PCs and software. There are a lot of low tech people out there that just need to do a few basic things. If they can save hundreds or even thousands, scores of people will adopt this technology.

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