Microsoft's Bill Gates has ridiculed the $100 One Laptop Per Child project in a clear attempt to diffuse the growing interest governments, press and many others have in Nicolas Negroponte's pet project. You can learn more about the OLPC project in the previous ITPP blog.
Microsoft is not the first company to openly criticise the OLPC approach: Intel, the partner to Wintel - which is found on millions of computers - is also unsupportive of the project, citing the unsuitability of the chosen platform for OLPC’s proposed aims..
There is more to this than meets the eye, however. Both Microsoft and Intel stand to lose billions of dollars, their perceived invulnerability, and - more importantly - the potential control of mindsets around the world. For someone like Bill Gates to take on the $100 laptop computer, he must be truly concerned about its impact.
Coincidentally, Bill Gates was also promoting his own Ultra Mobile Personal Computer - which has roughly the same format as the OLPC laptop - at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum.
Negroponte never suggested that OLPC would compete with Microsoft's empire. Instead, the project is clearly targeted at the have-nots: those for whom a Wintel machine would cost more than a year's salary. It is expected that the bulk of the OLPC will be sold to governments, and distributed in developing countries.
As Bill Gates highlighted, the OLPC has no hard disk drive as such. Instead, it relies – like PDAs (personal digital assistants) – on solid state, or flash memory. However, this should pose no problem if the computers are connected to one another, or to a server. Furthermore, the "tiny screen" Bill Gates criticised during the forum will be more than sufficient to its requirements;one might even be surprised by its quality.