Gates Derides MIT’s $100 OLPC Laptop

At the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum outside Washington D.C., Microsoft founder Bill Gates derided MIT’s “One Laptop per Child” (OLPC) project aimed to provide inexpensive computers for people and children in developing nations.

“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,” Gates said. “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.”

Gates argued that the large part of the cost of introducing computer technology domes from providing support, software applications, and network connectivity, rather than the expense of the physical hardware in users’ hands. Before launching his critique of the OLPC project, Gates showed off Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows-based “Origami” portable computer with a 7-inch touch screen, which are expected to be priced between $600 and $1,000.

Taiwan’s Quanta has committed engineering resources to developing the OLPC, Red Hat recently announced an unspecified donation in support of the project, and Google founder Larry Page has repeatedly indicated his company’s support for the project. OLPCs are designed to run Linux on a system with a 500 Mhz processor and 128 MB of RAM. The systems lack hard disks, and instead use 512 MB of flash memory, and the systems can optionally be powered using a hand crank rather than an external power source.