MIT's work on a $100 laptop for schools and governments of developing nations has given rise to much talk in the blogosphere about such a product for mainstream U.S. consumers. But it may be years before such a PC could reach general consumers without some form of subsidy, and by that time some non-computer products with similar functions might present formidable competition.
Plans to offer an even cheaper PC--for free, to be exact--were tried as far back as 1999 when component costs dropped enough to allow markedly lower prices. One idea was to offer a stripped-down PC with a contract for Internet service, similar to the way telecom carriers give away mobile phones. But free-PC companies couldn't make the numbers work, and many went under during the dot-com bust.
A standalone $100 laptop today, while perhaps more feasible to manufacture profitably than in years past, faces other obstacles. Although a cheap laptop with limited features might fly as a commodity device used by schools and governments of developing nations, as MIT suggests, the evolutionary forces of technology could blunt its potential in the general consumer market--namely, through the rise of combination phone-camera-music-e-mail-Web devices, which are already .
Blog community response:
"If you'll give up some full-time requirements like keyboards and bigger screens, why not use Internet tablets like the forthcoming Nokia 770? Eight ounces, 800-pixel-wide screen, full OS, Wi-Fi, touchscreen and display keyboard. Carry it in your pocket when you have to leave."
"The screen is the chief impediment here, as are some other components, not the least of which is the cost represented by Microsoft Windows operating system, and applications. Those software products are typically priced as developed world prices even in the developing world."
--*michael parekh on IT*
"Ah, the Media Lab pixie dust strikes again. A $100 laptop is a nice idea but it's neither likely not feasible especially if the constraint is that we need to make 6 million on the first cookie sheet that comes out of the oven."