Flexgo and The $100 Lap Top

For a video tour of OLPC, and a video comparison between OLPC and Flexgo please see my front page post.

Innovations from the developing world may be the next best selling computer in the developed world, Jens Glüsing, Padma Rao and Hilmar Schmundt from Spiegel write. “The computer of the future is like a pet: always wanting to be fed — not unlike an oversized Tamagotchi. Otherwise, it causes trouble. After 10 hours in front of the monitor, you have to run down to the nearest kiosk, buy a new prepaid card, scratch free the code and type it in. Those who don’t are reminded by the computer to please pay their fee. Eventually the machine runs out of patience and it begins gradually suspending one function after another — until hardly anything works anymore. At that point, the only thing to do is head for the kiosk.” This hungry little computer will in Microsoft’s vision be powered by “Flexgo” – the new payment system intended to make Windows affordable for the non-rich in developing countries.

As recently as March, the Spiegel writers note, Microsoft was mocking the $100 laptop. “Microsoft argued that mobile phones provide the best means of granting the poor access to the digital world, not personal computers. The change of course likely results mainly from the small difference in the operating system between the two computers. Unlike MIT’s $100 laptops, Flexgo computers don’t use the Linux system, which is free of charge, but a version of Windows.”

Microsoft’s pitch is they want to give people “a PC they want and not a PC that they had to settle for…. the real goal of FlexGo is to make that dream of owning a full-featured PC a reality,” says Mike Wickstrand, the director of product management. Ina Fried writes in “The target customer for FlexGo is someone who has used Windows before – at work, school or an internet cafe, for example – but has not been able to afford a similar machine of their own.”